After nine months of heartburn, she assumed he must have a head of dark hair. She already knew he was ornery, but that was to be expected.
She knew when he would get feisty and watched her belly roll around, feeling his jabs and kicks and acrobatic endeavors.
The morning he was to be born, his independent personality was still holding true and it took a team of doctors and nurses to turn him into position to avoid a surgical eviction notice. It was painful and terrible, but oh, how it would be worth it. And when it came to pushing, having birthed two other children, she thought she knew what to expect, but this was nothing like it.
Her husband held her hand. Never let go. He never left her side, his eyes adored her, if he could have given strength through his presence, he did.
It took all she could, all that she was, every ounce of everything in a way she never knew possible, and yet she gave. Without doubt or tears. This was her calling.
And when he was here, he was handed to the one who with love and longing had watched him grow, the woman who desired him more than anyone else, the one who had waited her whole life to hold him and then with baited breath and tears streaming had watched with yearning across the room.
He was handed from the woman who bore him to to his mother.
Staci is the kind of woman you assume is already a mother. Soft spoken and tender, thoughtful and patient, she radiates the kind of maternal care we all strive for. And yet, through seven years of “trying” to build their family, draining every medical possibility and their savings, exhausting their very ability to hope, time after time, she and her husband found themselves in devastation.
Over and over again, Staci + Brian, two sincere, tender, nurturing individuals longing to fulfill their hearts’ yearning for a family found themselves living daily in a place of empty pain. No one would fault them if they had chosen to seek comfort by settling into hardened bitterness. And yet, they chose love.
They chose love as difficult life circumstances brought their nephew to a place of need. And so they brought him into their home, into their hearts. Perhaps, they thought, this was the way they were meant to build their family. And so they loved him in the way only they could. As their own.
They chose love as Staci poured out her life for her students. She mothered them and she was their favorite, and she taught and loved and loved and taught. It was all the same to her.
And as friend after friend debuted baby announcements, she chose love. Patient and kind, not envious. She would smile and congratulate and hug and gift … and love.
Staci + Brian chose love as they clung together. Through time after attempt after hope after devastation again, they chose love.
As the years passed, holding each other, pressing through this unwanted, confusing, angering, overwhelming reality of life, they slowly, tearfully and yet with steady, humble faith, found themselves in peace that this was the way it was supposed to be.
However, their story wasn’t over. Someone else was called to love them. Someone else was meant to be loved.
It’s easy to swirl in our own existence, allow ourselves no room to acknowledge others, to feel their grief, to understand their struggle as we plod through, head down through the routine, work, play, sleep, work, play, sleep, one foot in front of the other, the daily grind.
However, there are some who, divinely, find the strength to pause. There are some who lift their head and acknowledge, feel, understand, open their heart, and through love, hear their calling.
Mary + Filip are these people.
Their paths had first crossed at their church. Since then they had shared the ups and the downs of friendship, the nights of abundant margaritas and the nights full of tears, the laughter and cheers of football games, and the afternoons where the news brought silence and sorrow.
They had watched their dear friends through the years and wept alongside them.
They had hoped with them, and felt the devastation along with them.
Somewhere along the way, Mary explains it as “hearing her calling.” Such an unimaginable sacrifice seems at first too simple to consolidate in such a way, but with humility, she leaves it as such. It would be a difficult journey, they knew, an endeavor for the whole family as with two children of their own already, their life was full and the days were long, but this was the way it was supposed to be. And, Filip, with eyes for only his wife, embraced her and made the calling his own, as well. How could he deny such confidence. Together, they took the first step.
With tender steadiness, Mary approached Staci:
“Staci, if you’re willing to try again, I will carry a baby for you.”
One can only imagine the shock, the tears, the doubts, the tempered hope in the conversations held over the next couple of years. Staci + Brian answered no at first, unwilling to let themselves hope again, to dream again. They had tried for years; treatments upon medications upon interventions. There was nothing else left. Not only that, but how could they bring their friends even further into the darkness of disappointment they had already been through?
And yet, through time, their hearts softened to the possibility, and although there was never a point of “answer,” Staci explains, at some point they came to the conclusion if they had one chance left, one more try possible, then how could they pass it up? In faith, they chose to hope again for the child they loved before he even existed.
Their last option before Mary had approached them involved the amazing advances science offered them. The investment in a total of six donated eggs had already yielded the heartache and loss of two different pregnancies for Staci through the years and, now, they were left with only two more chances.
Their last two glimmers of magnificent hope all in these last two smallest cells of a human body.
The first miracle flickered when Mary found out she was pregnant. Those who love Staci wept with her as the first hurdle was overcome and they realized there was indeed one little one growing for her. But it would be a long nine months of waiting. Nine months of prayers and dreaming. Nine months of pain and strength.
It certainly wasn’t easy - it had its struggles, its pain. Mary and Filip found ways to share their journey with their children, even finding a book titled The Kangaroo Pouch to help their children process and understand the gift she was giving to her dear friends.
And so, this foursome, surrounded in love as they loved, continued to share their friendship in a way only few ever have and, together, hoped for the child Mary carried for all of them.
And then, the day came. Stubborn was his nature all along and though he had given a few false alarms, he was truly in no hurry to enter the world. He had been breech for awhile and to avoid a c-section, the doctors tried one more time to flip him with an external cephalic version. After that, progress was slow. It was exhausting.
But, the strength in the room when this miracle baby was entering the world was unparalleled. It was silent, and yet the air itself was pregnant with anticipation, sacrifice, yearning, pain … love exemplified.
Brian + Staci held each other. And prayed. Filip by his wife, holding her hand, eyes full of her, and Mary, without tears or doubt or wavering, she worked. And worked. And gave. All that she knew how to, all that she was created for, she gave.
And then, with one final push, Staci was a mother. Brian was a father.
Mary + Filip’s calling was answered.
And, a miracle from the beginning, the so very loved Anderson Walker was here, a part of their world because he had always been a part of their hearts, their destiny.
To see more of Anderson Walker’s birth, his first moments and introductions, and to keep up with his newborn pictures and updates, click here.
Photo Credit: Allison Corrin Photography