but an inversion of cotton-white clouds filled the basin of the Columbia.
Looking in my rear view mirror as I drove south on Highway 97,
through Rufus, Moro, Grass Valley, Shaniko (ghost-town settled)
I could see the snow-capped mountains – Adams, Rainier – but I could not see the big ditch river.
On the week you were born, I drove around a corner of drab stubble fields
and stopped in the middle of a two-lane road,
where accidents are as common as cockroaches in New York City.
Stepping out onto that road, I prayed nobody would hit me as I snapped a picture
because there in that spot, the hills billowed emerald and Mount Hood sparkled in the distance like God’s own diamond.
I prayed as I drove away that you would know wonder and beauty,
and that both would always stop you flat in your tracks,
because it is important to marvel over the world God has created.
It is a crying sin to not take notice of the Creator, his Creation, and his creatures.
On the week you were born, I was with your momma when they checked her into St. Charles, told her it was time to have you.
She posed for a photo in the parking space marked for expectant mothers laboring. She smiled brightly but nervously.
Miracles are born of someone’s suffering and pain, always.
She knew that. She had lived that. She would live it again – 36 hours of it – before the blonde-haired doctor,
a slip of a girl herself,
yanked you from your mother and handed you screaming and bloodied to your father.
When he came looking for me, I was nowhere to be found.
I was sitting off in a dark corner, alone, praying, weeping, worried
about your momma.
On the week you were born, she told me that she thought she might die.
I thought so, too, briefly, late into the laboring, as I said, “Look at me. Breathe with me. In. Slowly. Now out.”
And she was doing it so well, staying right with me,
breathing her way over the hard rolling in her belly, her back.
I thought of my own mother, the grandmother you will only ever know by name, through stories,
and it occurred to me that walking someone through birthing is much the same as walking them through dying,
only the tears and weeping are different.
Looking into your momma’s golden eyes, I saw her slipping into a darker place
and when the puking began, I turned away, fled
unable to face the pain that was now hers alone.
It wasn’t the labor that she could not tolerate, it was the medication meant to ease her suffering.
When she cried out I sat in a corner and wept along with my strong and courageous daughter
Men go to war because they cannot give birth. It is the only way they can even begin to know the suffering women endure.
On the week you were born, your momma sat in a rocker, pillows behind her, pillows underneath her, pillows beside her,
her feet swollen from IV fluids,
Mercy Me singing a hymn as I cuddled you,
all round-faced and slant-eyed,
a fair-headed, fair-skinned China baby, I laughed,
and she cried, big fat tears of gratitude
“I never thought I’d get to be a momma,” she said.
She is a woman of tremendous faith
who lives in a big ditch of doubt
this momma of yours.
I want you to know that is exactly how faith ought to be lived.
Beware those who never doubt.
They have the weakest faith of all.
They possess a faith that has never been tested.
A faith that has never been found true.
Your momma’s faith is like the mighty Columbia.
Even when blanketed in doubt,
her faith runs deep and wide.
Even before you were conceived, you were prayed into being.
On the week you were born, people from the Atlantic to the Pacific,
from the Mississippi to the Columbia River
from the Holston to the Gulf Shores,
prayed for you.
Your very presence is evidence of what happens when two or more are gathered together, praying.
On the week you were born, there was great rejoicing
and tears of gratitude from the multitudes,
who stopped flat in their tracks,
to marvel over the God of all Creation.
And the sun shone brightly in Bend, Oregon,
On the week you were born, Little Sawyer Rowan.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain (Mercer University Press).