Little Tembo

As a mama and especially as an English teacher, I reserve full rights to edit, and edit I am with Wilson’s designated animal. If you are unfamiliar with our little animal babies, check out more of the back story here, but for the short version here’s the low down: every single one of the little Welschies very much embodies, from the womb on, a certain animal and we honor that after their birth (and for years to follow).

Months ago, I wrote about the babe who now know as Wilson and I predicted an “early bird” (species undetermined) for various reasons. One of the main reasons was the fact that I kept seeing feathers of all shapes and sizes EVERYwhere and that trend very much continued all the way through her pregnancy.

And then she was born in a whirlwind and while she came in the very early hours of her birthdate, she was in fact my only babe to be born on her due date, so nothing early about that.

And even though my sleep deprived mind will tell you that I was totally convinced I saw a huge feather shaped cloud in the sky as we drove to Omaha that same morning (no photo proof because, hi, I was driving and B was sleeping), since then I have felt drawn very much to an animal that is way, way different than a bird. Like totally opposite.

Enter the elephant. And I promise, there are several good reasons for this shift.

On the day of Wilson’s surgery, a friend sent me a link that I’m fairly certain I’ve read before but on Thanksgiving it reduced me to a puddle of mush in the OR waiting room because, TRUTH. I don’t often share big quotes from other places in my post, but for the connection of the animal to Wilson’s arrival, take a second and read over this absolute gem from Jen Hatmaker:

“A few months ago, my girl Nichole Nordeman sent me a picture and a story.

It’s about female elephants. You know, as all good stories begin. See, in the wild, when a mama elephant is giving birth, all the other female elephants in the herd back around her in formation. They close ranks so that the delivering mama cannot even be seen in the middle. They stomp and kick up dirt and soil to throw attackers off the scent and basically act like a pack of badasses.

They surround the mama and incoming baby in protection, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while she is vulnerable, they’ll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression first.

When the baby elephant is delivered, the sister elephants do two things: they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and then they all start trumpeting, a female celebration of new life, of sisterhood, of something beautiful being born in a harsh, wild world despite enemies and attackers and predators and odds.

Scientists tell us this: They normally take this formation in only two cases – under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant.

This is what we do, girls. When our sisters are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new life, new ideas, new ministries, new spaces, when they are under attack, when they need their people to surround them so they can create, deliver, heal, recover…we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have each others’ backs. You want to mess with our sis? Come through us first. Good luck.

And when delivery comes, when new life makes its entrance, when healing finally begins, when the night has passed and our sister is ready to rise back up, we sound our trumpets because we saw it through together. We celebrate! We cheer! We raise our glasses and give thanks.

Maybe you need this too. If you are closing ranks around a vulnerable sister, or if your girls have you surrounded while you are tender, this is how we do it.

There is no community like a community of women.”

OK, so that is long, but do you get why this spoke right to my heart? Not even 48 hours in to Wonder Wilson’s life, our circle, my circle, gathered tight around us even though we were miles and miles from home. And I am never going to forget or stop being amazed by the love and support that has come from this circle and our community as a whole. Incredible.

When I messaged some of my girlfriends about this sudden animal shift and my bird hesitation, one of them wrote back almost instantly to say “What about Dumbo? A FLYING elephant!” And this is why I love my friends, because I had totally already thought the same thing.

That, naturally, led to me remembering and then Googling the lullaby from Dumbo, “Baby Mine.” Note: do not Google lyrics to a weepy-inducing song while eating a snack in a hospital cafeteria. It does not end well.

In case you are not familiar with said lyrics, let me share:

Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part, baby of mine.
Little one, when you play,
Pay no heed what they say.
Let your eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear, baby of mine.
If they knew all about you,
They’d end up loving you, too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.
From your hair down to your toes,
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But, you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be, baby of mine.


Now the context is off and certainly no one is making fun of Wilson or giving her anything but love, but this is the first official song I played for her (and it took me over a week to get to her first song, if that tells you anything about how off our world has been) because she is my baby-baby and we’re here doing every last thing we can to get her home and back to the rest of our, pun intended, herd.

To top it all off, according to the Interwebs, elephants symbolize not only strength, but also patience and acceptance, which in case we didn’t all figure out months ago, Wilson has been teaching me/us from the womb.

So. Our sweet little Tembo (elephant in Swahili) she shall be. Her daddy even found the most perfect little elephant at the Children’s gift shop with, you’re seeing it correctly, a bird on its trunk, and surprised us with it yesterday. It’s perfect. So is she.



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