I really should have written her birth story while it was still fresh, while I still felt swollen and sore from the labor, while I could still hear the sounds of the hospital and remembered every detail. I should have written it all down when I could still close my eyes and as I drifted I felt as if I was back in the room, while I could still smell the hospital and the bouquets of magenta flowers and the new baby smell. I could cry for the new baby scent. I mourned it even before it was gone. Since it seems to be a mystery to me when babies actually lose that scent I would bury my head in her almost hourly checking to see if she still smelled new. I still am not sure when she stopped smelling that way exactly. It got more faint as days and weeks went on and one day when I couldn’t really decipher it anymore I just crumbled down and cried.
Her birth story isn’t out of the ordinary, per say. It isn’t dramatic and doesn’t pull at your heart strings, unless you know her, unless you loved her before you even knew her. For me, every birth story is important. To a mother there is only one first time you meet your child-the child you came to know from their kicks and the steady music of their heartbeat on the monitor, the child who you will comfort and feed and read to and share from the depths of your soul what is important in life, the child you will love more fiercely with each passing day-through their victories and failures which also become your own. Every time a baby is born a person is born and so are infinite possibilities and infinite beauty. Even if no one outside the delivery room knows it, when a baby is born the world changes just a little bit. I have always known this. I came to know it more after the births of Hayleigh and Braxton. I desperately wanted someone who shared that belief to deliver Royce so I left my former obgyn and entrusted myself and Roycie Girl to the care of a midwifery. It was one of the best choices I have made. Not only did they make my pregnancy better but they helped make Royce’s birth story even more beautiful.
Royce was the first of my kids to (officially) be “late”. I had had an ultrasound four days before she was born and I almost reluctantly clung to the picture they had given me. I would much rather have been clinging to her. Sunday morning I woke up with a painful contraction. This was not unusual for me as I had been having contractions, even painful and patterned ones for literally months. In fact I was 2 cm dilated for almost ten weeks before giving birth at 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant. We had already made the decision not to go to church that day because I was so miserably uncomfortable with how low she was sitting, was hobbling along on a broken foot (nothing like waddling and limping at the same time) and really was actually pretty sick of the pity glances and barrage of questions I couldn’t or didn’t want to answer. Plus we had an induction scheduled for the next day so we were planning on spending a family day lounging and enjoying each other’s company. I had also made it clear in a (kind of) joking way that I was going to plop myself on the couch and not move until the baby came out.
The contractions continued about every 15-20 minutes for a few hours. Then they got to be about ten minutes apart. Peter was watching football, but as I had been every evening for the past couple weeks, I sat all afternoon watching the clock waiting for the next contraction wondering if maybe this time they weren’t going to just fade away. They were the painful, ripping contractions. There was no doubting when one was ramping up and my whole body right down to my fingers and toes would tighten with each one. Around 4 o-clock in the afternoon they got to be 7 minutes apart. They were the type of contraction that I needed to just double over and swear-in my head of coarse. The kids were around. (Funny thought-we didn’t start calling Hayleigh and Braxton “the kids” until Royce was born. In comparison to her I guess Braxton suddenly seemed to have graduated from toddlerhood to kid-dom. Or maybe we are too lazy to say three names now so it’s just “the kids and the baby”.) I was thinking that this might be it. I prayed that I wouldn’t need to be induced, especially because it decreased my chances of a successful VBAC. At 7 o-clock the contractions came to a screeching halt. I remember just crying. Peter tried to console me. I think frankly he was a little bewildered as to why I would be so disappointed because the induction was scheduled for the next day, ya know the whole “end is in sight” thing. It just felt like a tremendous, exhausting let down. It also felt like a waste because I didn’t get to spend my “last day” really enjoying the kids because of my contractions. If I had to spend the entire day in pain at least I wanted it to be labor.
