Category Archives: Letters

A Birth(day) Story

My dear Emily turned three this month.  While I am amazed by all she is blossoming into: a thoughtful pre-schooler, a loving sister, an ornery monkey; I am thinking more about her birth.  It is time I write her story down.

To Emily: Your Arrival

Though I was a week late on my period, I refused to take a test.  At least until I could surprise Ben.  Naturally, as soon as he heard the test wrapper–at 4 am–he couldn’t resist tumbling into the bathroom.  Since it wasn’t a secret anymore, he sat with me as we waited for the results.

And there they were: two pink lines.  A perfect gift to your father on his birthday.

At exactly 22 weeks, while I was sitting in my morning class, I felt the first kick.  I had waited, somewhat impatiently, to feel those movements.  The location of my placenta–directly in front (behind?) of my belly button, insulated my skin from feeling your movements sooner.  Anyway, I felt the first movement and immediately stopped paying attention to the lecture.  I could hardly wait until I could call your father.

Two weeks later, I had an appendectomy.  It was a terrifying experience.  I am extremely glad nothing happened to you.

Finally, things settled down.  I eagerly awaited, and prepared, for your birth.

At 38 weeks, 10 days before your official due date, I took castor oil to get things going.  Within hours, I was having regular contractions.  Per the birth training I had used (hypnobirthing), I breathed through them.  They were intense, but I did not feel any pain.  By midnight, your father convinced me to pack our bags and head to the hospital.

Once there, we settled in for the hour wait to see if we would be admitted.  While I continued to breathe through the contractions–the peaks continued growing while the time between was shrinking–your father watched the Olympics.  At that time of night, the only event on was speed walking.  Talk about thrilling.

Though I had not progressed too far, the nurse convinced my midwife to admit me because clearly my contractions were not going to slow down.

The nurse wheeled me to our room and Ben turned on calm music.  I used a variety of breathing techniques to keep my body relaxed and felt as comfortable as I could.  Between contractions (which were happening every 30 seconds), I dozed.

Although I should have felt exhausted, I could not wipe the smile off my face; nor rid my body of the adrenaline.  I was to meet my little girl soon!  I would be seeing the face I had pictured so perfectly for the last 9 months.  I was ready.

As with most first pregnancies, the labor was slow and intense.  I was admitted in the hospital at 1 am.  By 7 am, I had progressed to a 6 and the midwife encouraged me to have my membranes ruptured.  I was too exhausted to argue, so she went ahead. Though things had progressed calmly, once my membranes were ruptured, the pain rocked through my body.  Sending me into spasms.  I tried everything.  I went to the bath, walked around (the hospital’s strict policy of constant fetal monitoring did not ease my sufferings), and had Ben massage my back.  I breathed.  I pictured calm images.  Nothing worked.  At 9 am, a different midwife (one who I did not like) looked in, checked me, and insisted I start on a Pitocin drip.  Her reasoning was I had slowed down.  Since I was clearly in pain, and not in a condition to respond rationally, I agreed only after requesting an epidural.  My plan of natural birth went out the window, and I was okay with that.  And so was Ben.

I hunkered down, waiting for the anesthesiologist.  When he arrived, he asked that I stay still.  Since my contractions were still overlapping, with only a few seconds break in between, I knew this request would be utterly impossible.  With Ben’s stabling hand, I held still long enough for the doctor to insert the needle.

Once the anesthesia spread through my blood, my body relaxed.  I was able to breathe slowly again and finally able to rest.  After a few hours, the nurse checked me and, much to my surprise, announced I had progressed to a ten.  She called the midwife and everyone else who is involved with the birthing part (I don’t even remember who was in there, I just remember it was a big group of people).

Unfortunately, the midwife was not patient and holistic like she had learned in training.  After only one push, she said she would need to perform an episiotomy.  I refused.  Each push she would say the same thing and I would vehemently disagree. I knew I didn’t need one.  I held her off long enough to push you out.  By that time, only 15-30 minutes had passed and I had pushed maybe 5 times.  When I felt your head and feet come out, heard your cries, and saw your face, I had a rush of emotions.

