She hasn’t been born yet but already has family love, saintly love, and God’s love
By George Valadie
Like many young marrieds in this country, our youngest, Sarah, and her husband, Keith, were living in an apartment but longing for a house.
I don’t think I’m revealing any deep financial secrets when I tell you in today’s market there was no feasible path they could travel that would ever allow them to afford monthly rent while simultaneously saving anywhere near enough to buy a house.
So, Nancy and I invited them to come home. Come live with us. Come shed some debt. Come save some money. Come bring your dog and help us with ours now and again.
We had a huge upstairs that was mostly unused—large enough for the two of them to have a bedroom, a TV room, a work-at-home office, a guest bed for Keith’s daughter when she visits.
And we never realized it but as it turns out—there was also room for a nursery.
Because we’re having a baby!
Harper Ann Garrett is almost here, and the little girl’s got pink stuff everywhere. I mean everywhere. She’s not even here, yet I can already imagine it’s not totally unlike how her teenage room will someday look. Clothes and towels and trinkets in every corner.
My life has primarily been spent among females.
I grew up with three sisters and my mom, and when my dad passed away, we moved in with my mother’s aunt.
Later, when Nancy and I married, we had three girls. And now our three girls will all have a girl of their own.
As I often tell others, for a long time, the only male thing in my life was my dog … and we neutered him.
Along the way, though, we’ve added three sons-in-law and two grandsons, so the odds are slowly sliding my way. Slowly.
All that to say, I know a thing or two about hormones on that side of the gender divide. Not so much the science of them, maybe more about what it’s like to live with them.
According to a quick Google search, “While we know that estrogen is connected with serotonin, the connection between these two isn’t always linear, and fluctuations and variations in both estrogen and serotonin levels can lead to mood changes, anxiety, and irritability.”
“Isn’t always linear” is an understatement. I’m not one to lump anyone into anyone else’s category. Let me just say, that “fluctuations in mood changes” part seems to match my experiences with the fairer sex.
Please don’t misinterpret me; we guys are guilty, too. Every bit as much. To be fair, I also Googled testosterone and its impacts. It doesn’t actually state it causes males to say stupid things, but the guys I know have all been guilty.
Dec. 15 is the official due date Sarah’s been given. But as I sit and write, I’m thinking that’s a pipe dream.
Sarah’s blood pressure has been higher than anyone would hope. So, they’re on the watch for preeclampsia (whatever that is) and discussing a possible C-section.
To make things more interesting, Harper currently seems as if she’ll be entering the world feet first. And though I’ve no personal experience with the process, the all-female consensus seems to be that sort of arrival is not on anyone’s list of “most desired delivery positions.”
When Nancy gave birth to ours, both older girls came two weeks late. When it was finally Sarah’s turn to arrive, the doctor was fearful she might “fall out,” which was a medical term I had not heard but could fully understand. So, Nancy was induced on the very date she was due.
With the benefit of hindsight, Sarah’s now convinced she wasn’t fully cooked and—like her two sisters—needed those extra two weeks to get it all together. I’m not saying she’s wrong.
One way or the other, though, before tinsel decorates your tree, we’ll have another little one upstairs.
But only one. Today’s technology can assure us of that. There are 2-D and 3-D and 4-D imaging. Nobody hiding in there this time.
Not true for my sister-in-law, though, who in the early ’70s went in to deliver one baby but came out with two. Surprise!
If that happens this time, “death-by-shock” will be a part of somebody’s obituary.
Sarah’s been visiting her OB-GYN with the appointed regularity. Her family’s all been keeping up with the calendar as well because every new visit yields a new food.
Early on, Harper was the size of a sweet pea. At nine weeks, she was a green olive. A large strawberry at 11.
Our granddaughters, Emma (age 10) and Finley (age 9), can’t wait and have been tracking the garden with great interest.
An onion became a pear; a pineapple morphed into an eggplant. A cauliflower, a coconut, a jack fruit, and a swiss chard have all been on the menu of baby shapes and sizes. And I don’t even know what some of those are.
If there’s irony here, it’s that Sarah has never eaten even one of those things … ever! The last time she ate a fruit, other than a strawberry Pop Tart, was when we fed her some Gerber’s.
And that may explain some things, too.
Both older than the normal new parents, Sarah and Keith have been wanting to move this baby thing along since the day they married. But nothing’s been as simple as they had hoped.
The long-awaited celebration took on a different hue shortly thereafter. Because to her huge dismay, Sarah’s had a miserable pregnancy. She’s had her share of food cravings, but not much stays down. You’re no doubt familiar with “morning sickness”; hers has been more the morning-noon-night and right-after-I-eat variety. And she’s eight months in.
And to add an exclamation point to her fluctuating levels of estrogen and serotonin, her dog died last week.
Rescued at the pound, Sophie may well have rescued Sarah. She got Sophie when she needed Sophie. Sarah had been led to believe she was a puppy. But the vet and a checkup suggested she was at least four.
Already cheated out of a few fleeting dog years, Sophie was Sarah’s companion when she lived alone. She was there when she felt alone. And she was there to watch her—and probably helped her—battle a demon or two.
Keith adopted her like any good dad would, but in the midst of this pregnancy, canine cancer came calling.
We all knew what was next. Sarah did, too. And we all prayed that Sophie would somehow survive long enough to lick Harper’s cheek at least a time or two.
But not in this lifetime.
So, we’ve been both blessed and grieved to watch the full circle of life unfold right upstairs.
Friends and family were kind enough to throw a big shower. But talk about hormones.
The first gift Sarah opened was from my mom, her deceased grandmother, a baby blanket Grandma had made before she died in hopes that Sarah might one day have need.
Harper won’t know her great-grandmother, yet she’ll feel her love most every night.
And isn’t that exactly what every child needs? Love. And lots of it.
Other than some mirky 4-D photos, I haven’t seen her yet. But that’s the one thing I know she’ll be blessed with plenty of: no matter which way she comes out, no matter what she chooses to eat, no matter how well she cleans her room.
Family love, saintly love, God’s love. She’s off to a pretty good start!
Dear God—Thank you for the gift of life. May we treat every one of your kids like we treat our own. Amen.
George Valadie is a parishioner at St. Stephen Church in Chattanooga and author of the newly released “We Lost Our Fifth Fork … and other moments when we need some perspective.”