I wanted to share the written portion of my little Simone’s birth story here. You can see her photo birth story here. Although it’s personal content for a photography blog, and written as a letter to my Simone to read one day when she is older, I believe we all connect on the personal aspects of life. This birth story has much context, that may be worth sharing, in hopes that my simple reflections will strike a positive note with just a few others.
As you take yet another newborn slumber, I want to take this time to journal about your entry into this world and the perspectives your birth has given me. I also want to explain the relevant life events that added unforeseen depth & joy to your arrival. This, my dear Simone, is the story of your birth.
In my mind, your story has some contextual bitters in it, bitters that make the sweet, your sweet, all the more tender, humbling, and real. My mind has spent much time contemplating the bitter-sweet in recent weeks. You see, 11 days before Christmas, as you rested, already large in my belly, millions of people shared a grief together. …A grief over the loss of 20 sweet, meek, innocent school children, and 6 brave adults from Newtown, Connecticut, whose lives were taken abruptly by a young man who must have been feeling mentally more sick than I could ever, ever imagine. I, along with the nation, have pondered much and grieved over the loss of these victims, especially the children. Their families are still grieving and will continue their grief journeys on some level throughout this life. I admit, I felt a twinge of fear and sadness, knowing that I was bringing you into such an unimaginably vulnerable place. However, I also knew that this life would come with highs and lows, bitters and sweets. I believe that we knew this, as we chose in a pre-earthly state, to come here. That doesn’t always make it easier, or fully understandable, but much of the time, this eternal perspective does shed comforting light on life, and the bumpy, and often tempestuous nature of it. At least for me it does. I think about those school children and their grieving, vulnerable, and potentially angry, loving, growing, and even forgiving families. I wish there was a way I could tell them that I, and many others do think of them frequently, and that they and their sweet children are not forgotten. And that in honor of their kids, I hug you, Taya & Dyllan more tightly, and kiss you more sweetly. I still make daily mistakes, and still have mounds of patience to earn and learn, but I cherish you more, as I know that life can change rapidly, reminding me to absorb the present stage of life and all that it brings.
Simone, there is another bitter to the context of your story. Bear with me as I share this one with you. It has been more directly life-changing for our family than perhaps anything else thus far in our earthly time. This is especially true for my dear, loving, amazing rock-of-a-sister, your Aunt Tiffany and her daughters, Hannah & Avery. You, my sweet Simone Richelle, have the same middle name as Tiffany; our way of honoring her. On January 15th, the night of the 8th wedding anniversary for your dad & me, we received the kind of phone call that every mom, perhaps every person, plays over in his/her mind, and stops the reel before it can finish, in shutters, hoping they will never actually receive such a call. Your Uncle Ben shared the news with us over that shockingly surreal phone call that your cousin, Sully, 9 years old, had died suddenly that night, following a horrible home accident. …. In an instant, everything in this life changed for Sully’s family members who were left behind. He appears to have been possibly having the time of his life swinging around from aerobic straps like a karate warrior, trapeze artist, or far more likely a superhero (his happy obsession) before his fatal accident. Heavenly Father very clearly decided to allow Sullivan’s transition from Earth life to a Spirit-world existence, where he is surely now fulfilling many purposeful duties, as well as watching over his family here on Earth.
Your Aunt Tiffany and I like to reference your 13 days in Heaven with Sully, and imagine you two becoming fast friends and building a special bond. That bond; the timing of his earth life’s abrupt ending, combined with your beautiful & timely birth, has given me many things to ponder over, day in and day out. More than anything, I have contemplated the enormous experience that life is. I have reflected on the reality that we are so vulnerable in this life, but that we knew that coming into it. Essentially, we always know it, though daily life distracts us from such wisdom. But when my mind briefly contemplates those vulnerabilities in a fearful way, I take comfort in the fact that I knew of them before coming to Earth, and that I continue to know of them. …And that life here isn’t complete without them. That the sweets only become sweet because of the bitters. That we grow and learn and strengthen our bodies and our souls from adversity. That the reality of trials and vulnerability is largely why we came here to Earth. Growth is why people seek out relationships, marathons, intellectual challenges, and other hurdles … knowing of the potential downs, but knowing that they can only experience the ups with the downs, understanding that along the way, knowledge and growth can be secured – in a way that others cannot take away from them. I suppose this is significant reason that I strive for natural childbirths; to experience all of it, to endure the body splitting pains before the glorious feeling of holding you in my arms, knowing that I was the privileged vessel bringing one of Heavenly Father’s beautiful beings here to Earth. In this case, you Simone.
