Twelve years ago I reclined in a hospital bed on Thanksgiving day with a catheter attached to my lower half. My water had broken, and my gigantic abdomen contracted with pain. I did not feel particularly thankful. Mostly, I felt afraid. And interestingly, my obstetrician was mad.
“Let’s get her to the OR. I’ve got a dinner to get to,” he said to the nurse.
“You gotta wait for the next nurse. My shift is almost over and I have to go to my family’s dinner,” she retorted.
“Well I can’t wait,” he demanded.
My contractions worsened with each exchange. I was a nuisance, a Thanksgiving interruption. I was the woman whose water had inconveniently broken, the big bump waiting to have a new boy pulled from it, while some well-dressed guy was thinking about how much bird he could eat before five-o’clock.
Shortly after, this same doctor, likely still thinking about turkey, inserted a needle into my spine. I can't remember which nurse ended up accompanying him; but he numbed my body, and then, while chatting about family plans, proceeded to slice me open and dig out my baby. At this point, I felt a little like the actual turkey, but not quite as important. All grossness aside, once the thing got started, I was thankful. Afterall, I was about to meet a new human being.
When they finally pulled him out, my baby N. screamed loud. He was like a 7- pound truck. Everyone laughed. “It’s a boy!” they said. And that’s when Thanksgiving began for me.It was the scream. It was new breath. It was thanksgiving wrapped in baby soft skin.
Right there in that room, the purpose of my Thanksgiving exploded. There was no turkey, no pie, no champagne, no crystal. But there were arms, legs, hands, eyes, fingers. There was a voice, a life coming from my own silly body. There was a child touching space, feeling his own soul sprawling among the rest of ours.
And maybe because my first baby had already fought for his life just the year before, I could see all the gifts in the room, like confetti around me. I was thankful for a heart beating on time, for veins connecting to all the right places, for screaming and shouting and pain. I was thankful for the ability to fall in love, for my marriage, for survival, for all the men and women in that room who came to work, to help other people, even while turkeys waited at home. I was thankful for my husband Lynn, grabbing my hand, hunched down, in love with a new boy.
I was able to see Thanksgiving so clearly then. Gifts coming, despite me. They came from the cranky doctor, the obstinate nurse, from my weary body, from the screaming child. Gifts came from the loud, awkward moments, from the interruptions in plans, from the air making space for one more soul.
This Thanksgiving, as I look at my 12-year-old, one of the kindest, wisest little people I know...I see a boy who loves his friends, his soccer ball, his family — and I'm thankful. My kids, my family and friends and the stranger I have yet to meet— they're all I need. They're the feast.