Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Couey
Witnessing the birth of a child is one of the most profound moments any human can experience. To come face-to-face with the power and miracle of life simply redefines a person's entire outlook. We know the biology, the science. We can be intellectually satisfied with discussions of fertilization and cellular mitosis. We can look at a pregnant woman and know what lives inside. But to be present at that moment when a human life emerges from another human simply takes our breath away.
My wife bore four children, of which I was present for three. While my aging brain is beginning to shed memories of the mundane, the images of those births remain crystal clear.
The years that followed were chaotic and rambunctious, stretching us to our limits. There were difficult moments, and others of boundless joy. Now they're all grown, most with families of their own. They've managed to drag us kicking and screaming into the 21st century, announcing the arrivals of their newest children via text, cell, and even facebook.
Last spring, our middle daughter announced she was pregnant. It would be her first child. That we already had been blessed with 5 grandchildren did nothing to lessen our joy and celebration. As the months progressed, our anticipation grew. In a courageous decision, Crystal announced that she would host the family Christmas gathering. We were even more excited as it became apparent that all four of our kids would be there at the same time. At this stage of life, those moments become rarer with each passing day. So it was with great anticipation that the family gathered.
Our son and his family arrived first, then went immediately up into the mountains for several days of skiing. My wife, Cheryl flew in on the 19th, our oldest daughter arrived from California with two of her three kids two days later. Our youngest, Jamie, a resident of Denver, was already there. I was the last to arrive, landing on the 23rd. When I arrived at Crystal and Andy's home in Littleton, I leaned over, patted her belly and said, "Okay Elena. Grampa's here now, so you can come out anytime."
The holiday passed with all the delightful chaos of a family gathered. The grandkids opened their presents and played incessently with each other's toys. Later that day, we all gathered around the table and broke bread together, laughing and sharing joyful memories. At one point, I put down my fork and just sat there. Everybody was there; the love in the air was palpable. I couldn't have been any happier. I sat there, purposefully committing the scene to memory, not the transient "where are my car keys?" memory, but the deeper one; the one where moments reside in perfect clarity until the moment we leave this life.
The days passed, much too rapidly for my taste, and gradually they disbursed. Robbie and his family went first, then Nikki headed back for California, Jamie went back to work on the other side of town. Cheryl would stay for another week, intending to help Crystal with the baby. Unfortunately, Elena demonstrated that she possessed that signature Couey stubbornness. As the day for my departure drew nearer, she still refused to be born. We had a false alarm on New Year's Eve, but everyone came back home around 3 a.m., frustrated, tired, and grumpy. Finally on the eve of my flight, the contractions started in earnest. Crystal got down to 5 minute intervals, but went no further. Finally, we went to the hospital, where her contractions became even more intense. I waited as long as I could, but reluctantly I left for the airport.
Never have I regretted more the airline's banning of cellphones in flight. But while I was in the air, Crystal finally gave into exhaustion and asked for the epidural. The Pitocin drip was hung, and two hours later, Elena entered the world.
When I landed in Baltimore, I immediately activated my phone and was rewarded with a string of text messages and photos of our newest grandaughter.
It was a grand moment, if made bittersweet by the distance.
Every family has these moments, when the permanency of the generations becomes perpetuated. The family lives on through the arrival of the newest lives, each one a precious miracle. And as we stand on the precipice of those generations, it is a view that is eminently joyful.