We put Hayleigh and Braxton to bed reminding them that Nana would be taking care of them the next day while we went to the hospital for the induction. Hayleigh especially was giddy with excitement knowing she would soon meet her sister. I kissed and hugged each of them knowing that soon their little lives would change. Braxton wouldn’t be the baby anymore-how could he be a big brother? And Hayleigh just seemed so much older, like a little mama-child, that night as I tucked her in. Peter took our dog Paisley over to his brother’s apartment since he was going to be watching Paisley while we were at the hospital. While Peter was gone the contractions came back-strong. They were still 7 minutes apart but I couldn’t talk through them. I decided to call my midwife and see what she thought I should do. I was curious as to why they were so far apart, and wanted her opinion as to whether or not she thought this was another false alarm. While I was on the phone with her I had 3 piggy-back contractions in ten minutes. I told her I would wait an hour and call her back before going to the hospital because I was emphatic that I did not want to get there only to be sent home. I called Peter and told him between patterned breathing that maybe he should come home from his brother’s. By the time he got home about ten minutes later the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and lasting a minute. I could barely walk. We called my midwife and my mom who hurried over. I went a woke Hayleigh to tell her we were actually going to the hospital that night. I told her that tomorrow she would meet her sister. I felt like I was giving her the best news of her life: the long awaited words. She smiled so big at me with sleepy eyes, but I knew she would be too excited to go back to sleep. We left her with my mom and Peter and I headed to the hospital.
I sent a couple close friends partial gibberish texts communicating the contractions were back and we were headed to the hospital. We got there at 9pm. We entered through the emergency room. I sat there with the bags while Peter parked the car. I am a pretty reserved person when it comes to public displays of pain, but it’s pretty hard to hide your pain when you’re in labor. So I sat through a few contractions amongst people not in labor at all at the emergency waiting room, trying to mask my obvious discomfort. The hospital we delivered at is relatively small so no one in the emergency room was dying or even close. They actually all looked pretty healthy to me, and apparently they had nothing better to do than stare down a woman in labor. We got up to triage and a few minutes later my midwife arrived. She joked with me that I had told her I would call her in an hour and it was really about 15 minutes. We laughed as she told the nurse I had demanded that once I was at the hospital I did not want to be sent home. She checked me and I was 5cm. This was at 9:15. I was admitted right away and in delivery room by 9:30.
When we got in the delivery room it looked like any other, yet each time, I have been struck when I see the little basinet and swaddling blanket waiting there for my baby. I looked with love at the first bed made for my baby. The baby that is currently inside of me is going to come out. I am going to meet her. There is going to be another person in this room in a matter of hours and minutes. That bed is empty but soon there will be the sound of screaming, healthy lungs coming from that bed. They are going to put that hat on my baby, wrap her in that blanket and she will be mine. In my arms. And she will be so real. Soon it will be like I have known her forever.
My midwife advised me to put in a request for an epidural since she thought, as she told me numerous times, “this is going to go fast”. By 10 pm I was 7cm. At 10:30 they began the epidural. I remembered this process being simple with Hayleigh and the spinal being relatively easy with Braxton's c-section. It was not simple this time though. I was progressing so quickly that my whole body was trembling uncontrollably. I just couldn’t will myself to sit still. My midwife came over and put her hands on my shoulders, which I am sure were up to my ears. She told me to bury my head in her-and I did, right in her bosom. It is a little awkward thinking back, I mean I was face first in there, but hey, it calmed me down and after an hour of the two different doctors trying, I got my epidural. I asked for only a half one because I remembered with Hayleigh hating how heavy and useless my legs were. I was then able to relax a bit except for the uncontrollable skin crawling and burning. They gave me hot packs to hold and I clenched with in my fists through each contraction. Then they gave me meds for burning and finally I was able to dose off in between contractions-which were now about 3 minutes apart. An hour or so, at 12:45 I felt an strong urge to push. I shot up in bed and told Peter to go get my nurse because I couldn’t hold the baby in anymore. My sweet nurse, who was a mother of five young kids herself, came in, checked my papers and said she could tell I was already bearing down without trying to on each contraction. She paged my midwife and at 1:00 I started pushing. This time I felt everything much stronger than I did with Hayleigh-it was probably the half-epidural, or maybe the fact that Royce was incredibly low. At one point, after about 3-5 pushes I felt the strangest sensation. At first I felt something shift, a pop, then excruciating pain. I wasn’t sure what had happened. Had her head popped out? The look on my midwife’s and nurse’s face, and Peter’s horrified “What was that?!” told me the answer was no. My midwife suggested that she thought I broke my tailbone. I started crying wondering if I would have to have an emergency c-section after all of this. But really there was no turning back. I continued to push. at 1:18am on December 3rd my sweet Royce Adelyn was born. She was 8lbs 3.5 oz and 21inchs of perfection.
