My daughter Kara was born at 3:12 a.m., twenty-seven years ago today. Kate and Bryan were in the early morning arrival club as well– Kate came at 1:28 a.m. and Bryan at 5:12 a.m. But from the moment of his birth, Kyle has always marched to the beat of a different drum.
Kyle was born sometime around 3:30 in the afternoon. The exact time is not embedded in my mind, mostly due to the numbing power of anesthesia, which kept me in a place safely removed from time and pain. My first three were delivered without benefit of drugs, so I was very conscious of time, from the timing of contractions to breathing to watching the clock and wondering why time seemed to drag. But with Kyle I knew no time or pain–just pure undiluted joy.
Joy and truth came into my life with the help of a little anesthesia last summer, when Kara waited for me to have a routine medical procedure that those over the age of fifty are advised to do. As the anesthesia was wearing off, I entertained Kara with some silly dialogue, which she enjoyed sharing with me the next day. But according to Kara, before uttering any words, I simply gazed at her face for a full ten seconds.
“It’s so good to see your face. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Wasn’t she pretty?”
“Yes. She is.”
“What are you sewing on?”
“I wasn’t sewing. I was reading.”
“Oh, I think I’m remembering Mom sewing, when I woke from anesthesia after having my wisdom teeth out.”
“I’m hungry. She said I could have a big breakfast afterwards.”
“You want me to take you out for breakfast. Wouldn’t you rather me pick it up and bring it to you.”
“No.” “I’m thirsty.”
Speaking to the nurse, “Can she have some water?”
Then to me, “All you can have is some ice.”
“Ummm,” in response to receiving a piece of ice.
“Does it taste good?”
I thought about this experience– both my silliness and the naked innocence it revealed– for several months before talking with anyone about it. But when it came time to talk, I chose to discuss it with my spiritual director, because he’s good at helping me sift for truth and in his former life as a orthopedic surgeon, I thought he might have some insights between truth-telling and anesthesia.
I admitted to Curt that I’ve never felt closer to my truest self as when coming out of anesthesia; I had no self-consciousness; I was so comfortable in my own skin that there was no shadow of a false self to trip over. I spoke unfiltered truth, with no thought of trying to please the listener or to make myself look good. I was simply a human being at its most human; if I was hungry, I talked about it. If I was thirsty, I let my need be known. None of this, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I can wait.” “Or, I don’t want to put you to any trouble,” nonsense. No, it was almost as if the anesthesia had made me forget the need to remake myself into what I was not. Time and the pain of many behavior correcting lessons fell away, leaving me once again as honest as a young child, expressing the truth of basic needs without a need of societal filters.
By sharing my childlike silliness with me, Kara unknowingly launched me on a search where I have worked to uncover my truest self. She gave birth to this search as surely as I give birth to her twenty-seven years ago. And I have been deeply enriched by both births.
Happy birthday, Kara Liz.