I had given up on the idea of being a mom. My first husband didn’t want children, and by the time I reconnected with my college sweetheart and we married, I was 38 years old. I remember thinking that what I had was enough – a wonderful niece and two nephews, a great-niece and nephew, and the many children of my friends. There were plenty of little ones to love. This must simply be the path I was meant to trod, and I told myself that I was content.
Then came the evening of May 6th, 2008. I remember that, all day, something seemed different. Nothing was wrong. I wasn’t sick or overly emotional – no sense of impending doom clouded over me. I just felt like something monumental was about to occur, like the sacred alignment of certain stars that only happens once in a thousand years. My two little stars turned out to be two little lines that mystically materialized in a tiny plastic window, and my life changed forever.
Overall, my pregnancy was uneventful. My age automatically put me on the “high risk” list, but I had no complications other than fatigue, swollen ankles, and a persistent, sometimes violent, aversion to clam chowder.
As my due date approached, it was determined that I should have a C-section. The thought of surgery made me nervous, and the thought of being awake during said surgery honestly kind of freaked me out. But, as with all things that are unavoidable and hold the promise of a happy outcome, I decided it was best to make peace with my fears and focus on the positive.
The day of my son’s birth was like liquid – I stepped into the gentle, sure current of a peaceful but powerful river and trusted that all would be well. Kind nurses, a thoughtful husband who asked for a private moment of prayer, and a doctor who held my confidence moved in concert to ease me into motherhood. I remember the doctor saying, “Marilyn, he has lots of hair!” I remember my husband’s smile, the cry of little lungs hanging in the air like music, and seeing the bundled face of an angel.
It would be some time before I got to hold him, but the moment came, and it was oh, so sweet. And, then, I felt it. This wave of something welling up from within, like sunshine and eternity spilling out from some hidden place. I was overtaken by a new kind of love, and my heart was remade.
I watched as my husband held his son and sang to him before having to leave for the night, new worlds opening up in the eyes of the man I love.
Then, we were alone, this new little being and me. Because of my surgery, I couldn’t pick him up when he cried or stand to change his diaper, so I insisted on holding him in my arms. All night.
I sang to him What a Friend we have in Jesus because I wanted him to know he need never feel alone. I told him I’d love him forever, and together, we could make it through anything. I told him to be brave and happy because never a day would go by that he wouldn’t be loved. I held him, gazed into his eyes, smelled his hair, let his tiny fingers curl around my pinky, and just lost myself in the bliss of the miracle of my baby boy.
Eventually, there was a shift change sometime in the night, and an older, wiser nurse came to me saying, “Darlin’, you need some rest too. Let me hold him for a while.” It took some prompting, but I let him go with the promise that she would bring him back soon.
I lay back against my pillow, closed my eyes, and smiled. I thought I had plumbed the depths of love in all its glory and pain, but I was wrong. I began to suspect that, actually, I had known very little about love. Until then.