This originally appeared as a column in The East Tennessee Catholic in 2006.
Today is my “baby” sister’s 29th birthday. My mother reminded me today that Anne owes her existence to her two big sisters. I remember well how much we begged and begged for a baby. According to my mother, she decided to have another baby because she loved us so much that she wanted us to have whatever we wanted! Luckily, we were very pleased with the gift. We did everything for the baby except feed and change her. And I frequently said, “What if we had never had her? It would be terrible if we never had her!”
When Anne was two or three, I taught her to recite a few lines paraphrased from George MacDonald’s poem “Baby.” I would say, “Where did you come from, Baby dear?” and she would reply, “The blue sky opened and I am here.” Then would come, “Where did you get those eyes so blue?” “Out of the sky as I came through.”
That’s about all I remembered; then yesterday I happened to come across the book the poem was in, pulled out by someone and left lying on the back stairs. What struck me upon re-reading was the end of the poem. After cataloguing all of baby’s sweet little parts, the poet asks:
How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.
But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you, and so I am here.
Isn’t that a lovely thought? And how many people really think of babies like that these days, as a special gift, planned just for us and presented by a loving God? It seems to me that on the one hand people see babies as mistakes, accidents, inconveniences. Something like 60% of babies are unplanned, and don’t they seem to come at the worst possible times? They cost lots of money, they cause us physical problems, they interrupt our busy lives.
I think many times people don’t even consider their intended and wanted babies in terms of gifts from God. No, then babies are something they planned, something they earned, something perhaps they even paid for, considering the widespread reliance on fertility treatments, artificial insemination, donor eggs, and surrogate mothers. If they think of a baby as a gift at all, it’s more like a gift they think they are giving themselves—there hardly seems to be room for God in the equation.
And often as kids grow we try to give them the feeling that it is we who gave them the gift, the gift of life. I hate that particular guilt-tripping phrase, “I gave you life!” Well, no, I didn’t give my kids life; God did. Life was His gift to them; they are His gift to me.
And I don’t always appreciate it either. Longfellow said that into each life some rain must fall and the Shollys have been in the midst of a rainy season for a while. Today at the dinner table we were discussing things we were grateful for and I talked about how 16-month-old Lorelei had given me a gift today. I was supposed to be working but she begged and begged to go outside. Because of her I took the time to enjoy the Spring. Because of her I got down on the ground, examined pine cones, smelled daffodils, tore up handfuls of onion grass, remembered what it was like to be a child in the springtime.
As I write, Lorelei sits in my lap, half-asleep, nursing. She is wearing pink striped long johns and a t-shirt which reads “Sholly Creations. Size small. 100% joy. Made in Heaven.” I couldn’t agree more.
And tomorrow I will write something new, I promise. So many ideas, so little time.