Positivity 4: Parenthood

Today, I want to talk about my daughter, Natalie. While I always thought I would like to someday have children, I was never terribly sure about when. My own father was 25 when I was born, and in recent years, he once confided in me that he was vastly unprepared to be a parent. This had the effect of making me even more cautious.

Still by early 2007, with my schooling over, we were ready (or so we thought) to plunge toward the world of parenthood. At the end of August/beginning of September 2007, we lost our first baby. It couldn’t have been more than about six weeks of gestation, but its tiny cells ceased developing. The loneliness of losing a child is something that you can only understand by going through it, I’m afraid. Fortunately, I was shocked by how many people HAD gone through it, and told us so. The sadness at the loss of that baby gave way to a certainty that parenthood was something that we definitely wanted to do.

So it was doubly difficult when we lost another baby in March/April 2008. On a Saturday night, Julie and I stood in Cincinnati and I watched Bruce Springsteen sing a song called “Magic”. It’s a song of foreboding, and darkness, and Julie had already begun to experience the symptoms which would culminate in miscarriage two days later. “This is what will be” goes the tag line of the song, and I’d never felt quite as sure that somebody was singing to me.

Losing one baby was just bad luck. Losing two worried us. Would we ever have babies? At least one concerned family member started to broadly hint that adoption was not a bad thing. The uncertainty and worry could be overburdening. We had a drawer with our pictures of our two tiny little balls of humanity, which had never advanced beyond that stage. It had other baby artifacts that people bought. There was a yellow Dumbo sleeper, and I would sometimes take it out and hold it and cry, thinking of the babies who never got to grow to fill that tiny garment.

In late November 2008, my friend Ryan Clark and I collaborated on one of our UK sports weekends. Ryan bought basketball tickets and we watched Billy Gillispie’s team open its season by losing to VMI. The next night, my football tickets landed us in the freezing cold, watching Vanderbilt beat Kentucky, and thus clench their first bowl appearance in a quarter century.

Sometime around the very same time, though, my wife and I collaborated on a much more important event, which delivered a victory bigger than any ball games.

Our daughter, Natalie, was born in August 2009. We worried through nine months, but felt better as the little fetal ball of cells grew into a person. In April 2009, we learned that she would be a girl, and I went to Target from the doctor’s office and bought her a little green sun dress that she would wear home.

Anyway, I apologize for the clouds on the posts of positivity. I bring these things up to point out that the difficulties of parenting, and they are not insubstantial, are always much less to me than those frustrated months of not parenting.

I also wanted to share this story because I want other people to know that these things do happen, and that the grief is intense and excruciating, but that it isn’t everything.

I thank my wife for her selflessness and patience– and for giving me her permission to share the intimate details of our story today. I thank God for the miracle that finally did happen, and even for the journey that led us here.

Natalie is nine months old. She likes to laugh and hop in her Johnny-Jump-Up toy. She will sometimes reach out and grab my face and pull it toward hers and slowly, deliberately, put her mouth onto my nose. She bit it a little yesterday.

If you have your own child(ren), I don’t need to tell you that I think she is the smartest, funniest, most beautiful and wonderful little person ever. I have so many hopes and wishes for her and her future– and a determination to enjoy every day I share with her. Life is sacred and mysterious and precious. I am reminded of it every day. Even when it bites my nose.

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