Three decades ago, my heart expanded. It was a moment like none other…my first experience with how spacious love can be. I thought I understood before, but the depth and width and breadth of it in the moment took my breath away. My heart beat faster, with more passion and love flooding out of my eyes, as I gazed upon my daughter for the first time.
A miracle. A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of God. There is no other word to describe the birth of a baby…my baby. I was there. I did the work of labor. I knew the process. I had all the book knowledge of how things worked, and even the experience of doing it, but there is a difference between knowing and understanding. And there is a difference between understanding and being in awe.
There is no way to explain this kind of love when it is looking back at you. Staring with big eyes into your soul. A little human, red and wrinkly, and just perfect. All the pain, just moments before, gone. Over. Forgotten in an instant. Thoughts of dying from the effort, vanished away, melted in a pool of love so deep it there is no end.
The labor was no picnic. The baby was turned wrong. I thought I was dying. I thought the baby was dying. They told me it was normal. I didn’t believe them. When the time came to deliver, my doctor gave me the instructions. The next contraction, he took them back, when he said, “Stop pushing!” That wasn’t part of the plan. He spoke with a calm firm voice into the dimly lit room. It was an urgent tone which told me I needed to obey, but I wasn’t sure my body would let me stop. As hard as pushing was, NOT pushing was much harder and more painful.
He explained the cord was around the baby’s neck…twice. I could see the face of my baby in the mirror, but I didn’t yet know if it was a boy or a girl. I just knew the eyes were wide open, as if this was the most normal day. Calm. Alert. Still mostly inside of me, with my body forcefully trying to finish delivering, while I fought desperately not to let it. The doctor was carefully trying to unwrap the cord. The nurses were waiting. Everyone was holding their breath. The contractions continued their unfinished work while the doctor told me to hold them back. It was like trying to hold back the ocean.
First loop was off. Just one more to go. There was a seriousness in the room. The doctor, the nurses, and all the student doctors and nurses I had agreed to allow to observe the birth were aware there was danger present. Yet, the peaceful baby was just taking it all in. It appeared just to be looking around to check out the room. Not a peep, and very much alive. No question about it.
The second loop came off, and I was given the go ahead to push again. After holding back for what seemed forever, the next push was the last. It was forceful and it revealed my baby girl, Hannah Elizabeth…all 7lb. 5oz. of her. She was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. She was so very alert and pink. They put her on my chest and she just stared at me, taking me in for the first time. It was that first look that made my heart explode.
Love overtook me, stronger than any contractions. It was instant. No question, I would die for this girl. I was overwhelmed by it. Overpowered. I thought, “I have never even known love, until this moment.” Unconditional love. Unending love. I heard God say, “Now, you get it.” And I did.
That has been 30 years ago today. I have learned that my heart wasn’t finished growing, which didn’t seem possible, until I had three more babies. Each made my love more vast. The expansiveness of love is something that cannot be explained.
My girl has taught me so much. She is a force of peace. She is calm and steady. Her nature is one of compassion. Her character is honest and forthright. She is an introvert, but don’t let that fool you, she is deeply caring of others. She is beautiful. She is bold. She is passionate, yet she quietly takes in details. She observes before she speaks. When she speaks, she has something important to say. She is everything she was on that first day, 30 years ago, only better. Happy Birthday to Hannah, expander of my heart.