Dear Holly: You are a “Fearfully Made” Gift from God

1 week.

Dear Holly: You are a “Fearfully Made” Gift from God

Dear Holly,

When you were born just a week and a half ago and I got to hold you for the first time, one of the immediate thoughts in my mind was this: How could anyone hold a perfect, innocent newborn and not sense God?

I know you were “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. You are not simply the aftermath of a cosmic explosion billions of years ago.

I know God wove you in Mommy’s womb. You are more than just science.

You were created, beyond just your parents.

To be “fearfully made” means that we respectfully recognize God’s achievement and creativity in your existence.

As your parents, we could never simply say, “This is our child. We brought her into this world.”  It will always be much more complex than that, because God knew you before He ever wove you in the womb.

We recognize that children are a heritage from the Lord. You being here in this world is so much more epic than a Mommy and a Daddy deciding to have a baby.

Now, imagine this. You were born into a family where this all information will be intertwined into our family’s lifestyle and culture.

Dear Holly: You are a “Fearfully Made” Gift from God

Knowing that this same God who knew you before Mommy and I ever did, it’s only logical that our family is to serve Him through our lives, something we can’t do without loving our neighbors as ourselves.

And how can we love our neighbors, or even ourselves, if we can’t love our own family?

What that means to me as your Daddy is that I’ve got a particular responsibility to teach you to love. Of course, there is no better way to teach you to love than to demonstrate love to you and in front of you, along with Mommy and your brother.

Struggle will always be present in life, but it’s a matter of how we choose to deal with it as it comes. We as a family can make a daily choice to be more than conquerors, though God’s love.

So I will lead our family to choose to be victors, instead of victims. We will make a choice to do what is often unnatural to the human experience, in attempt to love each other and to love God.

Here’s a little cheat sheet I crafted to remind me:

Victors versus Victims

Victor: compliments others

Victim: criticizes others

Victor: embraces change

Victim: fears change

Victor: forgives others

Victim: holds grudges

Victor: always learning

Victim: thinks they know everything

Victor: accepts responsibility for their failures

Victim: blames others for their failures

Victor: has a sense of gratitude

Victim: has a sense of entitlement

Victor: sets goals and develops plans

Victim: never sets goals

We will be conscious of these things. We will be conscious of our responsibility to love and serve the God who fearfully and wonderfully made us.

This is the family you were born into…

We are a family where we will choose for love to be patient and kind, where it does not envy or boast, where it is not proud or rude or self-seeking or easily angered.

We will choose a love that keeps no record of wrongs. We will choose a love that not to delight in evil.

We will choose a love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

Because if we choose this kind of love, we will choose a love that never fails.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You are a “Fearfully Made” Gift from God

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

Newborn.

Dear Holly,

Mommy made a deal with me that if she could give birth to you without getting an epidural, she could go on a “new wardrobe shopping spree” with the money we’d save; her epidural with your brother Jack apparently cost us $1000.

Well, Mommy gets her shopping spree because she chose nitrous oxide (laughing gas) instead of an epidural! Not that she’ll actually spend a thousand dollars- probably just a couple hundred. Either way, she earned it!

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

Last weekend began with our family having a pretty good idea that you would be born, since your due date had already passed.

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

Friday night for dinner we went out with Grandma at a place near our house called Homestead Manor, which is a very old mansion that has somewhat recently been converted to a fancy restaurant.

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

Then on Saturday morning, I took your brother Jack to the Franklin Main Street Festival. It was so packed that we actually had to take a trolley in and out of the place, which I think was Jack’s favorite part of the whole thing.

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

That evening we went with Mommy and Grandma to Arrington Vineyards, taking a picnic dinner from Whole Foods there.

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

That was Jack’s last Saturday as an only child, because the next morning, Mommy went into labor and gave birth to you Sunday night:

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

After laboring since 6:00 AM on Sunday, we finally left for the hospital at 4:20 PM and were at Vanderbilt by 5:00 PM.

When we arrived there, the doctor warned Mommy that the window of time was small for her decide whether or not she’d get the epidural. Mommy decided to delay, choosing to spend some time in “the Lexus of laboring tubs”.

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

That seemed to progress things rapidly. The doctor told us that Mommy was already so far along by that point, that the epidural might take effect too late.

So Mommy took the laughing gas, which according to the doctor, “It doesn’t numb the pain at all, it just makes you not care as much about what’s going on.”

At 8:08 PM, right at 3 hours after we arrived at the hospital, you were born.

Everyone in that room was so impressed with what Mommy did; myself obviously included.

Nonna and Papa had brought Jack down to the hospital Sunday night once I texted them the word “born” from my phone, using my left hand; since my right hand has busy holding Mommy’s.

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

We were required to stay at the hospital for 24 hours after you were born. Since all the doctors kept quickly confirming that you were perfectly healthy, we made it clear we wished to leave the hospital the moment they would allow us to.

