Almost everything about Isaac has been unexpected.

Six and a half years ago, I gave birth to my first baby, Nicholas. I was young, unsure, and overwhelmed, but he was a gift to me. I struggled, but I loved. I was challenged, but I grew.

He was the first baby, but when his daddy left this earth, I realized with a heavy heart that he would be the only one I ever had. The vision I had of my future family was permanently walled off the day the police uttered the words, “he didn’t make it,” right there in my kitchen with Nicholas on my hip. No more husband. No more babies.

More than three years later, Mike was the one who made me smile again, saying, “I do,” as the December sun went down outside the chapel windows. And with those words, another chance.

And so, there was the second pink line. There was the swelling of my belly. There were the kicks and rolling and shifting in my insides. All at once expected and unexpected.

The morning I went into labor, we went on a slow walk by the river. A massive heron landed right in front of us, and we joked that it was a stork. But, of course, anything so miraculous is rarely handed to us with the simple, if elegant, flutter of wings.

Everyone dreads a long labor, but what they don’t tell you is that faster labors are often more intense. Nicholas was a long, slow labor, and I was utterly exhausted from the arduous pain. I thought I knew what to expect this second time around, but the speed of it all shocked me. As I perched on the yoga ball, leaning into the hospital bed, I roared with the pain of every contraction. In those last agonizing minutes, a mere 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital, Mike prayed right into my ear. Words of hope, of life, of strength.

Isaac James came into this world hearing two distinct sounds. First, music,  playing from my phone, gentle and uplifting. Second, his mom yelling into a pillow. And isn’t that life itself? The voice of suffering in astonishing co-existence with the sweetest of songs?

As I saw him gasp his first breath, I was struck with awe. A deep, instinctual level of recognition took me by surprise. There he was, blond hair, pink skin. Through the grace of God, he was mine, and I had done this. All this hard, primal work, growing him, delivering him, led to this tiny beautiful life.

His name is Isaac James.

Isaac for laughter.

Isaac for unexpected joy against a landscape of barren grief.

Because he was born to a woman who never expected to have him. In fact, I outright refused the possibility of his existence for years. When his daddy came into my life, he made me laugh in a way I hadn’t laughed in a long time. And now here was this sweet child, growing my family, swelling me up with joy.

Somehow I spent the first three weeks of his life immensely over-confident that the second baby was so much easier than the first. And then the sleep deprivation hit me harder than a ton of rocks and I crashed. We cried. We rocked. We sometimes slept. Gradually, it got better, but more slowly than I expected.

In the six months since, we have also bought a new house (another unexpected blessing), moved to a new town, survived a 15-hour road trip, and much more. This kid still doesn’t sleep through the night, but he does have an awfully cute smile and bearhug for me every time he wakes up.

It is also absolutely incredible to watch the relationship between Nicholas and Isaac. These two brothers were made for each other. It brings me so much joy.

Isaac has been a lesson in the unexpected. Knowing my luck, he will continue to be, and I will weather through it. In fact, I look forward to it.

Photo credit: Tara Van Dyke @ With U Birth and Bella Baby Photography

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