My daughter Yuliana, now 7, called me on the phone recently, her voice muffled and a pitch below normal. She was pretending to be her mother. "Hello Darling, this is Victoria. How are you?"
"I'm wonderful, how are you?"
"Well, I forgot the name we decided to call the baby. Can you remind me?"
I couldn't help laughing. You see, for months Yuliana had been waiting for the birth of her new sister, and the name had been kept a closely guarded secret.
But whenever we asked Yuliana her ideas for names, she always settled on two: Kimlee and Sophia, with Sophia her favorite.
On August 6 at 10:43 a.m., Yuliana and her sister Katya, 3, welcomed the newest Rust girl into the world. Hello, Elizaveta Sophia! Liza (pronounced like "Lisa" with a "z") will be her primary appellation. A breach baby like her oldest sister, she arrived with legs splayed, kicking wildly with her newfound freedom. She can always thank Yuliana for the gift of "wisdom" in her middle name.
While Yuliana might have helped with names, Katya has been the one preparing most diligently for a new baby in the family. When she first learned, but at two certainly couldn't understand (could she?), she searched for the new Christmas baby Grandmother had given her, cradled it in her arms, and swayed back and forth, humming and repeating, "Baby."
That was only the beginning. Katya talked about the baby regularly for nine months, especially as mama's belly grew. And she began setting out toys and blankets at random times for "my sister". When she learned at a big sister class held by the hospital that babies aren't supposed to play with big kid toys, she stopped putting the toys out, instead, saying, "No toys for the baby. No feeding the baby big kid food."
Yes, I've been blessed with smart kids. And happy ones, too. Most of the credit goes to Victoria, who amazes me with her energy and dedication and creativity and love.
In fact, Liza Sophia has already helped write a dissertation. In May, more than a little pregnant, Victoria received her doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis in German and Comparative Literature. It was a very happy day, a much different day than the Saturday evening in December, in the middle of writing her dissertation, when Victoria complained to me about feeling weak, nauseous and fatigued, that I figured she was pregnant and we then confirmed the thought with a test.
Her first reaction: "I can't believe I am going through this now!"
That attitude remained for, oh, about three months. Several hundred brilliant pages later -- and countless mornings waking up at 5 to write before the morning sickness and children's needs took over -- Victoria has been the image of happiness and joy (the stress of the dissertation and the first trimester done, her wish for a third child to be fulfilled). Now, she's Dr. Rust, with this tender, perfect little being in her arms, proud, satisfied, beaming. In fact, Elizaveta (the Russian version of Elizabeth) is translated as meaning in various ways: "God's perfection. God's promise. God's satisfaction."
And she certainly is.
With the birth of daughters one and two, Victoria's mom, Valiantsina Ivanovna, who lives half a world away in Minsk, Belarus, has always played a distant but important role, listening in and talking with the babies on the telephone. This year, she will be coming to visit us for two months to help.
In the meantime, my mother Wendy has been with us, helping in amazing ways, especially taking care of Yulia and Katya, who adore her. There are few if anyone with a bigger, more loving heart -- or more life wisdom (though Grandfather, my dad, is a close second). On both Victoria's and my side, our girls have remarkable role models: grandmothers, great aunts, my sisters and sisters-in-law and so many more -- not to mention the men around them, our good friends, and even a group of baby sitters who are often too busy in their own schedules to baby-sit but incredible in their examples when they do.
Currently, one of our baby sitters is the daughter of Dr. Wendi Carns, who has now delivered all three of our girls, and to whom we will always feel obliged for her care, confidence, professionalism and friendship.
There can also be a melancholy to thinking about role models -- especially one's own. In the past few years, so many have been lost, so many you'd wish could be with you to share in the joy and help nurture this tiny miracle growing up. I guess I'm getting of that age.
For Liza, none of that matters, of course. She just wants to be held and caressed and loved. And we will do that, with God's help, forever. Just like those who came before us. "The perfect one. God's promise. Our satisfaction." Just like her sisters. Just like all God's creations.
Now if she'd only allow us to sleep!
Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. His email: email@example.com.