Yesterday morning one of my best friends, my neighbor down the road with curly hair kind of like mine, a similar obsession with photographing wildflowers and a much better success rate with house plants, gardens and crafting projects, gave birth to her first child.
A beautiful baby girl.
When that baby drew her first breath from within the safe walls of a hospital made of bricks standing strong against the chilly North Dakota air, I had just landed in MInneapolis after taking the red-eye out of Las Vegas where I slept face down, hair splayed out on the tray table for nearly three hours.
When I finally landed in North Dakota, my momma and I rushed to the floral shop to buy tulips and chocolate, a small token of appreciation for the newest addition to our neighborhood, then we pointed our car toward that hospital made of bricks so that we could take a look at those tiny hands and count those toes and say hello, we’re so glad you’re here.
I’m so glad she’s here.
Now, babies are born every day. All of the people I passed on my way through the airport, all of those souls standing in line and sitting shoulder to shoulder, taking off across the sky together, have mothers who grew them and carried them and brought them into the world to grow up and drink coffee, tell stories and host dinner parties, drive cars too fast and take midnight walks, make a mean cheesecake and fall in love, fall out of love, then back again and bite their nails, own too many cats and someday, have babies of their own.
And while all of these living and breathing people, all 7.046 billion of us, have stories we can tell each other about work and family and that great restaurant we visited last night, stories we might hear over a long overdue phone call or while standing in line at the post office with a stranger, every single one of us carries with us a different story about how we came into this world.
And although we carry it with us, not every one of us is able to tell it. Because not every one of us were told–not all of us really know.
That’s the thing about humans, we may choose not to share every detail in words.
A child may never know how much he was wanted.
Or how he was a plan.
Or a surprise, a pleasant surprise.
A terrifying one.
A surprise that couldn’t be handled.
But I’ll tell you something about my friend and her husband, the couple who welcomed that beautiful baby into this cold little corner of North Dakota yesterday–yesterday they witnessed a miracle.
And they knew it.
Now their story is like everyone’s story in that it is their own. And I, as their friend down the road, am not qualified to tell it, to give justice to what it’s like to pray and worry and drive hundreds of miles to spend countless hours in doctors appointments explaining and re-explaining, planning and re-planning and spending time on procedures and money on drugs while hanging on to a hope, a hope that has hung on for years…
Five years to be exact.
That someday she will be a mother.
And he will be a father.
And they will hold their daughter, a daughter with a little splash of red hair, tiny pink cheeks, long fingers like hers and eyes like his in their arms in the brick hospital in the middle of winter on the edge of North Dakota.
Because even some of life’s most natural promises are not promised to everyone.
And then sometimes that promise does not come easy.
But when it does, well…
There are no words.
Last spring I was driving my pickup down a gravel road, coming out of the badlands and onto the highway. My friend with the curly hair like mine was my passenger and we were talking about our struggle to become mothers, another thing, besides the unruly hair, that we have in common.
My hope was dwindling, wavering and faltering after years of disappointment. Six pregnancies celebrated and then lost with nothing but an unsolved mystery, heartbreak and frustration left in their wake.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be a mother,” I told her. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take. It might be a sign it’s not meant for us.”
She sat there beside me then, a woman with the same hope of a family, but one who had not yet seen those two pink lines.
“I just know there’s a plan. I have faith. I can see it for us,” she said. “I can see it for you.”
In my life I’ve had it and lost it…
Moving along that gravel road with my friend talking and holding on tight to her hope, I believed for her it would work out.
But I couldn’t hold that same belief for myself.
And then I got the phone call in the early morning hours of January 5th, the one with my dad’s voice on the other end of the line begging for help. The one that sent our whole life reeling with prayers and hope and desperate pleas that the man called dad, grampa, husband, Pops, brother, uncle, friend would live to hear us tell him we loved him a thousand more times.
The one that promised this man was not going to live.
But some of life’s promises are not promised to everyone.
I stood in that North Dakota wind outside of that hospital as they prepared my faltering father for a plane ride he might not survive. I watched that wind bend the trees down and cool the air and I struggled to catch the breath that I lost with the news…
I tried to imagine a world without my father…
Today my dad stopped by the house. He wore his blue jeans and boots, a checked wool vest and a cap he got free from a company he’s likely been working with now that he’s back working. I made him a cup of coffee and we sat at the counter and visited a bit about the weather and plans we have for spring when the cows come back…the things I promised him we’d do when he was lying in that hospital bed for a week working on pulling through.
Yesterday I got off a plane that flew me high above the clouds, shoulder to shoulder with a hundred other people with heartbeats and stories who were flying too…
And then we came back to the earth safe and sound so that I could hold my friend’s baby in my arms where she wiggled and opened her tiny little mouth to cry a bit before I bounced her and shushed her and told her she’s ok.
She’s got all the love in the world around her and in this world where she now lives, sometimes, miracles happen…
I know, because I have faith…