Twelve years ago these bubblegum shoes, along with my very pregnant, hospital-gowned self, waddled the halls of a Nashville maternity ward in effort to distract while encouraging the inevitable birthing process to hurry up and get a move on. I remember laughing- half amused, half embarrassed- over the spectacle of my pink sneaker/open-in-the-back-gown combo, hoping aloud no one I knew happened upon me in such a state. Arm in arm with Rob and heart to heart with our very soon to be born baby girl, the pink shoes and I took our last stroll ever, before entering the long painful night of labor and emerging in the early pre-dawn hours a mother.
Through all the years- the writing of your little life- these shoes remain. I haven’t been able to let them go, so there in the corners of closets and underneath piles of clothes they have sat in wait. With every new house, new sibling, new city, new adventure, I’ve packed them up and brought them along, but never really wearing them again since you joined us those twelve springs ago. In a recent cleaning frenzy, they caught my eye and I realized in a wave of nostalgia and sudden ache- you now wear the same size as my labor shoes.
At the time of the closet purge those weeks ago, I made a mental note to save them for today, your birthday- a sentimental gesture I realize speaking more to the giver’s soul than receiver’s- especially because I know, pink is not your color.
At the time- I didn’t give much thought to it all. But in the weeks since, the shoes, and the birthing pains keep showing up. There in the new growing tension between mother and daughter, there in my desperate prayers for wisdom, there through the tears over watching you hurt, God began to show me new layers to this chapter of your life. There is a building intensity of labor pains you are now experiencing as you must walk the corridor from girlhood into womanhood.
Walking those hospital halls twelve years ago was scary to me, but more than the fear, there was joy. At that point I was already feeling the pains of bringing you into the world, but I bore them happily just to have you here. Today, these shoes no longer fit me- they fit you– and today I can no longer bear the wrath of your pain as you labor through your own long night into growing up. There aren’t words to appropriately describe the dense weightiness my heart feels in the wishing I could shield you from the hurt of these contractions. But I also know that I know, that I know, after the pain of the night- joy comes in the morning. You came in the morning- 4:05am March 22nd, 2005- JOY came in the morning and was all the fuller on the heels of my great birthing pains.
So while I don’t expect to see you walking any halls in my old pink Chucks anytime soon, I do hope their story reminds you of your own, and that no matter the labor pains that come in your life, you can walk them out. You are walking it out now, with more beauty and bravery in your twelve years than I’ve ever known in my nearly 40. Whatever shoes you choose, keep walking baby girl, this world needs you and as much as I may selfishly want to, I can’t hold you back for my own any longer.
Happy Birthday lovely Emma- thank you for being born and always being you. All my love Always, -Mom