The more challenges Today show coanchor Savannah Guthrie faced—as a lawyer, news anchor and new mom—the more she turned to Scripture for inspiration and hope.
Posted in , May 2, 2016
One week. My new baby girl had been home for one week, and if all the things I didn’t know about being a mom were stacked on top of each other like diapers, there would already be a pile of Pampers at my house reaching toward heaven.
I didn’t know how to feed her. I didn’t know how to change her. I didn’t know how to hold her. I didn’t know how to make her sleep. I didn’t know how to entertain her when she was awake.
Now here I was, giving Vale a bath. Trying to, anyway. I’d barely set her in the baby tub when she erupted into wails. What was the matter? Was the water too hot? But I’d tested it. Too cold? Too wet? I had no idea. All I knew was her sobs were heart-wrenching. And those tears rolling down her big round cheeks.
I couldn’t take it. I lifted her out of the tub, dried her off and diapered and dressed her as best I could. I held her close and nursed her, singing softly, “I can’t help falling in love with you....”
Finally she settled down and drifted off to sleep. I put her in her crib and sank into the rocking chair, stepping over the notebooks lying beside it. Then I burst into tears myself.
At 42, I’d been waiting my whole life to have a baby. Every time I woke in the night for a feeding or heard Vale sigh in her sleep, I felt a fresh rush of gratitude for this incredible blessing from God. But was I doing a good job?
I’d practiced law, interviewed the President and was used to waking up at 3:00 a.m. to go to work as a Today show coanchor. None of that prepared me to be a mom. Being a mom is much harder. All the new-mother books and websites and mommy blogs in the world couldn’t ease the helplessness I felt whenever Vale’s blue eyes filled with tears.
How did Mom do this not once, but three times? She hadn’t even had the help and conveniences I did when she raised my older brother and sister and me. I grew up in Tucson. My father was a mining engineer and my mother stayed home with us kids. She was the no-nonsense type and usually kept to the business at hand.
One day, though, I was with her as she drove around doing errands. There was a rare desert rainstorm and afterward, a gorgeous rainbow arced across the sky. “Is there really a pot of gold at the end of it?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Let’s find out.” With me giving directions, we drove around laughing and chasing the elusive end of the rainbow until the last wisp of color faded.
Like Mom, Dad could also surprise me with his whimsical side. One time he met me at the door when my school day ended. “Let’s go fly a kite!” he said. We spent the rest of the afternoon running around a field, my super-tall dad dwarfed by our kite soaring high in the deep blue sky.
On Sundays we’d spend all day at Casas Adobes Baptist Church for Sunday school, morning service, choir practice and night service. Faith was so woven into our daily lives, we liked to say that God was the sixth member of the Guthrie family.
Then, two days after my sister’s high school graduation, my world broke open. My dad died of a heart attack. To me, at 16, it felt like a betrayal of everything I’d believed in. How could God let this happen to my dad—a good man who was only in his forties? How could he do this to our family?
Mom had to go to work to support us. Each evening when she came home it was all I could do not to cling to her like a little girl, as if to make sure I wouldn’t lose her too. It would have been easy, and maybe understandable, for me to turn away from God. But my faith became more essential to me than ever.
Somehow, God comforted me. And there were blessings amid the grief. Mom found a job in public affairs at the University of Arizona, which made tuition more affordable for my sister and me. Both of us lived at home during our college years. We arranged our weekend plans so there was always one of us home with Mom.
I was a college freshman and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Mom suggested journalism classes. I discovered that I loved to tell people’s stories. A part-time job at the local PBS station confirmed it: TV news was the path for me.
I got my bachelor’s in journalism and applied for TV reporting jobs all over the country. Finally I got an offer at a small station in Butte, Montana—more than a thousand miles away.
I immediately accepted the job, knowing it was my big chance. But I agonized over leaving home, leaving everything I knew, leaving my mom.
“Savannah,” she said, “if you can’t leave me now to go after your dreams, I haven’t done my job right.”
