Friday, October 11, 2013

Baby update

Psalm 51:15 (NIV)

Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
Isaac Evert Holland was born at 2:43 p.m. at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.

At birth, Isaac weighed eight pounds, twelve ounces, and measured twenty and one-half inches long.

The catch of the day, bigger at birth than all his older brothers.

These dimensions are notable, because as both of Kristie’s obstetricians noted while wrapping up the Caesarean section, he most likely wasn’t going to fit the normal way. And so a planned surgery, while never the intended option, proved the most logical. The entire process was altogether different than the way his older brothers entered the world, but it ended with a crying, healthy baby and you’ll find no complaints here about that outcome.

After three prior trips to the maternity ward, resulting in the lights of our lives who now are ages nine, five and two, I have gotten somewhat used to seeing my wife struggle with labor pains. But those experiences did little to prepare me to offer wise words as she battled a flood of pre-op emotions this afternoon. But like always, she dug her heels in and rose to the occasion (you will forgive some mixed metaphors here — it is early in the morning and I have not slept well for a decade) and if I accomplish one thing in life it will be to make sure my four sons exactly how much their mother sacrificed to give them life.

The former baby of the family meets the new guy.
We had all four of those sons together for the first time this evening. The older three, staying with my parents, came over after dinner. Charlie entered the room with a big smile on his face, walked right up to his baby brother and patted his tummy, then rubbed his hair. Apparently the way to greet a baby is much like how you engage my parents’ Cairn terrier. But he also bent over and kissed Isaac on top of his hairy little head, and I think I might have hurt my face smiling.

Max and Jack were very curious what name we’d chosen. Kristie and I settled on a first name a few weeks ago, and nailed down the middle name when, with Kristie torn between two choices today, I deferred and reminded her she was the one about to undergo surgery. And she still waited a few hours to make up her mind. But Jack and Max were not concerned with middle names. They just wanted to make sure we were not actually naming their new brother Floyd, which we’d been calling him for months inside the family just to have a reference point.

Isaac, we learned after deciding to go with the name, pops up at least once a few branches up my mother’s family tree. It also is from the Bible, and it just so happens the boys have been learning about the patriarchs of Israel in Sunday school. Max chimed right up today with the story of Abram and Sarai, and how God changed their names. Last week after church he explained to Kristie how Esau’s arms were hairy but Jacob’s were not. And Charlie, who still would prefer to call the baby Floyd, is able to pronounce the name just fine.

But there are lots of names in the Bible. Hundreds, if not thousands, in fact. Yet Isaac is the name associated with laughter, and laughter is something vitally important in our family. There’s no pressure on this hours-old child to grow into the life of the party. Even if that is his chosen path, he’ll need to elbow his way into dominance over some other outsized personalities who double as the source of all his hand-me-downs. But in a way, I think we wanted this fourth (and final) baby to know he is, was and always will be a source of joy to his parents.

Isaac’s middle name is Evert, and you’re all under strict orders to pronounce it as the Dutch would, which is EH-vert. It’s also the middle name of Kristie’s father’s father, which is the most personal connection, but in the broader sense it is a tribute to the family’s Dutch heritage. I have written before about her grandfather as well as the importance of a house filled with laughter, but bleariness prevents me from barking too far up either tree at this point.

As I wrote the morning after Charlie arrived, the Internet and email and text messages and cell phones have kept us connected with friends and family near and far, and it is a wonderful treat to hear and read words of encouragement and congratulations from so many people. It confirms my belief that, for all its challenges, the world Isaac is born into is one where love reigns supreme, where relationships can grow, deepen and endure such that no one is ever alone unless they choose to be, where friends become family and family becomes the safety net that binds, protects and steadies us all.

So many people have offered thoughts, prayers and support that throughout the day, even far away from my trusty laptop and with phones that could not pick up a signal deep inside the hospital, the names and faces of these dear people kept coming to mind, usually when I most needed a reminder of the wide network of people who fill our lives with love. I hope and pray I can be part of the web of support for them, but on days like today I need to focus more on receiving than giving.

Peace. Love. Motherhood.
Usually when I stare into little eyes as they flicker open for the first time, I think all sorts of things about the future. What will his voice sound like? Will he enjoy music? Will we watch baseball together like we did all night tonight? Will he take to reading quietly or prefer to play loudly in the front yard with the rest of the crew? I could write questions probably for another hour, but none of them would be anything that actually came to my mind today.

I wasn’t thinking about tomorrow or a few months from now or kindergarten or college. I was just content in the moment. We felt the need to have one more baby and now, finally, here he was. We wanted him to be healthy and the doctors said he is. We wanted the birth to go well, and there wasn’t a single complication. We wanted his older brothers to accept the new arrival, and they literally opened their arms. Why focus any attention on tomorrow when everything you ever wanted is in one tiny room, bound together by a love better felt than described?

Thankful does not begin to explain my heart tonight. This is our last first day of life as parents, and I will treasure it until the seas run dry. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Amen.

A prayer for October 11:

Lord, thank you for a happy, healthy baby, and for the woman who carried him in her womb and will continue to sacrifice for him more than he will ever comprehend. Please help us both to give to our children our best effort, to further deepen our marriage bonds and to show us how our partnership, through you, can build a strong foundation to prepare our boys to go and live lives worthy of you. Help me be the husband and father my family deserves, and thank you so much for your amazing grace. Amen.

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