Blissful Family Birth: A Love Note

Dear Baby Daughter,

The story of your birth begins in the week leading up to your birth. I’d been having contractions on and off all week, most often during the night. However, the week before your birth was also a very challenging and difficult week where my mind and heart were occupied with a very serious and stressful family matter, and I knew that you wouldn’t be able to come until I was able to set everything else aside and focus on preparing for birth, getting ready to welcome you, and relaxing my body. The Friday before you were born I went on a long walk in the neighborhood while your brother and sister went to the park with Grandpa. As I walked I kept repeating to myself, “I will birth this baby full of joy.”

At the end of the day, I had an acupuncture appointment, and she treated me both to help encourage you to roll over (you were still in a posterior position) and to help me process the difficult events of the week and prepare for your birth. It was raining outside and she encouraged me by reminding me that even though the room we were in was quiet, if you really listened, you could hear the sound of car tires on the street outside and all kinds of other noises all around us that we naturally tuned out. So I was able to remember that you, the story of your birth that had begun unfolding, and the joyful anticipation of finally meeting you were all the melody, and everything else was just in the background, at least for the time being.

We went to bed Friday evening with our plans for Saturday still somewhat in the air.  I woke up at 1:45 am and stayed awake until 3:30 with contractions on and off, but then finally went back to sleep on the downstairs couch until about 5:45 am. Then I got up and made a pitcher of red raspberry leaf and nettles tea, and spent the early morning hours tidying up the kitchen and even folded laundry. I took a picture of the morning sky from the front porch, as the colors were incredible.  I knew that birthing time was getting close and I really wanted to have the house clean and in order, but I also knew that labor wouldn't start until I was home, relaxed, and settled, so it made sense to just go about our day like we planned.

We all left the house together at about 8:00 am and stopped for coffee and bagels at Moe's Bagels. I had a granola bagel with butter, and I remember it just not tasting all that good- probably because I was in early labor and probably because the bagel needed more butter. A few hours later that morning, I called the midwives and spoke to Nichole, one of the three midwives we had been seeing all pregnancy and who was on call that day, just to give her a head's up that we were probably getting closer. But I told her I didn't expect that anything would happen until maybe tonight or tomorrow, after our plans for the day, but we would stay in touch as things changed. We spent the morning visiting two nearby farms and then afterwards had lunch at Garbanzos. I didn't have a great appetite, but remember feeling sentimental and happy as I looked across the table at your brother and sister and held Papa's hand as he sat next to me.  I knew you would be coming very soon, and I enjoyed spending the day making sweet final memories together as a family of four.

Papa was making bratwursts for dinner, and I knew I absolutely couldn't eat that, so I politely said that I would make some of my own food, and made a tortilla with melted farmer's cheese. I poured myself a generous glass of white wine to help me relax that evening, but couldn't drink more than about two tiny sips. I remember feeling very tired and wanting to lay down. I also saw that my Aunt and another friend had texted to check in with me, and I responded to them both that I really needed to unplug from my phone. The whole dinner experience that evening was surreal, like I was having an out-of-body experience, watching myself and my family together and knowing that our family was about to change and grow. I was having contractions but they still seemed too sporadic to even really time them, and definitely too early to call Nichole, though Papa had asked. We did have a chance to review as a family everyone being really quiet and letting mama focus when I was having a contraction. I kissed the kids goodnight and headed to bed myself, and thanked Papa for taking care of everything else that evening.

Earlier that morning, I'd brought the last of my things I'd need for after the birth downstairs to the room where we'd be staying for a few weeks. I brushed my teeth, washed my face and climbed into bed around 7:30 or so, wanting to get as much rest as I possibly could as I expected to be up during the night fairly soon. I had a few contractions here and there, but was able to sleep pretty well and finally woke up about 11:45 pm when Papa came upstairs. We spent a few minutes talking and then went to bed, both in the downstairs birth room. I told him that there was something special about this early part of pre-labor, and that I was thankful that I had a whole few days of very easy contractions. They were a reminder that helped me transition into focusing towards labor and birth, but they were also pretty easy- contractions were so easy and mild that they were just a reminder of what was to come, and the whole experience was actually restful. After the difficult week, it just felt enjoyable to have a little bit of space together as a family to prepare for labor too. At some point, I wrote the following in my notebook: "Went to bed around midnight- want to sleep as long as possible and conserve my energy. I feel good and at peace and excited for the journey beginning."