They placed her on my chest right away. I felt the rush of motherhood. Hayleigh had been taken away because of meconium and my own bad tearing so I didn’t hold her until she was almost an hour old. Braxton was a c-section so I didn’t get to really hold him until I was in the recovery room. But this was so sweet, so unexpected, so hoped for. I looked at her through the tears. I am not sure if I said it or just thought it over and over, “It’s you. It’s been you all along.” I could tell I was beaming. I kept wondering when they were going to take her over to check her. I am not sure how long I got to hold her, but I didn’t want it to end. 9 months of a miserable pregnancy was completely worth it in that second, just as I knew it would be, just as I told myself every day of the journey. There is nothing like meeting your child, even if you have already met their siblings before them. Each time you are meeting a new person who is going to become an integral part of your world. Each time has a beauty and magic all its own. Each time it is full of so much importance. Each time I knew my life was changing and I felt my heart expand to welcome in one more.
I have seen many pictures of friends, family members and people I barely know meeting their babies. I have often thought to myself how different their facial expressions are in that moment. Some people are subdued as if they are in awe of the moment and its significance. Maybe they are really studying the face of their baby as the meet someone for the first time that in a way they feel they have known all along. This is how I felt when I met Hayleigh. I tried to prepare myself for how I would feel, how I would look in those pictures. I swore I would be gushing with joy and smiles. Yet, there is no preparing yourself for the magnitude of that moment when you first meet your first baby and it all begins. I think I was just taking it all in, not knowing what to expect or what to do, or even entirely who I was since I had instantly inherited a new identity. I was full of so much joy and wonder but still it felt like such an out of body experience. My mind was bouncing off the walls inside my head. I was numb and so I appeared subdued. When I met Braxton and Royce I knew what to expect-to a certain degree. I went into the experience with even more anticipation because I knew that the baby I would be delivering was so much more. I knew they would change my life-but I knew more than just those facts. I knew the way it would feel, not just in the moment, but in the months and years to come as my love expanded and deepened. I knew the joy and attachment and life-altering beauty that was coming because I had already lived it. I knew I was not just meeting an infant, but I was meeting my child who I would be intertwined with for eternity-no matter what the future held. I was meeting a person complete with a personality and talents and passions and quirks yet to discover. I was meeting someone with a future ordained by God and I felt the weight and the exuberance of being a part of it.
When I held Royce to my chest and kissed her over and over I knew, although I didn’t know the ins and outs of her yet, the journey was going to be magical. I knew it was going to be ours-our love story. Knowing all that made me love her even more than I had as she grew and squirmed and hiccupped inside of me. I wanted to whisper to her, and maybe I did, that I already knew I would love her forever whatever she was, whatever she became-that I was on her team.
I watched as Peter fell in love all over again. It’s funny how it happens for a dad. When he met Hayleigh there was instant love, but it was also clouded with a bit of fear and uncertainty that comes with first time parenthood. With Braxton love was coupled with the pride of having a son. With Roycie he just melted as they placed her in his arms. And so did I. I melted as I watched him smile and talk to her as if there was no one else in the room. I overheard him say to her “I would love to pay for your wedding.”
