Our lucky Penny
Have you ever had such an incredible story to tell that figuring out where to start seems nearly impossible?
That’s how I feel about 10 days after the birth of my first child, Penelope Claire.
I guess I could begin by telling you how we felt nine months ago when we learned baby Penny was on the way.
It was very welcome and joyous news, because we’d been hoping to hear it for well over a year. My wife and I have been married for more than five years and we’ve been together since high school. We always assumed that when the time came to have children, we would be able to. There were certainly times in the last two years that we doubted that. Quite a few, to say the least.
But the Lord, in his timing, did see fit to bless us with a child, and last Saturday my wife labored to bring her into this world.
The day was filled with nervous moments, pain and lots of tears. After a long pregnancy and years of anticipation, my wife endured 16 hours of labor to deliver a healthy baby girl.
For those of you who haven’t experienced this but one day will, I have news for you: It’s not like what you see on TV.
I’ve always been told that during delivery, there is a border that the father can choose to stay north or south of. Sure, I planned to watch some of the delivery, but not nearly as much as I actually did. There was no border, and once you begin to witness something like that, you can’t focus on anything else.
I remember being awestruck by what I was seeing. Every now and then I would mumble some words of encouragement to my wife, who was doing the most difficult thing of her life, but I was completely distracted by the spectacular abilities of the human body.
Also, I was getting light-headed. Very woozy. Yep, I was about to pass out.
When the final push came and Penny was being held by the doctor, I had a flurry of concerns….
“Oh no, the baby is blue. She isn’t breathing. Why isn’t she crying yet? OK, there’s the cry. She must be good. But what is wrong with her head? Her head is misshapen. Is somebody going to help her? Why is nobody helping my baby’s head?”
I didn’t voice any of these concerns. Rather, I just looked on helplessly as the doctors did their work, trying not to pass out. Passing out was a very real concern at this point.
When the doctor finally handed Penny to my wife, she began crying and talking about how beautiful she was.
“Do you want to touch her? Billy, do you want to touch her?”
My wife kept asking me this, but I could offer no response. One more movement and I was going to hit the floor.
Finally, I managed to communicate that I was going to go sit down, and doctors thought that was a great decision.
The moment we met our daughter will forever be one of the most special moments in my life, but it was just the start of the journey.
The first couple of nights, we realized very quickly that we were out of the frying pan and into the fire.
I’ve never felt more useless than I did during the hours and hours my daughter cried with no relief. We kept doing all the things they tell you to do, but she would still cry. My wife and I looked at one another at a loss—several times. How could we possibly be parents if we couldn’t find the simple reason for our daughter’s tears?
Those first few nights were difficult. Penny struggled to get enough food. She was constantly gagging and choking. There was no relief to be had. No sleep to be had.
When it was time to discharge us, the nurse was giving us some final instructions (something about not shaking the baby) and all three of us were dozing off. We’d just been through a three-day whirlwind, and now you want to send us home, exhausted, with no help?
We did make it home, though. And we did have help. Our incredible family, neighbors and friends stepped up to make Penny’s first week in the real world easier.
She’s learned to eat. She’s learned to not scream bloody murder every time she’s getting her diaper changed. She’s even learned to sleep (a little).
As for what we’ve learned, that list is a bit more exhaustive.
We’ve learned to trust and rely on each other more. We’ve learned to keep calm during times of extreme stress. We’ve learned that this is going to be very difficult and that it’s going to take the best efforts from two people.
We certainly don’t have it figured out yet.
In fact, I’m writing this column only a couple of days after I forgot to put a diaper on my child during a middle-of-the-night changing. Let me just tell you…that was a BIG MISTAKE.
There are many more miles to go here, but as we look at Penny’s sweet face, we can’t help but feel hopeful.
Not just hopeful that we’ll do something right eventually, but hopeful for her and her future.
This little girl–“our lucky Penny,” as my wife refers to her every so often–is going to grow up and get married and have babies of her own. She’s going to be loved and she’s going to love others.
She’s going to make a difference in the world.
She already has.
This journey has been an incredible story of God’s faithfulness and his love for us. And we’re excited to see what the next chapter holds.