Uppermost House: And so our family grows

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

Last week, on June 25 at 8:38 in the evening, my first granddaughter, Sophie Emalynn Lewis, got her introductory glimpse of the outside world — which turned out to be the four walls of a nice private maternity room at Mid Coast Medical Center in Brunswick. Sophie was not overly impressed and decided to take a nap. Not a bad first life decision.

As we later heard the story, the entire process (or ordeal, depending on your point of view), from the moment my daughter-in-law Jen turned to her mother (they were both at work at the time) and said, “Um, mom...” to little Sophie’s grand entrance took just two hours, only the last 45 minutes of which took place at the hospital. When Jen (or her daughter) makes up her mind, look out.

Sophie’s dad, my son Jeremiah, was on an airport runway in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, taxiing and listening on his cell phone as his new daughter took her first breath of Maine air and gave the world a little shout. The flight attendants had politely told everyone to “turn off all electronic devices and prepare for departure,” but my son had hidden his phone for a couple of minutes — he didn’t want to be in the air for ten hours not certain if his daughter was breathing. I can sympathize; my own daughter is 20 and I still call her sometimes to make sure she’s inhaling and exhaling properly.

Jeremiah had tried to make it home from work for the birth, but Sophie was a week early and it takes so long to get here from Brazil. When he found out things were imminent, he’d called the helicopter pilot and asked if he could get on the next flight off the drill ship. “Run!” the guy said.

All multi-hemispheric-nearly-instantaneous-labor drama aside, everything went perfectly. Sophie has all her parts in all the right places and the right things go in and come out just as the designer planned. There was a moment of mock panic when Jen’s brother had asked matter-of-factly, “Hey, where’s her fifth finger?” but no one took him seriously, although everyone still looked and counted.

My wife and I arrived at the hospital the next evening to find the younger Lewis family quietly hanging out together, all three in various stages of exhaustion: Jen from delivering Sophie, Sophie from her short struggle to get out, and Jeremiah just plain whipped from spending 24 hours on airplanes, awake nearly the entire time, eating bad food and drinking lousy coffee. Two out of three of them smiled sleepily when we walked in; the third was asleep already.

Over the next hour, we did all the ridiculous things that new grandparents do, took the requisite photos, and posted our antics immediately on Facebook. We also ate pizza.

Soon, more friends and family showed up and everyone bent over at the waist and oohed and ahhed and made giggly little cooing noises and silly hand gestures and facial expressions and otherwise acted as if they’d just witnessed a tiny miracle (which they had), which entitled them to act silly. It was wonderful.

After the novelty wore off, the crowd crowded around the new parents and the happy chatter rose up until it all sounded from a distance like a bunch of geese at a fancy dinner party speaking rapidly in Hungarian.

Off to one side, I sat in a rocking chair, tiny Sophie swaddled and gently sleeping in my arms, her head resting below my left shoulder. She was just 23 hours old and I couldn’t stop looking at her. “Hello, Sophie, I’m your grandfather,” I whispered. “On your dad’s side,” I added, for clarity. She squirmed a little, trying to settle in, and every so often she made a very small sound, slightly squeaky and somehow far off, even though she was right there with me, the kind of sweet sound a butterfly makes when hailing a cab.

I had been ready for Sophie for nine months, but I was not ready for Sophie once she arrived — as a concept she had been real enough, but now she was so real I somehow just couldn’t get a grip on her. And so I just thanked God for her and prayed for her whole life and let it go at that. And I cradled her entirety in the crook of my arm and felt her warmth and beheld her tiny face and if I closed my eyes she seemed weightless.

Although I suppose the room was still full of a gaggle of happy people, I couldn’t see any of them, couldn’t hear any of them, couldn’t even tell if any of them were there. We were only two, Sophie and I, gently rocking, and if I held my breath and kept perfectly still I could feel the soft, rhythmic thumping of a beating heart. I couldn’t tell if it was hers or mine.

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