It has been a long year. A good year. A year full of major shifts and changes. A year punctuated by trial and error, tears and frustration, laughter and love. It has been a year that has taken me away from the keyboard more than any other, so while my first two daughters have had their birth stories and first-year milestones well documented on public display and for their eventual review, my first year with Kye has been quiet, and private, and full of a deep personal richness I’ve been too selfish to share. After all, this is going to be the last time I have baby. Each one of her firsts has been a last for me — the last time I give birth, the last time I see a first smile, the last time I breastfeed, the last time I celebrate a baby sleeping through the night (okay, we’re still working on that one.) On the occasion of her first birthday, however, I want to give her the story of her birth — because stories are important, and birth stories are the first stories we have. This one is Kye’s.
A year ago, I was putting a few finishing touches on some projects at work for my last day before going on maternity leave. Specifically, I was fighting for space I was holding for one of our classes, and I was losing the battle and stressing about where we would hold the class. I had a new team that would be taking on my responsibilities while I was gone, and I wanted to make sure they were set up for success in my long absence.
I felt a few contractions, but that was nothing new. I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for months.
I left work, and picked up some Bang Bang shrimp from Bonefish Grill. My c-section was scheduled for Monday morning, February 27, and Thomas and I were looking forward to using the weekend as a couple of days to celebrate being a family of four, relaxing, and getting together the last few things we needed for the hospital (such as installing Kes’s old car seat.) This would be my third c-section, and I was feeling pretty confident. I knew what to expect, and my pregnancies always went full term and beyond — apparently my womb was so awesome all my kids wanted to take up permanent residence.
Those annoying contractions kept on. They were beginning to hurt a little.
I decided to go on to bed. I was hoping if I would just lay down, the contractions would stop. I dozed a bit, but it was difficult to sleep. The contractions were getting more intense. I watched episodes of Bob Ross on my iPad and began timing them. I would fall asleep between contractions, but they were regular, and painful, and picking up in intensity every single hour.
I was going into labor.
I put in a call to the OBGYN. They told me something — honestly, I can’t remember now. I think it was to wait until the contractions were less than four minutes apart, and then to head to the hospital. So I breathed, and squatted, and rocked my hips, and walked around, and did gentle yoga moves — anything to lessen the pain. I’d never had a normal, gradual labor before.
It was early in the morning — four? Five? — when the contractions got intense enough to warrant driving to the hospital. Thomas’s parents came and picked up Kes, and Thomas and I went to the hospital. (Aisling was in Chattanooga visiting her dad.) They hooked me up to machines, monitored the contractions, and the doctor on call finally came to talk to me.
“It looks like this baby doesn’t want to wait for Monday,” she said.
“Yeah, that was what I figured,” I said.
They prepped me for a c-section. We didn’t have a huge birthing suite this time, but our nurse was ridiculously nice, and the anesthesiologist was equally friendly. I don’t remember much about the prep, other than trying to keep myself calm. I didn’t have the benefit of meditation and preparation and sleep this time around, and I didn’t want to panic.
They put up the curtain, and the surgeon got to work. They were also going to tie my tubes while they were in there, so it was going to take a little longer than usual.
Kye came out screaming. I mean, it sounded like she started screaming before they even got her out of me. She was pissed as hell.
I didn’t actually feel her leaving my body, but as soon as I heard her loud cries, I started sobbing, “my Kye! My little Kye!” When they brought her around, she was opening and closing her mouth, and looking wildly around — she was hungry, and she wanted to nurse!
Then, the medical team did something no one had ever done for me before — they put the baby on my chest and let me hold her *first*. When Aisling was born, my mom held her until me moved into the recovery room. With Kes, Thomas bundled her up and snuggled her right after she was born. But Kye — I got to hold her right away, shaky hands and all, and she snuggled close to my heartbeat with that mouth opening and closing and was pretty adamant about needing to eat as soon as possible, thank you very much.
I only held her for a few minutes, and then I asked Thomas to take over for me — I was terrified I would drop her — but that moment was incredible, and I was so, so grateful to have that.
She weighed 8 pounds, 13.9 ounces, and was 20.75 inches long. Slightly bigger than Aisling, and about a pound smaller than Kes.
When we moved into recovery, Kye immediately started nursing — there was no trying to get her to latch, or trying to get her to stay on. She nursed like a champ right away. When Thomas first brought Kes back to visit us, Kye was latched on and very focused on her first meal. She hadn’t been bathed yet, so Kes was a little disconcerted by how gross she looked. Later, after Kye had taken a trip to the nursery and been cleaned up, Kes was able to hold Kye for the first time, and it was The Best Thing Ever — so much excitement, and so much love.
That love has only continued throughout the year. Kes has been an *amazing* big sister, and my heart melts on a daily basis watching the two of them together. I know it won’t always be so perfect — just wait until Kye can run into Kes’s room and steal her toys! — but so far, so good. Hopefully they have a strong foundation that will help carry them through the rougher patches together.
My recovery was much easier with Kye than I remember it being with either of my other babies. It simply may have been because I knew I needed to keep moving, and I started pushing myself to get up and around even the day of her birth. It may have been because I had an awesome surgeon and a great medical team. Kye’s ease into breastfeeding certainly helped. But I was walking up and down the stairs pretty easily within the week. By week two, Thomas came down with the flu, and I had to care for both of the little ones completely on my own. I felt capable and resilient. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to do it. And I had help and love from family, friends, and people from church.
Maternity leave with Kye was beautiful and fun. Kye struggled to sleep, but outside of that, she was a very laid-back newborn. She would lay and play, or she would happily be carried around in my Ergo baby carrier as I ran errands or did chores. I really focused on enjoying every minute I could with her, because I knew how quickly those weeks would go by. And they were easily some of the best months of my life. Ever since my mother had passed away, there’d been this looming sorrow over every aspect of my life — in fact, when I found out I was pregnant with Kye, it was right before I journeyed to North Carolina to visit my grandmother and to grab the last things I needed from my Mom’s house before trying to put it on the market.
Kye was marinated in so much grief that I was afraid it would all have a very negative effect on her. Instead, she was born with a calm, peaceful spirit, and she became a balm for my wounds and a shining light of hope in my life immediately. There was so much joy to be had. And shortly after she was born, we began planning and building our dream house.
Kye, when you’re older and you read this, you’ll probably think to yourself, “wow, I thought my mom was supposed to be a really talented writer, but she couldn’t even make my birth story concise and powerful!” Be patient with me — I’m out of practice. I’ve been too busy delighting in every minute of you. There will be time enough later to practice editing, to sharpen my skills, to learn to tell amazing stories again. In the meantime, my dearest Kye, on the occasion of your first walk around the sun, let’s celebrate the light you have brought to this family and the light you have brought to my heart. I am so excited to watch you grow, and thrive, and become your own little person. I am so honored that I get to be your mom.