On November 16th, 2012, I gave birth to our first daughter. I have been trying for two and a half months now to write this post in my head, and I just haven't been able to do it. It feels like trying to pin down air. My words are stupid, fumbling, inadequate. And she is pure love. How can I confine her to a box of language? Why should I be so naive as to try? And yet her story must be told...
Here is her story, from the beginning.
My pregnancy this time was difficult. It wasn't terrible physically, but the emotional discomfort was there. I often felt maxed out and tired of a body that was all used up. My third trimester schedule of medical appointments (4-5 per week) overwhelmed me. I looked in the mirror and saw a decade's worth of pregnancy pounds. I wanted space, time to myself, a vacation with my husband. I wanted to be selfish and do something for ME.
For nine months, I struggled with the indecision in my head. Time and time again, God has told me to go forward, to continue on this childbearing road. It hasn't been easy, but I have obeyed. This time was different. This time, I was ready to throw in the towel.
For nine months, I watched my husband. I took silent note of the times he seemed stressed, frustrated or overwhelmed, and hid them away in my heart, telling myself that he would support my decision to end our family line. I wrote in waves of bitterness to the friend that I knew would hear me and not judge me. I am certain that I hurt her with my self-centeredness. I recognized how easy it was to misspeak and to hurt, and used it as further proof that I was beyond my capacity as a mother. Further proof that I should get out now, and cut my losses.
I made a stealthy plan to become friends with the pill just as soon as I was able. I knew that Justin would trust my intuition and would not question my judgment in the matter. I ignored the lingering uneasiness and told myself that "just a little time off" would be so good for me...for my body, for my marriage, for my family.
It was about two weeks before I was due that I began getting bombarded with messages in regards to how very wrong I was. Suddenly, everywhere I looked, people were sending me articles about the importance of the large family in today's society, sending me encouragement, urging me on. All of the correspondence came from the most unlikely sources, and none of it was weighted--no one was privy to the decision I had already made within my own heart. Like Jonah, I turned my back and ran, ignoring every word that came my way, trying not to think about it, telling myself that decision was already made and the messages weren't meant for me. I knew it would be better for my sanity and my bank account if I just closed my ears and continued on the path I had chosen.
Then---- Justin was encouraged to apply for a promotion at work. He did, though uncertain about whether he really wanted it, and assumed he bombed the interview when he told the VP honestly that he hoped to eventually leave the company and move on to other things. We were both shocked when, despite his damning interview, he was chosen for the promotion and given a significant bump in salary. (He had been promoted just 4 months prior, and for the first time then we were able to pay our bills and have just a bit left over.) This new position gave us quite a bit of "fluff" in a budget that has always been brass tacks. The cracks in my resolve when he got the new job began to grow. God was financially making a way for us to bring this new baby home...and I was about to throw it back in his face? I wavered. A week went by, or two, and suddenly it was the night before my induction. I worried over the details at the house, writing lists of instructions for care of the boys, and filled the fridge with food, while Justin worried over his desk at work, dotting every i and crossing every t. He came home late that night, finally away from the papers and numbers, looked at me sheepishly and told me that he had been told privately that afternoon that he was getting a large Christmas bonus...from a company that hasn't given bonuses in years. I stood in my kitchen and shook my head at him, astounded. Finally I said, "You have to stop this. You have to stop bringing money home. This is getting ridiculous!"
I slept restlessly all that night. Part of my restlessness was certainly due to the monumental thing I knew I had to do the next day, but most of it was because of the dreams that plagued me all night. ALL NIGHT, I dreamed of all of the concrete ways that God would provide for my family. The dreams were very specific. God gave us shoes, he gave us bikes, there were rooms and rooms of schoolbooks. And throughout the whole dream I wandered, wide-eyed, and kept saying to my husband (who was with me), "I didn't know, I didn't know. I didn't know it would be this easy, I didn't know that it was all within grasp!"
At 5:00 the next morning (November 15th), the alarm went off. I think I was already awake, sorting through my dreams, and as soon as I heard Justin stir, I sat up in bed and burst into tears. I blubbered hysterically. "I can't do this anymore, I can't even sleep now, I thought I could ignore all of the messages but now they are in my dreams! I can't even SLEEP!" He was dumbfounded, had no idea what I could be speaking of. "Slow down, start from the beginning," he murmured, and I blubbered my way through the whole long two week window, every message, every encouragement I had shut my eyes tightly against. I confessed my secret plan and told him why I couldn't possibly follow through now. "This is ours now," he told me, "you can't keep these things to yourself, you have to tell me." I assured him that no 9-month pregnant woman literally on her way to the Childbirth Center would be advocating for having MORE children if it were not by divine intervention. He understood. He prayed with me, I wiped my eyes, we woke the children to take to the sitter's, and we were on our way.
