Fatherhood at Fifty – “Describable”

My wife Christiana and I have joked at times that we should compile our list of the top ten most common things people have said to us during the time that we were pregnant with Emma. That list may or may not get written at some point, but for now let’s just say that some of those top ten things are thoughtful and inspiring, and others are….well…perhaps better left unsaid.

One of those thoughtful and inspiring things people tend to say comes from those that are already blessed with their own children. It’s the thing that gets said when someone is trying to tell you what it’s going to feel like the first time you hold your newborn child in your arms and they open their eyes and look up at you. I’d heard about that moment so many times during our pregnancy that I awaited it with great anticipation. No matter how much I thought about what that moment would feel like, there was no way that I could have imagined what it would actually BE like. To all of you who shared your own stories about the first time you held your child in your arms, I finally get it now.

When others would tell me about the moment that they first held their own child in their arms, they almost always used the word indescribable. People would routinely remark that the moment made them speechless, which they would then demonstrate for me live and in person by becoming speechless yet again as they thought about that moment all over. Many people would get choked up as they took themselves back to that moment in their own lives and they would then usually end the conversation by saying something like, “there are just no words…”

But what if there were the words? What if there was a way that we could describe that moment in time? What if that moment was in fact decidedly describable. I doubt if Shakespeare ever used the line, “there are just no words…” I’ll assume that Charles Dickens never said, “you had to be there because there’s really no way to describe that scene…”

So with all due respect to Shakespeare and Dickens and the countless parents who have inspired me by sharing their own first ever moments in their lives, I shall now attempt to describe that moment in time as it unfolded for me. I challenge my inner wordsmith to dig deep and find the words that can adequately capture a moment of rapture as exquisite as this. My first letter to my newborn daughter to tell her how I would describe the moment we met. I imagine a few kleenex breaks will be in order. Here goes…

My Dearest Emma,

unnamed-2I’ve just looked down at your priceless little face as I held you in my arms for the first time and my heart has expanded to a degree that I could previously not fathom. I had imagined what you might look like while you were inside mommy’s belly, but I never really imagined anything could be quite as beautiful as you actually were when you came out. For most of my life I thought that babies looked a little bit funny and stiff, but when they placed you in my arms you looked so gentle and so full of life.

I’ve waited so long for this day to come, much longer than most people wait. Let’s just say right now that I would have waited twice as long if I had to just to have you as my daughter, but I’m glad I didn’t have to wait even a second more! There will be times in the future when people may think that I am your grandpa and not your daddy because of my age, but that’s okay because we’ll know that our souls were always intended to be connected and that we just had to wait for me to be ready to be the daddy that you so richly deserve. I’ve finally become that person now, largely because of you. You are already my teacher in so many ways; you’ll understand that more in the future I promise.

I’ve traveled around the world in my years before you came to me. I’ve seen so many amazing things. I’ve looked across the Cote D’azur at sunset from the veranda of a private palace in the hills of Cannes, France while drinking Dom Perignon champagne. I’ve stood on the highest peak in Colorado at dawn’s opening ray of morning light, ready to be the first skier down the hill on virgin powder snow. I’ve been barefoot in the wet, lush grass in Ireland’s County Meath, overlooking the 5000 year old neolithic Newgrange passage tomb while practicing my morning martial arts forms in a silence so profound that it was actually too noisy. None of those moments in time or any other in my life equaled the moment you opened your eyes and looked at me. I love you beyond measure.

I have spent so many of my days in this lifetime trying to expand my consciousness and enhance my connection to the Divine. I’ve read and studied nearly every world religion. I’ve devoted over 30 years in training to martial arts and yoga. I’ve read countless books about the greatest spiritual masters like Christ Jesus, the Buddha, Babaji, Yogananda, Saint Germain, Kwan Yin and so many others. Every once in a while in my meditations I get to that magical place where I can feel the light from Source shining so brightly that it warms every part of my soul like I’m lying in Infinite sunshine. I love those precious glimpses when they come, but they always seem to fade away just before I can get close enough to the light to see the face of God. It’s like I’m walking slowly up to a curtain that I just can’t quite reach and I’m trying so hard to extend my arm further so I can throw the curtain back and have a clear view of all the IS. It’s never happened before. It always evades me. That first night when we where heart to heart on the couch next to mommy’s bed for about an hour, my wait ended. The curtain was finally thrown back. I saw the face of God in all its glory in your face. I felt Source energy through your heart as it pressed against mine while you slept on my chest.  In that instant I knew that all was well in the Universe and any moment of fleeting Faith that I ever had in this lifetime completely and totally disappeared.