I rested and dozed off between contractions, but they were a little too intense to just keep still, and I wanted Papa to be able to get as much rest as he could as well. For the past few days, whenever I'd had contractions at night, I felt best lying on my side, and rocking and swaying my pelvis slightly, and ideally also pushing my back against the couch for some counterpressure. Looking back, my body knew just how to move to help you get into the best position to be born. I spent a few minutes on the couch in the living room, but eventually went back upstairs to sweep the floor in the playroom (Papa had brought the upstairs rug downstairs to the living room earlier that evening while I was resting). I also wanted to give your brother and sister a big kiss and tuck them in again. The house was quiet and still. Somewhere around 1:00 am, I started timing contractions, and realized that they were between 4-8 minutes apart, some 30 seconds long and some 90 seconds long.

Somewhere approaching 1:45 am, I started drawing a bath in the upstairs tub. Grandma C and I had been texting- I know she had been too excited to sleep at, and I texted her to ask if she could come over, and that I was handing over the communication to Papa. I woke Papa up and told him it was time to call Nichole and check in with her. Part of me was hesitant to call her too early, but I knew contractions were getting longer, stronger, and closer together. I have often heard it said that third births can be a wild card in terms of what to expect, so the midwives had all emphasized to call when things started picking up or changing. I think I was mentally preparing for a relatively long labor.

I think Papa called Nichole somewhere around 1:45 am, and called Grandma C to check in as well. I got into the tub, which was warm, and Papa stayed next to me. Or rather, he kept returning to be because I constantly sent him out of the room to fetch things- a rolled up towel to put behind my head, water with a straw, coconut water, and a bowl of ice water to dip a washcloth. I felt hot and remember from P's birth the refreshing sensation of an ice cold washcloth on my forehead. I remember thinking that even though we weren't timing contractions, they were definitely closer than 5 minutes apart, and it wasn't premature to have called Nichole. I also knew that it was just about time to shut off my thinking brain and really zone out into labor, but also that I still had a few more emotions and experiences to process.

I remembered my walk on Friday morning and repeated to myself that this baby would be born in peace and joy, and I was giving birth full of joy. Papa held my hand and I softly sang a song that went, "The joy of the Lord will be my strength... I will not waiver walking by faith... I am surrounded by beauty and grace... the joy of the Lord is my strength." I changed a word to say "beauty" instead of "mercy" though, because this was my labor song and "beauty" sounded right in the moment. I felt really overwhelmed with happy emotions; love for my family, joy that labor had started and excitement about what would be on the other end (that was you!). I choked up and cried some happy tears and just allowed myself to experience the flood of emotions.

The rest of the timeline of the birth is more vague to me as things got more intense and I entered labor land, but Nichole shared her birth notes with me so I can piece together the rest. I remember Papa telling me that Grandma C and Nichole had both arrived right at the same time, at about 2:30 am. I was still in the tub on my side, breathing through contractions, and pushing my back against the side of the tub. The water was deep enough to fully cover my belly when I was on my side. Between contractions, I also marched my legs up and down, slowly, stepping on the bottom wall of the tub. Again, my body knew how to help encourage you into the best position to be born.

Grandma C came upstairs and sat with me a few minutes, holding my hand between contractions and sitting quietly while I focused and breathed through contractions. I told her how much I loved her and how glad I was that she was there. After a few more minutes, she asked if I minded if she went to sleep for a while, and I encouraged her to go rest. I didn't need her help right then, the kids were also both asleep, but I was really glad she was close by at our house and could sleep here, even though she lived just a few houses away from us. Papa also went to sleep in our bedroom, with the bed stripped of all the pillows I'd taken downstairs. Nichole sat in the grey chair in the playroom and silently monitored me, but let me just be in my space without interfering. She helped me get water or coconut water during contractions, and helped me pee and then back into the tub, and occasionally listened to your heartbeat with the Doppler. Eventually I heard the bird clock in the playroom chirp to mark the top of the hour, realizing it must be the 3:00 am bird- only because I knew it had to be past 2am, and I could recognize the woodpecker call of the 4:00 bird.

