And he’s beautiful.
And we knew it was him all along.
For 20 long weeks we kept the secret. From family. From friends. From every perfect stranger who would stop us in the grocery store and ask if we knew what we were having.
No matter who inquired whether this baby was a boy or a girl, my response was always the same.
We’re keeping it a surprise, I’d say.
My hunch is it’s a boy, I’d offer.
And if you listened carefully to my phrasing, I never told a lie.
I always swallowed back the smile when people would assure me it was a girl. I can tell by how you’re carrying. I knew from the moment you told me you were pregnant. It’s got to be a girl this time.
I’d nod and chat about how it would be fun to have a daughter – because I always entertained a healthy dose of doubt, even with ultrasound techs and crystal clear pictures that claim to be “99% accurate.”
I wouldn’t know for sure until I held that baby in my arms.
But still we knew. And it was the loveliest secret we’ve ever kept, just the two of us calling him by name, delighting in the prospect of three boys, imagining what new personality might be added to the bunch.
We’d always loved the surprise before. Turned our heads away with resolve at the ultrasound tech’s instructions. Marveled at the discovery in the delivery room. Loved sharing the news with each family member and friend we called in the hours after delivery.
But after our miscarriage last year, my perspective changed. The loss of the unknown and the possibility was the hardest grief to bear. I wanted to know as much as I could about our baby.
So I wore him down, my dear husband who can be as stubborn as I. After a few months of convincing, he agreed to find out – as long as we kept the surprise to share with friends and family once baby arrived.
(And of course we never whispered a word of our secret to the two biggest blabber-mouths we know: Brothers #1 and #2, who openly had their hearts set on a little sister. “Mama, we already have a little brother!” our oldest would remind us exasperatedly.)
So on that freezing cold Epiphany day, we found out. And we both loved it. I will never forget the grin we shared in that dimly lit ultrasound room. Three boys!
Knowing made the waiting that much sweeter, that much more eager, that much more impatient. And now he’s here in our arms.
So it’s a story of revelation – of secret and surprise. And a story of change and conversion. The choices we made for one child don’t have to be the choices we make for another.
But what a joy to share the news we’ve known for so long. Our boy.
Not simply a third variation on a theme. Far from any disappointed attempt to “try for a girl.” Nothing but a beautiful boy and brother and son and child of God all his own.
Sometimes I wondered, in that abstracted telescopic view we sometimes try to sneak on our own lives, whether I wished this baby had been a girl. After all, everyone around me was sure I wanted a daughter. Some of the bold ones went so far as to declare that they hoped I’d “get my girl” this time. Once or twice I felt that twinge of ohhhh when I saw an adorable dress in the baby department.
But when I wrote that I was smitten with this baby the second I saw him, it was no exaggeration.
Every time I thought of him – him - a goofy grin snuck across my face that I can only compare to that feeling of falling in love for the first time. He is exactly the baby I dreamed of.
So there you have it, world. From the girl who can’t keep a poker face, who always bursts to let loose the secret, who can barely hide a joke’s punch line.
Nearly half a year spent waiting to spill the beans.
He’s the best secret I’ve ever kept.
epiph-a-ny : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
It was supposed to be a practice session. She’d gone through the healing touch training and wanted to try out what she learned. I’d been sick for weeks, and she offered to come over one night, hoping it might help the morning sickness lift.
But after she stepped back out into the winter cold and I wrapped back up in blankets on the couch, I stared into the fireplace and realized with absolute clarity. That it wasn’t nausea or vomiting or endless exhaustion that needed healing.
It was fear. Fear that we’d lose the baby again. Fear that I’d never make it to another delivery day. Fear that something was doomed to go wrong.
All of a sudden I saw that the hardest part of this nine-month journey would never be a burden of the body. It was all in the heart.
. . .
epiph-a-ny : a Christian festival held on January 6 in honor of the coming of the Magi to the infant Jesus Christ
“Mommy, why is tomorrow the last day of Christmas?”
Because it’s Epiphany.
“What does Epiphany mean?”
It’s when you see something amazing, that you never saw before.
“So why is January 6th called Epiphany?”
Because it’s the day the three wise men came to visit baby Jesus. They had never seen something amazing like that before.
“So tomorrow we will sing ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ but then on January 7th we will sing regular grace for dinner?”
