You were the baby we almost didn’t have. I’ve heard mom say that more than once, her voice happy with remembering. She recalls my birth story, and the little girl in me wants to throw off my thirty-some years and crawl up on her lap. To feel her arms around me, to hear the story, to anticipate the shiver of suspense though I know how the story ends, to relish the delight of being wanted.
She tells of the premature labor, how I wanted to come into this world long before this world could sustain me. She tells how they would have lost me except for the newly available drugs that stopped her labor. I was safe for the moment.
At this point in the story, the child-me would want to snuggle closer to the mom who wanted me. I didn’t consciously, as a child, think of her in the story – the hospital stays, medicines, fear of losing, pain. I was too caught up in the thrill of being wanted, of being treasured before being seen.
The story fast-forwards to the night I was born. Mom tells me it was a night of thunder and lightning and torrential rains rolling across the plains. Kansas fury unleashed. Labor came early again, but this time only by a month. Still, there was no delaying my arrival; labor was indifferent to the storm. In all my love for Kansas, I’ve learned that there are storms, and then there are STORMS. This storm was one of the latter. Thunderous streaks of jagged light revealed lake-like fields and road after flooded road as dad backtracked the country miles. He soon discovered that swelling water blocked all routes into town.
But (and this is where I would shiver with suspense) my parents wouldn’t let a storm hinder their baby’s arrival. They woke up a neighbor who climbed into his tractor like a knight in shining armor. Driving down the road, the famer used the tractor’s massive wheels to part floods like the parting of the Red Sea. The car crept along in the tractor’s wake, and mile by mile they inched their way over swollen roads in a slow-motion race against nature.
Then the story fast-forwards again to the happy ending of their safe arrival at the hospital, followed by the even happier arrival of a healthy baby girl (that was me!). I loved hearing that story every summer. It was as much a staple of my birthday parties as cake and presents and family.
Every child loves a suspenseful story. But maybe I was enthralled with the story for more than the suspense. Maybe I loved the story because it was a story of me being wanted. Before meeting me, before holding me, before ever knowing my skills or talents, my parents fought to keep me. To a child not fond of doctors and who was rather scared of tornados and thunderstorms, my parents’ actions were nothing less than heroic. I think subconsciously my heart swelled at the thought that my mom would brave hospitals and medicine and storms and floods all because of me…and without a hint of resentment at the inconvenience and pain I had brought her.
For my mom, the story was about the daughter she wanted, not about her pain, her fear. In the retelling, she gave her story to me.
I was wanted. The story’s retelling was the beginning of a truth that encompassed my childhood.
As a kid, being wanted was a given. Now I know that for a child to be wanted is a gift. The wanting, the treasuring is not a guarantee for many.
My mama didn’t do a lot of things. She didn’t plan elaborate birthday parties or take me on shopping sprees (not that I would have wanted that!) or enroll us in sporting events or haul all six of us kids on educational field trips in the summer. Most of her days wouldn’t have merited a facebook post.
Yet I felt wanted, treasured. Activities, money and parties were never the proof of treasuring for us.
So my mom didn’t do parties or crafts or spoiling.
But it was the other things she didn’t do, those other acts of not-doing that colored my childhood with years of being wanted.
In all the laundry (imagine laundry for five boys and a man working a farm!), in all the baking (same boy and farmer eating!), in all the cleaning and diaper changing and loving and repeating the day’s work from the day before, my mom did not do the complaining, the sighing, the reluctant serving that come too easily for me.
She gave willingly, and her half dozen little rascals willingly took the giving for granted. Yet she did not begrudge us her sacrifice of love. In her not-doing, she gave freely, joyously, completely. Because we were wanted.
My mom’s not perfect, and maybe the sighing did come. And maybe her cheerful smile as she made breakfast didn’t come as easily as a child perceives. But in the gift of making us feel treasured, she saved the sighs and weariness for when the laundry basket and closed doors (and maybe dad) were the only listening ears.
(She would probably say God has graciously blocked some days from my memory!)
What my mama did was to make us feel wanted by giving without resenting. Sometimes the giving was in words. Sometimes in actions. Sometimes in the simple retelling of a birth story.
Sometimes it was in the not-doing that she gave the most.
She gave. I took. And she did not resent the taking or the giving.
Amber grew up with five brothers on a farm in Kansas. She studied print media at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and now lives with her husband and three children (ages 8, 6 and 3) in Michigan. She loves ice cream, photography and the smell of new books! Read Amber’s other posts here.