A few minutes later I asked Nichole to help me put more hot water into the tub. I was cooling off and being in the tub just wasn't working as well anymore. The last few contractions slowed down to about 10 minutes apart, and I just wasn't enjoying the tub anymore and wanted to be downstairs. I got out of the tub at about 3:30 am. Nichole helped me dry off and dress in my swimsuit top, terry cloth skirt, and zip up hoodie sweater and head back downstairs. I got into bed, wanting to see if I could sleep a little more. I told Nichole that I figured baby wasn't going to come while I was asleep, so I might as well try to sleep some more if I could. I laid on my side, but for contractions had to move to hands-and-knees. At this point, contractions were more intense, and I wasn't able to stay silent and had to move and vocalize. I was able to doze and rest for a few minutes, maybe even like 10 minutes at a time, but after I had a contraction, I would get up to pee and right away have two more contractions. This happened a few times, but soon I felt like I didn't want to be alone anymore and needed Papa to be with me.

At 4:40 I went upstairs to wake him up. This was actually the only point during labor where things felt so intense that they almost seemed a bit scary. After the birth, Nichole later told me that she would have guessed that I moved into active labor at that point, as the intensity increased and I probably also experienced a hormonal surge. Papa was in our bed upstairs with the lamp on next to him, and maybe even asleep with his glasses still on. I told him I needed him, and he woke up and held me in his arms, like we were slow dancing. I had a few contractions upstairs together before he got ready to come downstairs, and then we found ourselves in the kitchen.

We stood hugging and holding each other for a moment, and I remember walking around the kitchen island and dining room table. I had a few contractions leaning over the kitchen counter, with Papa putting counter-pressure against my lower back with either his hands or a rolling pin. Papa or Nichole gathered a few pillows for me to rest my head on the counter, and even a few LED candles. We moved over the booster chair and placemat so that Papa could stand behind me far away from the stairs, because I didn't want him to accidentally get distracted and step backwards too far without thinking.

But we didn't stay in the kitchen very long; we just kind of gravitated towards the living room a few minutes later. I took the big blue birth ball and pressed it against the wall with my lower back, as hard as I could. I was against the wall in a small nook between the play kitchen and the kid's bookshelf. I was having a lot of pressure and sensation in my lower back during contractions and it felt so good to press into the contraction. Papa brought me coconut water and plain water for me to drink between contractions, and asked if I wanted to listen to any music. I told him I yes, something instrumental like classical or jazz, and then change my mind, definitely jazz. He put Ahmad Jamal, a favorite album that Papa grew up listening to and often played for us. I’m sure by the time you are old enough to read this letter, you will have listened to this album thousands of times, especially now that this music I already loved is so beautifully connected to your birth. I was so glad to hear this music. I remember almost dancing in place to the music between contractions and really enjoying it, especially to my favorite song, Poinciana. The living room wasn't bright but there were lamps on, and all of it, especially the music, just contributed to the joyful mood and happy experience of getting ready for your arrival.

At some point I told Nichole that I was feeling a lot of downward pressure, especially during a contraction, and she realized it was a good time to call Lauri, the assistant midwife.

Around this time I asked Papa to start moving some blankets to the rug on the living room floor so that I could have a soft place to rest on hands and knees, and plus, I wanted those blankets off of the bed. When I left my position on the ball to go pee, I told him to please remind me of standing against the wall and pressing into the ball again because I really enjoyed it. I dashed back to the living room right away to have a contraction on the floor, and Nichole stepped right in with counter-pressure against my lower back. Though Papa had been doing a wonderful job supporting me physically, he'd supported far fewer laboring women than Nichole had, and when she pressed against my back it was so effective that it changed the way I experienced the contraction. At first I thought that they just hadn't been very strong contractions, but now I believe that the right kind of pressure pushing into my back in the right place made the contraction dramatically easier- certainly I could tell this by the noise I was making. I asked Nichole to show Papa how he was doing that, and at another point either before or after asking Papa to ask Nichole to show him. Also, I whispered to Papa to please go brush his teeth too.

