an unfathomable joy: June’s birth story
I went to see my doctor on Tuesday. Michael came with me. I had slept a little less than three hours and taken two hot baths in the middle of the night.
Waiting for a baby to arrive feels a little like being 5 years old and hearing that Santa will come any day. All the signs are present: milk and cookies are out, presents wrapped under the tree, parties are in full swing. But you wake up every morning saddened because Santa still hadn’t come. I felt crazier with each passing day.
I’ve never been so in tune with my body in those weeks leading up to June’s arrival. Was that a contraction?! I feel pain in my back! My hips hurt! (This is the edited version.) I texted Michael several times a day and told him my new ‘symptoms’ (all ending with an exclamation point) and how I knew she was coming that day. I became the girl who cried “Labor!”
Back to the doctor’s visit. My doctor (whom I love) checked me and confirmed again that June’s head was so far down it was hard to tell how dilated I was without causing me excruciating pain. She also reiterated how she’s surprised I could walk around for the last five weeks. (Not easily!) For several reasons, we scheduled an induction for Thursday. Michael and I were nervous about me being induced, but it was comforting to know we could always cancel the appointment. We felt reassured knowing our doctor was induced with her second child and would never recommend something that wasn’t best for our sweet June.
The next 36 hours: 5 baths. Hot sauce on everything. A two-mile walk that took 53 minutes. A massage. More texts to Michael about my symptoms, finished with exclamation points. A lunch date on a patio in the sun with my baby daddy.
Michael’s parents arrived in town on Wednesday afternoon. We went to The Yellow Porch for dinner and told them we planned to name her Annie June and call her ‘June’. I still felt uncertain about everything, but the salmon and chocolate espresso cake helped. Michael and I climbed in bed together, pretending like I wouldn’t be awake all night, and prayed fervently for a safe delivery. I cried. 40 weeks all leading up to the next day.
I didn’t sleep.
What I thought were just more cramps, were the start of contractions. I was up all night, pacing, in and out of the bathtub, trying not to wake up Michael with another ‘false alarm’. I prayed, painted my nails, wrote to June, and read Lean In with my bump sticking out above the bath water.
My alarm went off at 4:00am, so I curled my hair and sat on the edge of the bed waiting for it to be time to go to the hospital. I was starving. My cramps continued, but I didn’t mention them to Michael.
We arrived at the hospital and waited in the waiting room for 4 hours. My doctor came to see me and apologize for the wait. I told her I didn’t care and hugged her, declaring my excitement. During our long wait, I mentioned my cramps to Michael. I’m sure it’s nothing, but I am in a lot of pain and have been all night.
Around 9:30, a nurse called “Lillian Dean” and off we went to the labor and delivery room. Two nurses entered, one named Hope and another named Angie. Hope was just out of nursing school and was learning from Angie. Angie checked me and expressed how I must feel like I’m sitting on a bowling ball (I did). I winced and cried out. I was 3 or 4 centimeters dilated—it was hard to tell. Hope pointed to the blue line on the machine and said I was having contractions. Relief flooded my body.
I knew I wanted an epidural, but wanted to let the contractions go for as long as I could take them and then get the drugs. I wanted to feel like I was having a baby. By 12:00, I couldn’t talk through the contractions. By 12:15, I looked just like someone in the movies in labor—grunting, panting, gripping Michael’s hand, contorted face, the whole nine yards. I asked for the epidural. By 1:00, I was completely numb and could barely lift my legs. Michael said I got very chatty.
My friend Sarah stopped over on her lunch break to visit. She did my makeup and remarked several times how I made labor look easy (she missed my starring role in What to Expect When You’re Expecting). At 2:00, Angie checked me and I was 7cm dilated. At 4:00, I was 10cm and they said it was time to start pushing.
I was a little unnerved that my doctor wasn’t in the room, but they assured me they would call her when the baby was coming soon. Dr. Cox was finishing up with her patients for the day. No one was prepared for how determined and efficient I am.
They turned on the bright lights, put my legs in the stirrups and told me to grab behind my knees, bare down, and push. The nurses would say, “Go”, I would push while they counted to 10. We’d rest for 10 seconds and then begin again. I pushed about 3 times and Angie said, “Wow. I’m going to call Dr. Cox and tell her to come right away.” Michael leaned his head forward and covered his mouth. I can see her head! I can see her head!
Michael went to brush his teeth, remembering my request that he have good breath when he was coaching me through labor. It’s the little things.
Dr. Cox arrived. There were 10 people in the room, 12 including Michael and our photographer. Dr. Cox and her scrub nurse had on plastic face shields, which later would be splattered with blood. All the nurses wore raspberry pink scrubs.
I pictured my sweet June and focused on getting her out. Michael held my hand and took on the expecting dad role. You can do it! Push a little harder! She’s almost here! Great job, sweetheart! I didn’t feel like I was doing anything, except scrunching my face and giving myself wrinkles. I continued to pull my legs back, push for 10 seconds, and rest for 10. After ten or fifteen minutes of face-scrunching pushing, June was born at 4:56pm. Joy held up my little miracle. Michael cut the umbilical cord, even though he said before he didn’t want to. There was blood everywhere. A few nurses in pink whisked little June away and Michael ran to be with her.
June screamed and shook under the warmer. Michael sobbed. She gripped her daddy’s finger and he cried more. I’m sure June was only across the room for 60 seconds, but it felt like hours waiting to hold her while they stitched me up. Is she ok? Is she ok? I asked over and over, but I don’t think anyone could hear me. Maybe I wasn’t even saying the words out loud.
A nurse shouted out her weight: 8 pounds, 9 ounces.
Then, they brought me my baby.
I placed June on my bare chest. She stared at me with deep blue eyes. She knew I was her mama. I cried. Michael cried. June snuggled up under my hospital gown and then found my breast. We stayed like that for an hour. By the end of the hour, the lights were off and everyone had left the room. Our little family.
Michael and my hearts were shattered with the kind of unfathomable joy that cannot be reduced to words on a page. Our little Annie June was here.
Please leave messages for our sweet June below! Xoxo.
Also, if you are looking for an amazing photographer, check out Kristie Lloyd. She needs no introduction after the images above, right?
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