With the hum of the noise machine and my son, Isaac’s, bedroom door cracked open we snuggle on the rocking chair. I hear the dog’s nails tapping down the hallway until he reaches the door and pushes it open with his nose. He sits in front of us while we rock back and forth. 

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream,” singing together, we continue to rock. 

“This again, Mama.” 

“You want me to sing some more?” I ask even though I know the answer. It may be because he, too, truly loves this time together, or he just wants a few more minutes before going to his crib. Either way, I keep singing

“Come and fill our hearts with your . . .”

I leave space for him to join me, “. . . peace.”

“You alone, O Lord, are . . .”

“Holy,” he sings with a smile on his face.  

“Come and fill our hearts with your peace. You alone, O Lord, are holy.” 

And then I pause and wait for the final word. We both smile and sing together, “Alleluia.” 

It’s the time of the day when there’s more darkness than light. A hint of red streaks across the horizon with the setting sun. With the final kiss goodnight and the quiet closing of the door, I tiptoe down the hallway into my office. In a single motion, I grab the video monitor and my computer, turning both on. I adjust the papers on my desk before opening a Word document for an evening writing session.

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The video monitor sits to my right propped up between my planner and scattered pieces of paper. I see Isaac rolling around in his crib with the pillow and blanket scrunched to the side. He holds a book in his hand turning the cardboard pages. I turn up the volume and listen.   

I hear him talking and singing to himself. I can’t see his face, only his head moving back and forth, his thumb coming in and out of his mouth. I focus my gaze on the monitor and listen to him sing the songs we sing together throughout the day and the words from books we read over and over again.

If I listen closely, I can make out the history of our day through his wordsthis remembering and reciting before sleep comes.  

“Tire swing, swing high. Faster, faster, I slide down, on tire swing, mom go church night, I play park, I swing tire swing, go slide, I stink garbage truck, Mommy pick me up. Our father, Amen.”

There’s a pause followed by his offering of one word: Alleluia

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I hear his feet before I see him; the fast pitter-patter of toddler legs running down the hall.

“Mama!” he screams as he rounds the corner into the kitchen. 

“Isaac awake!” Charlotte follows close behind. “Down hallway?” She asks without waiting for an answer before she runs back down the long hallway. Isaac quickly follows, and I’m left in the kitchen hearing a chorus of cheers, screams, and running feet. 

Their laughter continues as they arrive back in the kitchen. 

“This again?” Isaac asks his sister without waiting for an answer and bolts back from where he came. 

“Ahhhhh, eeeeee, ooooooo!” Both kids chant. For these few minutes, I smile at the joy they share, their friendship, and a glimpse into their future lives when they have one another’s support. I know, however, this playfulness will soon turn into yelling of “mine” and “no,” but for now, as their feet dance across the floor and their voices rise in unison, I only have one word to offer: Alleluia.   

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“I think I need to push. Or go to the bathroom. I need to do something!” I sway back and forth in the hot tub, just a few minutes after arriving in our labor and delivery room. I had been looking forward to extended time in this hot tub prior to our baby’s arrival in the world. With his sister, the hot tub provided great relief and the passing of time during the 24+ hours of labor. 

Her brother, however, had other plans. Just as soon as I told Stephen I needed to push, I threw up. 

Crawling out of the hot tub I reiterated, “I need to do something, it feels like the baby is coming.” 

We’d only been in the hospital for two hours. 

The next thing I know, back pain searing through my body, I’m on my hands and knees asking, more accurately begging, “Can I push now?” 

I remember not having much choice in the matter and screaming in both delight and pain as the midwife told me, “The baby’s coming, go ahead and push. Take a deep breath in and push long and hard.” 

Two, maybe three pushes, and the baby arrived. Stephen whispered in my ear, “It’s a boy.” 

I don’t know if there’s a technical term for the time between a baby’s entrance into the world with their first cries of new life and the placing of the baby on the mother’s chest. In those minutes, there’s such a rawness of life in all its beauty and messinessa time when the baby feels the sting of cold air and no longer the warmth and security of the mother’s womb. The moments of sheer relief for the mother.

For me, that time, both seemingly forever and not long enough, could simply be: Alleluia. 

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“Lub-DUB, lub-DUB, lub-DUB.” It’s a sound of strength, this baby’s heartbeat. This confirmation that new life grows inside of me. I don’t realize it at the time, but each visit I hold my breath a little before the Doppler gets situated and the baby’s heartbeat can be heard. 

“Lub-DUB, lub-DUB, lub-DUB,” I hear and smile, releasing any tension and unspeakable fears. It’s the same at every appointment, the holding of my breath and releasing as soon as the heartbeat can be heard. A silent moment of thanks while also remembering how fragile life can be.   

It’s this same heartbeat heard over and over again in doctor’s offices that I continue to hear in all Isaac’s singing, laughing, and talking. As he’s naming his world and finding his voice, this heartbeat of his, once beating inside of me, continues to beat straight to my heart. His small voice reverberating through my entire being. 

Alleluia.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website or follow her work on Facebook.