This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is the ending of Chapter 35 of Adicia’s story, “Welcoming a New Troy.” Allen and Lenore’s firstborn child has just been born on Allen’s 23rd birthday, June 6, 1967, so the baby also shares her birthday with the anniversary of D-Day. Middle Troy child Emeline has come from Poughkeepsie, where she’s studying at Vassar, to be a doula of sorts (before the role had a name), and everyone is shocked at how she’s turned into a bona-fide flower child in the year she’s been away.
Veronica is a former labor and delivery nurse who became a midwife after becoming very upset and frustrated with how the typical maternity ward of the era was run (similar to Peggy Vincent’s story in Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife, a book I’d highly recommend to anyone interested in natural childbirth and midwifery). Given Lenore’s history before she came to Manhattan, she has a major fear of doctors and hospitals, and Allen wants to keep her away from that as well after hearing his older sister Gemma’s horror story about twilight sleep so many times. Suffice it to say, Gemma was completely traumatized by the standard birth procedures of the era, and that influenced the younger members of her family to want something more natural.
“Well, what do you know,” he laughs, staring down at the baby. “I really did get yet another girl for my harem.”
“Can I see her? I didn’t go through so much pain for the past thirteen and a half hours to not be able to hold her right away.”
“I love you more than ever,” Allen declares adoringly as he gently hands over the baby. “You went through all that pain to bring our firstborn child into this world. I don’t think I coulda handled it like such a pro. I bet you’re glad now you didn’t crack and get a Caesarean.”
“Whoa,” Emeline says as the next song on the record starts up. “This song is like a Buddhist riddle to meditate on. What does the sound of silence sound like?”
“Emeline, did you smoke too much weed?”
“No, I’m just tripping you out, man. Come on, let’s take some family pictures.”
Veronica takes a few pictures of Allen and Lenore with the baby, and then a group picture of everyone, with both Allen’s camera and her camera. After the pictures are taken, she delivers the placenta, which most of the girls think looks disgusting. Girl tells them that in some cultures, women eat or bury the placenta instead of throwing it out or burning it like medical waste. When the umbilical cord stops pulsating, Veronica lets Allen cut it with the one pair of left-handed scissors she has, and then the baby is weighed.
“Ten pounds even,” she informs them.
“Wow, that’s one big baby,” Adicia says. “No wonder you were in so much pain.”
“Your sister-in-law is a real champ,” Veronica says. “In spite of the big size and back labor, there isn’t any tearing that needs to be repaired.”
“What’s her name?” Justine asks as the baby starts suckling on Lenore’s breast. “I wanna find out the name before I go to bed.”
“Irene Lily Troy,” Lenore says proudly. “Irene means ‘peace,’ and lilies are a symbol of purity.”
“What a beautiful name,” Allen says. “A beautiful name for a beautiful girl.”
“And now, I think it’s time for everyone to go to bed,” Emeline says. “By the way, her time of birth was 11:31 and fourteen seconds. I’ll have a full Astrological chart drawn up for her soon.”
“Always the ones you least suspect,” Allen says, still shocked over Emeline’s transformation into a pot-smoking flower child.
“Well, you know what they say about the quiet ones!” she laughs.
“Oh, I made you a present,” Girl says, pulling something out of her bag, “I embroidered it on a piece of linen and put it in a frame for you to hang on your wall.”
Allen looks at it while Lenore falls asleep as Irene nurses. Girl has stitched an Irish baby blessing and shamrocks in emerald-green thread matching Lenore’s eyes.
May all the blessings of our Lord touch your life today.
May he send his little angels to protect you on your way.
Such a miraculous gift, sent from above.
Someone so precious to cherish and love.
May sunshine and moonbeams dance over your head
As you quietly slumber in your bed.
May good luck be with you wherever you go
And your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.
—Deirdre Ryan, 6-6-1967
“I stitched in the date today while Lenore was in labor. It’s the least I could do after you’ve been so great to me and my siblings for the past five years.”
“That was very nice of you,” Allen smiles, casting another glance over at Irene and Lenore.
“Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini,” Emeline whispers in Irene’s ear before everyone else heads off to sleep. “Welcome to our imperfect yet beautiful world, Miss Irene.”