I don’t care what the experts say -- nothing actually prepares you for birth and parenting. We attended the breathing classes, we watched other peoples’ kids, we read books and talked to other parents, but none of it prepares you for the reality of the delivery room and life after your precious little diaper pooper is brought home. Next to getting married and learning to share the blankets with another human being, kids are the biggest game-changers in life.
I have a lot of memories of AJ’s birth. I remember the night before he was born, Traci and I had been up late with some friends, so as we went to bed around 11:30pm/midnight, I rolled over and said to her belly, “Ok little guy, we need a good night’s sleep, so no middle-of-the-night surprises, ok?” AJ has always been such an obedient child, so that’s why at 1:30am Traci wakes me up with, “My water just broke.”
After I realized that her water breaking meant the big show was starting (I was a little groggy for the first few moments of her announcement), operation child birth went into full swing. I woke up my Mother-In-Law who was ready to meet her fourth grand child, I called my parents and then threw the pre-packed suitcase and camera gear into the car. At 1:45am we left the house and at 1:55am we were checking in to the hospital as contractions were starting to get stronger.
The rest of the night was a blur as Traci’s contractions grew in intensity, and I watched them fly off the little monitor that ranges from “This is really hurting” on the low end, to “good thing you’re getting a baby out of this” on the high end. Her contractions were, literally, off the charts. By 8am I was sure little AJ was about to make an appearance (based on my extensive medical knowledge about child birth), but the doctor dropped some bad news on us. Traci was having what he called “couplet” contractions. That meant that two contractions were occurring one right after the other. The first was pushing the baby out, but the second one, happening seconds after the first, was actually pushing the baby back up. That meant at 8:30am, Traci’s 7 hours of labor had accomplished little in getting AJ out of her womb.
I remember the look of discouragement on my wife’s face. She was in such pain and discomfort as, for the time being, the contractions were not accomplishing what they were supposed to. She pressed on for two more hours before finally requesting an epideral to help with pain. I still remember the moment the doctor injected the meds through her spine. Traci was grimacing as another contraction spiked off the chart, and seconds later she was lying down, talking to me, like nothing was happening. I was watching the contractions on the monitor and trying to comfort my wife when she fell asleep. 9 hours of hard labor was exhausting, and it didn’t help that she had only slept 90 minutes the night before.
The day dragged on and AJ insisted on taking his sweet little time. It wasn’t until about 4pm that the doctor informed me that we were getting close. At 4:32pm on June 19th, 2001, little AJ made his grand entrance into the world. He was not particularly fond of life outside the comfortable womb, but after the doctor cleaned him up, got him breathing, wrapped him up like a 6.5lb Mexican burrito and then placed him on Traci’s chest, AJ quieted down and we both began to cry; we had a baby boy!
After about 15-20 minutes of Traci and I enjoying our new child, I went out to the waiting room and announced to our family that a baby boy named AJ (Aaron Joseph) was safe and sound with his mom. Soon after, the moms came in and celebrated with tears of joy, and later the dads proudly held their new grandson (#4 for my father-in-law and #7 for my dad). It was a very special day, and we had no idea how much that one day would change our lives.
Today, almost 13 years after AJ was born, I can hardly remember what life without kids was like. Traci and I loved the four years we spent in Seattle, serving the Lord without children of our own, but now it seems like we’ve always had kids. It’s hard to imagine that a day will come when our children aren’t living in the house with us and that they, too, may give us the joy of grandchildren (although CJ has made it clear that she will remain in our house indefinitely).
Children are indeed a wonderful gift from God, and in part, I think God gives them to us as a picture of His love for us. A few days after taking AJ home from the hospital, Traci was resting on the bed and I was holding our new baby boy as I sat on the couch. He was bright-eyed, and looking right at me, and I was marveling that God actually trusted me with providing life-giving care to another human being. AJ was so fragile, his total well-being depended on Traci and I, and there was nothing he could do to provide anything for himself. He could cry his little eyes out (and on many occasions he did!), but apart from us intervening, he would cry in vain.
Isn’t that how it is with us? We are helpless without God. Oh, we like to think we are strong by ourselves, we like to think we can achieve greatness on our own, we like to think it’s all up to us, but at the end of the day, we would be at a loss were it not for God’s life-giving care. You may not always (ever?) acknowledge Him, but that doesn’t negate His presence in your life.
God loves you with an everlasting love. It’s no surprise then, that when you and I enter into a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we become adopted sons and daughters! Not guests or renters. Not cousins or step-relatives. Not slaves or employees. We become adopted sons and daughters, children of the King, and heirs with Jesus, God’s first Son.
As I held AJ that day on the couch, I had an amazingly new understanding of God’s love for me. I couldn’t believe how much I cared for and loved this little boy that I had only known for four days! How much more does God love you and me after knowing us before we were even known -- before the world was even created (Ephesians 1:4)? In that moment, I knew I would do anything to protect and care for my son, and I knew God had already done everything to provide for me at my deepest need; not just a relationship with Him that protects me from hell, but a relationship with Him that sustains me each and ever day, through joys and sorrows, victory and pain, in my good days and especially in my bad ones.
I want to be dependent on God each day, just like AJ was (is!) dependent on me and Traci to provide for his needs. And an interesting truth emerges as I grow in my walk with God -- the more I know Him, the more I strive to love and serve Him, the more I realize how much I need Him. My dependence actually grows with age. And that’s a good thing.
Are you trusting God with your day, today? Are you laying out your needs and wants before Him? Are you trusting Him with your goals and dreams? As you move forward in your life, I hope you’ll find that you are trusting Him more, not less. I hope you’ll realize that the Overboard Life can only be lived with God’s help. May you and I grow stronger by leaning further into His love and grace.
29 down, 11 to go.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!