She was just a few hours old when he spoke his first father words over her. The night had birthed more than just the morning and the process hadn't gone as planned. I was exhausted ... certain he'd been traumatized.
For two years I had worked as a Labor and Delivery nurse. I had no personal life experience as I coached, telling all those mothers-to-be what champions they were. "Hang in there," I would whisper. "Your little person is almost here."
Now, it was my turn to do the laboring.
I knew too much for my own good in that delivery room the night before. I talked technical words with the doctor. I watched his face turn from casual to all-business ... the way he focused in, got quiet. The way the nurse's feet moved a bit faster. I had been that nurse too. And I read those monitors, told myself when to turn to my left side, when to deep breathe from the oxygen mask.
This man I made vows with sat by my side, quiet and sure. And he doesn't do hospital speak. Years before, I had stressed over thick, heavy books. Patho and pharmacology kept me up too late and I called when I needed to talk out what I was learning. He would tell me we needed to change the subject, say he didn't feel well.
He'd drive the hours to visit and then sit on my floor. I'd trace the route of blood flow over his t-shirt, recite what was going where ... superior and inferior, pulmonary and so on. I'd tell him how I could start a really great IV in the thick vein near his wrist. He would pull away, turn a new shade of pale green.
So when our girl was close to making her entrance, we made a back-up plan ... just in case he went horizontal. But he was an all-star. When that baby came out with a vacuum shaped head, it was I who did the teetering.
"It was not suppose to happen that way," I said over and over again. I wanted ocean music and Enya in my delivery room, not forceps.
More than that, I was convinced he would never be the same. I wondered what friend we could call in ... he would need to debrief, discuss, recover.
But my Todd was shockingly steadfast.
Later, in the wee morning hours, he scooped our "dear one" into his arms. He sat upright in his green, plastic recliner and he grabbed the only thing he'd packed. With his little girl lying vertical in the crease of his lap, he opened up to the words he'd played on repeat for weeks.
Everyday I will praise ... for you open your hand and satisfy desires of all things ... One generation will commend your kingdom to one another; they will speak of you and I will meditate on your wonder.
He didn't tell her how much worry she caused or ask her why she took so long to get here. He just cradled her there, in a cocoon of pink and blue and a knitted pumpkin hat, all in orange. He turned to pages of praise and, with a new sense of awe and a bit of holy fear, he told her what she needed to know.
On the day he became a dad, He introduced her to the Father.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love ...
The lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made ...
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Almost without warning, this baby girl is nearing seven. Two more have joined us since. Some days I feel like the oldest one just entered our little world. With first-grade fervency, she claims to love this Father that her daddy spoke of. And what transpires between her little heart and His, who can say?
But I know this: she has seen father-love in real life, in real time.
There is a man in her midst who has modeled well and loved her in extravagant ways ... the way he still scoops her up, cheers her on, runs along beside.
There is so much of this parenting-life we still cannot grasp, so much of this dad-life he claims to not know. But, in faith, we follow his dad-lead.
We follow the precedent he set on that first morning with our firstborn. In faith, we commend His works to those in our care.
In faith, we trust that they too might tell of the Father's mighty acts.