It was Sunday afternoon and I was asleep. At least, I think I was asleep. The next thing I remember, my daughter Meredith and her husband Chris were lurking over me. Meredith was grinning and bobbing up and down on her toes. "Mom, Mom, Mom, um, Mom, guess what? Mom! Mom! Guess what?"
Grogginess lured me back into slumber. . . . Did somebody say something?
"Mom, I’m pregnant!" Meredith squealed, too impatient to wait for me to figure it out on my own.
Did she say she’s pregnant? In my stupor, I mumbled some profound sentiment, like, "Wow." They had begun the journey to parenthood.
Meredith’s path had been a circuitous one. She left college after her sophomore year in order to enter the convent – a semi-cloistered religious order that was growing rapidly. During her 18 months as Sister Francesca, it gradually became clear to her that, while it was a wonderful life, it was not the life for her. She returned home, and over the next few years, Meredith finished college, fell in love and got married. Having a baby was the next big step.
Meredith had a wonderfully healthy pregnancy. By the end, she looked like a Popsicle stick with a ping pong ball in the middle. And she glowed.
Midway through the pregnancy, she and Chris extended an invitation for me to join them in the delivery room. I was delighted. How did they know that watching a grandbaby’s birth was on my bucket list? I promised to stay out of the way, keep Meredith supplied with ice chips and be a well-behaved mother and mother-in-law. Hey, it can happen.
For weeks before the birth, I kept a cell phone with me at all times. My plan was to text family and friends throughout labor so they could pray for Meredith and the baby. Then, as soon as the baby was born, I planned to fall madly in love with him. A newborn baby is, after all, the only true occasion of love at first sight.
A few days before the baby’s due date, I was the lector at weekday Mass. Not wanting to be disruptive, I silenced my cell phone and left it on the counter in the sacristy. What could possibly happen in 30 minutes?
At the end of Mass, my cell phone contained four text messages from Meredith. She was in labor.
I caught up with Chris and Mere in the labor and delivery wing of the hospital, and the three of us settled in. The doctor expected that it would be a very long day and a very long night before Little Buddy made his appearance.
It was not.
Meredith labored from mid-afternoon to the evening. Then, as I watched in astonishment, a baby came rushing into the world.
Gabriel Joseph was hopping mad. For nine months he’d had no responsibilities. His mother ate for him, drank for him, breathed for him. All he had to do was enjoy the 98.6-degree weather. Suddenly he was thrust into a barbaric 70-degree world where he was expected to suck his own air. So cruel.
Yet before long, he settled into the crook of his mother’s arm and began making those sweet cooing and squeaking sounds that charmed the staff, not to mention his parents and me. As Gabriel’s eyes locked on Meredith, I knew I was witnessing a private love affair. Then it was Chris’s turn to gaze with amazement and love into his son’s eyes.
When I finally held him, Gabriel and I whispered secrets and plotted to keep his parents up all night. That made him happy. Don’t tell me otherwise. I like my little imaginary world.
Watching the miracle of birth was almost surreal. It reinforced my respect for the complexity of God’s universe, and the love he has for us. And if meeting little Gabriel Joseph was love at first sight for me, imagine how God feels when he looks upon us, his beloved children whom he calls by name to be his own.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of the book Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.