In recent months I have taken on a personal project, and it has been dear to my heart. I’ve documented several stages of pregnancy and birth for my beautiful (artist) friend, Beth, with the arrival of her 6th and 7th children; twins, Bodie and June. Below, you will find Beth’s written birth story, prefacing our photographic documentation of her anticipation, celebration, arrival, and cherishing of their birth. Here are Beth’s own words, followed by my photos of her..
“finally holding them in my arms was such a surreal moment. i had twins! perfectly formed, soft little (teeny-tiny) babies. after a very uncomfortable and difficult pregnancy it was almost a shock to have them here- that and the fact that they came earlier than expected and via a birth method that i was not familiar with. here is your story, bodie donn and june riley. it is one that starts after your older brother, ames, was born.
ames was the fifth in our already large family of dimply little cherubs. he was born at 9 lbs, 11 oz, naturally. he was the sweetest little guy, i was thinking he would be our last, but something felt missing. his spirit in our home often helped me get through the next few years.
the hardest year of my life happened when we found my little brother, sweet and selfless Brett, dead in his apartment after a long battle with addiction that finally led to a drug and alcohol overdose. i am not sure how i felt- everything was so confusing, spinning, dark, pretend. and in an instant everything changed. it was so hard to tell my children, to explain that the last time they would see their uncle brett was actually the week before at family dinner where we had laughed together over his body building magazines. it was hard to see his wife of nearly one year try to grasp what had happened. but hardest of all was seeing my parents, embracing each other that first time after discovering his death. my heart has never broken as hard as it did in that moment.
i could write in so much more detail on this event, but i won’t. i will just say it profoundly and deeply changed me; all of us.
2 months later, jared, my baker husband, was let go from his job as a personal chef. i remember the moment he told me. we both just sat on our little hand me down couch and stared. what are we going to do? i had never felt so hopeless. we had some savings, but i knew it wouldn’t last long. we were never any good with money and already felt pinched even with his good job. It is so hard to find a decent paying job in the restaurant business. so we were scared. and then in my mind i suddenly realized: we can’t have any more babies.
i think we sat there not speaking for a while while our children played around us. i felt like such a failure as a parent- another really hard thing for my children to go through with us. i decided i needed to go to work. jared got a job working with my dad at his home maintenance business, and continued to pursue his dream of a bakery. i thought about my options- i could go out and find a job but the idea of being away from my kids made me sick. i could try to use my art degree….that sounded soooo scary though. i am not a “real” artist. i finally decided i had nothing to lose so i went for it.
after a few years full of failures, gains, losses, tears, fights, and pure exhaustion we finally found a few breaks that helped us get not only back on our feet, but better than we had ever been. plus, i had gained a little more confidence and a lot of hours painting (experience is the best teacher!). i had somewhat made peace with brett dying, although there were and there are still sudden moments of deep sorrow. i feel painting not only helped provide for my family, but it brought much needed solace- a therapy for me. i was starting to feel happy again, but felt again that something was missing. …it didn’t make sense though, logically it was a dumb move. but i still went back and forth on the possibility of having another baby because some things that tap at your heart can not be quieted.
finally in the fall of 2015 we decided we were in a good enough spot to go for it. crazy, yes, but we always have been. as soon as i made the decision i felt so happy, so calm. i knew it was right- it would be hard, but it was right.
i wasn’t yet pregnant when jared had a dream. now this sounds really hokey. but jared has dreams sometimes that eerily come true. he has had dreams about brett. he had a dream before we knew what violet was that she would be a blonde little girl that looked like me, and was always sitting on my lap. that ended up being true. same with ames; he dreamt that he was going to be a boy. so, when he had a dream that we were going to have twins, a girl and a boy, i thought- well i guess now is the chance to see if the 3rd time’s the charm.
i got pregnant in december, and on my first ultrasound (that i went to by myself, ’cause come on- this was my 6th pregnancy), the ultrasound technician started acting funny and asking unusual questions. then finally, after i thought that we may have an alien baby, she said, “well how do you feel about having twins?!”
