Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baby Will

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination, full of hope.” 
-Maya Angelou

January 17, 2014 marks a change in my life. A change that arcs towards hope, rather than despair. July 17, 2000, also marks a profound leap from one reality to another, but the arc began with despair and, mostly, but not always, this particular arc leans towards hope. However, without a doubt, January 17, well, this day’s arc is all hope and all love. 

Unless previously scheduled, a baby bursts into this world, purely on his own time. Itineraries and dinner plans and weather conditions are of little concern to him. He comes when he is ready. He accepts little direction and tests patience and determination. He is hope. He is love. He comes when he is ready.

This is the story of Wilson’s arrival into this world. Wilson is Ashlea’s third child. Parts of this particular story are left out and this is on purpose. Much of the whole story is Ashlea's story and only her pieces to share. When I started this blog, I promised to tell only my story, so that I will do. So, here it first birth story...of a dear friend’s baby. 

Friday, January 17, a cold and icy day, forced much time at home cuddled on the couch, gathered around the television, and mandatory pajama day. This winter is relentless and reminds us to respect power of nature and the earth. Hunkered down in my own home, I worked on house renovation details. About midway through the day, I sent a text message to Ashlea. I asked her which window treatments she prefers, roman shades or curtains. Ashlea responded, weighed the difference between roman shades and drapes, and left me sure of the decision. I took out a ball of pizza dough from the freezer, put in on the counter to thaw in time for dinner, and went on with my day. Snow exaggerates entrapment, familiarizes a night in, and urges preparedness. I know this all too well this year. And, then, several hours later, just as I stretched my pizza dough and chose a movie, my phone buzzed. The buzz came from Ashlea. It read, on the way to the hospital. I think he’s coming.

Several months ago, when the air was warm and the grass was green, the nights never ending and short sleeves and tank tops a must, Ashlea invited me to the birth of her baby. This baby, at the time, was a tiny little seed, a little seed of hope, a little far off dream. Yes, he was growing, but he was still just a seed. Over time, as her belly grew, so did his roots. We learned he was a he. Ashlea and Kyle thoughtfully chose a name. Her two kids, Kate and Jack, knew they had a brother on the way. Eventually, he had a bedroom. He had carefully washed and folded clothes. He had wooden letters, spelling his name, delicately painted and secured to the wall. He grew from a dream into a reality. And I promised to be there for his arrival. 

I took this promise very seriously. I don’t get to make promises very often. Promises aren’t something I can easily fulfill. They are abstract and fleeting, at the most. I tend not to make them. I tend to always offer caveats. I know I will disappoint. When the body is in charge, much like a baby and his arrival, time is not optional or convenient. An itinerary or promise is not binding. The body leads and the body wins. I vowed I would keep this promise to Ashlea, but knew deep down inside, it was a long shot. Paralysis and spontaneity don’t really go all that well together, but it was worth the hope. It was worth the effort to try. So I said, okay, I will be there.

Well, baby Will, decided to show up on an icy, freezing night during a cold, brutal, and dangerous winter. My driveway and most of the roads were covered in ice and offered little empathy. After I received Ashlea’s first text message, I packed my hospital basket. I threw in a bottle of champagne, that happened to be in the refrigerator, a few waters, some necessities, and a quilt.

This old quilt that is very special to Ashlea and me. It is special to Ashlea because she used it in a gender reveal video she sent to her parents and sisters. The quilt is special to me because it is the last blanket I slept under as a walking person. A quilt tells many stories, and this blue, white, and orange masterpiece is no different. It holds the final moments of my previous, walking life, and now holds the first moments of a new and fresh beginning. I washed it several months prior, saved it in a plastic bag, and separated it during my move. I actually carried it out of my old apartment, into my new house, as if it was my toothbrush or clothes for the next day. I stored it on a shelf and it patiently waited until I needed it. 

I grabbed the quilt. I put the pizza dough in the fridge. And then I looked out the window. I looked out the window because I, naively, I hoped the drive way would be miraculously clear, but it wasn’t. I sat for a minute in silence. My phone buzzed again. Another update from Ashlea. The baby was on his way. This was the time to act. Honestly, I felt a moment of doubt. I felt impending doom that my injury, my condition, my body might actually pull ahead and force me to break my promise. The ice was too much, the cold was too much, and I felt stuck, yet again. But then, this increasingly all too familiar, wave of determination and hope and life came over me. This sudden jolt of life, flew through my body and refused to leave. It said to me, you can do anything and now is the time to believe it and actually live it. So, instead of retreating into I can’t do this, it is too dangerous. I decided, yes, I know I can’t do this alone. Yes, the odds are against me. And yes, I failed in this situation many times before, but for some reason I know I can do it this time. I know I can do something I actually want to do, something I want to do for someone else. This wasn’t about me, this was about Ashlea, and a promise I made. I know Ashlea understands my limitations, she understands as much as my own family understands. This isn’t the point. I promised I would show up and I was going to show up, no matter what it took to get there. I don't always feel this free from my limitations, so I decided to take each step as a sign. If a particular step on the became difficult or too steep, the plan ends. But, as I do many times, I remained determined to try and try with all of my might. Only this time, it worked.