Around 5:20 am, I asked if Nichole could tell your position inside me, as you had been facing my belly button rather than my spine for the past few weeks and as we moved into labor. I hadn't been sure whether you had turned or not. I knew that I really liked counter-pressure on my back during contractions, and I didn't think I was experiencing back labor, but how did I really know for sure if I had never actually experienced it before? Fortunately, I had absolutely no sensations between contractions at all though. I laid down on the floor, but my belly was too firm for Nichole to be able to tell anything at all, although a few minutes later while standing on my knees she felt again and realized that you were ROA. Mentally, I think something shifted for me at that point, and any of the last bits of anxiety I'd had about labor floated away. Both other kids were born in an ROA position (which means you were all head down, your back was facing outwards towards my belly, and more towards my right side), so I knew that was my ideal birthing position and you were in just the right position to come. I spent a few more contractions on hands and knees in the living room floor.

A few days after your were born, Papa, Nichole and I were talking and reminiscing together about your birth story at a postpartum visit. From her experience, Nichole imagined that you likely turned in labor at the point when I was in the tub and Papa had called Nichole, so around 1:45 am. Contractions were very close together then, definitely closer than every five minutes although we didn't time them, and this was very likely because that was what my body needed to do to help you roll over into a better labor position by squeezing and shifting you a little bit at a time. That makes sense because I was on my side, marching and bicycling my legs to help. After you turned, contractions spaced out again, to about every ten minutes, which is a typical early labor pattern.

Most of your labor I had been burping and belching away. Once I joked about not even needing to say "excuse me," and Nichole said I was just burping you right down. I had experienced such intense heartburn and reflux for the last trimester of pregnancy that I was just relieved not to experience it in labor too. I had only a few anxieties about labor and birth, but top of the list was having intense heartburn in labor. So I happily burped away.

At 5:37 according to Nichole's notes, Lauri arrived. I told Nichole I could feel you moving down. At 5:43 I was on hands and knees again with Nichole, and then papa applying counter-pressure, and contractions were 5 minutes apart and a minute long. Sometimes I found myself shaking and trembling during a contraction, and sometimes after the contraction I still wanted to continue shaking and vibrating my body because it felt good. I was hot and then cold- but finally took off my hoodie sweater and had a blanket nearby to cover my shoulders between contractions. At 5:54 I was standing back up against the wall again pressing against the ball, and this time leaning forward and pressing into the arm of the couch too. Once I accidentally slid the couch at least a foot I was pushing it so hard.

Who knows exactly when, but Papa brought up another silver exercise ball and inflated that one, switched it out with the blue one I'd been using so he could pump that one up some more too, and then replaced it for me between contractions, noticing that I was really pressing into the ball. I was vocalizing loudly during contractions, and probably also grunting a little bit. Nichole placed a chux pad below me on the floor just in case.

At 6:01 am, right during or at the end of a contraction, my water broke with a spectacular sound and gush. Papa said it sounded like glass shattering. I recall thinking that it seemed just like a pregnant woman's water breaking in movies and TV shows- overly dramatic but never the way it actually happens in real life, except this time it did and we all were there to witness it. Anyway, I was caught off guard by the amount of liquid, and all of us by the incredibly loud pop and gush, and since our floor is all tile, I actually slipped trying to move. Nichole saw both my heels go up and was right there to catch me from falling and helped me to the bathroom. My water breaking probably dilated the last bit of remaining cervix, and as I was about to flick some of the remaining materials and membranes I'd caught with my hands into the sink, I am pretty sure that I yelled at Papa to come move his toothbrush, which he left on the bathroom sink when I asked him to go brush his teeth. Nichole kindly rescued it for him just in time.

