Thanksgiving (a post from the archives)

A Post from the archives…Youngest will turn seven tomorrow, this year her birthday won’t be on Thanksgiving but I think this post is still appropriate.

Youngest Child is a Thanksgiving baby. Her birthday, November 27th, falls every five years on Thanksgiving…her first birthday was celebrated among cornucopia centerpieces and the scent of pumpkin pie, and this year her sixth will also be.

This Youngest child, Thanksgiving gift, is a whirlwind. Spark-eyed and fairy faced, her gold curls bounce along as she embraces her world. Every sight, every sound, every piece of God’s creation is something to hold, touch, smell, feel, experience. She is luminous, alive, in constant motion.

Third children, my midwife told us as we embarked on the journey that is Rachel, are special. Every child, she laughed, should be the third. We couldn’t know what she meant, that day in very early Spring when she was just beginning. Third child? We were nervous. Could we really handle it? Three children meant one too few adults, being outnumbered, shifting the balance of our family. Eldest and Middle Child were happy, comfortable, and…potty trained. The crib was back in storage, the maternity clothing had been passed down. Third Child? We worried that the smooth and easy nature of our family would be broken with this change. We relied on God’s grace, and He has shown us through Rachel that we were right…something was broken. Broken to make room for more blessings, more love. Re-arranged to become something more complete, more whole, and more right than we could have imagined.

I suppose it’s the nature of family, the way things naturally go. We learned we were expecting Eldest in the doctor’s office, sitting together gripping hands tightly and waiting, hearing the nurse call down the hall “it’s positive!”. Middle Child’s beginnings were learned at home, quietly celebrated in a moment stolen while Eldest napped and Hubby and I had a rare quiet space. Youngest’s two blue lines appeared while Hubby fixed a chattering Eldest’s breakfast and Middle Child banged on the bathroom door, wanting Mommy to come out and play. From couple to family, steps along the way. Each one different, each one its own story, each one a integral part of the whole.

She was born very early the morning before Thanksgiving day. Quick from the start, this one. Our Third Child-touting midwife nearly didn’t make it in time to deliver her. There was a moment, when she arrived, when everyone was still. No sound, no cry…everyone’s breath was held. Her little eyes, alert already, took it all in first…as if the shock of this new place were so great, the amazement of finding herself here made her forget to inhale. For a moment, we all did. No breath…only waiting for that first gasp of this new world.

And then she did.

And all of us, collectively, finally exhaled. “Every child should be a third child,” the midwife said again with a wink as she placed the swaddled baby in our waiting arms. And as this new and tiny blessing settled, her first lusty cry quickly giving way to more bewildered taking-in, I began to understand a little.

The awe of new life was there, the love, the beauty. But we didn’t have the fear…the overwhelming feeling that we didn’t know what to do with this new creature, the shock of all the amazing, the frightening, the beautiful, the sticky things that newborns do. We knew she was strong, she was perfectly created, she wasn’t going to break. We knew a hundred thousand things that cannot be put into words, that parents learn by instinct and God-given grace. We’d done this before, we were no longer neophytes. We’d done first child, we’d done new siblings, we’d done boy and we’d done girl. We were relaxed, and able to just be there, breathing in this moment, feeling this completeness, knowing this new child for the first time. Breathing in God’s grace, His blessings, the miracle that He would bless us again with a child of His to raise.

The next day, Thanksgiving, brought another gift. Empty of all but the most necessary staff, the hospital was quiet that day. Peaceful. Eldest and Middle Child came with Hubby, bearing gifts and curiosity. They held their new sister in eager arms and graced her with wet toddler kisses on her silky little head and soft pink cheeks. It felt right, it felt whole. The lesson of the Third Child began to work its magic. Let go. Enjoy. Don’t worry. God has us in His hands, each one of us. Our children will rise, they will grow, they will learn from both struggle and peace. What control we thought we had was always His, not ours. The fear of the loss of it was an unnecessary illusion, a waste of time. There is no limit to love, no loss in the adding of it that is not worth the incalculable gain.

That evening, after everyone had gone, I lay alone with Rachel in the deepening shadows of that beautiful Winter day. In the still and warm, blessed quiet of just the two of us. There would be few moments like that, for this child…an unavoidable part of being third. We had these hours of quiet stillness, before the bustle and clatter of life…the blessings of a growing family…began in earnest. I held her on my chest, her breath warm against me. I stroked her silky hair, marveled at her little toes, inhaled the indescribable smell of a newborn’s head, curled her tiny fingers around my mine. I breathed her in, and every breath was a prayer of Thanksgiving.

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