On The Night You Were Born


Luke and I received a multiple copies of Nancy Tillman’s On The Night You Were Born before Olivia was born. Gift givers warned me that it was a “sweet” book, and I knew to interpret that as “tear jerker for any extra-hormonal, over-tired new mom”.

In the days following Olivia’s birth, when we were aware of her fragile medical state, I couldn’t bring myself to pick up this story. I wanted to… badly. I wanted to read it to her – with her. But I had a hunch a full-on-ugly-cry-meltdown would ensue.

One night, when we were back at the house, I made my way slowly to her nursery. I found the board book tucked away in a basket of books, and sat on the floor. I read the book quietly to myself, and I’m pretty sure I cried the whole way through. The next day I mustered up the courage to bring it with me to the NICU, and a few days later I read it aloud to Olivia during a quiet one-on-one moment. I cried. Again. But I loved reading it to her. I loved every page. I found myself thinking “this is my favorite line” as I read each page. I’d flip the page, read another beautiful verse, and think “no, this is my favorite line.” My mind repeated that thinking page, after page, until the very end.

I’ve since read this aloud to Olivia a handful of times. Each time when it’s just the two of us, enjoying a quiet moment. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes before we leave at night as a bed time story. I’ll wait until the nurses have finished doing her up, or find a time when dad steps out to get a coffee. I like this book for just the two of us.

On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, “Life will never be the same.”

Because there had never been anyone like you… ever in the world.

So enchanted with you were the wind and the rain that they whispered the sound of your wonderful name.

It sailed through the farmland high on the breeze, over the ocean, and through the trees…

Until everyone heard it and everyone knew of the one and only ever you.

Not once had there been such eyes, such a nose, such silly, wiggly, wonderful toes.

When the polar bears heard, they danced until dawn. From faraway places, the geese flew home. The moon stayed up until morning next day. And none of the ladybugs flew away.

So whenever you doubt just how special you are and you wonder who loves you, how much and how far, listen for geese honking high in the sky. (They’re singing a song to remember you by.) Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo. (It’s because they’ve been dancing all night for you!) Or drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind. (Listen closely…it’s whispering your name again!)

If the moon stays up until morning one day, or a ladybug lands and decides to stay, or a little bird sits at your window awhile, it’s because they’re all hoping to see you smile…

For never before in story or rhyme (not even once upon a time) has the world ever known a you, my friend, and it never will, not ever again…

Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born.

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