Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Our First Child: Isabelle Marie

As the spring semester has cranked up over the past few weeks, I've found it more and more difficult to enjoyably waste my own time, let alone yours, with a blog post. But I return this week to celebrate the upcoming birthday of our daughter. Isabelle Marie Halliday turns two-years old this Sunday, March 9th.

She is pictured above in the fall of 2006, right around 5-6 months old. She's mid-meal with a smile that seems to be permanently affixed to her face.

Here she is with Grandad Halliday on a surprise visit. This pic was taken shortly after she attempted to remove his corneas with his pocket pens.

And here is Ms. Isabelle once again just before Christmas 2007, talking to me as I snap a quick shot.

I'd like to tell you her story.

Ever since I was young, I've always wanted a family. I never really knew/expected that it would happen. But I wanted to be a Dad. I wanted that responsibility and accountability. Being a parent provides both the ultimate challenge and the ultimate reward.

When Susan and I were married in 2004 (click this to read our sappy story), we talked a lot about kids...but it was always "down the line." That is until the following year when we started asking each other, "What do you think?" I wanted to start ASAP. Men always do. After all, it's not on us to physically/emotionally/spiritually carry the actual burden. We have our own issues with pregnancy, but we're not toting around a living being. Susan didn't need convincing, but there were financial concerns. In the end, we went by the age-old mantra that you can never actually afford children...but that's not why you have them.

Within ten days of deciding we would "actively try," Susan was pregnant. The pregnancy was tough on her. Standing less than five feet tall and weighing under 90 pounds, her frame wasn't built for childbearing. She had to gain weight in order to avoid any complications and that was difficult for my wife. All the while, Susan worked full-time to support us. She eventually went part-time and worked right up until the week before Isabelle was born. There's no way I could have done that. But she did.

Susan wanted to know "what we were having." I remember finding out it was a girl. Susan thought I would be disappointed. All women say that..."Guys want to have sons." Maybe so, but having a sister myself, I wanted a healthy child. Period.

And we got one. But not without trouble.

In November of 2005, while nearly five months pregnant, Susan was involved in a single-car wreck on the way home from work. Her tire blew out. She lost control, went off-road and rammed into a barbed wire fence. Her car was totaled. Mostly cosmetic damage, but there was enough of it. Susan stepped out of the car and walked away from the scene. Not a scratch.

The weekend before, I was supposed to get her tires changed. I didn't. I forgot. The tire blew because it's tread was bare. She was lucky to be alive and still with child. I nearly cost them their lives. Simple decisions have such grand impact.

Though she was shaken, Susan was undaunted and went right back to work. Within a few days, we bought a new car. We bought a Toyota Matrix because it's frame had a higher safety rating than the Pontiac Vibe. That was a good decision.

Two days later, Susan wrecked again. On her way home from work, in the dark of the night on Route 33 between Elkins and Buckhannon, West Virginia, Susan crested a hill and was face-to-face with a large black plastic garbage bag in her lane. We later discovered it was over-stuffed with cement mix, rocks and spare lumber. Susan watched that bag get obliterated by a semi as she feared for her daughter's life, waiting in a ditch.

Afraid of the impact at 70 miles per hour, Susan whipped the wheel to the right when she saw the bag. The Matrix lost its traction, skidded onto its side and spun like a top before promptly hitting a wall of granite just off of the right side of the road. Hitting the four-story cliff-side caused the car to somehow pop up onto its wheels. Once again, Susan got up out of the car and walked away. Without a scratch.

God is good.

But the car was not. Completely totaled. Susan hunted through the broken glass to find her cell phone and called me. I rushed to the hospital. She had been in great spirits with the nurses and doctors on call, masking her anxiety. She was bruised and sore, but able to walk with some help. But what about our baby?

The moment she saw me waiting by her hospital bed, Susan finally showed her emotion. All I could do was hold her and wonder. Surely, we would not lose this baby. We didn't want to talk about our worst fear. We needed an ultrasound. I prayed silently, so as not to disturb my bride. She prayed silently, so as not to disturb her husband.

We had already decided on our little girl's name. She may not have been out in the world, but she was ours. Kicking when I spoke to her late at night or early in the morning. The warmth of my hand would draw her across the womb. She would punch and shove while Susan ate. She was our baby. We couldn't wait to meet her.

Isabelle Marie Halliday.

Somehow, despite Susan being flipped like a flapjack, Isabelle was fine. No harm done. Two car wrecks in the course of a week and she was no worse for wear.

God is good.

Isabelle finally entered our lives in person on March 9th, 2006 in Elkins at the Davis Memorial Hospital. She was late to the party, but has since mastered the art of a grand entrance.

Isabelle was born with coal black eyes and hair. Everyone said she looked like me. She looks nothing like that now and hopefully for her sake it stays that way. She was alert from the start. She hated her first bath...she still doesn't care for them on occasion. But she was wonderful. Our doctor visited the next morning and commented about how alert and attentive she was. He said, "I believe she is very smart." Of course she is. She got that from her mother.

The name is an homage to family. Isabelle is my mother-in-law's middle name, Marie is my mother's. Our little girl represents all of these ladies. She carries their best qualities.

My daughter is gorgeous. Her smile cracks the most hardened soul. Her laugh is contagious; it dances across the room and brings joy to your heart. She is exceptionally petite, but she runs the show. She is the most engaging two-year old I've ever seen. She loves people, and people love her. She'll speak in toddler-gibberish to strangers for ten minutes, telling them about her day, then cordially bid adieu. At times, she'll blow them a kiss.

When I come home from work, she runs to the door and eagerly waits for me to bend down and hold her tight.

When I'm in the room with her, I want to kiss her all the time. She often gets mad at me when I do. She's very independent and when I interrupt her for the tenth kiss in the last five minutes, she gets annoyed. But she always returns the kiss and laughs.

She giggles, looks me in the eye and says, "Love you Daddy."

Isabelle is a dedicated big sister. She takes it very seriously. She searches the house for her brother's pacifier and always hugs him to start and end the day. She asks to hold him, caresses his head and kisses him gently. She talks to him. He always listens. He can't wait for the moments when she talks. He loves her voice.

She waltzes into the room and says, "Hi guys!" She directs us at the dinner table. We sing, dance and play games as we eat. She's the life of the party...when she wants to be.

I have been blessed with a lot of wonderful things in my life. My wife, my family, my friends, my work. But the love I hold for my children knows no bounds. I can't express it. I physically beam when we are together as a family. When she smiles, I want to cry. I am that overjoyed to witness her happiness and to know that I'm a small part of it.

In our house, we call her 'Goofball' for all of her little idiosyncrasies. She's a riot. But she's ours. I know one day she'll make me very proud. My little girl.

She may not always be a daddy's girl, but I'm forever a 'daughter daddy.' I've found that you care for your children on many different levels. But this little lady is something special; she transcends any earthly knowledge of love.

She's our first child, and we are lucky to spend our days and nights near her.

Happy Birthday Isabelle Marie.

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