On September 22, 2014 my friend Andrew’s oldest daughter had her first child, a son. While this is his fourth grandchild, he is the first I’ve been around for. If, by around, I mean thousands of miles away in Florence, Italy. Since Tiffany went into labor, I’ve reflected a lot on pregnancy, labor, and birth. I remember when I was pregnant with Stefan, hearing the lyrics to the song “The Story Goes On” from the musical Baby. They had a profound impact on me.
“And all these things I feel and more
My mother’s mother felt and hers before
A chain of life began upon the shore of some primordial sea has
stretched through time and reached to me
And now I can see the chain extending
My child is next in the line that has no ending
And here am I feeling life that her child will feel when I’m long gone
Yes all that was is part of me as I am part of what’s to be
And thus it is our story goes on
And on and on and on and on”
I was overcome with emotion when I heard this song. I spread my hands across my body, amazed both by the precious life I was carrying and the realization that I was where every woman who had ever carried a child had been. Every mother in history had shared the waiting. Some had shared the uncertainty, the fear. Some had shared loss. Ultimately, all the women in my line had known the reality of bringing forth new life, some into contexts of privilege, some into pain. Some precious lives were cut short. Some were long and fruitful. But the chain from those women, my kin, was unbroken through time to me. Mother to mother to mother to mother for countless generations, and now, I was carrying the line forward. And now I was on the brink of becoming a mother. It felt overwhelming, but also calming to recognize the long line of women who had gone before me, whose lives led me to this point. I also felt hopeful for all the women who might come after me, continuing the line of women birthing children.
I felt a strong connection to my mother, to her mother. I called my mom to share these lyrics, these feelings with her. We cried. We laughed. We talked for hours. Our connection strong. We had a common understanding that I was carrying into the future.
Today I wish for Tiffany this joy of connection, of realization, of awareness of all who have come before and her contribution to all who will follow.
- Baby is a musical with a book by Sybille Pearson, based on a story developed with Susan Yankowitz, music by David Shire, and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. It concerns the reactions of three couples each expecting a child. The musical first ran on Broadway from 1983 to 1984.