I am always blown away by the thought that just as that precious bundle looks as you hold them in your arms, they looked moments before inside your belly. The same expressions they make while they sleep, the same long stretches or jerky little arm motions she made inside of me. Now we get to see those little fists, and kiss those delicate lips, and watch them perse to a smile while she sleeps.
After delivering Royce I felt such a rush that I didn’t experience with the other two. Hayleigh was a long and exhausting labor. The c-section with Braxton left me sick and immobile. But with Royce I was up moving around. I honestly felt so much better than I had just hours before when I was pregnant. I was euphoric. When the kids came to meet her I knew it would be one of the best moments of my life. They were the first ones to meet her. I was emphatic that this be how it was. My mom and sister brought them. I will never forget the way Hayleigh entered the room. She burst in ahead of the others. My usually tentative, self-conscious girl could hold herself back no more. She had waited long enough. It was time to meet her sister. Peter was holding Royce as they walked in and Hayleigh took no time to survey the room, to find me. She just bee-lined for Royce. She couldn’t help but put her hands on her little body and saw in awe over and over “She is so cutie. She is so beautiful! My sister is here! Oh I love her!” When she held her she couldn’t hold in the giggles of pure joy. She just oozed love, unconditional love with no thought for herself. She really didn’t even know Royce, except to know she was her sister, but that was enough. She generously smothered Royce with all the love she could muster, (sometimes the smothering was literal.)
Despite being only 21 months old, Braxton seemed to know exactly what was going on. He took it all in stride. He held her briefly and kissed her. He was slightly more concerned with all the contraptions in the room, but he kept an eye on her while he got into trouble. Whenever she cried or sighed he would perk up to see what was the matter. It was as if he had known her all along too. Of coarse she is here. Of coarse I am her big brother. And he fit right into the role of protector.
The sheer excitement and unconditional love they, especially Hayleigh, had for her still brings me to tears. I can’t even put into words exactly what went on in that room although I have tried, but it was nothing short of one of God’s most beautiful gifts to me. The importance and meaning of the first time siblings meet is never lost on me. For the rest of their lives they will find it hard to remember a time without eachother. They will shape who eachother become. It is something never to be duplicated as two (or three) pieces of you connect with one another for the first time. Although it can’t be duplicated that place is somewhere that I often close my eyes and revisit.
And now she is 4.5 months old! She brightens our days with her silly little faces, smirks and smiles, and babble. I can’t imagine my life without her. Some mornings because of Peter’s work schedule he gets up with the kids and I can stay in bed for a bit to feed Royce and get some one on one cuddle time. This is such a bright spot for me since quiet moments with her are limited. It never gets old to have your sweet babe light up to see you and “talk” to you with such excitement their whole body shakes.
Before they are born I always wonder what each baby’s nickname will be, but one always seems to emerge as we get to know them. We have often referred to her as our “little lady” but the past few weeks she has had a new nickname stick-thanks to her big sissy. Hayleigh calls her “my nittle”. I think using the adjective as a noun is pretty precious along with the way she says it to Royce over and over. Little is one of the few words that Hayleigh doesn’t pronounce correctly (along with hambooger, hop dogs, gegetables and bacuum cleaner). It’s funny because she has a vocabulary that sometimes shocks me. (Today she told me a character from Beauty and the Beast was conceited and spent too much time in luxury.) Anyway, “Nittle” has stuck and I kind of love it- even though Royce is quickly becoming not-so-nittle anymore.
Each day you broaden our worlds and our capacity to love, sweet Roycie Girl. What would our home be without you? You are such a beautiful and precious gift from God. I can't wait to get to know you more and more as your personality develops. I can't wait to see the ways you will stretch and grow me as you in turn grow. I love you beyond words.