The roads of the small town would’ve been saturated with plump pumpkins, hay bales, and corn husk figures on that day in late October 2010– intersections and front yards plastered with signs advertising Fall Festivals for chili-cook offs, costume contests, and children’s inflatables, as the crisp air wafted cotton candy and caramel apples.
The woman was likely surrounded by her two young sons, their hearts bursting with excitement, as they awaited the birth of their infant sister. She probably labored in the conventional blue-dotted gown, her bottle-blonde hair perhaps pulled back loosely into a ponytail.
Life is ironic. No coincidences or accidents. All of it a grace– beautifully and redemptively planned.
And so it was . . . that I inhaled my first breath, let out my first cry, in the same small Calhoun County hospital 37-years before my youngest daughter would be born. The 1973 landscape of my birth in the small town would’ve looked much differently than the October evening in 2010, when a woman I didn’t know, gave birth to my little fuzzyheaded daughter.
It’s ironic that I traveled the same roads and attended family gatherings just a few blocks from where her birth mama graduated high school.
Could we have passed each other on the two-lane roads as children? Or played together at the park as pig-tailed girls?
Her birth mama and I are nearly the same age.
Yet, our lives took such different twists to end up here– her giving birth to a child who would later bear my last name, become mine forever.
Kevin and I weren’t at the hospital on the blessed day of our little bitty daughter's birth. We have no pictures and no baby album marking her first year milestones of growth and development.
We have no hospital band from her tiny wrist, no photos of that day, or of the sixteen months afterwards.
I’m not sure if photos were even taken of her first year.
I do know . . . joy and wonder filled the room as the squalling nine pound, twelve ounce little one was handed to outstretched arms. The baby girl was and is dearly loved by her birth mama and brothers.
However, I wonder . . . if the room was also heavy with a melancholy ache, as she swaddled and doted over the fatherless babe tightly wrapped in a flannel blanket? Her fifth child.
And, I wonder . . . were she and the baby celebrated? Was there a pink wreath on the over-sized hospital door? Were there visitors, flowers, and gifts? Was there cheering when that baby girl with coils of jet-black hair sat up for the first time, took her first steps, or ate her first solid food?
Three names were in her heart for her child, and she decided upon them all, announcing her little one as Liberty Isabella Ecko.
Merriam Webster defines Liberty as the quality or state of being free; the power to do as one pleases.
She chose Ecko to represent an echo, a reverberation, of the first name. Because, most of all, she believed that freedom was a beautiful name repeated.
In my brief conversations with the woman over a year ago, she never mentioned why she chose Isabella.
So now, I’m left to wonder.
The name is dear to my heart, as the Hebrew meaning of Isabella is devoted to God.
The little bitty baby with the big long name also held a double meaning, for when the letters were placed together like wooden game tiles, her initials spelled lie.
As she doted over the swaddled babe on the day she was born, she couldn’t have possibly known the significance of her child’s given name, nor that she’d soon lose custody of the spiral-haired wee one.
She would’ve had no immediate understanding that her choices, her brokenness, her life’s path would implode and ultimately cost her everything. For the freedoms she chose to live out would lead to her little sons left alone to care for their baby sister.
The darkness and lies, which haunted her, would eventually sweep her away, costing her the freedom to be a mother. In the end, she’d forever lose her freedom to parent. The liberty to raise her baby girl would be whisked away by a judge’s decision.
The heaviness of her brokenness would be weighed upon a scale, her life placed under a microscope in a courtroom. Ultimately, and rightly so, the safety of her children the intense focus.
Despite her large birth weight, the baby would grow into a little bitty of a girl, her spiraled raven hair skimming her waistline as a toddler.
For the little bitty girl with jet-black curls would become a member of our family . . . forever.
We’ve since changed her name, removing Isabella.
A new start. Freedom.
Because truth rules over lies, and she’s a gift, reflecting beauty and truth . . . her name a token of her past and hope for her future.