This is a letter I wrote to our youngest children, recently born. I was not sure whether to “share” it, but a few friends have spoken from time to time that I should be willing to share such things, and so I will.
Charlie and Therese,
Welcome to the world. It is my firm and deepest belief that you are not new to life, but new to the world. I have been your father in practice for nearly 9 months (and in anticipation for many years), and have tried to carry out my responsibilities with that in mind.
First things – your sisters have elicited much more detailed “birth stories” than you both have. Furthermore, theirs were individual, whereas you are being lumped here.
As for the first point – this is simply because there was almost no drama in your birth. We were blessed in that way. Whereas Amelia was our first child born, and had a bit of drama in the story; and whereas Ruth had a lot more drama in hers, in the way it unfolded; yours was simply a very good birth. Your mother proved her courage and her strength, and you were as healthy as we could hope for. I was a helpless bystander, not unlike a butler waiting for orders. I only knew how fortunate I was to be in the room.
As for the second – we have already begun, in the first 24 hours – in the first 24 minutes – to appreciate you as individuals. You will inevitably be lumped together, to some extent, because of the circumstances of your birth – the “accident” of your birth, as philosophers might say. But your being born together was no accident (as the everyman would use the word), and I look forward to understanding the significance of it.
Now, children. What I must dwell on at some length is a vision of your mother, which I would not hesitate to call “beatific.” You may never have the chance to see the extent of her blessedness, the courage which I have only dreamed of demonstrating and now four times have witnessed directly. I hope you do, and I certainly hope you have a vision of this blessedness in your lives.
The birthing process is a rending from within. Her body, following instructions echoing in a near-silent whisper from the beginning of our race, seized control from her will. True, we have found ways to induce this activity, and to ameliorate it. The fact remains that neither measure has done anything to eliminate the body’s obedience, no matter your code or creed. You, Therese, if you should have children, will know it.
Not only is the body seized and the will made all but ineffectual; the pain is immense and penetrating. You may sometime see a film depicting a torture scene. Aside from empathizing with the terrible pain, you will notice the response of the victim, crying out, flailing involuntarily, wanting to crawl out of his skin, saying anything to make it stop. Or, worse, you will see him having just the slightest of responses, as though he has by some power of the will shed the terrible pain from his body.
But they are only acting. Your mother – I have seen her, in the previous birthings, nearly crawl up her bed as though she could hide away from the pain, or cry out in a way that would shame every horror film actress who ever sought an expression of the primal fear of death. Yes, she has even cussed, loudly and clearly.
And yet – this is important, and hear this loudest – I am not here to glorify pain and the endurance of pain. I am here to glorify love.
Just when she was, by any effort of the ego, finished; just when her drive for self-preservation would have started forcefully, and begged for an end to the suffering; just then, dear ones, she endured for you.
It is all but indecent to say anything more, but I will finish.
You are here because of biological accidents and the heroism of a woman. You are here because of modern medicine and our age-old desire to keep the race alive. You are here because we believe it is better to exist than not. As grand as all that is, you are here, ultimately, as the effect of one further (and higher) cause. This we call God.
The almighty and everlasting One – Whose ways are forever beyond our ways, Who knows all and sees all – the just and merciful One – the One who laid the foundations of the world and counted the hairs on your head – you are here because God called you out from nothing, and so that He could give you everything. You are here because God loves you, and I hope to press this truth into your souls. You have only to accept it, and then to try to imitate it.