I put my basket by the front door. The basket placement seemed visionary and I wanted it to sit there as a goal. And then I came up with a plan. I called my dad. I knew he was home. He spends Friday night’s with his friends in his backyard, whether it is snowing or raining or sweltering. When he answered, I shot out my ideas with determination and gusto. Later, he said he heard so much determination in my voice, he knew no was not an option. I asked him if he was able to come over, help me down my ramp, down my hill, and into my car. Right away, he said, yes. And not only did he say yes, but his friend, well his brother, and my should-be-uncle, Ron, said yes too. They were on their way to help. I jumped in the shower and showered faster than ever before. I only did this because I had no idea how long I would be at the hospital. The next day, I previously scheduled an early morning meeting with one of my contractors, to discuss house renovation plans. I decided if I came home just in time for the meeting, I wanted to be ready. I dressed like I was walking again. I never once thought about the legs I have to dress or the awkwardness of pulling up my pants. I just went through the motions, without a second thought. Out loud, I continued to go over what I needed to do next. Get dressed, take the dog out, grab the basket, wait on the porch. I said this mantra over and over again. I realized, about half way through my furry of preparations, I had no idea how to get to this particular hospital. I am kind of a hospital pro, but this hospital happened to be one where I’ve only been once. Kyle, Ashlea’s husband, sent me directions to the hospital room once I was inside the hospital, but I didn’t want to bother him with driving directions. I called my friend Kelly. I took a chance and called her on a Friday night, as well. Luckily snow and ice assures that people answer phones on Friday night. She answered, calmly told me she would send me a text message of the instructions, and reminded me Ashlea needed me to calm down and not panic. A good reminder because I was acting like the one having the baby, for a minute. 

Like clockwork, my dad and Ron showed up in my dad’s four wheel drive SUV. They parked at the bottom of the driveway and turned on the headlights to provide light as we inched down the slippery hill. Dad and Ron dashed up the icy and snow covered driveway on foot, met me at the top of my ramp, took my basket off my lap, and Ron began to push me down the driveway, while my dad carried my basket. My dad also decided to shine his little key chain flashlight, which was the tiniest little light you ever did see, but hey, I was not turning away help this evening. I would take anything I could get. Even a light the size of a dot. Ron carefully slid down the driveway, while tightly grasping the back of my wheelchair. My dad coached us the entire way down and kept a finger on that little light. When we arrived at the bottom, all three of us breathed a sigh of relief. And as we entered the garage, my dad and Uncle Ron went over my instructions. They directed me as how to best pull out of the garage and how to, methodically, head up my steep hill. They told me to call the second I needed help, with anything at all and if they didn’t answer, I was instructed leave a message, and they would call right back. My dad and Ron hugged me, put my basket on the front seat, wished me luck, and Ron said, “Hey, tell Ashlea we love her and I am so happy to be a part of this.”

The way up the hill wasn’t without drama. I went up and slid backwards several times. At one minute, I thought, I am not going to be able to do this. But, instead of giving up, I listened to Dad and Ron. And finally, Ron pushed my car, almost the entire duration of the hill, and I was off, waved out the window, and headed to the hospital. 

When I reached the stop sign at the end of my street, I stopped, called Kyle to tell him I was on my way, glanced at my phone, and saw the directions from Kelly waiting in my text messages. It was as if everything fell magically into place. I sped to the hospital with tremendous caution. I don’t even remember the drive, other than my constant repetition of, main entrance, main elevator, third floor, to the left. These were Kyle’s instructions and, once again, I repeated them. I threw my chair together, put my basket on my lap, and bolted towards the hospital door. Of course, the doors were locked. My life is never without a bit of difficulty. I waved and tried to gain the attention of anyone inside, so as not to have to wheel over the snowy sidewalk to the emergency room entrance. Luckily, a family tried to enter at the same time, and they helped me wave. We caught the attention of someone inside, and we filed in through the doors in no time. I remember a lady in the family offered to carry my basket. And I remember I only replied with my repetition of directions, main entrance, main elevator, third floor, to the left. This family also saw my determination and started opening doors, holding doors, and pushing elevator buttons for me. As I arrived at the main desk, I just shouted, my friend Ashlea, she’s having a baby. I don't really know how to be a visitor in a hospital. I’m rarely the visitor, I usually have a lifetime membership. The nice people directed me and I was on my way. 

The details of this next part of the story are Ashlea’s story, but the part I can tell, is of the moment I suddenly saw my friend holding a baby that was, only moments ago, inside of her. During this moment I finally understood, that the invitation to hope does exist. This invitation is, really and truly, alive and well. It isn’t always timely, but it comes, when least expected. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls. I knew the barriers ceased to exist, the moment I saw, the now mother of three, holding her brand new, little baby, in a hospital room. A room that I, previously, loathed. A room that was once a holding cell for me. Only now, the room wasn’t a jail cell, it was a passage of hope, a warm, inviting blanket of love. The room bore new life and a new beginning, for all of us.

A baby is tiny and cute and sweet and gentle and chubby, but what he does most, is act as a fresh start. A beacon of hope. He is a ray of sunshine and a brand new, untainted, beating heart of love. He is full of gratitude, knows infinite peace, emits joy, and only asks for our care and nurturing. And this is a lesson I constantly learn. I can’t expect  joy and love and hope and dreams and gratitude to show up without effort, I must nurture them and birth them. I must be as determined to be a part of them, as I am determined to have them be a part of me. 

And as much as I desire these blessings, these gifts, to show up in my life, I can not force them, either. These miraculous gifts will show up on their own time. I must have the fortitude to go after them when they arrive. I must exhibit enough courage to ask for help, to shout for help, and to believe I will wheel through to door to greet them upon arrival. For it is not up to me when these lovely gifts arrive. It is not up to me how they arrive. These blessing may show up in unusual ways. They may show up on a night that is far less than perfect; A night when doubt runs deeply that I will show up to greet them. My job, my only job, is to be determined to be a part of their arrival. Be courageous enough to be there to receive them. And mostly, to recognize them when they arrive. 

Two weeks later, and I still can't take my eyes off of him. So full of hope. So full of love.