Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Baby Sky

Just over 5 months ago, I was honored to be at the birthday of precious Sky. It's long, it's got pictures, it's a birth story. Enjoy.

I was just a backup. Another friend, Karlin, was assigned to labor help and while Karlin was out of town, I was Kristyn’s backup until she could get back here.  That being said, I was not surprised to get a text not long after that saying the big day had arrived. Actually, I got a text asking if I was ready to do dishes, which we had joked about frequently, then confirmation that it was time to “hatch a bird”, bird being her little nickname for the baby so lovingly grown in her belly for the prior months.  And although Karlin was back and ready to support, an additional request was made for me to be there as well.

I played basketball for 12 years, yet before every single game, my hands would shake, my heart would race, my palms would sweat, and I would have to work to keep my anxiety down. I knew it was a sign of something I loved, feeling the raw adrenaline in the moments leading up to this amazing moment, the start of a game, would fuel me like a drug.

It’s the same for babies. Whether it’s mine or someone else’s, whether I’m there or receiving a text notification, if I know that someone I love is preparing to meet their little one for the first time, that same rush comes back to me. It probably means that I am a birth junkie, but it’s completely out of the love and adoration that occurs in that one, perfect moment. It’s the anticipation, the building, the anxiety, the almost loss of control, and then that perfect release, when a new one comes into the world and is held by hands that have craved to hold this perfect body for the first time.

So when I got that text message, the sweaty palms, the labored breathing, and the racing heart immediately began. I worked to still my nerves, knowing that important work was at hand.

When I arrived at her house, Kristyn was calmly laboring in their living room and flashed a huge smile in my direction as she saw me. Still being slightly nervous and unsure of what my role was, I took to the only thing we had actually talked about, and I began washing dishes. When Kristyn realized what I was doing, she laughed and exclaimed that she hadn’t been serious, but I stayed busy, trying to calm my nerves. She was well attended to, with a midwife, an assistant, her husband, and Karlin, all meeting her needs. I checked in on them and was again greeted by a gorgeous smile and an invitation to spend some time with them as Kristyn labored in the tub.

I would say that I helped, but that’s such a lie. Kristyn was the model of perfection in labor. The whole experience was slightly ethereal, with sunlight streaming into the bathroom through frosted glass, casting a soft focus light over the scene. The water of the birthing tub was calm and still, and inside, was this beautiful woman, working slowly with her body and contractions in periods of pure rest and periods of focused relaxation to move this sweet girl down and out, and occasionally, we would hear lyrics and song in a whispered tone coming from Kristyn. At one point, I commented on how sick this all was, how gorgeous and perfect her belly was, the ease with which she was handling each contraction, all the while praise music was playing in the background. We laughed and joked between contractions early on and prayed and encouraged during contractions as things moved along. We hurriedly turned down the music when commercials would come on as to not distract her. We scrambled for buckets and rags for a stomach that was simply not wanting to hold anything down and even then, we received smiles and grins, along with the unnecessary apologies.

(This is my favorite picture)

There were yellow and black painted nails, gripping handles, outreached hands, and the sides of the tub. There were murmurs of how grateful this little one should be for all of mama’s hard work. There were prayers for strength, prayers for health, prayers for comfort, and prayers for God’s hand to be on this amazing work Kristyn was doing. There was mention of Kristyn wanting to do her hair and deciding not to do it as labor progressed. There were pineapple smoothies, Sprite, and lots and lots of crushed ice from Sonic. There were Kristyn’s hands, sometimes drifting in the water between contractions and sometimes naturally drifting to her belly that would soon be empty, with a Mommy’s heart who was probably so excited to meet this sweet one, but a little tender and sad at the thought of those movements deep in her womb being gone. There were moments between patient and midwife, carefully checking on Mommy’s progress and Baby’s heart. There were moments between friends, assurances that things were going perfectly. And most importantly, there were moments between husband and wife, almost Mommy and Daddy again, both anxious to meet their new little girl, both leaning into one another in this special time.

Kristyn listened to her body instinctively the whole time. She moved through different positions, got in and out of the tub, and eventually moved out of the tub to the bed. That special dance, with Kristyn taking her time, Andrew supporting her, and the midwives helping her along, made for amazing progress. A few contractions passed along in the bed and it became clear that it was time to meet this sweet baby. Kristyn’s vocalizing became more insistent and the midwives confirmed that it was indeed time to push. A more hurried walk found Kristyn back in the tub as she desired and she took Andrew’s hands into hers as she prepared for the last moments of this labor. With a couple of insistent pushes and one very large push that propelled a good portion of Mommy out of the water, Baby Skylar was born, briefly supported by Midwife Cathy before being fully passed onto Mommy to hold and love. There were sobs of gladness and relief from Kristyn to match the small little wails from Sky as she blinked and took in the sweet faces looking adoringly down at her. Tear soaked kissed covered her and Andrew as Kristyn’s new Mommy emotions took over. Then, as if instinctual and pressed into all of our brains by necessity or culture or both, the “check” began. Kristyn stroked her fingers over her new baby, checking each part, counting fingers and toes, looking for the first clasp of that sweet baby hand or the curling of those little baby toes, and, hilariously, making sure that Sky, was in fact, a girl as shown by ultrasound. With a little help from the midwife, Sky was ready for her first meal and the two took to nursing like old pros. Kristyn would occasionally look up, big eyes full of new mommy worry, making sure the newest love of her life was ok, with complete assurances from everyone present that things were perfect.

In turn, we each had our chance to meet Sky, holding her and whispering soft “I love yous” into her little ear. She was measured and all of the little details were carefully recorded, before being handed back to Mommy, warm and dry in bed, and ready for skin time, nursing, and snuggles with her daughter. After assurances that Kristyn had everything she needed, I walked away, shaking my head at the wonder of such a special day.

Sky, your Mommy gave me such an honor and privilege in asking me to be a part of her labor team. Each birth I get to be a part of is magical and amazing, including yours. If anyone doubts God’s presence in our world, they need to be there and they will see Him in all of those moments that occur in bringing new life to this world. I pray that you know, for all of your life, how much your Mommy and Daddy love you, and I pray that God is present in all the moments of your life. Skylar means shelter or protection, I pray that you find such protection in God and shelter in the ones who love you, including those that helped usher you here. With love, always.

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