It was Christmas Eve, 2007 when it hit me. The possibility that a recent little bout of nausea, and a few other incidences I chalked up to being a lot busy and a little stressed, could mean something other than I needed to slow down a little bit. It was enough of an inkling for me to mention it to the Hero Hubs. And since it was Christmas Eve, we excused ourselves as if we were on a last-minute elvish mission, and we dashed to Walgreens, to look for that aisle, to look for that section, to look for that test.

We rushed back to my Mom’s, scurried upstairs, took both of the tests in the box, and stared each other in the face for a moment.

I leaned into HH’s chest and cried. And then we both smiled. We laughed. We stared at each other in disbelief. I may have cried again.

He was a father. I was a mother. We were going to have a baby.

We returned to Scotland when I was about five months pregnant. It was daunting to leave North Carolina all over again, but I knew an adventure was ahead of me.

And on the 17th of August, 2008, we went to the hospital around noon, got sent home because I hadn’t progressed enough, stopped for two bacon rolls with brown sauce along the way, watched Michael Phelps win his eighth gold medal in Beijing while we timed my contractions, and then we loaded ourselves back into our car to head back to Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary. On our next trip home, there would be three seats occupied in the vehicle.

The labour was long, the birth was an overwhelming mix of amazing and downright scary, and perhaps it was at the moment when a nurse came into the room and told us that visiting hours were over and the Hubs would have to leave — around 5:00, just a few hours after the Bear had joined our family at 2:26 am on August 18th — that the reality of motherhood sunk in. I was in pain, I was overwhelmed, and I was about to be doing this thing by myself for a little while.

I cried.

And the Hubs came back as often as he was allowed, but those two nights in that hospital were the two longest, scariest, loneliest nights of my life.

But when we got home from the hospital and our life together as a family really felt like it began — the most joyful moments I’ve ever experienced started making appearances on a regular basis.

That fall-to-your-knees-how-can-I-be-so-blessed thankful kind of joy.

The funny thing about motherhood is I think it is never going to be what you expect it to be. I never thought having children with me all day would make me feel lonely. I’d been babysitting since I was really young — why was I so scared? And how do ridiculously happy and oh-man-this-is-hard so consistently go hand-in-hand?

One night between that Christmas Eve and that August morning, the Hubs whispered it to me in bed, while I stared at the ceiling:

“I think the Lord told me that we’re going to have a boy. I think we’re supposed to name him Asher.”

It was the first name we both loved.

We researched the meaning: Happy and Blessed.

At my prenatal checkups the diagnosis was always the same: You’ve got a happy baby in there!

In that long labour, as they monitored my contractions and listened to the Bear’s heartbeat, while I was up and down, he had a peaceful, steady heartbeat. And the words were whispered again: That’s a happy baby right there!

Hours later, as I held him to my chest for the first time, my hair a wild afro thanks to the journey of labour, my face a swollen mess, him a shriveled lump of eight pounds and change, I had no idea how Happy and Blessed I was going to be. How Happy and Blessed our family was going to be.

Two first-time aunts and two first-time uncles and four first-time grandparents on two continents, the joy just spread.

He might occasionally be the reason I want to bang my head against a wall, but more often he’s a reason I want to fall to my knees, happy-thankful.

Instead of a plus sign, the pregnancy test should’ve read “Joy ahead” or “Adventure Coming Your Way.”

He amazes us on a regular basis. He’s reading the Dick and Jane books my Mom gave him Tuesday. Today he went from completely afraid of the water to swimming on his own with a life jacket. He’ll put a puzzle together before you can say “Do you need to see the picture on the box?”

And he frustrates us on a regular basis. Screaming at the top of his lungs for no particular reason. Getting overly-rough with his little brother. Copping an attitude I thought I wouldn’t see until the teenage years.

What a paradoxical gift of grace, this parenting thing. I see myself, in the eyes of the Lord. Sometimes eager to please. Sometimes afraid to trust. Sometimes downright certain my way is the way.

Who knew that plus sign on that test meant I would soon have a student…and a teacher?

{This birthday morning, at the Beach}

So much I don’t know yet, so much still to come — one thing remains, and we’ve been certain of it since nearly the beginning: We are happy and blessed, with Asher.

Thank you for four ridiculously wonderful years, Bear!