Pearls from Heschel's Heavenly Torah
Join me on Sunday for poems, Q-and-A, and conversation!

My first poetry reading with our son by my side

By the time we find the right room, it feels as though we've taken every elevator in the hospital complex. Though once we go down the right one, and exit on floor G, I realize in a flash that I have been in this place before -- this is the floor where we took childbirth classes, an infinity ago before our son was born. "I think I've been here before," I say aloud.

"I don't think so," says our son, who is holding his pink Hello Kitty water bottle in one hand and holding my hand with the other.

"It was before you were born," I tell him.

"Ohhh," he says, meaningfully, though I'm not sure he really understands what "before you were born" means.

We're at Berkshire Medical Center to be brief special guests at a MotherWoman training for caregivers -- therapists, nurses, and so on -- who work with postpartum women. When we enter the room, it's packed. And it is the very same room where Ethan and I practiced different kinds of labor breathing.

Their time is tight and they have a lot to cover, so I'm only going to read two poems from Waiting to Unfold. Since this is a training about working with women who may have postpartum depression, I choose an early poem from the collection which was written during the worst of the depression: "Besieged." As soon as I tell them the title, a knowing hum runs around the room and someone murmurs, "that's all you really have to say." I read the poem, and I can feel them receiving it and taking it to heart.

After I finish the first poem, our son, who is sitting at a table full of therapists, says "Mommy?"

"Yes, my love?"

"Can I help you read the story?"

"You can come up here with me," I offer, and he does; he stands at the front of the room, holding my hand. I can feel the energy in the room shift. Everyone here saw me come in with a little boy, but there's something different about hearing these first-year poems with the subject of the poems standing at the podium too.

I start reading the last poem in the collection, "One Year (Mother Psalm 9)," and as I read the first few lines, I realize that I am near tears. "When the doctor brought you / through my narrow places / I was as in a dream" -- and this is the very building where the doctor did that very thing -- where I was transformed from a woman into a mother.

As I'm reading the words, time is telescoping. I'm inhabiting two spaces in time at once: his birth and those early days, and this moment, right now, standing with our tall and funny three and a half year old in front of a room of caregivers reading this poem.

And then he chimes in, over the top of the poem, "And don't forget, you have to look out for alligators!"

The whole room collapses in laughter. I manage to finish the poem, they thank us for coming, and we find our way back to the right elevator again.