Sunday, August 25, 2013

Baby Love

My friend Ashley and I used to talk about me having to keep her from getting pregnant after she got married. Admittedly a weird job to have, it was a task half jokingly set before me and I believe a few others in order to help support this semblance of a plan that my very futuristic thinker friend had in mind. I was just supposed to remind her of the reasons [she thought] she wanted X-amount of time post-wedding before starting a family.

Almost a year ago during a weekend visit, as we sat on the couch having one of the do-nothing days we're famous for, that "responsibility" came up. Somewhere between the trash tv sessions and catch up conversation we just happened to stumble upon that subject matter. I made the usual quip about my duties, but instead of laughter, it was met with a slight hesitation. There had been a change of plans.

Take in my inexplicable elation and fast forward to Christmastime 2012. Everything we had been hoping and praying for was coming true. There was a little Long baby on the way. I held my tongue until I could spread the word that this happiness was upon us, which luckily, was not too long a time to wait. I don't have a hard time keeping secrets, I just wanted to share the joy. I remember telling my family the news and then pretty much anyone who would listen. I was on an absolute baby high.

Suddenly so much of life seemed to be about this baby. I reveled in every pregnancy update. Talks of baby names, parenting decisions, sonograms and growing baby belly pictures made my day. Perusing her baby registry became a guilty pleasure, and the weekly fruit comparisons and details of how she was cooking kept me going. I remember when Ashley told me what she felt about the gender of her baby, and I remember when those feelings were confirmed - when we found out that a beautiful baby girl would be making her way into our lives.

By some strange phenomenon the months flew by until I found myself at her baby shower at the beginning of August. Closing in on her due date. Taking in the little pink explosions that had shown up around her house. It was a full and fast weekend, and while there I just could not get over how round she was - how perfectly pregnant. And then was the first time I felt the baby move. I didn't think I would, but I found myself crying before I realized I was doing it. It was such an indescribable joy. I never before knew that there could be such varying degrees of reality before that moment. Because it had always been real, but suddenly it was more than that. And my heart was so happy.

The weeks after that found me anxiously awaiting the arrival of this little blessing. Soon with the news of a likely early arrival, my habits changed. I was trying to go to sleep earlier and napping more often to be well rested for the drive. My car was gassed up and a bag was packed. I researched the hospital and looked up directions, and I made plans to stay with another friend's parents. I told my boss that I wouldn't be coming in to work if Ashley went into labor, and my family knew that as soon as I got the baby call I'd be on the road. 

Radio silence from my friend and her husband made me nervous at times, but with the way the pregnancy was going, we did have some indication of when go-time could be. A little after noon on Thursday I got the news that we wouldn't for sure be getting baby by means of induction, but there was still a chance she would come on her own. A few hours later it was time. A "most likely" verdict was enough for me. I threw my bags in the trunk and topped off the gas in the car before heading out. Three plus hours later, despite some awful detours that did not aid my barely average sense of direction, I arrived at the hospital.

I was ushered into Ashley's hospital room sometime before the epidural for a short visit and then back to the waiting room conquered in the names of Galloway and Long to grab a quick bite to eat. Somewhere in between my two chicken strips a decision was made to go out for a drink, so before I knew it, two of Ashley's siblings and two more best friends piled in my car and we found our way to a lovely little dive bar across the street. Three margaritas, a vodka something, and six now very memorable fireball whiskey shots later (none of which were mine), we were on our way back to the hospital to wait with only one quick stop at a convenience store to load up on essentials, i.e., water, Dr. Pepper, and junk food.

We stopped back into the room to deliver sustenance to the dad-to-be and visit again with both. I felt the need to pray with them and did so before returning to our 10-man set up to wait for baby. Time with those families is always something wonderful, and our all-nighter was easily filled with laughter and quick wit. Eventually, around 4 or so, we were given the okay from mom-to-be to head home for a shower and a nap. We were told we had time, and it was much needed, so we went with it. Of course, a short hour later we were called back for the real go time. Admittedly, those last hours were the toughest as fatigue, grumpiness, hunger, and for me, slight delirium from total lack of sleep, set in. We were just so ready to have some news. We were so ready to meet that baby.

Then we finally heard from the proud new parents. Mom and daughter were doing well. Daddy, too. Elayne Ruth, born at 6:43 in the morning, 5 pounds 15 ounces, and 19 inches long. She was perfect. And we waited for a glimpse of proud parents and precious child. Anything or anyone coming down the hall was obviously the new family. We kept craning our necks to see if the approaching noises were for us, and food carts, trash bins, and empty bassinets had never before been regarded with such disappointment and disdain. When I looked over to finally see her coming, I had to do a double take before a something of a strangled "hey" escaped my lips. In the instant before I made a noise, by brain quickly wondered if she wasn't just a hospital mirage and worried about sounding a false alarm.

After a most agonizing 10 minutes more in which parents and baby were settled into the recovery room, we were finally allowed in to see everyone. Momma was sitting comfortably in bed, and baby was nestled snugly in Daddy's arms. It was a beautiful thing to see. And even though she was offered to us, no one wanted to take her from him, and no one did. The picture was just too perfect. I think we just wanted proof that she existed. We wanted to see her little self. We wanted to see who this person was who had kept us guessing and already had us wrapped around her little finger.

It wasn't until later, after nourishing breakfasts and refreshing naps, that any of us held her in our arms. When I arrived back at the hospital, Ashley's family and a few friends were there. And because everyone else had already had a turn and some were heading out to dinner, I got to keep her the longest. And in holding her, the tears seemed to find their way back to me. It was another moment of increased reality. She was so much more tangible, and it was overwhelming in the most beautiful and amazing way. And I held her to me, just loving the weight of her in my arms, and that I could look down to see her cute little nose and her pretty little lips.

I could have stayed there forever.

Since then I thought that what I was feeling was a kind of baby high, but I've realized that it's more than that. What I feel is about this baby. It's about Elayne. Not just any baby could cause this much happiness. Not just any baby could inspire so much love. It's about how perfect she is and where she comes from. She is a part of people I love more than I could ever accurately express. I can't wait to be a part of her life for a very long time, and I am so beyond blessed for the opportunity. I may not know what my future holds, but this beautiful blessing of a person has for me become a fixed point on my timeline. Immovable and unchanging.

I think about that task Ashley and I used to occasionally joke about. If keeping her from having kids at this point had been a serious endeavor or anything I could have actually had a say in, I'd have been glad to fail. Because this baby is a gift from God. In his time. On his terms. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know that Elayne was meant to be. She is something beautiful in just every aspect of the word, and she'll be changing our lives for the better for a long time to come. I just know it.

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