We went for a long walk in the woods today with the dogs. It has been so cold for a long time - much colder than it ever is here - and being outside today in the warmth of the sun, with the earth thawing beneath our feet, felt like a small miracle. It is always so refreshing to feel a warm day again after so much cold, such a relief to discover that the sun will, in fact, shine again. It's surprising, but also familiar, like some slumbering part of you stirring again.
We hiked at Bent Creek, following muddy single-track mountain bike trails over roots and rocks, with the snow-melt swollen creek rushing by us. Out at Bent Creek, we have been so many different kinds of people. We've been the young, nearly newlywed couple, tossing our bikes in the back of the truck, bouncing over dusty gravel roads to our favorite trail-head, smiling and laughing as the sun beamed through the green leaves framing our path. We've been the expectant parents, hiking around the lake, pausing for a photo of me and my belly in a field with the mountains rising up all around us. We've been parents of a newborn, venturing on our first post-baby hike, a sweet sleeping Dora tucked safely into the front-pack. We've been the overly optimistic parents of a one-year-old, trying with varied levels of success to ride around the lake with a baby trailer attached to one of our bikes, taking turns pulling the trailer, arguing about the best strategy for getting over the big roots or through the narrow spots.
Today, we were the parents of an almost two-and-a-half year old, a walking, talking, independent, strong-willed little individual. Dora took her own hike today, walking "Furphy" and keeping her own pace, calling for the dogs to catch up with us just like we do. There was still snow on the north side of the slopes, still ice in some heavily shaded spots, but the sun was warm and, by the end of the hike, we were all unzipping our coats. Walking back up the hill towards our car, Dora said, "I'm done", so I carried her the rest of the way. Back home, with muddy jeans and shoes removed, she climbed into bed and fell instantly asleep, worn out from the exercise and fresh air and blue sky.
While she slept, Brian and I talked about her birth. I'm not even sure how we got on the subject, but for the past few days we've been talking about it. I said something about how amazing it is that it goes so quickly, that even though everyone warns you about it, you have no idea that in the blink of an eye, your child will be two. I'm sure it will only be a few more blinks till she's grown completely.
We didn't know if Dora was a boy or a girl before she was born. Both of us were hoping for a girl, though we certainly would have loved a boy just as much. I was looking to rekindle that mother-daughter connection I have been missing, and Brian has always had close friendships with women, and wanted to have that special father-daughter relationship. At the moment that Dora was delivered, the doctor held her up to Brian and said, "what do we have here, Dad?" I held my head up to try to see but I couldn't focus on anything, even though I'd had a natural delivery and actually had my contacts in. It seemed like an eternity waiting for the answer to a question we'd been asking for 9 months. "I don't know" he said. Later, Brian told me he thought it was a girl - knew it was, even - but was just afraid of announcing the wrong thing to a room full of people. Dr. Hunt laughed. "It's a girl" she said, and everyone cheered - or at least, I think they did.
Things happened quickly in the moments following Dora's arrival, and much of it is a blur, but right away the nurses put little, naked Dora against my bare chest, letting her rest right against me as they dried her off. All three of us were crying, Brian leaning over me, holding my hand, both of us staring at our new baby in disbelief and love. I remember feeling my heart swell with love and joy that we had a baby girl - that I had delivered to Brian the daughter he was hoping for. I knew right away that her name would be Isadora - which was Brian's idea - although we had a list of about 12 names that we pondered for 24 hours at the hospital.
Our lovely Doula Jo took pictures of the birth. I had no idea she was doing it. But a few weeks later receiving the photographs was another joyful gift, one I continue to cherish. That moment was, by far, the most incredible moment of my life. Amazingly, though, it is difficult to really remember everything about it. I remember the parts that I wrote in my original birth story, and the parts I have told again in childbirth classes and to friends and family. I remember what I can see in the photographs. I remember the moment, hours after Dora's birth, settled in our room, when I looked at Dora's sweet sleeping face and thought, "wow, I think I really, really like her!" What I wish I could remember that I cannot now is the sound. I wish I could hear what we said, I wish I could hear Brian say he didn't know the gender of the baby, I wish I could hear her very first cries.
We've already decided that, if we are blessed to have another baby, we definitely want to have a video camera with us. We're not out to make a graphic documentary, just to capture the sound of those incredible first moments to that the memories don't fade quite so much. The overwhelming intensity that comes with welcoming a child into your lives is difficult to grasp. The moment is filled with so much emotion and love and fear and awe - it is a lifetime of feeling compressed into one day, one hour, one minute. It feels almost impossible for the brain to process what has happened, so much so that even two and a half years later we are still puzzling over just what did occur. Both of us have said that, knowing Dora as we do now, we wish we could go back to see her again on that first day.
I hope that the second time around, we can have a greater understanding of what we're experiencing at that moment. That's why I want every available technology there to help us record the day. I hope we will be blessed with that experience again, and have the chance to share it with our sweet Dora, who opened our eyes to this possibility in the first place. I imagine it will be like that first warm day after winter: a small miracle, a familiar surprise, an awakening that will stir us and change us and bring us great joy.