A letter to my newborn nephew

Dear Xavier,

You've been with us such a short time that I can still count the days on your fingers and toes, but even before you arrived, you were teaching us.

First it was a lesson in patience. Your mom and dad invited relatives and friends to come welcome you into the world, but when we arrived, it turned out you weren't quite ready to do the same. We trusted you would come in your own perfect time, blissfully unaware of our schedules.

A week later, I headed from Boston to New Jersey again, and this time I only beat you by an hour. The backyard was hushed but active. I gave my sister (your mother) support as she paced, stopping every few steps to give all her strength to the contractions.

Among the six women present, I was the only one who brought no personal experience of childbearing to this event. I had nothing to offer except a sister's love – and it took me a little while to adjust to the idea that this was enough.

Actually, I have been at a home birth once before – my own. This experience you and I share is rare in the United States: Only about 1 percent of births here happen at home, the midwife and friend who attended your birth told me.

One of her films of a home birth plays alongside the hospital footage at the local science museum. Someday, your birth video might have a wider audience, too.

I have never witnessed a more vivid example of family togetherness and love than the moment you emerged into your father's hands and were placed in your mother's arms. You made your first sound – more a coo than a cry – and your big sister stepped forward to smile at you. What could the rest of us do but follow her lead?

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