My sweet child, where do I begin?
Our world was ready. The house was clean. Base boards washed. Paint had dried. Doctors were scheduled. Heck, even Sam could hardly contain himself.
The minutes passed like lifetimes. It was nearly three weeks since the false alarm. Nothing could calm our excitement and nothing could have prepared us for the events about to unfold.
We got the call at 10:45 Saturday night. Cars already packed, there was nothing left but to head to the hospital. Your room was nearly as ready as our hearts. We walked through the halls I'd passed so many times before. I knew the hospital inside and out from my times working Transport, but the pale lights and cold tile floors never felt more alive. That plastic smell somewhat soothing for a change.
Specialists predicted you somewhere around 8 lbs -- already pretty big for mom's tiny figure. Mom is nearly as strong as she is decisive and a C-Section was not in her agenda. Her water broke sometime around moonrise and contractions shortly followed. Mom took her Epidural shot like a champ and the stage was set as the sun smiled down.
But you were comfy in there. Hour by hour mom would dilate little by little. Aunt Britta brought me the best breakfast burrito I'd ever had and her presence helped to pass the day. She insisted I couldn't live on salt and vinegar chips for breakfast, though I'm pretty sure she's wrong. She and Dani connected with each new experience and Britta made your mom look just as pretty as the day we married. Mom was absolutely elegant despite each prick and prod.
The Doctor came in around 4:00 to check things out. Mom was fully dilated but Britta made me promise I wouldn't let things happen until she returned from feeding your cousins. Truth be told, I wasn't sure I could keep my word. I couldn't wait to meet you.
Doc said we could try pushing, but I could sense her doubt. Doubt doesn't stand a chance against mom.
Two, three pushes later Doc elected to leave the room and let Dani do her thing. Our nurse championed mom's progress and coached her through contractions. Breathing. Pushing. Focus.
Britta rushed in just as Doc came back. Doc was surprised and realized she'd better suit up. Mom was having her way (a truth in life I'm sure you'll learn). This natural birth may happen after all. Mom's been training all her life. Gymnast spills and broken legs. They've all built her reserve. They've shaped her walk with pain and she's triumphed.
Doc was concerned you'd spent too much time in utero and called in specialists to take care of the Meconium upon your arrival. They lined the room and a collective energy began to grow. You could feel it in the air. Momentum. Teamwork. Excitement so thick you could run your hands into it and pass it to a friend. The finish line was in sight. Our girl was coming home.
Mom pushed with all her might, and then I saw it.
I saw it. She was spent. White knuckled and fire in her eyes, she began to fade. Her hands wrapped around the handles like a Boa. Her Epidural wore off and she felt everything. The floodgates of pains once numbed had opened, and the throbs of existence flushed into your mother's abdomen.
And the room got cold. And the air grew heavy.
"Stat! I need help!" Doc yelled as her face washed out to white. "Girl, you give me everything you've got. Come on, Dani."
I looked into your mother's eyes and told her not to fear. Britta reminded her to claim the moment, make it hers. We wouldn't let it go any other way.
Head breached. Sideways. Your shoulder stood between life and death. Nurses shoved me to the side and pushed on mom's pelvis. Doc knelt over your mom like a Center ready to hike the ball. She pulled with year's of experience and expertise, now desperate to fight.
Baby, I have spoken to God for years. Asked Him why. Asked Him how. Asked Him when, where, who? I've always known He's real. Always trusted His plan even when He felt distant. But never in my life had I seen Him so clearly. God showed up. First in the music that spoke life into your mom from the phone at her headrest and carefully into her womb. She pushed with the strength of a thousand nations, she pushed with Spirit. God was with us and He is in you. Of that much I am sure beyond a shadow of a doubt. He claimed you from darkness, and allowed mom to not only give you life but save your life.
You broke free of the canal. No Hallmark moments of joy and celebration. I never saw the umbilical cord. You hardly even got the chance to lay on mom's chest. The battle wasn't over. Doc was sure she'd broken your collarbone. You'd drifted far past purple and into grey. We'd yet to hear to cry.
Shuffled over to the specialists, they fought. You were in shock. "Traumatic" was nowhere near enough the word. They cleared your airways and fought. 10 pounds and 15 ounces. You fought back.
I felt my my eyes splitting at the seams, lost at where to direct my gaze. From mom to you to Doc, hoping for a sign of hope. Mom was bleeding bad. Your breaths were shallow.
I asked my God not to leave. Not now.
I stood there, grasping your hands, a sheet of glass between us and our extended family. I couldn't break your eyes. Couldn't find a way to look up and celebrate. Couldn't let everyone know you were ok. At that point I really didn't know. I prayed. Nurses said you wouldn't move your right arm. I prayed. Nurses said your blood sugar was too high. I prayed. Nurses said nerve damage from such serious shoulder dystocia could be paralyzing on that side.
I told them they were wrong. I wasn't angry. I wasn't spiteful. I proclaimed your name. My daughter is a Lion of the Lord. Aria Lee is a Lion of the Lord and her strength is not of this world. Her story has just begun and nothing will hold her back. My daughter is strong. Over and over I prayed. My mind was fastened to His provision and I'd entertain no other way.
Britt laid down outside mom's room. Echoing my prayers and ushering bits of news between the room and our family. We'd witnessed a miracle and it overcame us. Frankly I felt out of body. I felt a man possessed. I was utterly dependent on faith.
We awoke the next morning, shellshocked and grateful. The reality of everything that had gone down, like some far off dream. I cradled you for the first time. "Here Comes the Sun". We rocked to the tune and I cried tears of joy that cast my fears away. We were free. You were good. He was here. You were here and mom looked on with pride that almost matched my own.
The showering of love and thanksgiving that has surrounded your birth is something I could never put to words. Friends, family, doctors, nurses. Nobody could believe it.
Doctor came in and looked mom in the eyes. "Hardest delivery I've had in 20 years of practice. Largest vaginal birth. Largest placenta I've ever seen," she said. "Dani, Tyler, I did not think she was going to make it."
I want you to remember this, Aria. I want you to grasp the magnitude of our Father. Nothing is outside His power. From the moment you entered this world, He has fought within in and for you. He will never leave you. You are His and He is yours. You are stronger than you may ever truly know. You are fierce at heart and you will move your pride for His glory. You are hungry to draw near Him, eager to live and pursue his Spirit.
You, my dear, are a Lion of the Lord.
And you are leading your people.
All of my love,