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Our Tilley May

See the video of her first year set to my new favorite birthday song.

This sweet child. What a year to have a baby! I will never be able to say that 2020 was a total bust because it brought our family the greatest unexpected blessing in our little Tilley.

With three older children, the youngest, our boy at age 5, we thought we were finished having babies. We were prepared to move on to the next stage and season of life. I’m 36 and my previous pregnancy with our son was significantly more physically painful than my first two. I was 30 when he was born and I’m convinced that digit in the 10’s place is the reason it was more difficult. Finding out that we were pregnant again, 5 years later, was a shock. In all honesty, I was pretty terrified to tell my husband the day that I found out. Timing was not the greatest. We had recently moved back into our starter home after renovating it to enclose the loft to be a third bedroom. 6 months later we had an upstairs water leak that caused dirty water to rain through the kitchen ceiling below causing us to have to gut most of the downstairs and rebuild it. We were displaced from our house and living with our parents during the renovations. This was NOT the best time to find out we were having another baby.

But God knew better.

He knew exactly what our family needed before we did, before the pandemic, before distance learning and quarantine, before masks, He knew this would be the perfect time to push the reset button for our family. He is always welcome to insert His better plans into my mediocre plans. His are one million times better.

As a family, we were coming off of a difficult 5 years. My husband’s work a had been up and down in his field which led to all kinds of stress and emotional fallout. As a couple, we were exhausted.

On September 11, after weeks of feeling not quite myself, I grabbed a pregnancy test while at the grocery store. I quickly did it as soon as I got home, just before I needed to run back out the door to go pick up my son from preschool. I’ve never been more nervous in my life. Two pink lines. Even while typing this, I can feel the pounding in my chest as I remember that shocked and panicked feeling. Knowing full well what was to come and how it would end with a birth. I lifted my hands and in a shaking voice mouthed, “Your will be done.” I was fully shook.

I pulled it together, picked my son up from preschool, brought him to Grandma’s house for a nap and then immediately drove to my husband’s office. I’ve never been more scared in my life. I shouldn’t have been. It’s not like we hadn’t done this before. We knew we could handle it and what a joy it would be to do it all again, but still, it was shocking. Given the rocky previous few years, and our current living situation, I was scared.

In his office, I told him we were pregnant and he was thrilled.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

Matilda “Tilley” May Gray
April 29, 2020
8lbs 15oz

Born via c-section at the peak of a worldwide pandemic and the depths of a national quarantine, there was so much fear. Her name means “strength in battle.” May she never need to rely on that name, but I sure am glad she’s clothed with it. The next week, Facebook shared a video about all the babies born in quarantine and it hit me hard. Ugly-cry kind of hard.

I will forever be in awe that we get to walk this path again. It is a blessing that I do not take for granted. My advice to any family on the fence about having another baby, if the Lord has it on your heart, and you are able…. do it. Adding Tilley to our family has been a joy through and through, and it’s increasingly hard to remember life before her.

I have to add that the feeling I’ve had for years, that we were missing someone, has not gone away with the addition of sweet Tilley. We lost a baby 12 years ago, and the grief from that has struck me at the strangest times since Tilley was born. I know that a mother never fully recovers from the heartache of losing a child, whether born or unborn, and our little one is deeply missed in the deepest place inside me. She was with us for only 10 weeks, a honeymoon baby, and then gone from us on September 11, 2007. Twelve years later, to the day, we found out about our surprise gift of another baby to come. On September 11, 2019 we found out about Tilley. God has redeemed that day in my heart, and although I will always feel the heaviness of grief, I have new reason to give thanks for the beauty He brought from what has been ashes. I can’t wait to meet that sweet baby someday.

“She says I shall now have one mouth the more to fill and two feet the more to shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure or visiting, reading, music, and drawing.

Well! This is one side of the story, to be sure, but I look at the other. Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery. Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worth all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ’s name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!”

Elizabeth Prentiss, “Stepping Heavenward,” 1869
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    Sarah Gray creates timeless and joyful images that are designed for living room walls and photo albums. Serving Tallahassee, Thomasville, Crawfordville, St. Marks, Gainesville and throughout the panhandle of north Florida and south Georgia.

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