story of labor

A Doula's Letter, A Birth Story

As a doula, I get to welcome all kinds of babies into the world, but the story below belongs to one of my closest friends and her first daughter.  Christi and I became friends over coffee and play dates 9 years ago, and we grew together as our children grew older.  Even though we are (still!) chasing babies (we each have 4 kids), we are also working together as doulas and it was such an honor to attend her birth.  Below is a letter I wrote to her daughter, Elyssa, after she was born. 

Dear Elyssa,

I feel like I have wanted to tell your story for years. In reality it has only been months, but I always knew you were coming.  When I first met your mommy, I knew that one day she would be blessed with a baby girl. How could this compassionate, kind, discerning and joyous woman not have a daughter to pass along her wonderful legacy?  Not only her legacy, but the legacy of the many women before her — including her grandmother and her own mother, who is a treasure.  Lots of mommies dream of babies. Your mommy dreamed of you.


Your mommy and I met and became friends while chasing around our oldest boys, but we will end our parenting journey enjoying girls.  My baby girl, Rosalie, is just 10 months older than you,  but I am pretty sure you two will be best friends — just like your mom and I are.  Your mom and I are also the only girl in a family of boys — just like you.  Sweet girl, you are just where you need to be!  Being the only girl comes with plenty of bonuses.  For one, you will never have to share a room with your brothers and when it comes to the bathroom, you pretty much have free reign.  No hand-me-downs is another plus—from clothing to book bags to jackets—yours will be bought just for you.  You and your mom will become a team — sometimes defending the home from the noise and smells and chaos of boys, and sometimes just spending time together.  When you shop for a prom dress and finally a wedding dress, it will just be you.  You never have to share your mother.  Not to mention, you will be the only daughter your daddy will ever love.  Now I know your daddy, and his arms have ached to hold you.  He has dreamed of a dark headed, blue eyed baby. How does it feel making dreams come true when you are only a few days old?


Your mommy and daddy might tell you one day that they did not plan to have you, that you were a “surprise.”  (Your brothers might say this too, but for different reasons.)  Don’t believe any of them. They never gave up the hope of having you.  Once your mommy found out you were growing inside her tummy, they were both so excited to welcome another child.  They began to wonder, could it be you?  They were so excited to find out, but decided to wait until you were born to see for sure.  This is where I come in. We decided that in order to prepare, I should find out if you were a boy or a girl and not tell anyone the news.  Sometimes I really wanted to tell her (like when Luke was giving her a run for her money, or when she felt like she was swimming in sweaty boy clothes), but I never did.  It was a privilege to hold that secret deep inside.  Elyssa, I was the very first one to picture you and be able to pray for you.  I pictured a little girl that looked like Caleb and played soccer, or a little girl like Bryce, with bright blue eyes, who liked to color.  I pictured a little girl like Luke, who was fiery at times, but sweeter than honey at others.  Sometimes it felt like forever until you would be born, but soon enough, it was time for everyone to meet you.


Your journey from your mommy’s tummy and into her arms started weeks before we actually met you.  Your Mommy pre-labored, and pre-labored, and then pre-labored some more.  Some nights she thought, this must be it — only to wake up to another day.  One day you will understand the longing of a mother to meet her child, but for now you will just have to take my word for it: the waiting is the hardest part.  Your mommy went through waves of emotion ranging from anticipation to frustration, but she did it with grace.  We wondered and worried about when you would come, not when I was on vacation or during Hurricane Irene. (Yes!  You missed a hurricane by 4 days!)  However, just like all babies who are given the chance, you came at just the right time.


On August 31st, a Wednesday, your mommy sent Aimee and me a message in the early morning. Her contractions were irregular, but strong, and she had lost more of her mucus plug. She was going to run some errands and really wanted to attend your brothers “Sneek a Peek” at noon so they could meet their teachers.  Your Nana was with her, so I told her to keep me up to date on what was happening.  I called Aimee on the phone, and we were both so excited that your arrival was near!  We also both agreed that your mommy would never make it to the school that day, and we began preparing by finding babysitters for our own children and getting everything in order.


I’m not so sure about the next part of the story. This part will always belong only to you and your mommy.  I know that she laid down to rest in her bedroom. I know she was having strong contractions, and I know that her water broke at 11:45.  I know that your daddy was on his way home, and your Nana was taking care of your brothers.  When your Daddy got home, they decided it was time to head to the hospital, so away we all went.  In the car, Aimee, Stephanie and I spent some time praying for you and your Mommy. 


When we walked into the birthing center, we were greeted by the midwife, who told us that your mommy was dilated to 6 centimeters.  She also told us that you had some meconium, which is usually cause for a transfer to Labor and Delivery.  You were being monitored for 20 minutes, and the midwife said she just hoped that your mommy would be complete next time she checked and a transfer would not be necessary.


We entered the room and your mommy was lying on her side, with the monitor on, and your daddy was next to her.  She was having an intense contraction, and she began to push a little bit.  She did not like being on her side, and she was ready for a change.  The midwife came in and told her she could flip over to her hands and knees. She also checked your mommy and she was complete. Her wish had come true. We were all so excited to meet you!  Your mommy began to push. Over and over again she said “OK”, like she was trying to take it all in — the pain, the emotion, the sensations, the instruction — until finally your head was out.  I kept looking at your face...waiting for you to speak up and say you were a girl. I was so filled with anticipation for your mommy to meet you.  I did not know quite where to look. I knew the big moment was right upon us.  Should I watch you meet the world, or your mommy meet you, or your daddy meet you, or your daddy watching your mommy meet you?! The room was alive with excitement!  And then, there you were...just like that — only no one was saying a word.  Aimee, Stephanie, the midwife and I were all staring at you, waiting.  Then, your daddy looked at you and saw you were a girl. I have never seen him smile quite like that before.  Your mommy took a deep breath and said, “I’m going to meet my baby.”  It seemed like slow motion, but I guess it was really only seconds.  Your mommy scooped you up and said, “A girl, thank you Jesus!”


It wasn’t long before you were placed on your mommy's chest, covered with a blanket, a hat on your head - full of dark hair.  It wasn’t long before you were nursing sweetly, nuzzled against your mommy.  It wasn’t long before you were in your daddy’s arms. He was smitten.  It wasn’t long before you met your Nana, and then your brothers, who were all excited to learn that you were a girl.


A few days after you were born, your mommy told me, “This might sound cheesy, but I feel like she really completes me.”  I told her it was not cheesy, it was true.  Elyssa, you were given to your mommy and daddy to be the final piece in their family.  Nothing was quite right until you were there. The picture, the beautiful picture that God was creating, was not finished until he placed you in her arms. You were a perfect fit.


Elyssa—God’s promise.


So happy to tell your story, Sara Beth