i was going to write a thoughtful, introspective post about the various elements of our decision to stay in the states this year, about how we deferred my admission to the university of glasgow until next year. i would have talked about how my days were filled with preparations for the coming child, rosetta stone french lessons, reading and research, writing the book, getting as much hammock time in the park as i could. but i could never write that post, getting only sentences out here and there, hitting mental walls and walking away. i planned on getting those words out this last week as we made the final life adjustments, waiting for the baby.
that post will never be completed and what weak words were written have been swept aside. this is because this last sunday, while at steph’s grandfather’s eighty-forth birthday, she calmly informed me that she was having weak contractions. by midnight they had developed into a near-continuous presence. we waited out the night, timing contractions, steph somehow managing to snatch some sleep between them. by late morning we were on the road, hospital bound, told we would get in to see our midwife, isabelle, in between her other appointments.
during her check she noticed something strange and pulled in an ultrasound machine to see what was going on inside. and then a doctor for a second opinion.
‘breech,’ is the opinion. ‘c-section,’ is the verdict. the doctor says, ‘we’ll get you into surgery at 1.15.’ an hour away.
and the next hour is a whirlwind of nurses and information and doctors, operation prep, steph on a rolling bed, i donning that weird operation room garb. steph’s parents arrive. isabelle sits and chats with us between informational sessions with this or that nurse or doctor. she tells us more about her sister who lived and worked in kibuye, rwanda in the 1970s and ’80s, teaching art and painting the walls of the dispensary in town; leaving in 1994, being evacuated from the mille collines hotel in kigali with other expats fleeing the genocide.
steph goes into the operating room, i wait with her parents until summoned. in that serene and precise room i am warned to touch nothing and i sit by steph’s head, the rest of her behind a screen with surgeons aptly at work.
and then it is time. they lower the opaque screen and we watch the doctors slide our daughter out feet-first through their incisions. her head gets stuck for a moment, big as it is, and this mildly kills the mood of joy in new life, making more real this bizarre half-birth in a strange, science fiction room. but still, suddenly, amazingly, there she is, being wiped down; we hear her first mumbled noises and smile. all the pregnancy, the labor, the preparations ended in that one moment. now is the time to be a parent. steph would say later that she wondered in her precarious position, lying inert with her midsection open, how in the world they expected her to become a mother then.
we stayed in the hospital a couple more days, steph recovering and both of us learning the ins and outs of diapers and feedings and midnight wails.
we named her ivy hope watson. there are reasons behind these names.
ivy we liked for its reference to the natural world. which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. and after we were fairly settled on the name steph was reminded and i learned that her dad’s grandma was named ivy, and we hear she was a pretty awesome lady. but the name for us has a deeper meaning. as literarily minded people we love in the gospels the imagery and metaphors used to describe Jesus: the word, the shepherd, etc. and we wanted to reference something along these lines when naming her. in john Jesus likens himself to a vine, the disciples to branches. vine and branches. ivy. a name used by family long ago and a metaphor and a reminder of that to which we must remain connected.
and hope. again a family name, the name of my mother’s grandmother, and the middle name of her mother (my grandmother), and the middle name of my sister. but for me, again, there is deeper significance.
i’ve spent the last many years purposefully working among people in rough situations, from those below the poverty line in central illinois to refugees in italy and rwanda. and as i think on all the things i’ve seen and the stories i’ve heard and the news these days that feels ever more dark and brutal, i sometimes honestly wonder if we should even bother to try and fix anything anymore.
this may sound overly cynical, and that’s just because it is. the world’s ugly and i am an empathetic person and i feel it all. but i am not giving up. and when we named our daughter hope it was because in some place inside me i realize that God’s not done with us yet and despite everything broken and unfixable there is, somehow, miraculously, hope. and i’ve been talking about this a lot recently maybe just to remind myself that hope is real and shouldn’t be ignored.
and so she is named hope. ivy hope. her presence gives us joy, maybe more so than we expected. and in a multitude of ways she is a connection to life and a future, our addition to the expectation that the next generation could be better than this one and the ones before. without too much pressure placed upon her, of course. she is our reminder of the good things for which we live and work and try.