The Triptych: Susan Bruzas’ “Birth”

Hi Readers,

As I said in the original post about the triptych, I’ve been teaching my memoir students the triptych form over the last few years.  During the first drafts, I encourage writers to use a one-word title that announces the theme that ties the scenes together.  Today’s triptych writer is Susan Bruzas who took my Writing the Memoir class in 08/09.  Her starting word for this triptych was “Transformation.”  Read where it took her…



by Susan Bruzas

In 1984 I was thirty-six years old and felt contented with my life.   After two years of trying to get pregnant, I had finally given birth to a beautiful little girl whom we named Lily. My husband Lyle and I had just given a big party for her first birthday. We had invited everyone we knew and, on a beautiful spring day, friends and family came to celebrate. Lily was a bright shining sun in our lives. She seemed to love life as much as she was loved. She focused on each stage of her development with passion and we watched fascinated as she rolled from one end of the room to the other to grab a rattle. When she began to crawl she soon became a speed demon crawling all over the house.  Now at one year old she had strawberry blonde hair and brown eyes. She was starting to talk and walk and was a complete joy.

During the party someone asked my husband if we were going to have another child. “That’s just a fantasy,” he responded firmly.  What immediately came to my mind was, “What about….”? I didn’t know how to end that question but surprisingly it suggested to me that there might be another little spirit waiting to be born into our family. I felt wistful that Lyle was so set in his belief, but along with Lily, he had another fifteen-year old daughter from his first marriage. I was sure that he felt for a man in his forties it was a busy enough life.

A week after the party, Lily was sleeping and I was just waking up from my own nap.  Comfortable in my brass-framed bed with a blue and red- patched quilt over me I was in a half sleep, my eyes closed, listening to the afternoon sounds of cars and school buses.  Without warning I heard what I thought was a deep, vibrating roll of thunder. Then I saw a vision of pink baby shoes sitting on my bedroom window sill. At the same time I heard an indescribable sound that resonated from within me. I’m not sure that I believe in angels, but it was a lovely kind of note that an angel might sing. Or perhaps it sounded like the musical whispering of a breeze blowing through a tree full of blossoms.  I had been meditating for about a year and had read about spontaneous inner sounds occurring in deep meditation. The Sanskrit word for these sounds was “nada” which could take the form of bells ringing, the blowing of a conch and thunder.[i] This experience suggested the coming of a lovely sweet baby.  I wondered if I could be pregnant. The shoes were pink so maybe it was a little girl!

A few weeks after the vision I found out that I was pregnant. I was ecstatic! To my surprise Lyle was happy too.  Nine months later on a snowy winter afternoon, my baby girl was born in that very same bedroom where I’d had the vision of tiny pink shoes. She was perfect. She had fuzzy brown hair and blue eyes that would later turn greenish gray.  We named her Alena, which means, “light.” She grew into a sweet, compassionate, person with a loving heart.

When I remember that afternoon lying in my bedroom wondering if I was pregnant, I know that the inner sound of thunder made me pay attention and prepare my body and my life for this new being. The sound of bells or singing showed me that Alena would be as lovely, radiant, and magical as the moonlight. And she was.


In March of 2009, Alena is twenty-four and very pregnant with her first child, and my first grandchild. We are all waiting in breathless anticipation, for the birth of this child, especially Alena, who is carrying forty pounds of extra weight on her small frame.

Sunday morning the March 29th, the phone rang insistently pulling me from a deep sleep. I fumbled for the receiver.

“Hello,” I croaked.

“Susan?” my son-in-law asked, as if he had forgotten whom he was calling.

“Rob?”. I sat up in bed and looked at the clock. It was 4:30 in the morning, and if he was calling me at that hour, it could mean only one thing: Alena was having her baby.

“We’re at the hospital,” he said calmly. They are about to move Alena to the Labor and Delivery room.”

“I’ll be right there,” I said excitedly.

Since I had been waiting for this call for days, of course I would have preferred if it hadn’t come only fours house after I’d taken a Lunesta and gone to sleep, but I knew that with the help of a strong cup of black team I could be at the hospital by 5:15 a.m.

But at 6 o’clock I was still driving my red Prius around and around the dark rainy blocks of Capitol Hill in Seattle looking of the damn hospital. I was lost. Earlier, I’d gone into a 7-Eleven and woke up a clerk. Initially, I thought he was dead because he was lying on the floor behind the counter. When I saw an i-Pod wire stuck in his ear I realized that he was asleep. I yelled, “EXCUSE ME! DO YOU KNOW WHERE GROUP HEALTH HOSPITAL IS?” He staggered to his feet and mumbled something about it being down the street to the right. Of course, it wasn’t.

Finally, in desperation I called a friend who I knew had had her baby at the same Group Health twenty-three years earlier. By cell phone she guided me down the dark streets, past a man, either drunk or crazy trying unsuccessfully to walk a straight line, right to the nighttime emergency entrance of the Family Center.

