Lately, I realized that I’ve talked a lot about the birth of my sons, but not nearly as much about the rainbows who followed. And, since telling your birth story is a “thing” now, I thought I’d take a minute to think back on the two most beautiful moments of my life: the births of my sweet girls.
Sophia was born late. Like her temperament, she was happy to wait inside, considering all of her options until someone decided to kick her butt into gear. I always joke that, if they hadn’t kicked her out, she’d still be in there — warm, cozy and content, happy to listen and wait before jumping into action. But alas! The kicking they did.
We checked into the hospital, 41 weeks pregnant, and so anxious to finally meet our living babe. By 6 am, I was hooked up to IVs with the dreaded pitocin quietly pumping into my veins, and at 7 am, they broke my water. “Don’t worry,” my doctor reassured us. “This will go quick. She’ll probably be out by around 2 or 3 this afternoon.”
Little did my most wonderful doctor know that she was full of crap.
By 3:00 that afternoon, I had progressed from a 3 to an 8 with no sign of moving further. Contractions were intense, to say the least, but not entirely productive. Coming every 1-2 minutes, I stayed committed to avoiding an epideral and worked to focus on breathing, concentrating all of my thoughts on the sound of her tiny heart beating from the monitor.
By 6 pm, I had finally progressed to a 9, but with contractions coming more painfully than ever, my focused demeanor quickly turned to a much louder one. Screaming and crying from one contraction to the next, it took 2 and a half more hours of the most intense pain that I can remember to finally reach a 10 — to finally reach the blessed moment when they told me I could push.
Of course, pushing was a marathon in and of itself: it took 2 hours to get my stuck little love to finally join us in the outside world. But join us she did! Crying instantly, Sophia registered and 8 and 9 respectively on the apgar scale, and she only quieted when she heard the sound of her daddy’s voice, reassuring her that he was there. Laying on my chest, she turned her head to find him until their eyes locked just for a moment.
Even today, words can’t describe the joy — the triumph, really — that we felt when our first little rainbow was finally born. At 8lbs, 3oz, and 21″ long — and with a sweet smile and full head of hair, we were so thrilled to meet and love on our firstborn daughter: Sophia Isabelle (a name which means “Wisdom” “Devoted to God.”)
Daddy was in love from the first second.
And, while I was pretty exhausted from what turned out to be 17+ hours of pitocin-induced, no-pain-relief labor and delivery, no one alive could pry my sweet love from my arms.
Maliyah’s birth was as different as my two girls are. While Sophia waited patiently inside, reluctant to leave her cozy little nest, Maliyah simply waited for the green light — and once she got it, there was no stopping her.
Given my complicated prenatal history, my doctor grew a bit concerned when Maliyah began to move less and less inside. I’ll admit a mix of trepidation and relief when he told me that it was likely best to induce a bit early. So, at 39 weeks and 2 days, we made our way to the hospital.
Checking in around noon, I made a bet with Joseph (and the rest of my family) as to whether I’d deliver before or after midnight. I was solidly convinced that labor would be long (given that I’d never been less than 15 hours for any of my 3 previous births), but my family was less convinced, Joseph and my mom betting she’d be born quickly, while my sisters and I put money on a next-day delivery.
By 1:00 pm, I was plugged in to pitocin and talking with the nurse about my preference for another non-epideral delivery. She was less confident than I was, and looking back, that was for good reason. By 1:30, they had broken my water and there was no stopping that baby: our tiny little miss was determined to plow her way out as quickly as possible.
My first hour of labor seemed to be what I remembered: contractions built slowly and steadily as I moved from standing, to swaying, to hunched over. But with the coming of the second hour, I realized I was in for a much different birth than anything I’d ever experienced. Rather than building slowly, the intensity of each contraction multiplied exponentially, and within 3 hours, the nurse told me that I had progressed from a 3 to a 9 and was almost ready to push. I not-so-quietly thanked God, as I wasn’t sure I could handle the intensity of the contractions for much longer. I really needed a finish line.
However, my relief turned to irritation when my doctor shook his head, saying, “No. She’s only at a 7.” Still, labor was going quickly, so no one seemed to go far as the expectation was that I would deliver within the hour.
This time, they were right.
I screamed, Joseph pushed on my hips, and everyone else stood quietly to the side while I labored on all fours. Finally (and loudly), I screamed to my doctor that she was on her way out and he all but forced me to roll over. Within 2 pushes, our little ball of fire was out and on my chest, crying beautifully as we welcomed our second daughter to the world.
Born at 5:11 pm, Maliyah Louise (name meaning “Beloved” “Warrior”) joined us, weighing in at 7lbs, 14.5oz, and 20.5″ long. And from the second she was out, she was the talk of the maternity floor. Her full head of hair and sweet demeanor made every single nurse smile — not to mention mommy and daddy!
Daddy was enamored with baby number 2 from her first breath, patiently and attentively watching over her through bath times, heel pricks, ear tests, and everything else. I soaked in every moment, thankfully embracing this as my last childbirth experience. Maliyah nursed like a champ, and instantly loved to be wrapped up tightly and held close.
Perhaps the most memorable moment for me, though, was the moment I got to introduce her to the world’s greatest big sister. Sophia was enamored with her from their first meeting, tenderly holding her, marveling over every detail, and giving gentle kisses on cheeks and nose. It didn’t take more than a few weeks for Maliyah to return all of that love to the sister who has proven to be her most favorite person in the whole world. I’ve said it before and will say it again: if there’s anything better than sibling love, I don’t know what it is.
Joseph and I always knew that we were a “two and done” family. Of course, we didn’t know that it would take 5 children to get us to that place, but the gratitude we feel for our kids can’t possibly be articulated accurately.
Along the way, some have mentioned that we are likely more grateful for our girls because we lost our boys. I don’t think that’s true: no child can replace another because each is so uniquely created and so uniquely loved. What I am thankful for, however, is the term applied to the children born after child loss. Like that which comes after a storm, we call these babies our rainbows — and rainbows they certainly are! Our girls bring endless light and laughter into our lives, and watching them grow into the tiny people they are and the amazing women they will be is, no doubt, the greatest honor of my life.