Flowers in the morn, freshly born – come let’s drift together

Rivaled only by when she said “I do,” life has offered no finer moments to me than bearing witness while my dear wife first experienced motherhood, and then experienced it again. And such different times they were.

The first was on a fine April morning in 1991, when as Canadian residents we enjoyed the benefits of OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) along with – as we would come to realize – some rather liberal birthing amenities.

Amongst the information provided by Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital was a list of ‘Things to Bring’ for the ordeal. And we followed it closely, including: a cooler with some beer to “encourage lactation,”  sandwiches for the expectant dad in case it was a long wait, and a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion.

Also recommended were extra pillows, a telephone to be plugged in so that we could share the news from the birthing room, a deck of playing cards in case “labour was extended” (and how!) and a portable radio/cassette player to listen to our favourite music during the birth.

Nineteen hours – and countless walks around the maternity ward – later, the baby was finally on its way, and although not quite as planned everything had come in handy, except for those cards because we were both too excited to concentrate on our game.

The beer, alas, had been consumed with the sandwiches by this attendant father prior to any hope of lactation, while the rotary phone we’d brought provided a means of casting a bet in the family pool regarding the child’s birth date (which I still have yet to collect on); and the pillows did indeed provide comfort for us both.

At some point after midnight Linda elected for epidural pain relief and suddenly became a comedian. Meanwhile I’d been instructed to wear a mask and, providing much needed comedic fodder, nearly passed out from hyperventilation while encouraging her to breath/pant like we’d learned in Child Birth Class…

After regaining full consciousness I became aware of this piece being played over our radio/cassette player and am thrilled to affirm that I was fully present and clear-headed enough – at 01:22 on Wednesday 17 April – to witness the birth of Giles William Pettingell to the strands of The Flower Duet ... which here takes about seven seconds to cue…

After Giles had been weighed, and his digits had all been counted, and after his grandparents had been informed by phone, Linda and I popped the champagne and toasted to family-hood, leaving the remainder of the bottle for the nurses whose shift was about the end.

Later I recall handing out $5 bills to every street person I encountered on my way home, and I only wish it were more. Although there were neonatal complications and mother and child wouldn’t come home for nearly a week, our only out-of-pocket expense in the end was Giles’ $6 ID necklace … ah the wonders of publicly funded health care.

Yes, but our daughter is a Bostonian and it was around midnight on a May Saturday night in 1993, once Giles had been scooped up by his grandparents, that Linda was admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I don’t recall which private medical plan we had back then (there’ve been many through the years) but it provided few of the amenities we’d enjoyed in Toronto. Nor were we encouraged to bring a cooler with beer, sandwiches, champagne, or a radio/cassette player.

Still, the Brigham and Women’s birthing room had its own phone, and in the wee hours of a Sunday morning the maternity ward was an impressive place to be. After a quick and friendly admission we found ourselves on what looked like a circular delivery floor, with half a dozen birthing rooms and a nurse’s station serving as the hub. Again it was thumbs up with the epidural and my hilarious wife, the comedian, was back again.

Nonetheless the comfy chair with a pullout footrest held a particular allure for me, considering the hour, and when Linda began to doze, I too nodded off. Awakened sometime later by the nurse during her periodic examination, I again fell asleep, only to be  woken once more by an urgent appeal from my wife to get the doctor, because  “the baby’s on it’s way!”

But the nurse, who now wasn’t at her station, had said that it would still be a few hours. As I returned to remind Linda of that assessment I was stopped in my tracks by perhaps the most urgent expression I have ever encountered.  My next words were, “Hey, my wife’s having her baby!”

The nurse quickly appeared and began to assure me that she was only partially dilated … until I opened the door wide enough for her to see Linda’s expression.  Her next words were, “I’ll get the doctor!”

The Doc may as well have been wearing a catcher’s mitt when he arrived because – for the first time but certainly not the last – Mary Bartlett Pettingell had expressed her sincere desire and determination, and was born (on the dot ) at 08:30 on Sunday 23 May. Though there was no radio/cassette player this time, the strands of The Flower Duet once again wafted through my mind.

