My Little Girl,
On Friday, August 21st at 11:36 PM, you came into this world – all 8 lbs 3 oz of you. It happened so fast; the way life does. Mommy would probably disagree with that statement though. She was laboring for 17 long hours and at the 15-hour mark, after a spasm of pain transformed her into a fire-breathing dragon, I didn’t know whether to call for the nurse or an exorcist. In her defense she was having egregious contractions mere minutes apart, each one dropping you lower into her pelvic bone while her cervix opened at a rate that threw the space-time continuum into a death spiral. I was certain the last words I would ever hear, before a lightning bolt came out of mommy’s forehead and turned daddy into a pile of smoldering ash, were “where is my epidural?!”
The medical system prevailed and the epidural arrived; ostensibly delivered by a cherub dressed in doctor’s garb. I wasn’t able to be in the room when mommy received the anesthetic, so when I returned I was surprised to find that her horns had receded back into her skull, and the steam billowing out of her ears had been replaced by an ethereal nebulas – she was in heaven.
The remainder of her labor can be described veritably as “happening so fast.” Her pain evaporated and she dilated from 6 cm to 10 cm in the same amount of time it took daddy to change your first diaper – 1 hour. When the doctor said it was time to push, mommy and I turned to each other with looks of slight bewilderment on our faces, and smiled hesitantly with half-open mouths, unsure of how much our lives were about to changes, but knowing more than anything were ready to meet you.
I’m not sure if they were light on medical staff or if this is a customary practice in child birthing, but when it came time to push I was entrusted with the solitary duty of holding back mommy’s right leg and instructing her on how to push you out. Without any knowledge of obstetrics, and a susceptibility to passing out at the sight of blood, I was less than the ideal candidate for this position.
Not only was I unqualified, but my clothing choice must have been some level of medical malpractice. The Doctor was outfitted in several pieces of modern birthing gear: ankle high booties made from a clear diaphanous plastic, polymerous gloves that had to be replaced regularly to protect you from infection, and an astronautical face shield that made me wonder if mommy was giving birth to an extraterrestrial life form. Not everything the Doctor wore was ultra-modern; she also had on the same antiquated blue gown that has been used in Hospitals since the beginning of time. At least the Doctor looked like she belonged in the labor and delivery unit of a Hospital though…I was wearing jeans and a tee shirt.
Despite my inadequacies I embraced my role as Leg-Holder/Encourager and told mommy to push when the contraction built up. She did perfectly and after just one push I could see the top of your hairy little head.
Before I get to your birth let me make one thing clear: mommy is amazing. During pregnancy and labor I literally did nothing. Like, less than nothing. Nothing would have been not convincing mommy she needed to eat a half-pound cheeseburger before we got to the hospital because they weren’t going to feed her after we arrived. My voracious misjudgment resulted in an unprecedented dichotomy, and mommy was forced to labor with food AND baby. So instead of giving mommy good advice, let alone carrying you, laboring with you, and giving birth to you, I sat in the bleachers and said, “push”. How pathetic.
In the end, we got you, and that’s all that matters. It took an hour of mommy pushing, and an hour of me holding her leg and imploring her to “push”, but you came.
The Doctor held you in front of me and asked, “And what do we have dad?”
I wanted to say “a human”, but this was an inappropriate time to be sarcastic. She was asking if you were a boy or girl. Mommy and I wanted to keep your gender a surprise so we planned that I would be the one to announce what you were. After looking at you for the first time, tears welling in my eyes, I got to say “a girl.”
“Adelyn Rose Johnson,” were the next words I said as my eyes did the back and forth dance between mommy’s face and your own.
You were so beautiful. It didn’t matter that your hair was an incongruous heap of ruddy, bloodstained tendrils atop an amorphous head, or that your entire body was covered in a splotchy film of amniotic fluid, or that your serpentine umbilical cord was still attached to your tummy and looked more or less like the small intestine, or even that, generally, you looked like something that needed to be dunked in a vat of saline solution. Despite all of this, you simply were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
My emotions were ineffable. Elevated by the wondrous miracle of life, I felt like I was floating through the stars, being pulled into a dimension entirely unknown to me but altogether inviting and natural. I felt breathless and insignificant, but mostly, I felt love.
But as I floated away on my cosmic emotional voyage, I was pulled back to the delivery room by an imperceptible force. Instead of hearing your incipient cry or mommy’s giggly laugh, I heard myself repeating the first words you ever heard me say: a girl.
First: Panic. Second: Panic more. Third: Panic morer. I know morer is not a word but the important thing here is PANIC.
Girls are set up to fail in this world. Just go to Times Square and look around. The whole place is a microcosm for vanity. Thirty-foot tall advertisements of size negative two women dressed in barely enough fabric to make an eye-patch for a pirate, and some conceited quote, telling girls to Fill-In-The-Blank if they want to be beautiful. And then women go and try to fill in the blank with all of these worldly things, instead of realizing there is no blank to fill because they are already created perfect and complete by Jesus.
So please don’t ever forget that you are already perfect and complete. The only hope you have to succeed in this world, one where you are set up to fail, is through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
My prayer for you is this: live a life of humility so you don’t become entitled or self-righteous, be filled with joy in all situations through the Holy Spirit living inside of you, and love others with all your heart, no matter their race, religion, and social class.
I prayed that in the Hospital and I pray it now while you lay next to me on mommy’s chest, with her arms folded over your little body, feeling each of your tiny appendages squirm and wriggle in the most perfect way imaginable.
It’s been five days since you were born and you are finally starting to look like a human. I think you have mommy’s eyes but you are still so small it is hard to tell. The important thing is that you are home and healthy.
We went on a walk today: mommy, daddy, and you. It was only going to be a few blocks so we left the stroller behind after I convinced mommy that my “dad strength” could carry you the whole way. You were light, nearly weightless really, but like everything, after a while you felt pretty heavy. I couldn’t help but think that someday you would even be too heavy to carry. You would grow big, I would grow old, and I wouldn’t be able to carry you anymore. But then I thought about my prayer, and I realized that even if I can’t always carry you, or guide you, or be there with you, Jesus can. No matter how big you get, Jesus can carry you. No matter how lost you get, Jesus can guide you. And no matter how alone you feel, Jesus will always be with you.
So if you do one thing with your life, besides ignoring my prototypically bad advice (see above cheeseburger scenario), follow Jesus. He is the way. The only way.
I love you my sweet little girl. And I always will.