Therefore, you and Mommy and I all got to leave for home after just 25 hours after you were born; and just 28 hours from the time we first arrived there.

Mommy had a very efficient birth!

Back at the house, Grandma had made dinner for all of us the following night. At one point, your brother Jack asked for more water. Immediately, Mommy jumped up and got it for him.

Papa commented, “Look at her! She just had a baby with no epidural and she’s already up and moving?!”

That’s because your Mommy is amazing.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Mommy Gave Birth to You with No Epidural

Dear Holly: What Our Family Did before We Left for the Hospital

Newborn.

Dear Holly,

When we woke up Sunday morning, Mommy and I both knew you were going to be born; based on Mommy’s contractions. So I made sure to document the order of events along with the way.

Since had I been making a weekly “baby bump” Instagram (@nickshellwrites) of Mommy each week, I decided to make a bonus shot: 40 and a half weeks.

Dear Holly: What Our Family Did before We Left for the Hospital

Then I helped your brother Jack burn off some anxious energy by walking around our neighborhood with him while we wore his “monster teeth” that he won as a prize at Chuck E. Cheese a few months back. The idea was to scare cars passing by.

Later that afternoon Mommy insisted that she put out new mulch in the backyard. So I unloaded the 3 huge bags of mulch from my car, which your brother Jack and I had picked up at Lowe’s the day before.

Obviously, I offered to help, but Mommy wanted to make herself physically useful during her final hours of pregnancy; so she insisted that just she and Jack did the landscaping job. So I let it happen.

Mommy had also sent me to Whole Foods to pick up some vegan hot dogs to prepare with the vegan chili she had in the pantry. So we had a hearty lunch, which soon after increased her contractions.

It wasn’t too long before she was doing yoga-like positions in the floor, in accordance with her contractions. Jack quickly joined her, wanting to genuinely support her. That was my cue to text Nonna and Papa to make sure they were on their way, since they would be taking care of you while I was with Mommy in the labor and delivery room.

I remember how anxious I was getting, pacing the living room floor; meanwhile Mommy was calmly dealing with her contractions on the couch.

Once Nonna and Papa arrived at our house, I left with Mommy and Grandma within 15 minutes, at 4:20 PM. We arrived at the Vanderbilt at 5:00. And just 3 hours and 8 minutes later, you were born.

I’ll tell you all about that in my next letter. I have so much more to say and so many more pictures to show you!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: What Our Family Did before We Left for the Hospital

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Song

5 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

Dear Jack,

A lot of people had been telling me they would be curious to learn your reaction to seeing your sister for the first time. Fortunately, I have it forever etched my memory- plus, I have pictures!

The look on your face was perfect; so completely and genuinely amazed.

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

You instantly asked to hold her. As you heard her let out a little cry, you responded with a laugh: “She sounds like a kitty cat!”

As Holly was passed around the room, you continued laughing- you seemed to be grasping the concept that, all along, Mommy and I weren’t kidding- that you truly were getting a real little sister.

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

You also got to open Holly’s gift to you: an awesome dinosaur book, a Berenstain Bear book, about a dozen plastic dinosaur toys, a new Big Brother 2016 shirt, and an Ankylosaurus stuffed animal.

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

Tuesday night made the first time that we were all back at the house and back into normal bedtime routine. Our tradition is that I always grab one of your many stuffed animals on the bed and make it sing you a song.

But this time, I happened to be holding Holly in my arms. As I began singing in a stuffed animal’s voice, you stopped me immediately:

“No, Daddy… I’m singing to Holly instead.”

And right away, you began singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. It made the first time I’ve ever heard you sincerely sing a song without trying to be funny.

It was one of the most sincere things I’ve ever seen you do.

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

I was never really that concerned that you would be jealous or intimidated by your new sister; instead, my main fear was that you would feel pressured to “play the part of big brother” based on everyone’s preconceived ideas you had overhead.

Fortunately, you have no interest in playing this thing up. Instead, you truly adore your baby sister; whether the cameras are on you or not.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

Dear Jack: Your 1st Reaction to Meeting Your New Sister/Singing Her a Goodnight Son

Dear Holly: You Were Born on April 24, 2016!

Newborn.

Dear Holly: You Were Born on April 24, 2016

Dear Holly,

You have finally arrived- and the world rejoices! Two days ago on April 24th, 2016; you were born after less than 3 hours from the time we checked in at the hospital. You were born weighing 7 pounds, 5 ounces and, exactly like your brother Jack when he was born, you were 20.5 inches long.

Because of how quickly things transpired, Mommy amazingly ended up giving birth to you without having to induce labor or have an epidural; instead, she just had the Nitrous oxide; also known as laughing gas.

Dear Holly: You Were Born on April 24, 2016

You were born with slightly wavy, light brown hair with blonde highlights. And I couldn’t help but notice you have the most beautiful eyes, which clearly came from your Mommy. (The current consensus is that your eyes are blue, by the way.)

