I was yanked out of the waters of my first baptism by forceps used with such urgency that my head remained misshapen for years. I cry when I think about it, which isn’t often. Birth seems a silly thing to grieve, but my mother didn’t want a baby just then. She wasn’t ready. I was an accident, a burden arriving early. Not by her choice. Not by mine. She would have chosen an abortion, and I would have chosen to be aborted so I could have slid directly to the better place. This forced detour hasn’t been all that scenic. My mother should have been trusted. She knew. But the law required that she carry me from fetus to fruition. So here I am.
I’m lucky. Many born unwanted are never wanted. They remain objects of resentment and neglect. My parents had the internal means to adjust, and the external support needed to accept my birth, recalibrate, and carry on. But I think I speak for most fetuses. Straight to God is better. Let the mother decide.
My second baptism occurred when I was four. My hair was done up in little curls and sprayed with lacquer-like hairspray, so the sprinkling of water hardly ruined a thing. I’ve been told I went along with it, cheerful and apparently charming. I don’t remember much except that I was the focus of a somber ceremony, and it involved a God in white robes.
My third baptism occurred in my late teens, entirely my choice. It happened in a swimming pool in Connecticut, conducted by a fervent bleeding-heart Jesus freak in frayed cut-offs with an acne-scarred chest. The miracles, imagined and otherwise, continued, inspiring faith and madness in equal portions. Snakes haven’t bit me; lightening hasn’t struck me. God outgrew the robes and now arrays herself in tangibilities, acts of kindness, and the brilliance of the rising sun. She has adjusted things so that I can maintain a modicum of decorum and enough sanity to pass as ordinary.
“Ordinary?” God says, teasing. “No. Not you.”
“Hi, God.” I say. “Happy Mother’s Day.”
“Thanks,” God says. She looks happy. She’s carrying a wicker hamper, and though the world is resting on her shoulders as usual, for once, it is riding light and easy.
“What’s in the basket?” I ask, anticipating an invitation for a hike or a picnic. Afterall, it is Mother’s Day.
“Oh, the usual,” she says. “Sandwiches, carrots, water, dandelions, ants, umbrellas, music, cookies…and forceps.”
“Ah, c’mon God,” I say, probably looking a little pale.
“Better to be prepared,” God says. And basically, I agree.
“You didn’t need to bring the ants,” I say.
“You’re probably right,” God says. “But one never knows.”