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After my wife Julie and I got married, we took time for ourselves as a couple. Not quite ready to bring a baby into the picture, we focused on our careers. We traveled. We set up our home. Years went by, but we always thought that whenever we were ready, bringing a baby into the picture wouldn’t be a problem.
But we were wrong.
“At first, there is us. There is only us. But even then, even before we can know to know it, we wish you were here.”
We had been married for three years, and being in our early 30s, we began to think realistically about starting a family. The more we thought about the joy, adventure, and endless possibilities of having a child be apart of our world, the more we wanted — needed — to make it true.
So we began trying.
“Until one day we are ready. Ready for change, ready for surprise. Ready for you. We wish you were here.”
We didn’t get pregnant right away, and in the beginning, it wasn’t terribly discouraging because we always thought, “It will happen next month.” But one month turned into many months, and those many months turned into years. Two years had passed and we still didn’t have a baby. (Which seemed like an eternity at the time, but we’ve met many parents and would-be parents who have endured far longer.)
In that time, we also experienced miscarriage, further shattering our hopes. It was a very heartbreaking and alienating road to be on. There was so much waiting, wishing, and hoping during those years. But as more time passed, it became harder and harder to stay positive. We’d seen a couple of different doctors in that time who assured us that what we were experiencing, at our ages, was not abnormal.
“And we wait … but you never come. And everything stops. This is not what we planned.”
Then after two years, it was recommended we see a fertility specialist to rule out any possible complications. Some tests were run and everything came back normal. A series of new steps, plans, and procedures were suggested by this specialist to help our chances of getting pregnant. All of which sounded daunting and a little scary, with still no guarantee of success. We wondered if we were really there yet … was two years enough to start going down this road? Were we jumping the gun? Being impatient?
“And one day, from out of the blue, there is a sound. We listen, we hold on, we stay still … as that sound becomes a rumble, becomes a rhythm, becomes a roar.”
And that very month, before we had time to answer these questions, we were pregnant again! We were excited, but tentatively so. We had been there before, only to be crushed with disappointment and loss. And with this new pregnancy, things would prove to be uncertain. Early on, we were excited to learn that Julie was carrying twins. Weeks later, one of the twins was lost. Further down the road, more ultrasounds were raising more questions. The amount of amniotic fluid around the baby was lower than it should be. Which brought on more concerns and fears.
But the pregnancy continued. The baby grew. And we hoped.
Then six weeks before our due date, we welcomed our daughter into the world. Her premature birth was one more unexpected scare that kept us on edge, but after two weeks of catching up in the neonatal intensive care unit, our healthy baby girl was released. And we finally began to feel like it was all real.
“And with every feeling that was ever felt, everything happens. That everything is you. That everything is us. You are here.”
It’s nearly impossible to explain the intense joy and surprise and disbelief I felt upon meeting my child for the very first time. It was certainly bigger and more intense than anything I’d ever felt before. And as a writer and illustrator of books for children and families, I wanted to find a way to express this in a picture book.
I wanted to make a book for all parents to share with their children, that momentous joy of welcoming them into the world. But also a book for parents who endured hardships to make that happen. A book that would say — from parent to child, “This is what we went through and what we felt and this is how much you mean to us.”
And that’s where the inspiration for my second picture book WISH came from. This is our story. This is your story. Our greatest wish come true.
WISH is Matthew Cordell’s second picture book (as both author and illustrator) released from Disney-Hyperion books earlier this year. His first book HELLO! HELLO! was released in 2012, and was inspired by his 2-year-old daughter calling him out on letting technology distract him from his role as a father.