I'm telling you all of this back story to try to explain the level of peace I had when we were finally admitted and I was lying in that bed. I was diabetic, facing my second VBAC, and there were risks abounding, but I had so much peace about that day and about our future as a family. I had been having nightly anxiety attacks for months but they were all gone now. There was a bigger picture. It would all be okay.
And then... came Bea. She was delivered from me at 12:27 am on the morning of the 16th. I cried when they announced her time of birth. When I first met Justin, he was young and stubborn, with the world on his shoulders, and he had boldly made a pact within himself that he would take control of his life and would not marry until he was 27 years old (just an arbitrary number). In reality, on his 27th birthday, I was already pregnant with our third child. But the further we have gotten in our life together, the more that God has reassured us that he knows the plans we laid forth for ourselves, and that he has a better way. Ari was born on August 27th, Henry was born on May 27th, and our first daughter--Beatrice--was born 27 minutes after midnight on the 16th, just a few short weeks after Justin and I celebrated 16 years together. Somebody planned her arrival. Somebody knew, all this time, that she was coming. She was meant to be.
So many people have asked me what I felt when she was born. I really can't put it into words. I was so thrilled, and so shocked, on such a deep level that I'm still coming up out of the fog. When I saw my 18 year old niece for the first time after Beatrice was born, I told her, "It's as if you have this person, this one person that you love most in the world. And he wants so much to have this one particular gift, but you can't give it to him. And then one day you get to give that gift, and the feeling is more than you can bear." Handing my husband his daughter was one of the single most greatest moments of my life. It takes nothing away from the elation we felt when each of our sons were born. But Bea was a special little seed inside Justin's heart--she is the one he has been watching for--and seeing the look on his face when he got to be a daddy to her for the first time--a daughter's daddy--is beyond what I can describe.
We named our daughter Beatrice because it means "Bringer of Joy". Her middle name is Ruth, which means "Companion, Friend". She changed our whole lives. She changes our future. She made me a liar---all of the things I have insisted for years that I would NEVER do if I had a daughter, I have already done. When I myself was young, I despised girly things, hated girly colors, climbed trees with the boys and tried to rip holes in my dresses before Sunday School so that I could get away with wearing pants. I had one dress that I loved but it was blue. My bedroom was a sunny yellow. When well-meaning friends tried to tease that I would go over-the-top GIRL should a daughter enter our fraternity, I told them they didn't know me well enough. She would wear her brothers' hand-me-downs, I insisted--no sense in spending valuable dollars on a second wardrobe when the original Levis would do. And then this little sunny spot was born, and all of my days were brand new. All of the rules were different. I immediately began growing my nails and dropping baby pounds. I had the sudden urge to call my father and apologize for all the years I have worn ripped jeans instead of long skirts. I was shocked at the fierce protection I felt for her--totally different emotions than those that flooded my heart in the boys' first days. I dressed her in purple one day and spent the whole day mad at her clothes because they weren't pink. Seriously, people. I have lost my mind over this girl.
To my darling Baby Bea,
You were known before there was time. We have been waiting for you! We didn't know how full we would be with you in our lives. Beauty begins with your name; you are what men have built ships for, sailed seas, and climbed mountains to find. Three days after your birth I danced with you and Daddy to "Great is Thy Faithfulness" while Daddy told you that he couldn't wait to braid your hair some day, and I cried. Every time I see the way he looks at you, I cry. You are the jewel in my crown. You are my daughter, my sweet Baby Bea! Nana wants to buy you purses. She wanted to stop and buy you a purse when she drove us home from the hospital, but it was too soon. There will be plenty of time for purses!
You are such a special girl. Your smile lights up the room. Your brothers revere you, stand in amazement at you, soothe you when you cry. Reese sang you Cami's Lullaby and you went right off to sleep. Daddy lulled you to sleep with his mandolin, and the moment changed him forever. That man would fight dragons for you.
Bea, your daddy and I could have missed you. We could have so easily missed you.
"Weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning!" psalm 30 verse 5