Adilène June’s Birth

Dear Adilène, my second-born, my daughter,

What follows is the story of your birth.

I took a pregnancy test the Friday after Thanksgiving.  While I waited, I hugged your brother Casimir close, knowing that these would be the last moments he was my only child.  When the time ran up, I went to check the test and was proved correct.  We were expecting you!  About a month later, we decided to announce.  We dressed Casimir in a shirt that said “I’m the BIG BROTHER!”  This was at only eight weeks, which was a little early for my taste, but our families were gathered for Christmas and it was a fun way to announce that you were coming.

My pregnancy with you was almost as easy as it had been with Casimir.  I was sick almost all day for the first few weeks, but never enough to slow me down.  Just a feeling of general queasiness.  Being three years older and my body already having done it before, I experienced a lot more aches and pains, which made everyday activities painful.  An old wives’ tale says that pregnancy with a daughter is harder on a woman, supposedly the daughter is draining her of her beauty and vitality.  Perhaps the aches and pains were the first clue that you would be a girl.  As we had done with Casimir, we chose not to find out who would be joining our family until your birthday.

When your due date, August 4th, loomed closer, I couldn’t help but wonder if you would come early, on time, or late as your brother had done.  If you choose to have children, you will learn due dates mean nothing to babies – only to those of us waiting for them to arrive!  At the end of July, your father and I were becoming very excited and anxious to meet you.  I must say, being pregnant during the height of summer wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I was definitely ready to be done.  It had worked for your brother, so I started eating pineapple when we reached 38 weeks, much to your father’s dismay.  He hates the smell, but he put up with it.  We went on long walks every evening with Casimir and Proximo, hoping to encourage you to come.  

On July 29th, we traveled to the mall in Grandville.  It was indoors, thus air conditioned, and seemed a decent way to spend the afternoon.  It took us three hours to waddle around the mall and by that time we were all extremely tired.  On the way home, I started to feel a dull ache, very low in my abdomen, much like I had felt when Casimir’s labor had begun.  I was hopeful, but didn’t get too excited.  It was too early to tell if this was going to turn into something more or if my body was just protesting too much activity.  We finished the drive home and the aching disappeared.  I must admit I was a bit disappointed.  I was so ready to meet you!

The 30th passed as a normal day. That night, a few hours after we all went to bed, I began to feel some cramping on and off.  The cramps went on all night, but I slept on and off as well.  They weren’t necessarily painful, but definitely a little uncomfortable.  I let Rachel know what was going on and she asked me to keep her posted.  These cramps ranged anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes apart.  I finally fell solidly asleep at about 5:30 in the morning and slept until 8am.  I debated sending your father to work, but he was only five minutes away around the corner, so he went.  There would be no use in him being home twiddling his thumbs waiting to see if anything would happen.

Rachel arranged to stop by on her way up to Patrice’s office.  She checked my blood pressure and listened to your heart.  Everything was fine and the cramps were still extremely irregular and weren’t terribly painful – yet.  She advised me that it was probably prodromal labor, that while it wasn’t actually labor, my body was getting ready for it.  However, the cramps could go on for quite some time.  She told me to keep timing them and let her know if anything changed, otherwise they would see me that evening during my scheduled appointment.

Casimir and I spent the day much like we normally did.  Ate breakfast, had a snack, played a bit.  Daddy came home for lunch and it was shortly before this that the intensity of the cramps increased.  I could no longer move through them, I had to lean on the couch on my knees and brace through them.  Looking back now, I should have known then that it was real labor.  They were as painful as I remembered from Casimir’s labor, but still quite irregular.  Rachel advised me to take some Tylenol, calcium, and magnesium, but it did not help to ease the pain.  I got into the shower for a bit to help the pain and sent your father back to work with plans for him to come home early.

I put Casimir down for a nap and tried napping myself, but the contractions were too painful for me to lay down during them.  I simply had to lean on something and rock my hips back and forth to help the pain.  I let Rachel know that they were really hurting and had begun to hurt my back more than they had earlier in the day.  However, they were still so irregular!  At the time, I knew labor was coming, but I didn’t realize how soon.  One of the things they teach you about knowing when to go the hospital or when to have the midwife come is the 5-1-1 rule, which means contractions are 5 minutes apart, last one minute, and have been doing so consistently for one hour.  I was nowhere near meeting that criteria so I thought relatively little of what was going on.

At 4:02pm, I texted Rachel a screenshot of the contraction timing app I had downloaded to my phone.  Your father was heading home and I was in a lot of pain.  Quite suddenly, at 3:43, the contractions had begun to come in five minute intervals and had done so for a solid 15 minutes.  I sent her the picture, letting her know I was in immense pain at the seat of my pelvis, my lower back, and low in my abdomen, feeling like I needed to have a BM.  Daddy arrived while I was on the phone with Rachel after she had called me.  She assured me they were on their way.  It takes 45 minutes to drive from Patrice’s home to ours and I hoped they would come in time.  Daddy quickly changed his clothes and stripped our bed as I asked him to do.  Perhaps it was because I had been alone with a 2 ½ year old all day, but when your father came home with the intent of staying with me, my body seemed unable to wait any longer.

Everything was suddenly much more intense and I knew you were coming before the midwives could make it.  Daddy was on the phone with them and they advised him to have me get into the tub to try to relax and slow things down.  But labor is a force that cannot be reasoned with, it cannot be slowed or stopped.  I was at the mercy of my body acting of its own accord, following ancient instincts that I had no control over.  I could sooner have asked the sun to rise at midnight.  I held back as long as I could, but it was no use.  You were coming whether we were ready or not!  Daddy gathered supplies around him, coached by the midwives as they sped toward us.  Suddenly I knew it was time.  I squatted in the tub and screamed, “I have to push!” and I did.  Your poor father!  The helpless, horrified look on his face will be one of the things I never forget.

With two pushes, you were born into your father’s terrified, waiting hands at 4:47pm!  He passed you to me, laying you on my chest.  Given what had happened to your brother, we instantly checked to see if you were breathing.  You were.  You did not cry, but instead snuggled against me with tiny movements and soft newborn noises.  I was so happy.  I rubbed your back and spoke to you, helping to stimulate you and you began to pink up.  You were wonderful!

Patrice, Dorothy, and Rachel arrived at 5pm.  They immediately went to working checking on me and you to make sure we were okay.   At about 5:15 it was time to get me out of the tub.  We hadn’t even looked to see who had joined our family yet – Aleksandr John or Adilène June?  We looked together – we had our Adilène! – and Daddy took you in his arms.  Dorothy and Rachel worked with me to try to get me out of the tub, but no dice.  I had lost a fair amount of blood and was too tired.  I put my feet up in the tub as the bloody water drained.  Grandpa arrived and he held you so Daddy could help them lift me out of the tub and get me to the floor.  It was wrapped in towels on the floor that I nursed you for the first time and your big brother Casimir came closer to meet you.

Childbirth is a powerful event in a woman’s life.  It is instinctual, primal, full of necessary, life-giving pain, and yet so peaceful.  Your body knows what it must do.  You need only surrender to its power and face what comes without fear.  I will never forget giving birth to my amazing children nor the midwives who cared for us.  For saving your brother’s life and their loving care for me after both births, I will be forever grateful.  Adilène, you completed our beautiful, precious family and words cannot describe how much I love you and your brother Casimir.  I love you baby girl, our Sweet Potato June Bug!