Still in the bathroom, Nichole asked me something about catching the baby, and I mis-heard her and replied something about yes, I did think that the baby probably would be born today. She said something about her thinking that things were pretty close... She later told me that in her mind she was thinking just a matter of minutes. I was surprised, still mentally anticipating a few more hours of labor because the whole thing so far hadn't felt very long or hard at all. I had a contraction again in the bathroom where my body was pushing on its own, and I told Nichole that it wasn't me doing that, it was happening without me thinking or doing anything.

Lauri meanwhile had told Papa that now would be a good time to wake up Grandma C and the kids as they both thought that things were quite close. After the bathroom, I moved back to the living room and laid down on the floor to completely rest, my head on a wedge pillow. Actually, neither Nicole, Papa, nor I accurately remember at what point I came back to the living room for my nap (whether it was before or after my water broke for certain), but someone took a picture of me so we know it must have happened. I don't remember if I fell asleep or not, and it was probably only about 5 minutes that I rested, but I was covered in a blanket and completely relaxed with my eyes shut. Papa thought I slept through a contraction, but with the next one I got up and my body was pushing, or at least I was grunting and bearing down and couldn't really do much about it.

At 6:12 Grandma C and the kids came downstairs. Both Palesa and Ikechi were groggy from having just woken up. They were in their pajamas with both their hair sweet and a little wild. They walked in the room, smiling and waving and blowing kisses at me, but knowing they needed to be quiet because Mama was working hard. They silently marched like they were in a special little parade coming close to me yet giving me space. I cried as soon as I saw them, saying over and over again, "I'm so happy, I'm so happy." Palesa was here when Ikechi was born, and it was important to our family that Palesa and Ikechi also be here if possible when you were born too. I smiled at them as they walked by and out of my mouth just came babbling words of love and happiness for our family- for Papa, and your big sister and brother and our family so far. They walked around the rug where I was on my hands and knees or kneeling, and sat on cushions against the wall and underneath the living room window, on Grandma Cyndi's lap with her arms around both of them. Looking at the birth notes, they were not there for very long before you were born!

With the next contraction, my body began pushing again, and this time I think I joined in and pushed along with the sensations. I almost couldn't help it, and I certainly couldn't stop any of the grunting or noises I was making. After the contraction, I made a choice to smile. Certainly, now and throughout the rest of labor up until this point, contractions themselves had been hard work. I don’t think I can describe them as painful, but rather, intense. But honestly, the other parts, between all the contractions, hadn't been the least bit hard at all. In fact, they had been restful, joyful, and actually really pleasurable. Very truthfully I really was enjoying myself during the whole labor. But I also made the choice to smile because I felt like it was important that the Palesa and Ikechi also know for sure that this was all happy work, and that I was not in pain or suffering, but rather working hard with a purpose, and that this purpose (you!) was good. They were prepared for what to expect, but I wanted my face on the outside to match how I felt on the inside too. We'd also watched a lot of birth videos and talked pretty extensively about what it would be like when the baby was being born and how Mama would be working hard and making lots of strange noise.

And strange noises I definitely made! After another contraction where I made noises so loud and unfamiliar that I surprised myself, I then burped and belched loudly. I turned to the kids and smiling, told them, "When Mama is having a baby, you get to make all kinds of funny noises!" Palesa and Ikechi smiled at me and seemed to really enjoy watching and being there.

But as I said before, it wasn't very long that the kids got to sit and watch before you arrived. At 6:16, your head came out, according to the birth notes. All I remember was all of a sudden being overwhelmed by the sensation of a head. I was on my knees, with Nichole sitting behind me and Papa right next to me, also taking a few pictures. My body was pushing on its own, but I was pushing myself too and the power behind my pushes felt so strong. I could feel you coming out, and probably something else as well... I warned Nichole, "That's poop!" but a midwife is pretty used to that sort of stuff during labor and didn't even blink an eye. But then I revised my previous statement and exclaimed, "That's also a head!" I remember Nichole saying something about head being out to the nose. I reached down to feel, and felt your hair and the hard shape of the back of your head.