Yes, that’s right. Because it’s the last day of Christmas, we still get to sing the Christmas songs.
“We should sing ALL the verses. That’s what we should do for Epiphany.”
We should sing all the songs we know by heart. For all the things we’ve never seen before.
. . .
epiph-a-ny : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
For weeks the meteorologists have been worrying and warning about the cold. Record-breaking. Life-threatening.
When the temperature finally plummeted last night and the negative numbers on the kitchen thermometer were enough to make me shiver, I listened as the radio host reveled in the jaw-dropping wind chills. The coldest in two decades.
That’s when it hit me. I’ve only lived here for ten years.
Tomorrow would be the coldest day of my life. When can we ever hyperbolize with absolute truth?
Even though I hate the cold, I smiled to myself as I flipped off the radio and turned upstairs for bed. Tomorrow I would see something I had never seen before.
. . .
epiph-a-ny : a revealing scene or moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way
As soon as we stepped into the dim room, my throat tightened with the memory: the two of us walking down a long, cold hospital hallway, the smell of freshly mopped linoleum and medicinal hand foam as we passed through the doorway, the blond-haired ultrasound tech waiting for us with kind eyes and a gentle voice.
Too much like the last time.
She poured warm gel from the squeeze bottle in a slow circle on my round belly. The grainy grey and black images began to blur and blink as she spun the wand around, trying to find the baby.
I wanted to look and I wanted to look away and I wanted everything to look right.
And suddenly, like a signpost in a swirling blizzard, the face slowly emerged from the whirling snow on screen: eyes, nose, lips. Two tiny hands trying to cram themselves into one small mouth.
All the fear evaporated as quick as a puff of breath into January cold.
I never believed women who said they fell in love so suddenly, when the lines on the test turned positive or the doctor placed the baby in their arms. But there it was.
I was absolutely smitten with what I saw.
Why this one, this second chance, this third child would make my heart leap like cloud nine, I’ll never know. Maybe because even though we had come here today – through bitter cold and biting wind and every wise voice warning us to stay home – hoping to find exactly this, I was still astonished to discover it before my own eyes.
Love in the humblest, smallest, most unlikely place.
The joke regularly circles round the Internet and church bulletins this time of year:
What if the three Wise Men had been women? They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts!
But beyond the silly stereotyping, the harmless joke always rubbed me the wrong way, though I could never put my finger on exactly why.
Until I was musing about what to give for a dear friend expecting a baby, and I realized I didn’t feel like buying her anything practical. I wanted to give her something beautiful, something lasting, something lavish.
Thoughtful folks always offer diapers and wipes when a wee one arrives. Bibs and burp clothes, toys and teething rings flow as freely as advice at baby showers. But the wisest women in my life were the ones who brought me impractical gifts. Handmade blankets. Tiny knitted sweaters. Wee white booties. A shiny silver cup.
Nothing for the day-to-day messes of babyhood. Everything for the wonder of welcoming a new one into the world.
When I look around our home’s endless kid-clutter of ever-changing clothes and once-loved toys, I realize these gifts – the impractical ones, the indulgent ones, the ones never found on a registry – are the lasting treasures.
In my youngest’s room, the rocking chair is draped with a quilt handmade by a dear friend. Propped on the floor by his favorite books is a pillow from my sister, stitched with his name and birth date.
In my oldest’s room, a warm white blanket from my husband’s aunt rests on his trunk. Keeping watch from atop the dresser stands a small statue of a mother cuddling her baby, a present from my sister-in-law. Gifts from mothers wise enough to know that babies deserve to be welcomed with beauty.
And lavish impracticality.
So every time I hear Epiphany’s Gospel of the Magi, and someone snickers about the impracticality of gold, frankincense and myrrh, I think no, the wise men got it just right.
And maybe it was the women they loved – the ones they left behind to journey so long and far, led by a star’s strange stirring – who were the ones that whispered in their ears bring something beautiful, something rich, something lasting. Maybe the women beside the wise men were the ones who knew just what a birth deserved, especially a sacred birth like this one.
Not the practical help that a young couple with a newborn needed. But the lavish gift of honoring a new and noble life in the glint of gold, the scent of frankincense, the perfume of myrrh. All the extravagance they could offer for such a child as this.
The wise men got it right. And wise women would have done the same.