Last night something wonderful happened. After a long day working on the boys room prepping it for a new paint job (which means first ploughing through the rubbish on the floor, dislodging the stockpile of dirty socks behind the bed and evicting the spiders happily inhabiting every corner) I took the kids next door to swim. Our kindly old neighbors graciously let us use their pool often, and so I waddled through the 97 degree heat and occupied a lounge chair in a shady corner with my book while the kids played and splashed. Every so often Ellie came over with cool, wet hands and rubbed them across my shins and feet to cool me off, but eventually I called the kids out of the pool. It was so hot, and I was spent, and we had to get ready to go to my friend, Joanna’s surprise party.
Her birthday is July 4th, and it is easily overshadowed by other celebrations. She told me of how often husband William had struggled to find a nice way to celebrate for her. I thought it was clever of him, though I told my husband that I was curious as to how William would manage it without her finding out.
We got ready to go, but I was tired. Ellie began to fuss and throw fits, and I told her I would stay home with her if she didn’t cut it out, and tired as I felt, had it been some other occasion I would have welcomed an excuse to stay home. But Joanna is a dear friend who has really been there for me. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to honor her. I dragged to get ready, and because of my schlepping, we were about 10 minutes late to the party. The kids ran ahead as I slid out of the car and followed them in.
As we stepped into the house, a room full of people yelled “Surprise!”, and there stood Joanna, already having arrived. I appreciated the good natured teasing of our late arrival, and felt bad for coming late and missing the chance to surprise her. “I know, I’m sorry we’re late.” I said, stepping aside to ditch my shoes and purse.
“No, Laine, ‘Surprise!’ This is for you”, sweet Joanna smiled broadly, pointing to a sign on the wall that said “Welcome Baby Holman!”. Everyone laughed good-naturedly and some repeated the cantor, “Surprise!” Then finally someone said, “This is your baby shower!”
Then it all washed over me, and the one emotion that of late has been nearest the surface, tender gratitude, flooded my eyes with tears till I could only hold my face in my hands and try to contain it all.
I have told my good friends in the past that, though well they know I have no trouble at all singing in front of audiences of hundreds of people, I would rather go to church naked than be the recipient of a baby shower. Sitting in front of a room full of chattering women, opening gift after gift, expressing thanks over and over again but feeling hurried to move on to the next gift, never feeling able to express enough gratitude, enduring games of word scrambles that include “pacifier”, and “cesarean”… it all overwhelms me. I have never felt so much anxiety as I have sitting through a baby shower that was being given for me. Thankfully, my friends also knew that there is nothing I need for this baby, and so no reason for a baby shower. I thought.
For a fleeting moment, I was flooded with nerves, but then my eyes moved through those kind eyes and laughing faces that filled the room and it was suddenly perfect. It was just my friends. Not my girls friends, but their husband’s too, who are all also my friends, and their little ones; some of whom I have helped be born into this world, others I have tended and fed, and held as they slept. These were the people I share my life with, and the realization melted away my anxiety.
We ate wonderful food that my friends had carefully chosen and prepared in such a way that would be safe for my diet. My sweetie made a dessert that I could enjoy, and we ate and laughed. From time to time as the evening passed along, my mind took it all in and I hugged the moment I was in, fearful that it would too soon be over, but as with this pregnancy, telling myself to be here now, no anticipation, no looking back. Just now.
After dinner we gathered into the living room and I sat snugly amongst my friends, next to my sweet husband. We were gifted with thoughtful, tender gifts, just a few, and not overwhelming at all. Then as we were handed a last gift bag, the energy in the room built, and it was clear that this was to be something special.
As the tissue fell away it revealed a folded blanket. Opening it, instantly I understood. The blanket uncurled on my lap and each panel contained a handmade image. Some were drawn or painted, others appliqued and stitched. There were the words “Hope” and “Faith”, cut carefully from fabric, there were sweetly painted animals, dark velvet and satin hearts and flowers, and gorgeously drawn illustrations, one of pie and chocolate, one of a baby asleep on a cloud, and finally, one of our family. There, a couple stood beneath a tree, their four children gathered round them, gazing at a smiling baby held in the center of their circle of love. Heidi, who had drawn it, whispered humbly that the tree was a reference to the tree where all of our lost babies are buried, and that about the neck of the mama was my special locket that holds the names of those lost little ones. Who could hold back the tears? I wept freely.
I am so thankful for friends who know us so well. I didn’t think we needed anything, and really we don’t need any-thing. But these are the people who have braced us up against the storms of the past few years. They have sat on our couch with us with tears in their eyes and held us while we cried. They have tended our children while we sat through uncertain doctors appointments, brought food and, of course, pie. They have sheltered us from conversations and comments that would be painful for us, and have cautiously encouraged us as we so tentatively embarked on this pregnancy.
The evening ended too soon, and I left with such feelings of peace, joy, and gratitude. As I lay down that night, I thought of these past few years and the good, loving people, here and far away who have borne up our family through joy and pain. No family could be more blessed with wonderful friends than ours has been.
Thank you Slaughters, Heumanns, Mathews, Jensens, Motts, and Chantal.
We love you.