Nichole asked me to pause for just a second and then your whole head was out. She told me later that as your head came out, you looked right into her eyes and she into yours. For me it all happened so fast. But I do remember her asking me if I was ready to catch you, as I had intended. I said yes, but seconds later said, "No, you do it!" because it just felt too intense and I needed both of my hands. With the next contraction just moments later, your body slid out, and Nichole's loving hands caught you and eased you gently to the ground and forward, just below me, where I immediately swooped down and picked you up and brought you to my chest, already crying. That is, both of us. I heard your sweet cat-like cry before I picked you up, and I was already crying for joy as well.

You were born at 6:17 am on Sunday, November 19, 2017. You arrived right on your expected due date. Just as I had envisioned your birth, I labored at night, and you were born at dawn, just as the sun was coming up. I later heard that the sunrise that morning had been absolutely stunning, and though we had missed it, I knew that of course it had been a perfect sunrise.

Papa and Nichole soon helped me turn over and sit up against the wedge pillow from where I still stood on my knees. I was bawling and spewing out words of happiness and emotion- "Baby, you are here," again and again, as well as "I'm so happy, I love you so much." Everyone else in the room was silent but I couldn't stop myself from exclaiming through words the rush of emotion I was experiencing in my heart during those first moments.

I looked at Papa, and I looked at Palesa and Ikechi, and at Grandma Cyndi, who was also crying as she held your brother and sister. I told each of them how much I loved them, and just soaked in the flood of exuberance. Lauri handed me a blanket as soon as I rolled over, or probably before, and I covered you to help keep you warm. You were covered by a nice layer of thick white vernix, and you came out pretty immediately pink. I vaguely recall briefly seeing your two eyes open, but you actually didn't really open your eyes again until that evening. I took a dab of your vernix and spread it underneath my eyes like an eye cream (for wrinkle prevention, of course!). Your hair was thick, black and straight. You looked very similar to both Palesa and Ikechi when they were born, but also very different and perfectly you. I gazed at your long fingers (perhaps another musician or piano player?) and counted each of them out loud, 1-2-3-4-5, absolutely amazed that one of your tiny hands could have five perfect fingers.

After maybe two minutes, I encouraged Palesa and Ikechi to come closer and take a look at you. They had both been beaming and thrilled, also experiencing the love and emotion now shared by our entire family, though very eagerly they came over to get a closer look at you. Palesa came first, and hesitantly, Ikechi followed. We moved the blanket aside and I asked them what they saw. Palesa exclaimed, "A vagina!" and Ikechi exclaimed with just as much enthusiasm, "Penis!" The entire pregnancy, Palesa had wanted and hoped and expected you to be a girl. Most of the time, Ikechi had thought that you were a little brother (who he also initially suggested naming "Baby Sister"), though recently he had been thinking you would be a girl too But we all confirmed and shouted, "It's a girl!"

We spent almost 20 minutes sitting on the floor like that, together as a family of 5 for the first time before eventually moving to the bed in the downstairs bedroom. That first 20 minutes after you came into the world was surreal and incredible. I couldn't believe that you were here, and that this was now you I was holding in my arms. I remember every detail of those moments, and yet I remember almost nothing at all, only at most the raw feelings and emotions and intense sensations of memories. I was both totally present and floating away in another universe of ecstasy and joy.

Right away Palesa asked to hold you, and someone gently broke it to her that she would get a chance to hold you a later on, but for about the next two hours, you would stay just in my arms. (Plus, logistically, the placenta hadn't yet come out, so you and I were still attached). Ikechi suggested quite earnestly, "I know, we can name the baby Unicorn!" Palesa also chimed in with several name suggestions, inspired by objects or events around the room at that moment. Ikechi also started singing, "This little piggy of mine, I'm going to let it shine," and we all laughed at the way he conflated two different songs so perfectly. Regardless of all of the other precious details I have now forgotten, every moment of those first few minutes we spent on the living room floor together were absolutely blissful and perfect.

