Saturday night, after learning that afternoon that our daughter had arrived, we went out to dinner with some dear friends, Ken and Donna, whom Natalie would eventually name Ken and Ga Ga (this was way before there was a Lady Gaga whom I still don’t know much about save the grocery checkout headlines and Jazzercise classes, and hope to keep it that way). The mood was celebratory, and joyful, and we felt the kind of nervous excitement one might feel when getting ready for a first date with someone you have had a crush on for a really long time. We dared to dream and laugh and imagine being the parents of a baby girl and we felt…different.
For us, the sad chapter of being shut out of the Parents’ Club was now drawing to a close and we were so grateful and happy. We know there are folks who find out they are pregnant and are disappointed or worried about having another child. However there will probably never be a time when we can relate to that feeling. For us the coming of a child into our family was certainly the most happy thing that we had ever experienced. And that special Saturday night was the beginning of our most transforming journey.
Our church was having a combined service at the one of the large hotels in northwest Atlanta and as we walked through the sumptuous lobby, we hardly touched the ground. Everything felt different and new, and the air felt charged with electricity. Our lawyer, Jerry, met us there and with his beautiful smile greeted us and told us he had seen our daughter and that we would soon be the parents of one of the most beautiful baby girls he had ever seen. The loss of so much heavy sadness that we had carried around for so many years made us feel light and airy for the first time in so long. If you can feel this good without using drugs, maybe more people should adopt children.
We left church and spent the last night in our Georgetown of Atlanta apartment as a twosome. Tomorrow we would be three, and nothing would ever be the same. We went to bed that night with grateful prayers as well as apologies for all the doubt, jealousy, and anger we carried over the years. We knew that God had seen our daughter’s placement with us before she was even conceived, but He also knew of our fear, worries and doubts, and did not hold that against us. It felt as if God was smiling at us as we snuggled up that night full of the anticipation that usually only comes in small children at Christmas.
The next day we would wait for our daughter to arrive. A good friend, Lee, would be going to the hospital to pick her up and bring her home. She had asked for this privilege and we happily agreed. Lee had been a dear friend who could get pregnant almost by just thinking about it, but somehow she could also have such empathy and compassion for our plight. She was also kind enough to share her precious girls with us, and we often spent time with Jamie, Sharon, and Lauren. Each of these girls made us laugh, and helped us to see how much fun parenting would be when our turn came. Lee had purchased a beautiful white outfit, complete with socks and booties, which we of course still have. A knock on the door meant that Lee and our baby were outside waiting, and we opened the door to usher them in and sit on our green corduroy sofa in awe and silence for the first few minutes.
Lee joked with us about being so quiet, but we were truly in awe that our daughter had arrived, and could not stop staring at this beautiful, precious, sleeping creature in our arms. She had a tiny bow mouth, beautiful long fingers, light red hair that would later turn a pretty golden blonde, and chubby, smooth ivory cheeks. She was perfect, and just staring at her and not talking, but smiling and blinking back tears seemed all that we needed to do as we greeted our new daughter, and welcomed her home.
We had named her Natalie because we liked the name, and because we could not use our first choice April (with a last name of May). This is where we often caution new parents: please say the full name, first, last and even middle, and try to avoid anything too cute, trendy, or brand name-ish. My sister for example named her son Clark, but my other sister whose last name is Barr did not. We have heard of names such as Noah Sark, Shanda Lear, and Ima Hogg. More on this can be found here.
I know many parents are fond of choosing Bible names for their offspring, but I often fantasize about the Jeopardy category, Bible Names No One Wants. This category would include Jezebel, Bathsheeba, Judas, Herod, Cain, Nimrod, and Lucifer which ironically does not mean evil one, but light bearer. (Obviously I have way too much time on my hands.) Happily we did not choose any of these names for our precious daughter.
For the middle name, we chose Love, which was Joe’s mother’s maiden name. Since Natalie means birth, the name seemed to fit–a birth of great love. So Natalie Love came home to us, and after Lee took some pictures, she left the three of us alone. I remember unwrapping Natalie from all the blankets and dress and slip, and tights, and changing that first diaper. Now we had to keep her.
I remember feeding her, rocking her, kissing her, and putting her gently in her bassinet and just sitting next to it and watching her breathe and sleep, as all first time mothers do. I remember how good she smelled, especially the top of her head, which I later came to call baby head, and actually thought of bottling and selling that particular scent. Mothers, you know what I am talking about, and sadly, that smell departs by the end of the first few days, so you have to enjoy it when you have it. I remember thinking that I would burst with happiness had the feedings, diaper changes, laundry, bathing, and snuggling did not need my full attention. I would make up songs about Natalie Love, and sing them to her as I rocked her at night: “Natalie Love, Natalie Love, like no other baby that I’m thinking of…” Some of our good friends would learn and sing those songs both then and even many years later. Smile. (You know who you are.)
No matter how much worry and distress had gone before, it all melted as I held Natalie Love. I knew nothing of what the future would bring, but I felt that as long as Joe and I had our Natalie Love, nothing could ever make us sad again. The three of us began our journey together that day, and this precious Natalie Love, this tiny, beautiful, and wondrous creature would come to teach us more about God and His love than we ever knew possible. We didn’t see that coming, but one day Natalie and I will write about that journey together. For now, we leave you with the beautiful face, smooth porcelain skin, pretty bow mouth, long delicate fingers, and baby head smell of Natalie Love, the most wanted baby that ever was.