I gave birth to her on the floor of the Birth Center – right outside the tub where I thought I might die, where I hated her from a reserve of fury I didn’t know existed, where I’d cursed the moment of conception which had brought me to this agony.
She came quickly.
Her eyes were steely blue, her lips resembled a rosebud, her chubby olive cheeks were too kissable to resist, and she smelled like Heaven. I am convinced: if there is a Heaven, and if it has a smell, it is that one. The midwife handed her to me and I don’t think she even reached my chest before I loved her more than my very next breath.
“She is amazing,” I would say over and over to anyone who might have the misfortune of being within earshot. I stared at her, afraid to blink and miss anything. Even in it I knew I was a neon cliche, but I could not have cared less. I was enraptured. And I wasn’t alone—Gabe, of course, felt every bit as enamored as myself—but seeing my mom, who had come to Spokane for my transition into Motherhood, with my new daughter gave my wonder credibility. Together we fawned over the ambassador for our family’s next generation. I said with all sincerity how she would positively never do anything wrong and my mother agreed, even though the perspective of someone who had seen babies grow before. It didn’t stop her. She, too, believed this child was perfect.
My daughter had brought something with her into this world: she’d brought hope in like wildflowers, roots and all, rich soil spilling from their leaves. She’d flung open a window as she’d rushed in and warm light had rushed in with her. She’d waltzed through like Snow White and dusted everything off, fluffed pillows, set the table, stuck her wild bouquet in a crystal vase. Bearing less than nine pounds she embodied all the highest hopes I had—even the ones I’d stuck in the attic—for Good to win over Evil, for Light to overtake all the Darkness, for Love to prevail.
Somewhere in those early weeks I realized for the first time in my life that I had once inspired such hope. I watched my mother watch my daughter and it looked familiar to her. This was not the first time she had been here, not the first time she looked at a baby the way she looked at my girl. When my dad came to visit just weeks later I saw the same thing in him. Wonder. And Hope. All the Hope.
To this day my dad tells me almost every time I talk to him that he loves me more than his next breath. I used to think it was just something parents say to their kids—just an embellishment to express a love we don’t have words for. Only now I believe him. Now I know that there is nothing more true to tell your daughter. He remembers how his world stopped and moved in the other direction when his children came into it. Now I understand how Mom put up with my teenage angst and arrogance. She remembered me fresh-to-the-world, she knew I wasn’t all attitude and ignorance, that I’d smelled like Heaven once.
They, like me, tasted holy on their lips after kissing their baby’s forehead, felt God’s hand when they grabbed mine. Whether or not they would have used the same words I do, my parents – I think mostly all parents – wrapped up all their hopes in a practiced and perfected swaddle.
As I go through life I screw up a lot. I’m scared and I’m insecure so I act selfishly or arrogantly or cowardly. But I also share the planet with at least two people who once saw their highest hopes in me—who believed that life was better because I arrived. Their mere existence is a comfort.
My parents are a bridge—a link from Me Burdened to Me Free. They hold proof in their memories that I once didn’t care if I looked stupid and I didn’t need an answer to every question. That I made funny noises because they were delightful and I smiled at strangers because they were beautiful. They anchor me to a time I can’t remember, but a time when I embodied the Good Stuff. They are my witness.
And that is true for all of us—whether we have parents who acknowledge it or not. At one time—though for some it only lasted moments—we were all free, we all looked only like the very best parts of humanity. That is still a part of us.
In the early days after each of my children’s births—even now when I catch them as they flit through their day—I put my face to their skin or hair and just breath them in. I fill my lungs with that sweet hope. They are remarkable little people and I learn from them every day how to be human again. I have the high honor of teaching the things I’ve learned about being here—don’t eat moldy meat, keep your clothes on in public, use the damn bug spray—but I think my most important role is to bear witness.
You are a walking, talking dream, beloved, you are hope with legs. This world hurts and there are things here I wish you didn’t have to see. You will get bruised here and I’m so sorry. Right now you are unashamed of the space you take up because you know that you belong here. At some point you might forget so hear this: you are what heals the wounds of living. You are the plan. Just you. Not you well-liked, not you wealthy, not you religious, not you successful. Just you laughing loud at the word “poop” and crying when you miss someone and offering hugs to sad Momma and using your words to encourage your brother and wondering aloud what a person from China is called. You’re it. I see you, beautiful, and I am sure the world is better for your presence.