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Hello Louis

This is the moment.

You’re here. It becomes real now. I watched Anna get big. I watched her sing to you, talk to you. I felt your legs kick as I touched from outside. It was real, but it was distant. This is the moment it changes. That’s the way it works for dads. Mums bond for the whole 40 weeks. For dads, it’s when they first hold their baby. In an instant, I’m told. This is the moment.

It’s been 9 hours in this dark room. Apparently that’s quick. It felt like forever. I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad it’s over for Anna. That was a lot.

They’re blowing on your face.
“Come on, let us hear your voice!”
You’ve only been here for a few seconds.
Should I be worr- You let out a cry. Your voice!

They turn the lights on, lay you and your mum on the bed. Oh my god – you’re here.

I’m taking it in, taking you in, you with your mumma, and here with us.

The nurse asks something about a needle. We didn’t want this one. We didn’t want much of what they did today. I try find the word “wait”, but they put the needle in.

Oh well, you’re here. You’re lying on your mumma’s tummy. It’s perfect.

I can’t wait to hold you, but there’s no way I am interrupting this moment.

But the moment is not peaceful like I imagined, the nurses are getting anxious. I hope you’re not stressed. This is your first experience of our world. It’s loud. It’s bright. People are rushing.

One of them starts shouting and a siren goes off. A dozen people come running. There’s people everywhere. Noise. One of the nurses picks you up. There’s so much noise. So many people. I hear so many things, I only catch some of it.

“Time for a cuddle with Dad”
“…the placenta is…”
“trying to save your life”
“this is going to hurt, but we’re saving your life”

I’m holding you for the first time. This is the moment, but this is not it.

I look at Anna, she’s got fear in her eyes. I look at her body, there is blood everywhere. So much blood. It’s like a gunshot wound.

I feel the fear too.

I look down at your eyes. You’re squinting in the light. It’s so bright out here. So loud. But you’re calm, you’re not crying. I think you’re the only one here not crying or yelling.

You’re so tiny.

I squeeze you a bit tighter. Too tight? I haven’t held many babies. I thought I would be nervous about this, but I find my confidence quickly. You’re here and you’re mine and I’m holding you. I’ll hold you your whole life. I love you.

Your eyes settle on my face. I squeeze you a little tighter, and lean you into my bare chest. I don’t even remember taking my shirt off. I cover your ears, turn your eyes from the light, try to shield you. I want to protect you.

I want to protect your mum. I look over again, there’s a big nurse putting her whole weight onto Anna’s torso. She’s crying out in pain. The blood is everywhere. It dawns on me: she might not make it. There’s even more people now. One of them is putting a clipboard in front of her face and asking her to sign.

I make eye contact with your mumma. So much love. We’re both scared. Everyone is still shouting. They start to wheel her out on the bed. All the nurses and midwives and doctors go with her.

Suddenly I’m in the bright cold room, just with you. It’s quiet. You’re still squinting, looking around. At me, at the lights. Struggling to focus those brand new eyes. You’re so quiet. Peaceful.

“It’s just you and me mate”.

I’m talking about the room, calm and silent. But I’m also bracing for the possibility, the fear… I had never planned for that. I am crying. Holding you tight.

“I love you”.

As your eyes continue to wander around the wall, over my face, onto the lights, and I keep holding your tiny body tight to my chest… I know I would do anything to keep you safe. Even if it’s just you and me. There’s a deep well of strength I find inside – I didn’t know it was there, but it’s enough.

This is the moment.

Photo of my holding baby Louis, a day old, on a hospital bed.
Me and Louis, the day after this story.
Blogmarks Family Personal

“Ode to Those First Fifteen Minutes After the Kids Are Finally Asleep” by Clint Smith

I belly laughed listening to this poem from Clint Smith. Very relatable as a parent of young ones. (It was part of a wider interview with him on the On Being podcast. I haven’t finished listening to it yet but after this poem I already loved the guy.)

Faith Personal

Great love and great suffering

There are only two major paths by which the human soul comes to God: the path of great love, and the one of great suffering. Both finally come down to great suffering—because if we love anything greatly, we will eventually suffer for it.

When we’re young, God hides this from us. We think it won’t have to be true for us. But to love anything in depth and over the long term, we eventually must suffer.

Richard Rohr – Life Coming to a Focus Daily Meditation

I’ve often remembered this thought from Richard Rohr – said in different times and different ways, but basically: the path to transformation is either great love, or great suffering.

I used to hear it and struggle to imagine the great suffering. My life has usually been pretty comfortable.

But he’s right, if you open up enough to experience love, then you’re opening yourself up to suffering too.

Parenting has been that journey for me.

A greater love than I knew was there. More pressure than I knew I’d face. More resilience than I could have imagined I’d had, and more than I thought I’d need. More awareness of my own fragility. More delight too.

Our family is definitely still in the pressure cooker. Its hard to say what the lessons learned will be, what the transformation might look like from the other side. For now, it’s hard to get through, and not much sense of hope for change.

Remembering this thought from Richard Rohr gives a glimpse of purpose to the love and suffering of parenting. Maybe this is one of the paths to God.

Faith Personal

Smaller miracles

It was haunting last night to walk into the hospital and see my Grandpa.

I watched my Dad pray for his Dad. As a pastor he’s prayed for many people. It’s hard to pray for someone who may well be on their deathbed. I imagine it’s harder still when it’s your dad. “Father of mercies…” he prayed.

What mercy can you ask for? It felt too late to pray for a miracle. At that age, and with cancers already leaving visible scars all over the body, you only ask for small miracles. For relief from pain, for peace, for comfort for our family.

Yet even a healing at this late stage, miraculous as it would be, would only be a small miracle.

The bigger miracle is the one that already happened. In my 26 years I’ve only ever known my Gramps as fun loving, and family loving. When he’d play jokes on us, (which he did often, he loved it), his heart was always warm, and it was fun. It wasn’t always that way apparently. I don’t know the full story, but there was alcohol, there was aggression, and he was described, light on the details, as “not a very nice person”. Until Jesus changed him. A change in personality and in heart, of that magnitude, is not common. It’s a miracle, a redemptive act of God that took something broken and made it better, made it beautiful. It is no small miracle that I only ever knew the beautiful heart of my Grandpa.

The other miracle is that the next time I see my Grandpa, the cancer will be gone from his body, his face will be young again (younger and stronger and happier than I’ve ever seen). The fragile, hurting body I saw last night will be restored and perfected. And he’ll be with his wife Shirley again, surely as happy in that moment as in the moment captured in the wedding photo on our family room. And his kids. And us grandkids. The redemption of people: our bodies, our hearts, our relationships. That miracle is huge.

After walking out last night I struggled with finding the mercy in an old man suffering. And my faith for miraculous healings isn’t what it used to be. Today when I got the call from my Dad though, amidst the tears was a gratefulness, and a hopefulness, for the greater miracles.