The silly midwife did not give you directly to me.  Instead, she handed you off to the nurses for your first bath as she sewed my few tears up.  Your daddy and I had to wait until almost 10-15 minutes after your arrival to hold you.  Everything felt surreal.  I couldn’t quite grasp that you were really mine; that I was your mom and Ben was your dad.  I held you and, between exhaustion and fear, felt disconnected from the moment.

When I finally sat down to nurse you, it was both beautiful and incredibly painful.  I bore the pain and successfully managed to nurse you almost the entire time in the hospital. (It took 4 months for the pain to finally subside, but I grew to really love it and have never regretted sticking with it.)

There were many things I felt angry about with your birth.  As time progresses, the pain, anxiety, and fear of those first negative experiences fade.  I now look fondly on the labor and birth.  You were the first; as such, there are many special moments that are incomparable.

That first night, Ben held you.  I was physically and emotionally spent and needed some sleep.  You were awake that entire night, just looking at everything around you, exploring your new world.  As I woke up sporadically throughout the night, I would see you and your father gazing at each other.  You with curiosity, your daddy with amazement, and I fell in love with you and your father (again).  I knew those moments he had were moments that would be repeated–with both of us–over our lifetime.

There are many moments that I worry I have let you down.  As I grow more confident, I feel I am growing into being your mother. From birth to now, I still feel this sweet connection with you.  I love to hug, kiss, and snuggle you.  Thank you for loving me despite my many imperfections.

I remember our small family then.  You were–still are–the center of our attention.

Even though you share our time with your brother, my love for your has never divided.  Instead, it has multiplied the more I come to know you, your nuances, and your amazing personality.  I love you to pieces, now until forever.

Love,

Momma

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To Andrew:

This day is an important day.  Not just because it is your birthday, but because it marks one year from when our family went from three to four.  From one girl, to one girl and one boy.

You have rocked my world from the beginning; making your grand entrance on your time not my time.  Since you arrived, I cannot imagine our family without you.

I was afraid, at first, of having a little boy.  I felt comfortable with Emily and was unsure of how to respond to a male.  That is, until you were born.  From those first few moments, I felt a special bond forge between us.  I held you constantly, not willing to let the nurses take you to the nursery; I felt much better with you nestled close to my body.   This didn’t change when we brought you home.

The calming spirit that you emit helped ease the transition from one to two.  Your sister, fascinated by your presence at first, now  likes you much more than me.  She prefers you awake and near her at all times.  I do too.

Since your birth, you have preferred my arms over the floor, crib, or anything.  I was and am okay with that.  At one time I would have been frustrated by this constant neediness, but I realize its importance now: I have made it through some difficult times because of your innocent dependence on me.

Today you turned one.  Over the past month, I have felt you pushing me away more and more.  Not because you don’t love me (admit it, I’m your favorite), but because you are gaining independence.  I am okay with this as well.

But, remember, you are my baby.  You look like a baby, not nearly old enough to be one.  I am grateful that you haven’t discovered walking yet, though I’m sure that will come soon.  I am also grateful that you’ll snuggle with me while you drink your bottle and while I read you and your sister stories.  I treasure these moments.  The few times when it is just you and me.

I look forward to this next year as your gain more mobility, knowledge, and language.  I am curious to see your social development as you already seem so aware of what goes on with other people.  Especially your sister.

I love you my sweet, little boy.

Love,

Mom

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Dear Ashley

Birthdays are special.  It’s like a bookmark, with each year signifying the end to a splendid chapter.  I am sure this last year had many highs and lows.  Like the time you took Emily for me when I went into labor with Andrew.  Or when you took all the exquisite photos of our family.  I am sure there are other more distant memories that you can recall better than I.

It’s funny how we spent so much of our teenage years fighting.  Your iron will against mine.  A clash of Titans.  Physically, you won much more of the fights, but emotionally, I’d say I did some damage.  I’m sorry for that.  I am grateful that we have moved past that adolescent nonsense and turned our relationship into something much better–a sister relationship.  We still exchange silly banter but our fights have diminished, our iron melted down.  We have our differences, of course, yet we see past those.  Recognizing how much we need each other.

