“The days are long; the years are short.”
That’s what the mother-to-be said to me in our strategic communications class on Thursday. I had introduced myself with “my baby turns 21 on Sunday” and, reminiscent of what older ladies had said to me when I had a babe in arms, I told her “treasure these moments because the time goes fast.”
Back when I had five young children in tow, I had secretly thought in response, “That’s what I’m counting on!” I admitted that to this young woman about to be a mom for a second time, to which she said, “I’ve always heard it said ‘the days are long but the years are short.'”
Twenty one years ago, I awakened predawn in time to reach the toilet for a safe water breaking. It was the beginning of a long, painful day. My labor pains didn’t start on their own, so I took time to send an email to my parents, alerting them, finished off the remaining Breyer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream sans pickles (good decision as I wouldn’t eat again until nearly midnight), showered and dressed, all before I disturbed my sleeping husband or called the doctor and the friend who was coming to stay with our children.
The doctor said to get to the hospital immediately, so my husband sipped some coffee, got showered and dressed, loaded me in the van, stopped at Publix for a disposable camera, stopped at the bagel store to get himself a bagel, sharing the news as he went that we were (eventually) on the way to the hospital. (I waited anxiously in the van.)
At 9:43 p.m. that Tuesday night following Easter (when I had sung a solo in church), we welcomed “no name Dagen” into the world. (We didn’t decide on a name until Friday, well after the hospital threatened to submit his birth certificate without a name. Part of the problem was that Steve wanted to call him Gunther, “Gun” for short; I wanted to call him Thomas Edward Dagen, in honor of my dad, John Edward, and my father-in-love, Tom. I figured we could call him “TED” for short… Imagine that! Every time I spoke to him, I could have been giving a TED talk! Eventually, our second son, Benjamin Adam, offered his middle name, and we took my father’s first name, John, to aptly name our youngest son. He, of course, is disappointed we hadn’t named him Gun.)
Adam John went from this:
In a mere 21 years.
(With the same Lazy Boy chair, which begs the question, “why haven’t I managed to refurnish the living room in those 21 years?”)
I went from this:
In a mere 21 years. (Should have included Steve, but he was working this morning.)
Back in those early days, I had written this about Adam’s birth:
“The first night in the hospital, I was overwhelmed with the sense of the miraculous — this perfect baby is a gift of God. I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving each time I nursed Adam — and prayed for his life, that he would serve the God who made him.
“I was filled with a sense of awe — and responsibility of being his mother. And when he cried, it was very difficult to keep myself from tears — some postpartum blues, I’m sure, but much from that unconditional mother’s love, which I didn’t fully understand even though I was already mothering four children. I think loving Adam deepened my love for my first four children.”
I still thank God for this child of mine, still pray that he will serve the God who made him, still feel the responsibility that comes with parenting — even adult children. And sometimes I still find it difficult to keep myself from tears, though postpartum blues are long gone.
Parenting is a full-contact sport, a risky business, an often thankless task, and my greatest joy and still-in-progress accomplishment. I am thankful God blessed me with this honor five times over. I am thrilled that this youngest child of mine cemented this blended family into one, loving unit, growing even now with more love and new babies as my children marry and start their own families.
My trip from the hospital 21 years ago was much like the trip to the hospital, except that this baby of mine was ensconced in an infant car seat instead of my belly. Like the trip to the hospital, the trip home included my husband running errands and broadcasting the news of this son’s birth. I had captured the homecoming with words:
“We stopped at Kmart to get a prescription of pain medicine. It was a beautiful spring day, so I stayed in the van with Adam. Steve parked the van beside an elderly woman who was eating her lunch in her car. Steve got out, checked on Adam and me and opened a window.
“Then he popped over to the elderly woman and said, ‘My son is coming home from the hospital today’ in such a way that the woman immediately forsook her Wendy’s hamburger and Frosty and came to the van window to take a peek!
“Of course, Steve also had to tell her that Adam was my first and fifth child, so I got share our love story — God’s blessing.”
Twenty one years ago… and so many stories in between.
Adam John, I love you more.