My three month old son was baptized yesterday, so it is high time I fulfill a promise I made before he was born and tell an important part of his birth story.
The pastor of the church in which I grew up for many years was a man named Fr. Jacob Myers. I moved away my freshman year of high school, but when I came back for a visit one summer in college he, along with a few other members of the church, where responsible for introducing me to my husband. I moved back to Atlanta after graduating two years later, so Fr. Jacob was also my pastor for the first few years of my married life. We often didn’t see eye to eye, and he had a knack for making me feel like an angry, rebellious teenager in a way that even my own parents have hardly ever done in my adult life. But as much as he got under my skin, he also earned my loyalty and respect. He was a man who lived according to his values in a way few people do, and I knew without doubt that he loved me and would always be available to pray for or counsel me any time, for any reason.
While I adore my first two children, I cannot say that the days they were born were the best days of my life. They each weighed well over nine pounds, were born two weeks late, and were delivered by c-sections despite every effort on my part to avoid surgery. When I became pregnant again I could not help hoping for a better birth experience, even though it seemed unlikely anything would really be different. I did find a doctor who was willing to let me try for a VBAC one more time. He even offered some gentler, safer options for induction should it become necessary (some of the commonly used methods for inducing labor are much riskier for women who have previously had surgical deliveries). We even made a plan for a better c-section if it came to that. I really wanted to get to hold my baby immediately following birth – missing the first moments of my children’s lives was the hardest part of my two previous deliveries. But it was still hard for me to believe this baby’s birth wouldn’t just follow the pattern set by his siblings.
Baby Max was due on July 14th. Being nine months pregnant at the height of a Mississippi summer is no joke, so I was hoping he might be early, but fully expecting him to be late like my other two. We had picked his name months before, but couldn’t settle on a middle name even as his due date approached. On the Fourth of July, as we were preparing to take the children to watch fireworks, I turned to my husband and asked if it would be crazy to name a child after not one, but TWO men with oversized personalities (Bru’s Uncle Max was an original character to say the least). Would it be awful and superstitious of me to make a bargain? Fr. Jacob had passed away about 2 years previously, and I was considering holding out a bargain: if he would help me have a better birth, I would name my son after him. Bru said it would indeed be terrible and superstitious, but would also be just the kind of bargain Fr. Jacob himself would have made. We laughed, and he suggested I even give Fr. Jacob a deadline. If the child was born by July 17th we would name him Max Jacob, otherwise we would be looking for a new middle name. He also suggested I promise to share the story publically if it worked, since Fr. Jacob loved miracle stories (and, quite frankly, didn’t mind getting credit when he thought he had done something clever – he used to argue with our dear friend Cecilia over who deserved more credit for setting us up). We laughed all the way to the fireworks.
On July 16th I was diagnosed with low amniotic fluid levels. After hooking me up to monitors for an hour the doctor was concerned there might be some cord compression due to the low fluid and recommended I meet him at the hospital that night for an induction. I reached the labor and delivery floor around midnight on July 17th. Max wasn’t actually born until noon on the 18th, but I labored for the entire day of the cutoff we had jokingly set. In typical Fr. Jacob fashion, none of the details were quite what I would have chosen, but the essentials were spot on. Max was 10 lbs 9 oz, nearly a whole pound bigger than his big brother. Throughout those 36 hours of labor I was subjected to pretty much every medical intervention possible short of a c-section. BUT I did not have another surgery. And most importantly, I was treated with kindness and respect throughout the entire process, and my son was placed wet and naked onto my chest, where I got to watch him open his eyes for the first time. It may not have been a miracle, or not any more than every new life is a miracle, but the joy I felt at that moment certainly felt like a little taste of heaven.
So here he is, world. Maximos Jacob Wallace, baptized yesterday, which, as it happens, was also Fr. Jacob’s birthday. Memory eternal, and happy birthday, Father!