5.5 days after arriving home from the funeral weekend for Sully, (where we as a family all four became sick with a miserable flu while trying to assist in any way we could with the funeral details), my water broke. You would think that at 1:45am, my water breaking would have woken me up. Instead, I was awake, sitting at my computer trying to catch up on editing wedding photos from the January 11th wedding I had photographed. It was my first wedding as a photographer; thank you Simone for allowing my body to witness & capture this additionally meaningful event, reminding me of more of life’s highs. It was the first night that I felt somewhat decent enough to play catch-up. Seeing as how your sister, Dyllan, was born a week past her due date, my water breaking 5 days before my due date caught me by surprise! However, I think some maternal part of me suspected it without admitting it because I was urgently bugging your dad that evening to help me get things in order for your arrival. After calling and talking to the midwife, she suspected I would go into labor on my own within, at most, several hours. She advised me to go to the hospital in the early morning if labor hadn’t begun, since I needed Group B Strep Antibiotics sooner than later with my water already having broken. Well, despite my somewhat uncomfortable contractions timed about 15-20 minutes apart, labor never picked up, which allowed me 3+ hours of precious sleep, after my excitement energy wound down. Oh yeah, and by the way, during that phase of labor excitement that kept me awake after my water breaking, I did what every 39 week pregnant woman does when her water breaks at 2am – I painted my toenails. Because dang it, if I wasn’t going to get my traditional end-of-pregnancy pedicure, I was at least going to go into labor with my toenails painted! My make-up, if any, would sweat away, my hair would soak up and take on a life of its own with sweat. But my toenails – they would remain painted, giving me one miniscule of control and silly vanity before relinquishing all control of my body in labor with you.
In the morning we headed as a family to the hospital, my body still not taking this water-breaking business very seriously. Fortunately your sisters could be dropped off at Aunt Candy & Uncle Bret’s house while I received antibiotics at the hospital. I then waited with your dad for my body, or some form of induction to initiate labor. After hours of movie-watching, chatting, a little resting, texting/phone call updates to family, and inconsistent wussy contractions, it was time to try Cervidil so that we didn’t put you at too much risk with my waters having broken, combined with being Group B Strep + Some half or more of pregnant moms have this Group B risk. Cervidil worked very fast & effectively on me with your sister, Taya’s birth. So your dad and I warned the nurses of how fast we suspected it might go, and asked a few times if they could set up the water tub (for laboring) with plenty of time for me to use it as a pain relief method. Apparently, I am rare in my immediate and successful responses to Cervidil because the nurses didn’t take this request very seriously. I don’t blame them since such fast response is not the norm.
Your Uncle Bret stopped by to visit us on his way home from work, at around 5:15pm, about 30 minutes after I had received the Cervidil gels to help dilate my cervix (ps. Simone, you may find it shocking how openly one talks about pregnancy and birthing. But after experiencing it – it’s not shocking at all; you’ll see one day). Well, Uncle Bret sees my desire to have natural childbirth as a bit silly (as do many people, I don’t blame them, or the millions of moms who seek out blessed pain relief). Bret doesn’t like to see his loved ones in such pain. … As my contractions quickly progressed to 7 minutes apart and were strong enough for me to breathe heavily through them, the look on his face, preceded his words … ‘I better get out of here’. And it’s a good thing he did, because minutes after he left, my midwife confirmed that I had dialated to a 7, but I didn’t need her confirmation of that. I knew you were coming, and coming quite fast. Just after Uncle Bret left, your dad texted my dear friend, Jessica for me, telling her it was time to come. I had arranged for her help with my labor before hand, knowing that Grandma Harris would probably be out of town, helping your Aunt Tiffany. Jessica arrived at about 6:45pm, seeing me much further along in labor than she anticipated. She was such a blessing, as was your dad. They both knew how to jump in and help me however I needed it. Because your dad and I treasure the photo documentary of your birth, we knew we needed the extra help if he was going to try to document it and support me, as he had previously done with your sister, Dyllan’s birth. Somewhere around this point, I told your dad through tears that I didn’t know if I could do it, and that maybe I wanted an epidural. As I had previously asked him to, he told me “No, no, … you’ve got this” – and with so much confidence that I believed him, and in the back of my mind, I also knew it was my transition phase of labor talking. At approximately 6:55pm, I practically begged to get into that blessed water tub that they had begun setting up for me. Set it up they did, but … a bit late. The water was only about 2 cm high; okay maybe 5-6 inches high, but it certainly hadn’t had enough time to fill up to the point of deep-water submersion that is so helpful during labor. Although the midwife recommended the shower for relief instead, I opted for the tub anyway simply because it was closer, and at that point, my contractions were so strong and close together that the thought of walking 10 steps further to the shower was almost inconceivable to me. So, now, it kind of cracks me up that I even went in that silly tub of 5 inch deep water, seeking relief; trying to lower my hips deeper into the hard ground as if it was sand, foolishly thinking the water would magically submerge my intensely contracting core.
