2013 was an amazing year. We celebrated our first year of marriage, moved into a house we love, raised a chocolate lab puppy, Justin got a great job and won a HUGE fishing tournament AND we welcomed our first child, Laney Harris Kimmel, into the world. All of these things were a huge blessing and answer to prayers, but that last one was definitely the icing on the cake! We knew we wanted kids and we were thrilled (and a little surprised) when we found out we were going to have our first child last April. And then, in July, we found out we were having a little girl and shortly after that she had a name. After that, we grew more and more anxious to meet our daughter. By the time December rolled around we almost couldn't take it anymore! We were doing everything in the book as far as remedies that were thought to put pregnant women into labor…I ate spicy food, I went on long walks daily (even ran a few times which, I am sure, looked totally ridiculous considering I couldn't even walk without a waddle), I even ate an entire fresh pineapple…by myself…in one day. We could not wait to meet her! Oh, and we kind of had a lot going on that week. Her actual due date was Christmas Eve, and then there was Christmas, but that was even trumped by my husband's twin brother's wedding that was the following saturday. Obviously Justin was the Best Man so we had been praying, since we found out when she was due, that the Lord would be gracious and allow all of those events to be separate. He definitely heard our prayers! Our little Laney was born at 2:32p.m. on Wednesday, December 18th. A whole week before her due date! 

I'm not sure words can fully describe the feeling you have when you see your child for the first time. For me, I was completely amazed and shocked that a tiny human was inside of me for nine months and then in just a few hours, she was being placed on my chest for the first time. There were so many emotions flooding my heart in that moment. I was shocked that my body was created to do something so amazing, I felt overwhelmingly blessed that God had fulfilled such a great desire of my heart, I was in awe of my daughter's beauty and purity and I felt extremely lucky to call her mine. I just wanted to look at every inch of her and stand amazed at the little life God had created inside of me. She had big beautiful eyes, a tiny nose and little ears, ten fingers and ten toes, and the most precious cry that I will never forget. She was perfect and pure. And I loved her so much. I think my heart grew 10x larger the moment I saw her. I never knew a person could love so much and so deeply. I have always said that marriage is one of God's greatest gifts to us…well, having a child is right up there too. I am so blessed to have such an amazing husband who cares deeply for me and who is my best friend. And now, we have a child together. I can't even describe the joy it brings us to look at our daughter and say, "That's us. We made that." Sharing that with your best friend makes you feel on top of the world.

Now that is just a short blip of my experience of the day my daughter was born. I could go on and on even about the past month of being a mommy (which has been more joyful than I ever could have imagined and I feel that being a mom to my daughter is such a high calling), but I thought it would be sweet to have my husband write about that day and the past month from his perspective. Go ahead and grab the tissues… 

I must say that becoming a daddy has been the most emotion-provoking, up-growing and heart-changing experience of my life. It all started when Kathryn came to meet me for lunch at work last April. I will never forget that moment. She brought me what she termed a "just because" gift. I opened up a card that read: In August there were two, In December there were three(Our big pup Burman), what do you think about four? 

It took a couple seconds to put together the card and the stick thing I was looking at and realize what all this meant. I was shocked. I was excited. I was absolutely terrified. The first words I could drum up were "It worked!"

After that, the waiting began. Kathryn would gradually turn into a mother while carrying Laney as she grew the next 9 months. But I was definitely not a daddy yet. When we found out we would be having a daughter, the strongest emotions I felt were those of clueless fear. I'm sure this is natural for a guy who comes from a family with only brothers for siblings. I never reached an epiphanic moment where I could say I was ready for fatherhood. 

December 18th arrived. We woke up at 5:30 a.m. and headed to the hospital. Besides setting off the NICU code alarm to get my wife her epidural, this day was filled with moments of "Wait, we're doing this now?" and "Oh my God my hand is broke" and "But seriously, we're doing this now?" I never expected this to be the day that my wife would become my hero, but it was.

And then she was here. It was messy. It was beautiful. It was painful. It was the most joyful moment of my life. After we had our first family moment with Laney on Kathryn's chest, they cleaned her off a little and weighed her. 7 pounds 4 ounces. Just like her daddy. 

The most amazing thing happened next. They put her in my arms for the first time and instantly, I felt change. A heart change. A flood of emotions that no man could prevent tears if he felt this way. I looked at my daughter and said, "You are mine. You are mine! I promise I am going to love you. I don't care what you do or who you turn out to be, I am going to love you." Kaitie Bryant captured this exact moment in a photo and I am so glad she did. A father's love for his children. Unconditional. Strong. Relentless. Undying. 

I can't wait to hear her call me "daddy".

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