Dear John Stephen,
It was Easter week, and our hearts were bursting with the grief of the dark days preceding and overflowing with the hope of the resurrection. Daddy read to me from The Return of the King, and I drew a sunflower and shaded each petal with three different crayons, harmony of yellows. It was good to be making something beautiful after the busy sombreness of Lent, and Sister was just getting old enough to play by herself enough that I could be busy with more than just meals and laundry. In the midst of the sunshine and warmth, your life began. You were so tiny inside Mama, but it didn’t take long for her to notice you. We took a trip to visit Uncle Freeman and then Grandpa and Grandma H, and Mama was so tired and sick, especially in the car. She was pretty sure you were in there, but she couldn’t be positive until we got home. When Grandpa and Grandma T and Auntie Hailie came for a visit the next week, we were ready to tell them about you! Auntie Hailie stayed for a longer time after Grandpa and Grandma T left, and she helped a lot while Mama was too sick to do anything.
We traveled a lot while you were inside me. We flew on an airplane all the way out to Nevada to visit Grandpa and Grandma T and Uncle Finn and Auntie Hailie, then out to Arizona to visit Uncle Tim and Auntie Heidi and Auntie Hilary and all your Enloe cousins. You couldn’t get used to the time changes and wanted Mama to eat on home time!
Back at home, we took a walk every week to get our CSA box, you and Sister and Mama, and Sister would fall asleep in the stroller on the way home. Sometimes we would sit out in the shade and wait for her to wake up.
You kept growing and growing, and Sister and Daddy and Mama all talked to you every day. Sister would lift up Mama’s shirt to talk to you, just to make sure you could hear her. By the next time we took a plane ride, you were big and bulky and we were a bit squishy, which made Daddy grumpy, but at least Mama wasn’t so sick! We went to Auntie Hannah and Uncle Jim’s wedding, and you tried to make it into all the pictures.
Buddy, Mama got so tired. With her body constantly working on building you, it was hard for her to take care of Sister and Daddy and herself properly. Mama was sad most every day, and she’d go crazy at bedtime, because it was too much for her. Losing control like that was scary, and Daddy and Mama decided to get some help. Once we knew how to take care of Mama properly, it was like the sun finally came out and even the hard days weren’t as bad as they had been. We took as many walks as we could, because the fall had come, and soon winter would be here, and you would come out!
But for now, you were still tucked inside, growing and growing. You were a long baby, Miss Jeanne could tell from outside! You tried being upside right for a bit (which was upside down for an inside baby!), but gave up on that. You squeezed and squished around until there wasn’t much room left for anything inside of Mama! It was getting to where Mama didn’t really want to go much of anywhere anymore…but then, Mama’s Grandma had heart owies, and Mama and Daddy decided, before Mama settled down to get ready for you to be born, Mama needed to take Sister for a visit. Sister needed to meet Great Grandpa and Grandma M for the first time, and Mama needed to give them hugs again. So onto an airplane we got again, this time without Daddy, and flew far, far, far west. We spent a week with Great Grandpa and Grandma M and Grandma T, and you got squished in all that hugging. You made a good baby sandwich!
Advent came, and Mama was excited to meet you soon, but glad to have a little more time to work on handwork. We sang your songs to you and Sister more than ever: Comfort, Comfort Ye My People and Alma Redemptoris Mater. But by the fourth week of Advent, Mama was getting antsy. Auntie Hilary was visiting and Mama just wanted to get you out and snuggle you, and she didn’t want to climb in the car one more time! Once, she thought it was time, but nope! You were staying put. So Mama had to get in the car again, and off we went, bumpity bump, all the way to Miss Jeanne’s house. You were doing just fine, so back home we went to finish waiting.
Finally, on Friday, Mama woke up. “It’s happening for reals now!” she thought. The belly was squeezing pretty hard. Mama went and showered to try to relax, but it didn’t slow down. After a while, we moved Sister into the spare room with Auntie Hilary and called the midwife. Mama was excited and relieved. Finally! But when Sister woke up, everything slowed way down. So we spent the day playing games in between squeezes and listening to Christmas music…it was only two days until Jesus’ birthday! Would you wait that long?
Evening came, and Mama was ready for some help. Miss Jeanne and Miss Joanna came and talked to us and checked up on things. It was time to rest, they said. So Mama tried. But every time she started to relax, another big squeeze would come, and she would have to get out of bed and lean on the dresser. They were such hard squeezes, such hard work. Mama got so tired and discouraged. Miss Jeanne gave her hugs and good words.
When morning finally came, we did stairs. Up, down, up, big squeeze, up, down. Mama was worn out. “I just want to rest,” she said. Auntie Hilary would have to leave soon, and still you weren’t coming! We cried and Auntie Hilary prayed for us and we cried some more. Then Mama had to do some silly stretches to try to get you in the right place. It felt awful. Finally, it was time for a nap, this time with a heating pad to help Mama rest better. Daddy took a nap too, and Sister played with Miss Jeanne. But Daddy and Mama were still a little scared. What if Mama wasn’t strong enough to get you out? What if we needed to go somewhere and find more help? Who would take care of Sister? It was Christmas Eve, after all. We talked and prayed, and Mama said, “Let’s put Sister to sleep and see how things go.”
Sister went to sleep very quickly, and so did Daddy. We had our pretty lights on in our room, and they were so sweet sleeping there in the glow. But Mama had to get out of bed soon so that she wouldn’t wake them up. The squeezes were back, harder than ever! Mama snuck out and talked to Miss Jeanne, and then woke Daddy and we prayed together again and moved Sister into the other room. Miss Jeanne said you were coming very soon, and called Miss Joanna to come back. Daddy let grandpas and grandmas and uncles and aunts know that you would be coming out soon, and pray! Then he went to get the door for some friends who were bringing Christmas dinner, and Mama tried to moan quietly. It hurt lots, but the end would be soon! We moved into the bedroom and Mama leaned on the dresser, and people took turns holding her hips and rubbing her back. “Can I kneel?” said Mama, and Daddy sat on the stool so that she could lean into him. Then she started pushing and in a little bit, splash! Out came your swimming waters! You were next, and Mama was roaring out her prayers loudly, but Sister never woke up! Miss Jeanne said to try to be quiet and just push, so Mama did. She pushed and she pushed and out came your head! Then she pushed and she pushed and “wait!” somebody said, and propped up one of Mama’s sweaty slippery legs on the dresser. She felt like she was going to fall, but she held on tightly to Daddy and pushed and Miss Joanna pulled, and out you came! Mama held you in her arms, you slick little baby, and we rubbed you and talked to you and knew you were a boy – our John! And before long Mama could get into bed with you, and it felt so luxurious! Then you were weighed and measured while Daddy and Mama called to tell people you were here, and everybody was surprised at how big your chest was! And you weighed almost as much as Mama did at birth! You weighed 10 lb, 13 oz, were 23 inches long (Miss Jeanne was right! Such a long little man!) Your head was 14 3/4 inches around and your chest was 16 inches around. No wonder you got stuck! It was a good thing we had such good helpers! Then Mama showered and we snuggled back into bed, and Daddy brought Sister in to see you, and she was so excited, but then she was very tired and sad. So we all snuggled together in the glow of the pretty lights, and Sister fell asleep, and Mama stared and stared at you, my beautiful little baby boy. Happy birth day, my John Man.