Everyone who meets you instantly falls in love with you. I will never forget the moment I got to hold you and kiss you on the forehead saying, “Daddy loves you.” It was so emotional for me that I couldn’t cry.

Beyond emotions.

Dear Holly: You Were Born on April 24, 2016

And obviously, your brother Jack is smitten by you. You are like a stuffed animal that suddenly came to life.

Thank God, you are here and you are healthy. All the many doctors who have seen you so far all simply tell us the same thing: She’s a perfectly healthy little girl.

Even though there was concern from some of the midwives a few weeks ago about you being underweight, you still ending up being born 7 pounds, 5 ounces.

Dear Holly: You Were Born on April 24, 2016

You have been such an easy baby so far. When you cry, it’s so soft and it’s actually kind of funny.

Based on what I’ve seen in these past (less than) 48 hours, I get the idea you are going to be a low-maintenance baby.

It’s okay that you waited 4 days after my birthday to be born. We still get to celebrate our birthdays the same week, for the rest of our lives.

You are here. Wow.

I love you so much!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You Were Born on April 24, 2016

Dear Holly: Will You Be Born on the Pink Moon and Earth Day, April 22nd?

40 weeks (due date).

nick_drake_pink_moon

Dear Holly,

Okay, you decided not to be born on my 35th birthday. That’s cool.

We can have our own separate birthdays after all- at least we can share the same week and the same half of April.

So how about this? You can be born tomorrow instead:

It’s Earth Day… and, it’s the Pink Moon (which is the “smallest” full moon of the year).

Until today, I simply knew the phrase “pink moon” as referencing musician Nick Drake’s album and song; both of which are classic.

But today, your Nonna texted me and educated me on the subject:

“The April full moon is nicknamed the ‘pink moon’ even though it will not have a pinkish tint. Symbolizing the start of spring and pink colored flowers. It will peak at 1:25 AM on the 22nd. Interesting to me. Your full moon was 1:59 AM and cramping and contractions started at 10 PM (a few hours before). You were a full moon baby.”

I realize there are people out there who will quickly deny any connection between more babies being born on the full moon, as the gravitational pull of the moon affects pregnant mothers like it affects the tide each day.

However, I believe it.

And I believe that there’s a good chance you will be born on this upcoming Pink Moon tomorrow, which also happens to be Earth Day.

Seriously, how appropriate would it be for the baby girl of a vegan daddy and a vegetarian mommy to be born on Earth Day.

It almost feels like your destiny, doesn’t it?

You being born tomorrow helps me make better sense of you not being born on my birthday yesterday.

So, we’ll go to bed tonight as normal, but I am fully expecting that as the pink moon peaks around 1:25 AM, Mommy will go into labor and you will be born on Friday, April 22nd: both Earth Day and the Pink Moon.

Love,

Daddy

 

dad from day one: He Who Dies Happy in Old Age, Still Dies

Thirty weeks.


Ironically, while waiting for my first child to be born I am accompanied by thoughts of the finality of my own life.  Having a baby is such a huge milestone, such a life-changing event, that my mind skips decades ahead to when my kid will graduate high school, to when I will be a grandparent, and ultimately, to my inevitable passing into eternity.  In my mind, all those big events are strung together like bubbly Christmas lights from 1988.

My wife and I have this agreement that concerning our own inevitable deaths, we will die healthy but of “natural causes” in our sleep, both at age 92, holding hands.  And I would assume that most happily married people would wish for the same thing- to be able to raise their children with their spouse, to grow old with their family, and to pass this life in our right minds – not lonely and suffering in a nursing home.  I don’t consider a sudden brain aneurism, a car accident, or being mauled by a bear while hiking through the woods.  No, you see, I have carefully planned out my own “natural causes” death in a romantic and perfect way.

And that’s the only way I can think about the end of my life- with optimism.  Assuming I will live a long, happy life, giving all I can to my family.   It’s the only way I can think, because even now, two months before Baby Jack is scheduled to arrive, I am responsible for another life.  I have to be here to take care of him.  And my wife.

I truly am incapable of trying to fathom how so many people in the world don’t have a solid understanding (or at least some kind of basic perspective) of what happens after this life, and that they don’t think about it on a daily basis like I do.  How the afterlife is completely something to be considered, how beyond heaven and hell issues, this dream of life is the prequel to eternity.  And now, already, a new soul has been created, and I had something to do with that.  I have changed the course of eternity.

This baby is not just a body; he’s got a soul.  A soul that will need guidance for this life and the eternal one.  And I have to be here for that.  Even if these thoughts may seem dark and depressing to some, I refuse to ignore the reality that life and death are intertwined.  As much as I “try not to take life too seriously” like all those stupid bumper stickers and annoying e-mail forwards tell me, I still take life seriously enough to think about this stuff.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com