It was just a little more than two years ago when Sophie arrived with grandparents, moving swiftly to the glass that separates the nursery from the waiting room lounge to see the latest grandchild.
The grandparents were all smiles, gushing with humility and gratefulness. "Mother and baby are doing well," we were able to tell friends and family. What wonderful news! Could there be anything more uplifting in life? A child comes into this world, healthy and free from complications.
This time around, Baby Sophie was the big sister becoming part of the excitement as she watched her daddy bring Baby Charlotte up to the window for all to see.
Sophie, always active, always moving at an energetic pace, suddenly was calm and transfixed. She watched intently as Charlotte was cleaned up and outfitted with her new gown. Sophie spent several minutes in quiet reflection.
The first reaction from Sophie disclosed that in her innocent state, she was concerned for her sister. "Baby Charlotte," she said softly, "is crying." It was easy to understand that while Sophie didn't know the reason for Charlotte's crying, she was worried about her sister. She didn't want her to be troubled.
The innocence of youth cannot be adequately described by any author. No artist can paint such emotion. It is something that you have to experience, something you must feel. As much as we were delighted and uplifted by Charlotte's healthy arrival, we were constantly bemused by Sophie and her reaction(s).
She had been told what was going to happen, but the reality of the birth of her sister seemed a little overwhelming. After the big event, Sophie was frequently asking to go to the hospital "to see Baby Charlotte." St. Mary's maternity ward became a new playground. Kind and caring nurses showered attention on Sophie, as well as Charlotte.
At the hospital, Sophie wanted to touch her sister. When it was time to leave on that first day, she asked to kiss her sister goodbye -- a tender moment that was humbling.
Charlotte's arrival stimulated phone calls to family members on both sides. "Charlotte is here. Everybody is fine." Nothing like good news when a baby is born. It makes you think about those days when childbirth could be a blessing or a curse. Many mothers in the past didn't survive childbirth. Family planning was not the objective in the old days, nor was it easy to practice. With the vast rural influence, there was a need for big families to help work the farm. The older kids helped look after the younger kids. There was no medical insurance, no national health plan.
Whenever I am in a hospital nursery, I often think about what it was like when there was a birth on the high plains in Indian times. In all that freezing weather amid primitive conditions, babies were born and survived. Now babies are delivered in hospital suites with nursing attendants available around the clock. The slightest challenge can bring a doctor to your bedside on a moment's notice.
The week Baby Charlotte was born, every suite seemed to be occupied with a newborn, family and friends pressing up against the window of the nursery to get a glimpse of the newest family member.
Here's a toast to all of them, wishing them health and happiness as they begin their life's journey through a cynical and troubled world. I feel blessed to know Baby Charlotte will get the best of care and direction at home. Unfortunately, there are kids born every day who won't experience that.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.