Birth of a legend

niamh-with-eyes-openOn December 10, at almost midnight, Niamh Shempert was born. My daughter. It was a harrowing day and a half for Annie and I, her especially, as our home birthing stalled out from dehydration and we finally checked into the Birthing Center at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital after 24 hours of labor. At the hospital Annie was able to receive just enough anesthesia to rest and recover her wits and strength, and when she finally started pushing the process was swift and intense.

Annie smiled in her labor pains, proud and triumphant to be delivering her child at last–to the awe of nurses and midwives, and of me. She proved every person in that room wrong, with their thoughts of shoulder dystocia and C-sections and gestational diabetes, as Niamh (“neev”) came quickly and gloriously out to meet the world in perfect health. Then, while the nurses treated Annie’s hemorrhaging, I was Niamh’s guardian in the wee hours, holding her in comfort and love through Nurses’ tests and warding off invasive procedures. Our birth wasn’t what we planned, but we had it on our terms in as natural and nurturing a setting as possible.

I knew as I held Annie’s hand in pride and awe that I was in the midst of a great story, one that would be a joy to tell and retell–all the more for its factual truth. Now as last week’s events seep into my skin and stir about in my soul, I wonder things. I wonder about the place and value of story in our lives. I wonder about the virtue of seeking out such adventures versus letting them come to us. If our birth had gone as planned, I wouldn’t have such an amazing story to tell. I would have a much simpler and everyday tale that would elicit a few “aww, that’s nice” ‘s, not hold them in wonderment. But would I ever, ever willingly put my wife and my daughter through such danger and trauma just to add an epic to my repertoire? Not on your life!

So, I ask: what IS story in our lives? Is “adventure” something, as they say, that you hate while it’s happening, but love in the telling? Is there a way to pursue storied life without inviting needless sorrow and pain? I look at my daughter in the paradoxical knowledge that I want her to have adventures, but would never wish her danger or harm.

But for now, it is enough to glory in the epic of her arrival, and take joy in her present peace.

4 Responses to “Birth of a legend”

  1. 1 DonnaV
    December 23, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I love this Joel….sure can’t wait to meet your baby girl. I will be thinking about your question today, it’s a good one!!

  2. December 28, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Again, congratulations.

    Conflict, tragedy and interesting circumstances create good story. There’s other ways to get it, but those three are proven winners.

  3. 3 storybythethroat
    December 28, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks, Donna, Jake!

    Actually, I like how Tony Lower-Basch put it back in Story Meets Life: Great stories are produced when people are pressed to the limits of their capabilities. That’s a wonderful distinction to me, because it means that stories are available to EVERYone whose limits are tested in ANY arena, not just soldiers and astronauts.

    And perhaps therein lies my solution here. “Pressed to your limits” isn’t about seeking out pain or danger for it’s own sake, but neither is it a safe, unchallenged life. That’s what I want for Niamh. Not to have misery or tragedy heaped upon her, but to kindle an adventuresome spirit that isn’t afraid to push it’s limits. To seize love, joy and passion in her hands and wrestle them to the ground, to be willing to stand up for what she values and try, fail, and triumph, scars and all. That’s what I want for her. That’s what I want for me, too.

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