"I know you do this all the time and you deliver lots of babies. But I want you to remember... her." The words barely came out of my mouth. He looked at me with the most sincere eyes and said, "Oh I will. I definitely will."
Finally, for what seemed like forever, a warm hand held onto mine as I saw Corey slip into the chair next to me. There... my rock, my lifeline, my everything... was just a squeeze away. And I felt myself squeezing his hand over and over just to make sure it was real and he was really there. I leaned over to him and said, "Did you say one last prayer yet?" His eyes looked right through me, into my soul. It was the kind of look I could never forget. One that told me that we were in this together and forever no matter what. And he said, "I did."
Knowing we were just minutes away from getting started, the anesthesiologist was whispering to me over my shoulder now and throughout the entire experience. The man whom I met just an hour before became the man without a face. I never saw him during the surgery, but I talked to him more than anyone as he kept my sensations and pain at bay. I remember my eyes beginning to dart, my face starting to wince and Corey become concerned out of the corner of my eye as he watched my expressions twist and contort. Was it painful? The most painful thing was the fear and it could have killed me if I let it creep up my neck. But the only thing I ever know how to do is remain calm. And that's what I did.
I thought back to the beginning of my day when the hourly countdown began. The surreal way that I woke up the same as any other day yet with an anxious knot in my stomach knowing what was to come. I relived the season's first snowfall that occurred just hours before as the large, wispy flakes quietly fell from the sky. It was such a tangible reminder of everyone's love and grace that has fallen upon us in the last month. It was the reminder I needed to build my confidence and that was all I could do to prepare for this moment.
And it came so much sooner than I was ready for.
I believe that when we look back at our lives, our thoughts are remembered by a series of specific moments-- those slices of time that seemed to defy reason. Moments that lasted just another couple of seconds like any other moment in time, yet they became frozen... and it leaves me wondering... how could I have had so many thoughts running through my mind in that short amount of time? It just isn't possible. How did time revert to slow-motion and wait for me to understand and make sense of it all? It was a moment that you rerun in your mind over and over from every different angle that you never saw... only imagined.
All I heard was a word, that isn't even a word. It was more like a sound. But, I would argue with Webster's Dictionary here, because with this sound, I knew she was here. And it was the beginning of a long chain of events that all went in the same direction. Coming from the assisting doctor, I heard a woman's voice and one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard, "Awwwwwww."
It was here when the new chapter began... "The Birth of Lilah Rose."
The next sound I heard was the sound of our baby... and a sound that was equally as sweet. Clay was quiet as a mouse when he was born but she wailed after her first few breaths of air as the doctor held her up for us to briefly see. It was a flash and all I remember was lips and a curled up baby. She was quickly whisked into the baby warmer and my eyes followed her every step of the way. Where I thought I would see her, instead I saw a team of nurses and doctors poking, prodding, squeezing and making her scream even louder. And we waited. Waited for that sign of hope. That sign of good news. And if it was good news, I wanted it immediately. If it was bad news, I never wanted to hear the words.
I was retelling these moments to my mom and I said something to her that I realized days later... never happened. It was physically impossible. But it was a part of my story I was telling. And, I was so curious how this became a part of my story, when it wasn't true. I told her that I saw the nurses and doctors smiling, and I knew everything was going to be okay. But the masks... they were all wearing masks. I could hardly see their faces. I certainly never saw them smiling. When I realized this I told my mom... and her face softened and she said, "Maybe it wasn't the nurses that were smiling... maybe it was angels in that room with you that were smiling." She was right. There was smiling. There was calm amidst the chaos. There was peace and there was so much joy. God was there and with Him, He brought His army. And just like at the hospital when they play a soft lullaby when each baby is born, I believe he signaled to heaven for the trumpets to begin their welcoming song, just for her.
I heard my own voice call out to the nurses, "How much does she weigh?" I figured if her weight was good... she might be able to escape the NICU. Maybe. Corey and I gave it a 80% chance that she would spend her first moments, hours and even days away from us in this scary place where our naked baby would be hooked up to every machine possible. I knew the NICU was a good place for our baby to be if that was what she needed... but I also felt like it would take every ounce of my will power to not rip her away from the wires and run away with her in my arms shielding her from any pain. The nurses surprised me and called back, "How much do you think?" Corey and I looked at each other and we muttered a hopeful, "5 pounds, 2 ounces?" They shocked us again with an astounding, "5 pounds 14 ounces!" My first thought... the same as Clay. THE SAME AS CLAY! Oh my goodness, how can this be? It was my first deep breath where I let go of some of the fear.
Our baby was placed in Corey's arms and his face lit up like I have only seen once before. Getting to witness this meeting of a daddy and his baby girl was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The love, the bond, the emotion... it was so overwhelming. And then I got to see her... really see her for the first time. There she was... our baby girl. The one who had already changed me. The one who made me a fighter, a dreamer, an optimist and an advocate. She was the one who touched people's hearts and already made them love her. She was here... and in daddy's arms... ready to take on the world. Oh... and she was perfect.
The next few days were filled with an outpouring from "our village" extending their love, congratulations and enthusiasm. These days were also marked by more and more testing as Lilah was constantly whisked away even into the wee hours of the night for a skeletal survey, an MRI, a car seat sleep apnea test among the other testing that newborns receive. We were so thrilled that with each test, came good news until all of the fear had finally dissipated. And when our geneticist told us that Lilah looked great and he didn't foresee any additional problems, we were once again reminded of our little fighter-of-a-daughter. She was defying all odds and blazing her own path. Just like we knew she would.
And it was official... a family of four. And that is what we are. We have overcome a lot of obstacles in the past couple of months. From the moment where we learned Lilah would be born with dwarfism to the present where we are beyond words and overjoyed. What a quick journey of growth, faith and love we have experienced thus far. And oh so much further we have to go. We are not done learning, changing and teaching. In fact, we have just begun. The differences we see in ourselves have been so dramatic and life-changing, we can't help but to share our story with the world. Because perhaps, our story can touch lives, and perhaps little Lilah can capture your heart. Now and for always.