The first moment they laid eyes on him was breathtaking. Because of the pandemic, no visitors were allowed around hospital grounds for the pandemics grip was ground breaking, heartbreaking too, for all the lives lost to poor leadership and decision-making. That we were heading home with baby about 36 hours later following his arrival was so striking. The pandemics grip was so tight that even newborn babies didn’t need the customary 48 hours in a hospital where the virus impact remained captivating. We arrived through the backyard. Grandma was watching the kids and knew we where on our way home. The kids were clueless. Dad held the car seat with baby and the hospital bags. I held my phone camera up ready to capture the joy I hoped would be striking.

The moment they saw us, the moment they saw baby, even the joy for the moment will forever be etched in my mind as it was amazing, this joy so elating. They sang how he was welcomed in the name of the Lord. Twirled and jumped around in excitement so exhilarating. Mama was singing and praying. The children were calling and repeating the name baby over and over again as if we named him baby. My middle son had a red shirt one with an emoji with four yellow smily faces making crazy but happy faces. My children did the same with all their crazy but happy faces. We were indeed welcomed in the name of the Lord following a birth during a pandemic so mesmerizing but still so frustrating. That we could come home with no problems and a healthy newborn kept me like grandma, singing and praying for this joy we found so intoxicating.

As was customary during the pandemic, everyone had to wash their hands or use hand sanitizers before touching baby. My children were no exception. He is so cute, my son said. My daughter agreed too. Baby lay restful in his car seat, straddling between being awake and being sleepy. They world was a scary place that refusing to choose either states made complete sense to me as well. What’s his name again, asked my daughter. Ranyenna. My son, refusing to learn just blurted that well we have two Olisa’s (the name of third baby now displaced from being our last baby). No we don’t, I said. His name is Ranyenna and you will learn how to say it with ease. Hi Breana, Hi Rihanna, they kept saying, until Ranyenna rolled from their tongue with ease.

But just when I though I had seen it all, my children surprised me with a bag. They say it was for baby. They back up some of their old toys in a plastic grey paper bag and made a paper card for baby’s arrival. They presented it to me to keep for baby. Their gift, even though full of toys used and old, is forever etched in my mind too as an example of love so blazing. Grandma talked about how she couldn’t sleep at night, about how she stayed up praying for our safe delivery. My kids talked about how baby was cute, how he was so cute and tiny, a cute tiny baby. I basked in their joy, knowing that the journey this time around was different, full of turbulence, made worse by a pandemic, whose path was groundbreaking, heartbreaking too. That our journey would end with us singing and praying was liberating. Watching Ranyenna awaken finally to their stares was joy so amazing that my soul kept singing and praying, for his blessings totally worth praising.

Our room was shaped like a square with a baby cribbed next to a wall covered in grey paint. There was a grey rocking chair for breastfeeding and a silver and white changing table stood next to the window awaiting the arrival of baby.

There were no baby rooms. I was never a decorator mom. I never took the time to fashion a room or think of ways to make it a child’s room. None of my other children had one. I expected baby to sleep in our room.

The researcher in me is to blame. When conducting a review on sleep in diverse cultural settings, I read somewhere about the benefits of children sleeping in rooms with their parents. In close proximity to their beating hearts, however you choose. A friend reminded me once, that we all grew up like this in Nigeria, in close proximity to our parents. All my babies have been doing so since then. They transition, when they get older to their rooms.

We began the day like any other day. Baby’s purple hospital bag was ready. I found it at a goodwill store by our home. It was purple and in great condition. Looking at it, one would have thought it was something befitting for a king. I bought it because my son is a king.

My mind was already in the labor room, even though my other children demanded it remained with them, at least for now.

One in particular was my three year old. His keen awareness for the times was incredible. Not only was he clingy, tugging my legs to carry him or hold him at every opportunity, he knew that the arrival of baby would mean he was no longer the baby of our home.

Looking at him, I had the sense that the joys, the fears, even the hopes of no longer being our baby were all lingering on his mind. To ease his concerns, we took him for a walk. Just Dad and I.

We choose to go out with him alone (wearing his baby-blue baby-shark pajamas), just so he knows he would always be our baby. Love will always be his, whether on his dad’s shoulder or on the arms of mom.

Whether by rivers or on top of bridges. Whatever life throws his way, love will be thrown right back. We are all never meant to walk alone. I wanted him to know that he would always find comfort and solace in us.

( I digress-but one of the side effects of the pandemic is an insistence on wearing pajamas. I wonder if other parents are going through this).

There were many flowers along the walk through Forest Park. Even flowers may shrivel and dry up as they cling to the day. Almost all flowers, bloom and whither with each passing day. But tomorrow, they awaken, like yesterday never happened.

It’s this vision of awakening that I want to cling to as well.

In moments where fear becomes intermixed with joy, in moments when things change, and your place is no longer what you expect it to be, even in moments when things seem to be moving at a pace beyond your control, I will always remember our walk through the park with my son. The full force of lesson he taught us this time last year, is only beginning to be clear in my mind. We are never meant to walk alone. Whether in joy or through moments of fear.

So we walked forward together, lost in his world, clinging to the solace and comfort we found as we watched all the flowers blooming in his world.