(What Actually Happened) On The Night You Were Born

My son has this beautiful book called “On the Night You Were Born.”  The illustrations are surreal but simple images of animals and plants and the night sky.  The rhymes are sweet.  The entire book is to tell the child how much they are loved and cared about and how on the night they were born the entire earth celebrated their existence.  When you’re reading it while rocking your child to sleep it’s hard sometimes not to get a little choked up.

night you were born

But of course there are other nights when I suddenly remember the actual night my son was born and (spoiler alert) the polar bears do not dance until dawn in that version.  That version involved a hospital and a bunch of blood.  Nancy Tillman was not there holding my hand and telling me it would be ok and in general things got a bit stressful.  Having my son was magical at times, but the actual night he was born wasn’t particularly magical, it was kind of rough.  Which is why when someone told me that you can buy a personalized copy of On The Night You Were Born I immediately thought, “WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT THAT?  THAT WOULD BE THE WORST BOOK TO READ TO CHILDREN,” because, like a total idiot, I thought it was your actual literal birth story written out with Nancy Tillman’s illustrations.  (For the record, I think they just include your child’s name in the title—On the Night You Were Born, Mallory—and have a personalized introduction page.)

But of course once I started thinking about writing out my actual birth story, how could I not do it?   Sorry I didn’t have time to re-create all the illustrations but my kid no longer naps.  My apologies to Nancy Tillman for this far inferior (though more true to life) version of her beautiful book.


To My Son:

night born theuglyvolvo 1

On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder.

And your father whispered, “Hey, do you want to order in Vietnamese food?” and I was like, “Yeah, I love Vietnamese food, that sounds great.”


night born theuglyvolvo 1.1

So enchanted was I with the spring rolls I had, but I felt sort of weird and I felt sort of bad.

(The feeling I felt was a magical one but became much less magical as the night wore on.  Let’s say it out loud before we go on: contraaaactions.)

night born attending theuglyvolvo

I sailed through the kitchen, starting to seethe

Clutching my stomach

And trying to breathe.

Until everyone heard it and everyone knew and my husband was like, “Wow, this is advancing really quickly, should I call a cab to take us to the hospital?” and I was like, “No, the doctor-on-call told me to wait until the contractions are a minute in length.”


night born 1.7

Not once had there been such confusion.  Such pain.  A feeling as though I’d been hit by a train.

(In fact I think I’ll count to three and we can run through how I was supposed to do that breathing thing again.)


night born 1.8

 When the polar bears heard, they were like, “Um– if your contractions are 3 minutes apart you should really be in the hospital.

night born 1.9


From far away places the geese were like, “SERIOUSLY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  PLEASE CALL A CAB IMMEDIATELY.”


night born theuglyvolvo 2

The moon stayed up until morning next day, at which point it actually picked up the phone and was like, “Hi, this is the moon.  I need a cab for an insane pregnant woman who’s afraid of getting to the hospital too early and being told to go back home.  Can you be here in 15 minutes?  Great, thanks.”


night born theuglyvolvo 2.1

And none of the ladybugs was fully able to explain “back labor.”


night born theuglyvolvo 2.2

So if you ever wonder how special you are

And you ask, “Was my birth night completely bizarre?”

Listen for geese honking high in the sky.

(They’re going, “So sorry, your mom didn’t get there in time for an epidural.”)

Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo

(It’s because they’re exhausted from telling me to PUSH– PUSH NOW.  WE NEED YOU TO PUSH.)

Or drift off to sleep the sound of the wind.

That’s what I felt like doing when that whole ordeal was over but then all the extended family showed up and I felt like falling asleep would be rude.

night born 2.3

 And never again in story or rhyme

(not even once upon a time)

would I feel like going through that again

so I’m really sorry if you were hoping to have a whole bunch of siblings.

night you were born the ugly volvo final

So…the night you were born?  Was less magic than pain.

There were no singing oak trees and no gentle rain.

There were no dancing mammals with shimmering fur


And yet, were you worth it?

Without question, you were.



         *               *                *

Thanks for reading.  If you’d like to read a much more beautiful version of the night your child was born, here is a link to buy the actual book, which you should totally do.

If you’d like to follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you can do those things by clicking the links, or you can scroll to the bottom of the page and sign up to get e-mails when I put up new posts.

18 CommentsComment

  1. Hmm yes, a much more realistic version. Cried with laughter at the confirmation that there were definitely no giraffes- could have been had you had that epidural and topped it up with some gas 😉 Love it!

  2. Avatar

    bets shafer

    I have five children, one of whom was 9 lbs., 14 oz., to the surprise of everyone (no ultrasound then–he was born in a small Eastern-Canadian hospital in 1971). Two were born at home (because we planned it that way). I could write five loony stories!

  3. That. was. awesome!! I will never read the book quite the same again 🙂 lol

    – From a fellow “there’s no time for an epidural??” comrade!

  4. Your version made me tear up worse than the original. This was great

Leave a Reply