I felt it more poignantly after I miscarried.  You called and it meant the world to me.  Knowing that I had a sister who cared and would listen.  Thank you.

I wish you the best on this birthday.  Enjoy the cabin and the fishing.  Above all, remember that I am here, forever, as your sister.

Love,

Amber

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To My Eldest:

When you emerged into this world,  your curiosity was unquenchable.   That first night, you stayed up with your dad,  learning about your new world.  Your bright eyes–big even then–stared at everything with wonder and amazement.  With your first breath, you stole my heart.

That curiosity has remained part of your personality.  You learned to sit up, crawl, and walk around on furniture early because it enabled you to explore further and deeper.  Though your adventurous spirit often led to calls to the Poison Control or the doctor,  I was ecstatic to have such an interested student of life.

This day marks your second year in this world.  Thinking about that makes me gasp with how remarkably fast everything went.  I am not sad to see you grow up because I thoroughly enjoyed your infancy.   Your ready smile and brilliant, blue eyes kept me joyful and captivated.  You taught–continue to teach–me how to be a mother.   Even when your brother came so soon after your own year birthday, you remained the happy little girl you have always been.

As you are learning to communicate better,  I am discovering another component of your personality: compassion.  When I am frustrated or in pain, you immediately recognize that something is wrong and quickly quip, “Are you okay?” while pausing in whatever endeavor you were pursuing.  This question always gives me chills, even when I respond, honestly, “No, I’m not.”  This coupled with watching you interact with your younger brother has given me brief glimpses of the woman you will become one day.  I hope that you cherish that bond between your brother and yourself.

Dearest Emily, you have been patient with me during my evolution these past two years.  I am constantly grateful for your everlasting love.  You and your brother are my greatest treasures.

Love,

Your Mother

I emerged for a few days only to leave again.  Fear not,  I will be back very soon!  Have a wonderful (early) weekend!

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Dear 23-Year-Old Self,

Yes, I am finally back online.  It will take me forever to get caught up but so life goes.  While disconnected, I was thinking about this blog and realized I did not write myself a birthday letter; thus, this post’s inception.

Remember those goals you wrote when you were 12?  The sheet was short and simple–something like this (in no particular order).

  • Marry a worthy returned missionary in the temple.
  • Graduate from college.
  • Become a mom.

The goal you hoped most to achieve was motherhood.  You had no idea when that would come to pass and marriage seemed like a fleeting fancy, something that happened to those who were beautiful and witty, characteristics you (falsely) believed you lacked.

Yet, here you are at 23.  You have achieved those goals.  You are a college graduate–the first in your immediate family. You have married an incredible man who is everything you hoped he would be and more.  You have two beautiful children that bring unsolicited smiles frequently.

Motherhood was harder than you expected.  With school, you knew what was needed to receive that “A.”  With parenting, there is no syllabus with its accompanying assignment sheet.  You can’t check Blackboard for your grades.  There is no professor to explain difficult concepts.  So, the next time you envision that imaginary audience who groans and shakes their heads at your mistakes, remember that there is no imaginary audience.  When you make a mistake, it is okay.  Grow from your mistakes, don’t dwell on them.  When you do have a question, ask your friends.  You are surrounded by experienced parents who would not think you are a failure for asking.

Please forsake those insecurities that tie you down.  You are not the awkward teenager who once lived in her older sister’s shadow.  You are beautiful, vivacious, and benevolent.  You have a husband who would slay dragons for you.  You have a daughter and son who instantly forgive your shortcomings.  You have accomplished all the goals you once set for yourself.

People do not look down on you because of your choice to become a stay-at-home mom.  Stop using your education as a snobby reminder that you could have done more with your life.  This is your dream!  Even if someone thinks less of you, it is your choice to believe it or ignore it.   Instead of “if onlys” become the best mom you can possibly be.

Replace your doubt with trust.  You know what is best for you and your family.

Above all, trust your husband.  Trust your friends.  Trust your parents.  Trust your Savior.  Embrace forgiveness–of others and of self.  Hold fast to the truth that has constantly guided you.

Love always,

Me

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