Nine years ago today I lay in a hospital bed in upstate New York laboring. And laboring. And laboring. There didn't seem to be an end in sight. The day before, my mom and I had taken a taxi to the doctor's office for an ultrasound and the tech, in a deadpan, matter-of-fact voice told me I had no amniotic fluid left and I'd need to be induced. ASAP. (Over the years I've come to realize that medical people always impart critical, urgent information in that same deadpan, matter-of-fact voice the tech used.) No fluid? I was filled with dread. I imagined my baby floating in some bizarre liquidless sack, without the comforting cushion of amniotic fluid to surround his tiny limbs, and his precious head. Scott was over two hours away at a job interview in Ithaca, and although I had my birth day suitcase packed and the tiny baby clothes washed and folded, and a dozen other nesting-related odds and ends (baseboards washed, bathrooms scrubbed, cabinets cleaned out and reorganized) completed, I didn't feel ready. Still, my mother and I headed off to the hospital, in a taxi again, and I cradled my huge belly in my arms, and felt mostly afraid, unmoored and adrift--the way you feel when you desperately want everything under your control but you feel it slipping away, unraveling, spinning out of reach. But it all worked out in the end. Scott showed up only a few hours after I'd been admitted, and it seemed ridiculous that I'd spent any time at all worrying he wouldn't make it to the birth, given that I went on to labor for over twenty hours. My mother was there, by my side, and despite my worries about the fluid level, and the fact that L. was born aspirating meconium, and those strangely anticlimatic, disjointed two days he spent in the NICU, we left the hospital three days after he was born, L. in our arms, and walked out into the hot July day, new parents into a new world. ************ I remember being nine. And while I also have some memories of being five, and six, and seven and eight, too, nine seems to me to be the year I really came into myself--in fact, although this sounds strange, I think a part of me is still firmly rooted in my nine-year old self (I'll have to really hold onto this belief when I turn FORTY later this summer). So far nine seems to fit L. L. at nine is all about Star Wars, and his new gel ant farm, his beloved books, his swim mask and fins, the $10 slot machine bank we found for him at the flea market, a world band radio from his uncle R. (we found him with his ear pressed to it last night, his shoulders tense with listening). At nine he seems to be coming into himself, his newly found confidence spilling over into the games he plays: he's a hero, a vanquisher of clone troopers, a scientist, a world-class detective, a pilot, a swimmer, an inventor; he's our first baby, our boy, our nine-year old boy. Nine. How could it be? Happy Birthday L.!