At 6:35 am we moved into the bedroom and I was settled onto the bed. The placenta came out 3 minutes later. We put you on my stomach and you began crawling up my torso to latch on and begin nursing. While you were growing in my uterus, we talked extensively with Palesa and Ikechi about what it was like inside my uterus (Ikechi was actually quite sad that he couldn't remember what it was like).  We talked about how it was warm and dark, and you were floating in warm water and could hear the sounds of my heart and body as well as my voice and the voices of those around me. We talked about how you didn't eat food, but rather got everything you need from your umbilical cord and were nourished by the placenta. When we watched you crawling up my body looking for food, even though we had seen this happen before- even watched your brother Ikechi do this- we were absolutely amazed... somehow you knew that there was something important you were looking for, and you knew this was the way to go. You didn't know what it looked like, because you had never seen it before, and anyways, your eyes were still completely closed.  You didn't really know what it was for either, because you never ate food inside my uterus. But, somehow, by instinct, by smell, by God's perfect design, you knew exactly what you were looking for and eventually latched yourself on and started nursing.

A few hours after your birth, we were ready to cut the cord and begin the newborn exam. We had promised Palesa she could help, and first we set up a special box with a candle to burn the cord. We had burned Ikechi's cord all the way through, but this time decided to just burn it for a few seconds. Palesa held the lit candle to the cord, and Ikechi held the corner of the cord, his little fingers safely away from the flames. Papa took pictures while I held you in my arms and watched. Then Palesa cut the rest of your cord with Nichole's help. After, we watched Nichole do the newborn exam, where she confirmed what we already knew about you- everything about you was simply perfect! She first took your measurements- 13-3/4" head, 20" long and 14" chest, and then checked your reflexes and each and every part of your body. Lauri asked me to guess what you weighed, and I estimated 7lbs 8 oz, just between the birth weights of Palesa and Ikechi. However, you are our biggest baby yet- as Palesa calls you, a prize-winning baby, weighing in at 7lbs 13 oz! In case you ever should wonder, your Apgar scores at birth were 8 and 9 at one and five minutes.

Before the midwives left, Nichole sang a little song to you. She warned us that she was not a good singer, but her voice and the song she sang about all of us being here to welcome you into the world was the most beautiful thing I could imagine hearing.

Recently I heard an interesting fact that a certain kind of horse can pull up to 8,000 lbs. However, instead of two of these horses being able to pull 16,000 lbs, they can actually pull something like 24,000 lbs. I've thought about that a lot in terms of how much more love has been added to our family now that you are here. Before Ikechi was born I wondered how it was going to be possible to love this new baby as much as we already loved his big sister Palesa, but the moment he arrived, Papa and I instantly understood how our love had grown so much bigger.

Before you were born, our beautiful double rainbow baby daughter, conceived after the loss of two early pregnancies, I couldn't wait to experience all the new love that we would share with you. But it is so much bigger than simply adding another baby's love to our family- all of the rest of the love we already had exploded in size and then multiplied in amount. We have just started getting to know you, as we've only just met you, but the love that I have for you, as well as Papa, Palesa, and Ikechi all have for you, and the love we all have for each other, is as big as anything in the universe.

Baby Sikia, welcome to earth (on the outside) and welcome to our family. We are so glad you are here!



P.S. Here is the short story of your name: Sikia Aletheias May. Sikia, pronounced Se-KEY-ah, is a Swahili name meaning "Harmony." We understand this in the classical sense of balance and concordance, but also recognize the harmony in the universe signified by the Trinity. Harmony is a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts, and in music harmony is a simultaneous combination of tones blended into chords and pleasing to the ear. Your middle name Aletheias (ah-LAY-thee-us) is a Greek word derived from "aletheia" or truth, literally translating to the state of not being hidden. However, as you will soon learn, you are the child of two nerdy parents, so we chose for your middle name the genitive form of the root word, meaning "of truth." Put together, your name means something closer to "Harmony of Truth."