With her encouragement—and company for the long ride there—I moved to Montana. It was exhilarating and exciting and terrifying. And then, 10 days after I started my job, it was surprising: The general manager announced the station was closing.
I sat on my bed in my new little apartment, looking around before packing back up and moving home much sooner than expected. Part of me wanted to just give up on that TV-news dream. But I sent out even more tapes, and was blessed again. I got a job as a reporter at KMIZ in Columbia, Missouri, then as a reporter and weekend anchor at KVOA, which brought me back to Tucson for five years.
Covering trials over the years as a local reporter piqued my interest in the law, and I applied to law school. When I got in, I was torn. Go to law school? Or continue to chase this dream of someday working in network news? A mentor of mine gave me a piece of inspiring advice: “Savannah, think big.” So I decided to try to pursue both.
That’s how I ended up in Washington, D.C., starting over in my late twenties, freelancing for an NBC affiliate while I earned a law degree at Georgetown University. Far from home—and Mom—again. But she had done her job right. She gave me something I could always rely on, something beyond even her love.
Each morning in D.C., I’d wake up and read the Bible. In a little notebook, I started writing down verses that particularly spoke to me. On nights that I worried about a tough exam or the future that felt so uncertain, I’d turn to those verses to help me sleep, or calm my anxious heart.
I graduated from law school and worked for a big D.C.-based law firm. Soon I landed a clerkship with a federal judge. But somehow it didn’t feel right. I visited the judge in his chambers to explain that I was turning down the job to go after my dream of working in journalism.
“Why not clerk for me for a year and then pursue your other ambitions?” he asked.
“I just feel like if I don’t do this now, I’ll never have the courage again,” I said.
It was the biggest leap of faith of my life. I hadn’t held a full-time reporting job in years, and I didn’t have any prospects. I sent lots of résumés that got no response, went on a few interviews that didn’t pan out. By then I’d filled three notebooks with Bible verses and I turned to them often.
Ultimately I found an amazing job at Court TV, covering high-profile trials. My career was finally taking off, but in my personal life I was still searching. In my early thirties I watched friend after friend get married and start a family. I thought my turn had come when I got married in 2005. But three years later the marriage ended.
Will I ever have a happy family, like the one I grew up in? I wondered. That was when one particular verse in my notebooks, Psalm 62:8, became my watchword: “Trust in him at all times. Pour out your hearts to him.”
I certainly did. I turned my loneliness, my frustration, my mistakes, over to God and told myself to be patient—not something that comes naturally to me.
I became a legal correspondent for NBC News in 2007, then White House correspondent in 2008. I met a man named Mike Feldman at a party, a political consultant who made me laugh. We fell in love.
Joining the Today show team meant my personal life became a lot more public. When Mike and I got married, in 2014, and announced that we were expecting our first child, people all over the country reached out to celebrate those blessings with us. What a humbling and overwhelming experience!
Then, on August 13, 2014, Vale Guthrie Feldman was born. The moment I first held her in my arms, my world broke open again— in the most wondrous, joyful way. I couldn’t stop thanking God for giving us this most remarkable, tiny little blessing.
A friend who also had recently given birth wrote me a note sympathizing with those late-night feedings: “I think of all the mothers in the world under the stars at the same time, caring for their babies. It makes me think God gave mothers more life to live.”
I thought of that often in those nights when Vale’s cries broke through the silence and darkness of our bedroom. Or those times I struggled, like now, trying and failing to give her a bath.
I noticed my Scripture notebooks, lying beside my rocking chair, and as has happened so often in my life, a beloved verse I had scrawled down suddenly came to mind: Ecclesiastes 3:11. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Yes. Vale was proof of that.
It had taken more than 42 years to get here. Now I had three glorious months of maternity leave to devote to learning to be Vale’s mommy. And I had the rest of my life to love her. She was the gift from God that I would get to open anew every single day.
In time, I would master the art of diapering and bathing and soothing her. I would learn to be the mother she needed. Most importantly, I would give her the gift of faith, the greatest gift my parents gave me. And one day I would see her off to chase her own dreams, hoping I’d done my job right.
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