(I’ve had permission to share this for a long time but its taken months to find my voice.)
Dearest Reyna: The leaves danced in the road the day you were born. The sun was warm on my shoulder but the air was brisk. We had waited for your birth day to come for so long, so much longer than nine months.
Your mother asked me to come over and take a few pictures before she and your dad left for the hospital that morning. I am so grateful for these pictures but they were hard on me. Hard to see my sister so swollen and uncomfortable. Hard to see the wall she put up to protect herself as she protected you crumble as hope, joy and gratitude rushed in through the cracks.
Your mother is so very strong. If there’s one thing she didn’t appear to be feeling during our shoot or at any other point during the day, it was fear. The fear was over and done with. She and your dad were just so ready to meet you.
Your room was prepared and everything was packed: you’ll learn this but your mother and I are so different! She’s so organized and on top of everything… me, not so much. But we’re both sentimental. I was especially touched by the words she chose for your walls and the things your father hung in your room and carried with him to protect you.
This is what it was like in the hours before you were born.
The day had been chosen by the doctors, completely arbitrarily. Your mother insisted on saying this to everyone she knew for fear someone might think she deliberately chose a boutique birthday like 11-11-11 when all she cared about was your safe delivery. Turns out, it was written in the stars even before the doctors had a say. It was two Christmas’ ago when your parents lost their second baby, this one at 17 weeks, to an incompetent cervix. In the darkest weeks of grief and confusion that followed their loss, your father remembers your mother saying to him, “Its weird but every time I look at the clock it says 11:11. Morning, night, it doesn’t matter, that’s always what it says. Don’t you think that’s weird?” He did, because it was. Everything was weird and nothing was right, nothing was just and nothing made sense. He remembered this strange detail and he reminded your mother of it when she came back from her doctor’s appointment and told him the day they chose. Your parents kept that part of the story to themselves until you were born.
I don’t know all of what it took for your parents to get to 11-11-11. The medical records reflect a myriad of procedures and new surgeries. Through my eyes, though, it was a journey made up of one act of love after another, one leap of faith to the next. Step by step, hand in hand on a tight rope. I think this is why your middle name is Joy.
The rest of your family stood on the shore waving them on but feeling helpless. We didn’t have a map or a GPS or anything to offer them except for our hope. We tried our best to be a ballast. The last time we had gathered as a family in the waiting area of the labor and delivery ward at Fairfax Hospital was truly one of the saddest, hardest days of my entire life. It went without saying that we would all gather in the same place again for one of the very happiest days. You have no idea what it meant for us to be together again in that place, waiting for you. While I was disappointed that I wasn’t allowed in the delivery room to photograph your arrival, I am glad I was with the family to witness their reactions when your father texted your first picture to us from the delivery room. I’m only sad that you can’t see my own reaction… it was hard to pick up the camera when all I wanted to do was pull the cell phone towards me and gawk at that picture of you!
Your grandfathers cried:
Your grandmothers exclaimed how big and strong you were!
In short, we were completely and totally freaking out…
The first photos I took of you were hurried, a nurse was drawing blood from your foot and trying her best to shoo me out. They needed to take you to the NICU but we were determined to get just one glimpse before they did. I couldn’t believe how much you looked like your cousin the day he was born.
And as for the outpouring of love… I don’t think they’ve ever had so many happy people packed into one room in the postpartum ward! I was sure they were going to kick us all out!
Of course I will share more pictures of you here and everywhere. Never forget: miracles happen because you are a miracle.
Here’s the slideshow I made them. Fun fact: your parents saw Andrea Bocelli perform this song live on their first date night after you were born.
For families who are having difficulty conceiving, have experienced miscarriage or infant loss, are considering transabdominal cerclage for their next pregnancy or have a baby in the NICU, my sister and I want to share the following links. This is hard but you are strong and you are definitely not alone.
And if you know someone who might find this story hopeful, please pass this link along.