(Note to Readers: I'm taking off this week to celebrate the birth of my newest granddaughter, who was born May 15, and is beautiful and perfect in every way. This column is from 2004, but is still just as true.)
There's a song we sing, the women in my family, when we celebrate the birth of a child.
The Baby Song, I call it. It is sung, I suspect, by women in most families, when their time comes to be mothers and grandmothers and aunts.
Men have their own ways of welcoming babies, but women like to sing. The words change, the tune varies, but it's still the same song — a hymn of praise, an ode to joy, a prayer for strength and safekeeping, an old shape-note harmony of happy, grateful hearts.
We were a little rusty when we sang it this morning. It's been a while since we welcomed our last baby. But once you sing that song, you never forget it. It keeps playing on a jukebox in the back room of your mind.
The first part belonged to my sister. Grandmas always get to sing first. She crooned into the phone, "Hey, Sissy, we have a baby, she is perfect and she and her mama are fine!"
That was the opening cue. Details would follow (a girl, Logan Grace, 8 lbs., 2 oz., black hair, blue eyes, dark skin, C-section, mother's chin, father's brow, grandma's teeth.)
But "she is perfect, they are fine" is the best way to start.
When my niece was 15, she left her mother in the South and spent a year in California, living with me, my husband and our three children, who did their best to dissuade her from ever having a child of her own.
Evidence to the contrary, she insists they were not the cause of her waiting until she was nearly 40 to give birth.
She and her husband spent years wanting to have a child — wanting and waiting, hoping and dreaming — until one day they decided it was time to stop waiting and find a child who needed their love.
They were in the process of becoming foster parents when my niece learned she was pregnant. Initial elation soon turned into months of testing and worrying, fearing the worst while praying for the best.
Then today, God smiled down and whispered in our ears that glorious refrain, "She is perfect, they are fine." I kept singing it while trying to call my niece.
"Hey, Little Mama," I said, when she finally answered. For the next 20 minutes, my niece sang her part — the Mother's solo — an exhausting aria filled with big fancy terms like colostrum and bilirubin and terminal sleep deprivation.
My part was easy. I sang backup, interjecting advice: "Sha-na-na, don't you worry, sleep when she sleeps, nurse her when she's hungry, change her when she's wet, pick her up when she cries, kiss her nose and hand her to her daddy."
I also sang a special verse for the new mama is to be repeated as needed: "I'm a great mother, my baby is perfect and we'll be fine with the help of God and my auntie's good advice."
My niece laughed and promised to commit that verse to memory and sing it often.
Finally, it was time for the best part of the song.
"OK," I told my niece, "put her on the phone."
I listened, holding my breath. To an untrained ear, it might've sounded something like a cross between a chicken and a cat.
But I have sung the Baby Song enough times to recognize the voice of a newborn diva.
I wish you could've heard her.
She was singing a slightly different version of the same refrain the women in her family had been singing all morning:
"I am perfect and my mama and I are going to be fine."
There were only a few closing words left for me to sing:
"Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this precious child. Amen!"
Sharon Randall is the author of "The World and Then Some." She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924, or by email at [email protected]