Walking rapidly down the hospital corridor to the birthing suite I flung open the door and cheerfully said, “Hi!” Alena opened one eye and then went back to breathing through a contraction. Understandably, the mood was not “Whahoo, I’m finally having the baby!” but one of quiet focus. While Rob held her hand and stroked her forehead, I took my seat on the other side of Alena. At the foot of the bed, a nurse observed closely.

After a few minutes, it became obvious that her contractions were very close together. About that time Alena said nervously, “ I feel something down there!”  The nurse said, “It looks like a head!” and immediately went to get the team. Alena looked at Rob and I and gave us both the sweetest smile. The team gathered but it took forty-five more minutes of hard pushing to get that little boy to come into the world.

When it finally happened, it was the most amazing thing: the baby came out completely blue. It reminded me of the color of the Hindu God Krishna. I felt a sense of the sacred shimmering through out the room. Then the baby took a huge breath of air and cried at the top of his lungs. Entering our world fully he turned totally pink and was placed on his mother’s chest. I looked at Alena’s face when she saw her baby for the first time. She appeared stunned. Her eyes were wide saucers and her mouth open in wonder.

Rob was smiling broadly, trying not to cry.  “Alena,” I said filled with joy, “it’s your

baby.”  And as she gazed at her new baby boy, she seemed to fully grasp that after all

of these months of watching her belly grow, and feeling the baby’s kicks, Rowan was

finally, really here.


I’ve been visiting my Grandson. He is only a week old but his cheeks are chubbier and he is content nursing in Alena’s arms. When I get to hold him I quietly sing the Indian devotional song, Narayana that I used to sing to Alena when she was a baby.  Rowan looks at me wide eyed as I sing and rock him. Then he falls into a sound sleep with his head back and his mouth open in a little O. He is so peaceful.

Being around the baby is like meditating. My mind slows almost to a stop and I breathe deeply. I feel like I’m in the presence of something great. But then Rowan has just come recently into our world from the mysterious place beyond our physical realm. His sleeping little self is probably checking into that realm taking a rest from the confusion and loud noises of life.

Soon it’s time to go. I kiss the baby, my daughter, my son-in-law and the dog. Driving home on the freeway I am wrenched out of my meditative state. People act crazily in their cars.  I swear loudly at someone who pulls up on my tail and then whips around me going eighty miles an hour.  My anger dissipates into sadness and then tears. Why am I crying? It must be that I have left the sweetness of my new Grandson behind and like him have ventured into the loudness and confusion of life.  As I get closer to home my sadness deepens into a familiar feeling of aloneness.  I park my car and climb the stairs into my living room. I stand looking out the window. I can see many of the houses across the street. My neighbors have joked that they are glad I was appointed the Neighborhood Block Watch Captain because I can see everything that is happening right up to their curtained windows. It is a beautiful spring afternoon. My Magnolia tree is in full array with a plethora of pink tulip shape blossoms. Everyone seems to be out in his or her yards celebrating the day. Deanne is mowing the lawn while her son, Don, is washing his car.  The young girls from down the block are riding their bikes in slow circles as they yell back and forth to each other. Jennifer and Rick are watching their two-year old little girl blow bubbles.   I am the only one that lives alone. Everyone in this entire block has a husband or wife and/ or children.  Why have I never had another relationship since I ended my marriage twenty years ago? Loneliness pierces my heart.  I thought somehow when Rowan was born that my life would transform. It would be a little like becoming a mother again. I would have a daily purpose in my life and company surrounding me. My life would have greater meaning. Seeing Rowan come into this world and my daughter become a mother has been an amazing experience. I am sure I will see him a lot. But now I’m home and life is still the same.  I haven’t changed and I still feel alone.

Through this dark feeling beams a shaft of light that I recognize. Oh yes, I forgot again. The love I feel for my children and the love that my children have given me are great gifts. The love that bubbles over for my new grandbaby that I feel for friends, for family and for any animal or thing is within me is divine, and always accessible. It radiates from my heart and is a part of the love and connection I have with others. My life is good and I am complete unto myself.

About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at
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3 Responses to The Triptych: Susan Bruzas’ “Birth”

  1. Thanks Susan. The other word that leaped out at me as I read this profound triptych is Generativity. It is the essence of that powerful emotion that left you feeling “complete unto” yourself. I write a blog titled Seedlings about generativity–featuring stories about parents and grandparents. I would love to know if you and Theo would be willing to let me either link to this blog posting or, perhaps even better, feature you as a guest blogger using this powerful story as the content for that contribution to Seedlings.

  2. Jenny says:

    Susan, you are quite a writer. I would love for you to capture these words through your photography and share it with Val and I someday. Giving birth and enjoying the cycle of new life is a true blessing. For some, this cycle may not continue. As this is my case at the time of this writing. Yet, I feel a sense of your completeness through your gift of the written word. Love you! Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. As I sit here reading this Rowan is laying next to me watching The Cat Returns and eating cashews. Life is truly amazing. I love you mom!

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