Well, after about 5 minutes of that, I began having the obvious urge to push. So on the next break between contractions, I was helped out of the tub by Jessica and a nurse (who knows if I’m remembering this right), and onto the bed, where I unorthodoxly faced the back of the bed on my knees, in order to let gravity help ease your delivery. At this time, your dad handed the camera over to a nurse and came and braced my shoulder and my emotional and mental strength, while also getting your Aunt Tiffany on the phone to ‘witness’, as it were, your birth. She had badly wanted to make it out for your birth, as a therapeutic way to connect with your sweet Spirit that had just been in the realms of her precious Sully, to ‘witness new life’ as she put it. In fact, earlier that day, when I texted her an update that my body wasn’t going into labor on it’s own, she joked back: “Sully must be taking a long time briefing her. He’s probably on the part about all of our family’s quirks. I’ll tell him to speed it up.” …To which, I replied … “Oh, it could be days in that case!”. Having birthed her three children naturally as well, your Aunt Tiffany tells me she was able to imagine it all quite vividly as she listened over the phone. More than listening, she spoke beautiful, calming words to me, and vocalized the thoughts that I had tried to cling to during these hours of labor, and even during the strains of pregnancy – that my body could do this, that it was meant to do this. It felt like she was in the room with me, bracing my other shoulder opposite of your dad. And it felt like we were witnessing new life, your life together, while honoring, loving and thinking of your sweet, wonderful cousin Sully as well.
…After I muttered a few jokes about letting my hiney hang out there for all staff in the room to see, a moment or two of saying “This hurts like crap!” half under my breath, and 3-4 guttural grunting pushes later, I felt you partially emerge from my body. “She has hair Breanne!” said your dad …“Lots of dark hair!” The midwife told me your head was partially out … “Can she breathe?” I asked, freakishly imagining you being stuck. The midwife laughed and said you would be fine. From there on, I gave about two more major pushes, feeling your head, and then your shoulders emerge -mounds of physical pressure releasing with each progression. For me, pushing is unlike any other feeling, as if my body is breaking and on fire, and yet, full of miracle, and a thousand meaningful Christmas mornings all at once. The awareness of such miracle, the anticipatory excitement, and the feeling of being so absolutely present, with no other thought or distraction for anything else on earth – magically removes so much of that body-splitting pain …(Much more so than the fleeting worries I experienced during those painful transition contractions that temporarily left me feeling so far out from ever having a baby).
Upon feeling your head and shoulders slip out, as if you were going over pain-inducing speed bumps in my lower half, I held you. Your Aunt Tiffany’s tender and emotional “ooohhh’s” became audible to me in that moment, as I became emotionally present, knowing that I was holding, yet another beautiful daughter of God in my arms, now on loan to me as my daughter. I spoke loving words to you, just as I had done with your newly born sisters, “Hi my little baby, I love you so much. We’ve been waiting for you. We’re here for you and we’re ready for you…” After caressing and kissing your freshly born forehead and shoulders, I turned to your dad who was by my side, and whispered to him, asking if he wanted to name you Simone Richelle like we had previously contemplated. He said yes, and I eagerly told your Aunt Tiffany that we would be naming you Simone Richelle, to honor her beloved Sully’s life, and her beautiful example and strength. Through tears, she told me she had felt a premonition earlier that day that we may use the name Richelle. This moment of holding you safe in my arms, and sharing the experience of receiving new life was oh so sweet Simone. …The kind of sweet made sweeter than imaginable by the previously mentioned ‘bitters’. Some of my favorite song lyrics wisely share this line: “They say that new life makes losing life easier to understand”. It’s no wonder my sister wanted to be there for your birth. I am blessed that she sees it that way, allowing your dad & me to see it that way as well. Since your birth, I have had the opportunity to relish in the greatness of life, specifically your new life. I have felt a deeper gratitude for your special life because I am more cognizant of the way life’s vulnerabilities can take true form so instantly. I try to soak up each day with you, as well as your sisters, more than I have before, to honor the gift that you are, and the life of your noble cousin, Sully, along with the other 20 school children in Connecticut who left this world abruptly, just weeks before your arrival. This life is beautiful Simone. It is difficult and fascinating, joyous and scary, funny and painful, and so many other things. But most of all, it is a gift from God, and I am reminded more than ever of how enormous and amazing a gift it is. I am truly blessed to have you as one of my gifts. I love you eternally.