…i am pretty sure i cried and laughed and went into shock all at once. he was right! there were twins in there! more rollercoaster emotions, but above all, just so happy. (and they did end up being girl/boy twins!). i felt like all of the pain and heartache and late nights and tears were finally paying off. this is what i wanted.
so 7 1/2 months later i was HUGE. seriously. these pics that breanne took were about 3 weeks previous to your birth. i couldn’t sleep, couldn’t keep things down, basically couldn’t roll over. i wasn’t sure how i was gonna last 6 more weeks. then, in the middle of the night at about 2am, i was (of course) awake when my water broke. jared had just returned home from baking
overnight, and we both knew what was coming. all i could think was that i would soon get some relief from this discomfort!!!
what i didnt think was that i wouldn’t be able to have you naturally, which is what i had been hoping for (i knew there was a risk for c section, of course, and i had tried to open my mind to that). i couldn’t have guessed how different my birth experience was about to be.
my mom came over to watch my other kids like she always does. i got a hold of my doula, and jared and i set off to the hospital.
i arrived at triage and they checked me. i was dialated to a 5 1/2 and then a 6, having regular contractions. I knew what was coming (i thought). they called my dr. in after they confirmed that my water did indeed break, and after a while of breathing through contractions and talking/laughing with my doula, the dr. showed up. we planned on going forward with a natural birth like i had hoped, but when the he checked me, he found a little foot trying to be born first. ..baby a (you bodie) had moved.
so it was on to the operating room for a c- section. it was not my favorite. it was bright and had too many people and i was totally naked for a while on the table in front of everyone. but i was grateful jared was there and that i had a good dr. who i trusted completely. when they started cutting, i realized that i could see what they were doing in the bright light reflections above me. (so much for the divider) of course i couldn’t feel it, but seeing things being jerked around in there was pretty unsettling. that was my body, guys!
then a little body emerged. it was you bodie! it happened so fast that i almost missed it. you were all bald and red and wrinkly, but you were my bald and red and wrinkly baby. then exactly 2 minutes later, my last, my little baby girl, june, you were born with chubby cheeks and a thick head of hair (for us allen’s). you both were so beautiful! but i didn’t get to see you long or hold either of you. you were both wisked off to the nicu and i was stapled back together. that was hard for me because meeting and holding my babies skin to skin after birth is like the equivalent of heaven, and is my very favorite moment. i was used to feeling such intense pain from transition and pushing in my other births, but then being rewarded- as soon as the baby was born, the pain seemingly disappeared and i had a new little soul to hold close. it is the opposite with a c-section. the worst of the pain comes after, and i didn’t even get to hold you babes.
as i recovered and slept and had a serious itching fit from the morphine, i waited to meet my babies. i am so glad that jared got to go in and see you. it was hard to wait, but finally the next day i was wheeled in to meet you little ones. we hadn’t decided on names for you two yet, so going in to see you, i tried to get a feel for what your names should be. bodie, you were doing a bit better than june, so i got to hold you first that day. oh! you smelled so good and were so sweet! i tucked you in my robe and started to bond with you outside of my body. you were perfect, as every baby is, but especially my own. i adored you. i already knew i wanted to name you bodie, which was not jared’s favorite name, but i was so happy when he agreed that if we named baby girl june, we could name baby boy bodie. (which of course i loved the name june, so win-win). we named you bodie donn, the donn after my dad who is so, so good, and kind and strong. we let ella, our oldest, pick out your middle name june. after going back and forth between alice and riley, she chose riley. I thought she deserved it for putting up with so many siblings. 🙂
i felt like our family was complete, which i had never felt before. And at that moment of so much joy i remembered back to feeling the complete opposite those few years ago- completely defeated and sorrowful. feeling like happiness would never be possible again, that i had no control or hope. i realized this was how it was supposed to be, and as crazy as it was, i wouldn’t have changed the bitter because it got us to the so so sweet. it made me have a different perspective on losing my brother as well; we are all just moving forward, moving through this life and to the next. it was time for brett to move on, and time for bodie and june to just start. i felt like brett was there, helping you babies get to me. i felt so calm and content.
we took you home for the first time together and got to have all of our children around our bed with us. my family! i felt so, so happy. these people around me were my everything and i loved every single one of them. the next few weeks/months i didnt get much sleep, and I probably lost it a few times, but knowing how especially fleeting the first few months are, i tried to just breathe it all in.
now you are 15 weeks old and you were blessed by your father today. i’ve been so excited to see you dressed in the little white clothes that i prepared for you. i am so glad we let our hearts win over our heads in this decision. you have been and are such a sweet blessing to us and our other children. 3 years ago i would have never thought that we would be here right now where we are, but we are, ..and i am so grateful.”