April is synonymous with birdsong: pregnant robins who proudly carry the title of our State Bird. There’s nothing sweeter than waking before dawn to a cheerful chorus of red-breasted mothers-to-be.

I related to their song this morning when a plump robin landed on a limb outside my study window. Wednesday, April 5, 1975, the morning I waddled into Crittenton Hospital in Rochester, came to mind.

Three weeks overdue with my second child, Dr. Johnson decided to induce labor. Since our family lived forty-five minutes south from the hospital, I agreed and packed for the night. Devoted to my first attempt with natural childbirth, Mel and I dropped off Rebecca, our four-year old daughter, with a sister in Troy.

In 1970, the obstetrician who assisted in Rebecca’s birth ordered Twilight Sleep during my labor. She consequently preferred sleeping to nursing. Engorgement ensued, the first of many obstacles that foiled my commitment to breastfeed.

Second time around, older and wiser, I listened when a friend recommended Dr. Johnson and his OB-GYN team who offered Lamaze classes to their patients and husbands. What hooked Mel was the steak and lobster dinner the hospital staff served the father and mother before they left for home with their baby.

The Lamaze movement connected me to La Leche League, an international organization that advocates for breastfeeding mothers. The local group sustained a hotline and monthly meetings hosted in members’ residences.

Rebecca, who chose the name Becky in kindergarten, enjoyed my Lamaze breathing exercises. She’d sit before me and close her eyes while I breathed into her face.

On our short drive from my sister’s house to the hospital, I asked Mel, “If it’s a girl, what do you want to name her?”

“Not another Bible name,” he said.

“You don’t like the sound of Rebecca and Rachel?”


Considering my Irish roots, I asked, “What about the name Kelly?”


I delivered Kelly that afternoon without sedatives. She nursed vigorously on the delivery table.

My husband
suggested Elizabeth
for Kelly’s middle
name. Obviously, he didn’t recall the New Testament reference to John the Baptist’s

That night, one of April’s ice storms blew in. Alone in my postnatal room, I couldn’t sleep for joy and longing to unwrap Kelly Elizabeth for Rebecca Jane to touch. I ached for my children, husband, and bed.

The fresh April air.

Today, mother robins revive these desires, remind me not all fledglings survive when they leave the nest. No matter our diligent feeding and watch over them, many snares await the wing in its flight for independence.

On the eve of Kelly’s birth, although she’s 2,000 miles away, I see and feel her in my arms when I look out our windows, or walk our little farm and along Stoney Creek. For wherever there is a tree or shrub, the atmosphere teems with life and

Dear Reader, April is synonymous with birth, a tear fallen for tenderness lost. Rebecca’s hand ever reaching for Kelly’s, and never touching.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.