About five years ago I asked my Angels and Guides to help me open my heart up more. That may fall under the category of “be careful what you wish for,” but we’ll discuss that more later. Some of my Angels and Guides are people like the spiritual masters I mentioned before, and some are people that I know who have moved out of their bodies;  people like your grandpa Jim (my daddy) and many others. Well anyways, let’s just say that I spent a pretty good portion of my first 50 years on this planet holding the world at an arm’s length. Your mommy was the first one in many years that put in the effort to penetrate the fortress that had become the outer walls of Jim Herbert. I’m very grateful to her for putting a crack in my outer shell because with that crack the light started to come in. I’ve learned that in order to have a life that is full of great joy, you have to be willing to allow yourself to open your heart enough to be vulnerable to great sorrow as well. Your Uncle Richard, who I suppose you met on the other side before you came here broke my heart when he left his body a few years back, but I’ve learned so much about myself from that experience. All that being said, no matter how much my heart may have already opened, it opened like three billion times more when you arrived safely after many hours of labor. Someday we’ll watch the Grinch together and you can see a funny story about growing a bigger heart.

Speaking about your arrival, can I just tell you from my perspective how amazing your mommy was when you came in. Over the years I have done a pretty good job of pushing my body to extremes. I’ve done marathons, triathlons, tested for black belts and things like that. Nothing even comes close to comparing to what your mommy did to get you safely into this lifetime. There were some scary moments when I didn’t know that we would have the strength to get to the finish line, but you never seemed to be scared. Your little heart kept beating strong for hours and hours and I think it was you that actually gave us the strength to believe in ourselves. I’ve always liked my physical activity, but for some reason since you arrived I have even more vigor. I’ve been lighter in my cardio workouts. I have a little extra push in my circuit training. I move a little more gracefully in my yoga poses. It’s like I have an infinite amount of energy even though I’m getting a bit less sleep than I’m used to. Little things don’t seem to phase me like they used to, but on the flip side the details matter even more now because of you. What an unusual and delightful coincidence. How lucky am I?

And last but certainly not least, of all the gifts you have already given me, the most valuable is certainly this….

You’ve inspired me to be in the moment, to be present and to be engaged like I’ve never been in my life before now…

At the start of the year I was moderating a webinar and I asked those in the group to pick a word of intention for the year and share it with everyone. After everyone in the group shared, I chose the word “engaged” for myself. Like I said before, I’ve done a great job of doing many, many things in this lifetime often at the same time, but sometimes at the expense of being fully engaged in any one of those things. The moment you opened your eyes and looked up at me from my arms I instantly realized that everything else I had ever done in this lifetime was just a preamble to our journey ahead. It was the only moment in human history that ever mattered to me. 

I have no idea where our journeys might take us Emma, but I know that I’m ready to fly. Don’t we all just want to fly Emma? For my entire life I’ve wanted to feel more alive. With you in my arms Emma, I tingle with joy down to the deepest part of my soul. I embrace all of my emotions, the good ones and the scary ones. After all, isn’t that the only way to truly feel alive? In your eyes Emma, I see the joy, the fear, the bliss, the sorrow, the hope and the unconditional love of all of humanity. In your eyes Emma, I see the all the possibilities of what we will BE while still fully understanding that in Truth, we already ARE…

All my Love,



About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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3 Responses to Fatherhood at Fifty – “Describable”

  1. wendydoherty says:

    Jim, what a beautiful letter to your daughter. Pure, describable joy! My favorite is: “For my entire life I’ve wanted to feel more alive. With you in my arms Emma, I tingle with joy down to the deepest part of my soul.”

  2. Merle Cohen says:

    Dear Jim what beautiful message you sent to us and your little Emma. Your family will be so wonderful. She will have beautiful mom and Dad, how lucky She will be. I look forward to see you soon Auntie Merle

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Thank you for syncing your hear with language and taking the time to beautifully craft this letter so we could feel and imagine what that moment was like for you. Emma will someday treasure this letter as a precious gift and right now in this moment with tears in my eyes, I am too.

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