After Mary had been weighed, and her digits had been counted, and after the grandparents had been informed, Linda and I toasted with apple juice to family-hood.  And mother and daughter came home the very next day.

Dôme épais de jamin (The Flower Duet) is a duet for sopranos from Léo Delibes’ 1883 three-act opera, Lakmé. Written in the era of the British Raj, when Hindus were forced to practice their religion secretly, the high priest Nilkantha has gone to a Brahmin temple to perform his sacred rites, leaving his daughter, Lakmé and her servant, Mallika to go down to the river to gather flowers…

With musical performance by Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the duet is sung here by the great Dame Joan Sutherland and Jane Berbié.

And to every mother, and despite the poor translation, may you too have occasion today to drift ‘neath the leafy dome, where the jasmine white, blends with the rose ….

Dôme épais de jamin / Flower Duet

LAKMÉ & MALLIKA:

Sous le dôme épais

Où le blanc jasmin

À la rose s’assemble

Sur la rive en fleurs,

Riant au matin

Viens, descendons ensemble.

Doucement glissons de son flot charmant

Suivons le courant fuyant

Dans l’onde frémissante

D’une main nonchalante

Viens, gagnons le bord,

Où la source dort et

L’oiseau, l’oiseau chante.

Sous le dôme épais

Où le blanc jasmin,

Nous appellent

Ensemble!

Ah! descendons

Ensemble!

‘Neath the leafy dome,

Where the jasmine white

Blends with the rose,

Flowers in the morn, freshly born,

Come let’s drift together!

Ah! Let’s glide along,

Let us gently glide along;

For its enchanting flow,

The current so strong,

The water is shimmering.

Hand skims the surface nonchalantly

On the rippling surface.

Come, let’s go to the shore

Where the bird sings,

Where the spring sleeps

‘Neath the dome rowers unite,

‘Neath the leafy dome, where the jasmine white,

Calls us together!

Ah! Let’s drift together!

LAKMÉ:

Mais, je ne sais quelle crainte subite
s’empare de moi.

Quand mon père va seul à leur ville maudite,


Je tremble, je tremble d’effroi!

But, an eerie feeling of distress overcomes me

When my father goes into their accursed city

I tremble, I tremble with fright!

MALLIKA:

Pour que le Dieu Ganeça le protège,


Jusqu’à l’étang où s’ébattent joyeux


Les cygnes aux ailes de neige,


Allons cueillir les lotus bleus.

May the god, Ganesh, keep him from dangers,

Till he arrives at the joyous pool just in view,

Where with wings of snow the swans are swimming.

Come, let us pick blue lotuses.

LAKMÉ:

Oui, près des cygnes aux ailes de neige,


Allons cueillir les lotus bleus. 

Oh yes, let’s go near the swans with wings of snow,

And pick blue lotuses.

LAKMÉ & MALLIKA:

Sous le dôme épais

Où le blanc jasmin

À la rose s’assemble

Sur la rive en fleurs,

Riant au matin

Viens, descendons ensemble.

Doucement glissons de son flot charmant

Suivons le courant fuyant

Dans l’onde frémissante

D’une main nonchalante

Viens, gagnons le bord,

Où la source dort et

L’oiseau, l’oiseau chante.

Sous le dôme épais

Où le blanc jasmin,

Nous appellent

Ensemble!

Ah! descendons

Ensemble!

‘Neath the leafy dome,

Where the jasmine white

Blends with the rose,

River flowers in the morn – freshly born

Come let’s drift together!

Ah! Let’s glide along,

Let us gently glide along;

For its enchanting flow,

The current so strong,

The water is shimmering.

Hand skims the surface nonchalantly

On the rippling surface.

Come, let’s go to the shore

Where the bird sings,

Where the spring sleeps

‘Neath the dome rowers unite,

‘Neath the leafy dome, where the jasmine white,

Calls us together!

Ah! Let’s drift together!

LAKMÉ & MALLIKA:

Sous le dôme épais

Où le blanc jasmin

Nous appellent

Ensemble!

Ah! descendons

Ensemble!

‘Neath the leafy dome,

Where the jasmine white…

Calls us together!

Ah! Let’s drift together!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s