Happy Birthday, Shepherd! (Or Shep, Cheppuh, Sheppy, Sheppy Bubble Bird)
You can’t be three. Three. Ridiculous. We have discussed this with Eliza, and we will share this with you as well: Please stop growing. You are getting too big too fast. Just stop. Thank you.
We love you so much and are so thankful for your life. You bring so much joy to our family; you are Eliza’s best “fwend,” and we love how much you two love each other. You make your Uncle Tim and me laugh every time we hang around you, and you have never ceased (and, I predict, never will cease) to amaze us with your language and congitive ability. You are truly remarkable, precious boy. We have loved every second we have gotten to watch you grow, and we can’t wait to see how God uses you and the gifts He has give you for His kingdom.
Today, on your birthday, I can’t help but think, as I always have a tendency to do on birthdays, about the day you were born. From my perspective, your birth was unique in a couple of ways. First, you were the first baby born to a close friend of mine after I had become a mother. That doesn’t sound very important, but there is something different about anticipating the birth of a child when you know what it is like to have a child. I could anticipate what your mommy would be going through. I had new ways to encourage her and pray for her than I had ever had with friends in the past. I also knew firsthand the joy she would soon be experiencing, how much she would love you and treasure you; it made me anticipate that for her with an excitement I had never known. Second, because you were born by planned c-section, I knew right when you were going to be born, and I knew just what your mommy would experience, as my first baby had been born by c-section just a few months prior to your birth. It was a different experience than waiting for the phone call/text, “Maggie is in labor! Shepherd is coming!” But it didn’t make it any less exciting.
On the day of your birth, I woke up early and started praying. I knew that your daddy and mommy had to be at the hospital super early to get checked in and prepped for surgery. As I got up and began my morning routine of getting Eliza fed, dressed and ready for the day, I prayed out loud with Eliza for peace for your parents’ hearts, and I asked God to give the doctors and nurses strength and wisdom as they performed the surgery. I also asked God to protect you and allow you to be born safely. I remember bouncing through the morning, checking my phone every 2.5 seconds, anxious to hear that you had arrived. I am almost certain I even turned my phone and ringer on and off several times, convinced it must not be working. I finally got the message that you were here just before 9am. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but I do remember the part about you having a “full head of hair” and that you were “beautiful.” Beautiful, you hear that? Your daddy sent that message. He was instantly smitten with you, and to this day, that has never changed. He also mentioned in the message that mommy and baby were doing fine. This was important to me because your mommy is one of my best friends. I was so thankful to hear that you BOTH had done well in surgery.
I remember being so thankful that you were born on a Thursday. You see, back then Uncle Tim worked every single day except for Thursday. If you had been born on any other day, we would not have gotten to go together to the hospital to see you when you were born. I am so thankful we were able to do that. We both were so anxious to meet you, and it would have been hard for us to wait.
I also remember being a little surprised as I realized that we couldn’t just go to the hospital as soon as Uncle Tim got out of class. Remember me saying you were the first baby born after I had my first baby? Well, this being my first time, I had forgotten that non-sibling children weren’t allowed at the hospital. We had to find someone to watch Eliza! Fortunately, there were lots of people who were just as eager to meet you as we were. My first phone call was to Aunt Stacey, and we agreed to do a kid-watching swap. So, after Uncle Tim got out of class, we headed over to Uncle Justin and Aunt Stacey’s house to stay with Zoe and Hank while they went to visit you and your mommy and daddy. Then, when they got home, we left Eliza with them and went to see you.
When it was our turn to go, I remember telling Uncle Tim that we had to be sure bring your daddy some food, snacks and diet coke. We knew to do this because we had just had a baby at the same hospital a few months before, and we knew that the hospital feeds mommy lots of good food, and that baby gets lots of good food from mommy, but no one feeds daddy! We didn’t want your daddy to be hungry, because we knew that your daddy needed strength so that he could take care of you and mommy, so we loaded up on food and drinks and brought it to him at the hospital.
I remember thinking you were were so handsome, and I was so surprised by your full head of dark hair. I guess I shouldn’t have been. Eliza was born with a similar head of dark hair, but for some reason, I just didn’t expect it from you. You looked so darn cute.
I remember praying for you. I don’t know if we prayed out loud for you with your mommy and daddy, or if I just prayed silently in my heart. But I remember praying for you while I was holding you. I thanked God that you were here and safe and praised Him for such a precious blessing.
I remember going to see you one more time before you left the hospital. Uncle Tim and I had a babysitter lined up for date night on Saturday. Uncle Tim asked what I wanted to do that evening, and I told him I wanted to go to dinner and then go see Shepherd. So that’s what we did. We used the excuse of “bringing dinner to your daddy,” but really we just wanted to see you and visit your parents.
There are so many memories with you in the following days. I had the privilege of encouraging your mommy, praying with her and giving her advice when you had some trouble with maintaining and gaining weight. I remember being so astonished that your mommy called me to ask me questions about your eating habits or her recovery or any number of things, and more than that, that I knew stuff to share with her that could be helpful. You see, for so long, I had been the one calling others to ask questions. I was always the one in need of help, in need of guidance with this parenting thing. And that has certainly not changed, even to this day. But what I realized when you were born is that now I also have guidance and help to SHARE. That is such a joy and honor.
I remember being absolutely amazed at your mommy’s strength and endurance as you struggled with your weight and with nursing. She loved you so much that she endured a lot of pain and hardship, several times a day for several weeks, in order to give you the best nourishment she could provide you with. She still willingly endures daily hardship and pain, though perhaps of a different kind, in order to love you and care for you the best she can. You are so blessed to have such an sweet mommy. It is a precious gift from God.
I remember praying for you and your mommy and daddy a lot, A LOT as you dealt with weight issues and nursing struggles. I just asked God to sustain you and give your mommy and daddy wisdom about how to care for you. Looking back now, it is striking to see how fast time really goes. At the time you were going through all that, it seemed like forever, but after a couple short months, you became a champion nurser and an expert weight-gainer and quickly made up for lost ground. It’s hard to believe the big, healthy-appetite boy you’ve become had such a rough start. It is simply because of God’s grace that that is true. Praise Him.
I could go on and on, Shepherd. About how hard it was to leave Louisville just a couple months after you were born, knowing how much you would change before your family joined us in Pearland. About what an enormous blessing it was to share our home with you and your family for a few months while you were so small and what fun it was to see you grow and develop on a daily basis. About how much we enjoy taking you to the zoo, having you over for date night and sleepovers and playing at the park. About how much we love seeing you as a big brother, now twice over. You are so precious to us, and we are so thankful we have the privilege of living alongside your family and participating in your growth and care. You are immensely treasured and loved by so many people. Happy, happy birthday, sweet Shepherd!