“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” —Psalm 139:13-14
It was a dark and stormy Wednesday afternoon.
The date was January the eleventh.
The time was 2:30.
I was sitting at my office desk, catching up on some paperwork, having just returned from a meeting at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, where I was making arrangements for the Coalition’s two-week Spring Institute in May.
My phone rang.
It was my brother John calling to tell me that he and his wife Chris were at the hospital. It was two weeks before her due date, but after months of mandatory bed-rest and what had been a difficult (and seemingly eternal) pregnancy, Chris was finally going to have this baby!
“The doctor says it could be a long night,” John told me. They had broken her water, but it could be 12 to 14 hours before the baby would be born. “Can you call Dave and tell him what’s happening?” Did he want me to bring anything? “A camera!” they’d experienced so many false alarms, it hadn’t occurred to either of them to take a camera when they left for Chris’ doctor appointment that day.
No problem. I called my cousin Dave, who was working at home in Shadyside that day, just a couple of miles from my apartment. I needed to take care of a few things before leaving the office, but arranged to take the next day off. Dave and I decided to meet at my place at 4:30, at which point he would follow me to the suburban hospital (where just a little more than a month before, my friend Lisa had given birth to her second son, Christopher). Mom and Dad had been notified and were preparing to drive in from Cleveland that evening. We were all prepared for an all-night vigil.
John had given me specific directions on how to find him and Chris once we arrived at the hospital. Delivery room 7, all the way down the corridor, last door on the right. Dave and I, clutching dripping umbrellas, having survived a rainy Pittsburgh rush-hour, managed to navigate ourselves to what we thought was the correct destination. By now it was a little after 5:30.
In the front door. Take a left. Down this hallway.
Here we are: labor & delivery, 7.
Voices, bodies, activity. The cry of a baby. From 7?
Dave and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised. A nurse turned and saw us; she pulled a curtain shut—not that we’d seen anything aside from a cluster of people’s backs blocking our view of the bed. I strained to recognize a voice…John’s? Chris’?
“It’s a girl…” The doctor?
Then, Chris’ voice, then John’s. I don’t remember what either of them said, just that it registered that we weren’t standing outside the wrong delivery room.
I turned to Dave. “I have a niece,” I said.
The nurse who had pulled the curtain came into the hallway and asked if she could help us. I identified myself as John’s sister; she smiled and pointed us in the direction of the waiting room. Dave and I headed back up the long corridor, bypassed the waiting room, turned around to backtrack and saw John walking toward us.
As we got closer, I saw that my brother was crying.
“She’s beautiful,” he whispered. “Absolutely perfect.”
And then John and I shared the longest hug in our 25-plus years of siblinghood.
That baby girl turned 11 years old today (11 on the eleventh), a rainy January Wednesday, very similar to the day she came into the world. I just returned home from her birthday dinner in the city of her birth, at the Shogun Japanese Steakhouse, site of our family’s habitual birthday celebrations.
I wrote the above in April 1995, just three months after Katy was born, and sent it out to friends and family with an Easter card. Here’s how I closed the letter:
Have you ever thought about how amazing it is that an event like childbirth is so commonplace and yet so miraculous? As exciting as it is to hold any newborn, how much moreso it must be when that baby is your own offspring. The closest I’ve come to this experience is holding my first [and so far, only] niece, little Katy, when she was less than thirty minutes old.
This Easter, as I celebrate the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, I’ll also be celebrating the miracle of every new life, and especially the new life of Katy.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” —1 John 3:1
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Happy birthday, Katy.