Let me tell you a story…
On Christmas morning I woke up groggy after a weekend spent in bed coughing & fighting a cold. My teenagers slept. My dog slept. My husband slept. My five-year-old danced around the Christmas tree singing, “Wake up, wake up, wake up!” I heard her thump down the stairs to go rouse her tall brother with more singing. I heard the coffee pot trickle when the hubs got up. The first thing I did was roll over & check my phone, as usual these last few weeks, on-call, waiting on a baby girl. All it said was the time. Which was what it said when I woke with a jolt at 2am & then another jolt at 5am also looking for a message. Still no text. It was 7:05am. Not bad for Christmas Day!
We opened gifts. My husband got me Chewbacca jumpsuit pajamas complete with a hoodie & I posed for a quick picture in it feeling like Ralphie in his pink bunny suit in A Christmas Story. Very funny, babe, very funny.
While I was pouring my second cup I heard my phone’s train whistle. I glanced at it & the text preview said, “We’re having a Christmas baby…” And because I am who I am, a big goofy smile split my face. I changed out of my Chewbacca pajamas immediately.
More than anything, I think Olivia wanted her baby for Christmas & she was going to get her wish! By the time she got into her room at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, NJ it was barely after 11am, her water had broken & contractions were intermittent. She was all smiles when I got there, camera ready. Bliss. Zen. Christmas Joy. Relief. It was finally going to be a birth day.
Her bump got one last quick ultrasound to check amniotic fluids & estimate her birthweight & Olivia grinned the whole time. “Is that her leg?!” There she is, there she is…
Contractions hadn’t gotten consistent yet so she opted to get out of bed. I got a few shots of them hauling a 15 minute mall-walk around the L&D floor, getting 4 or 5 loops in before heading back to her room, but mostly I gave them some space. It could be a long day & I felt they could use some time alone.
Settled back into bed, drip in place to encourage labor, even uterine squeezes & hand holding made her smile yet. She says she was smiling because he mentioned food. When you’re on ice chips & sips of water, truly the way to a girl’s heart: is food.
Of course, that hand holding got pretty intense, pretty fast. When the body is ready, its ready. She jumped in cm leaps & soon there was no time for an epidural; the resident was called, the doctor was called, the room ballooned with anticipation & her birth team.
I tucked myself into a chair not far from a window streaming cool winter sunlight. No matter how many mamas invite me in to document this pivotal time in their lives I’m in awe & respectful to keep my distance. Olivia later said this was her most painful birth & I can say it hurt my heart to hear her voice wavering, doubting herself, as she got ready to bring her daughter into the world. She dug deep to keep going.
Her baby was born; this little body pink as a rose, her arms flung open wide, every emotion caught on her mama’s face. Merry Christmas to all!
The atmosphere in the room lightened with baby Amira snug her mama’s arms. All inspections & deliberations ensued – how long are her fingernails, exclamations over her hair, time stamps (2:06pm!), bracelets snapped in place & comparisons made to her big brother. It wasn’t long til Olivia was smiling again. Bliss.Zen.Christmas joy. Happy birthday, Christmas baby.
After little baby button had her belly full & nursed like a champ, her Dad took her up into his arms. He lifted her so gingerly but with old-pro confidence. They had a quiet moment together. Her first super hero. I was honored to get a few shots of it.
It was amazing how the room cleared out. One attentive, working-on-Christmas-Day, dedicated nurse & me still there. Olivia looked worn out & uncomfortable. I could feel her thoughts of food in a telepathic sense. Her nurse took care of the new baby & then for Olivia, solo. Baby girl was weighed, measured from end to end, & gently bathed under the warming lights due to a nice healthy, gooey, meconium-fill in her diaper (she’s just full of gifts!). She even got her first comb-over. All pink & cleaned & slightly dazed I took photos while Olivia got some attention. Amira has alert, calm eyes & a sweet puckered little mouth. She was toasty & relaxed, sighing & flexing her toes a lot, completely content. A rosy little miracle.
It was full dark out the windows as Olivia walked the quiet hall down to her recovery room, a nurse pushing the bassinet & me trailing behind her. In her room, Amira was in classic burrito shape & sound asleep after a busy day of being a gift. Olivia ordered dinner & tried to hide the urgency in her eyes when the hospital aide left to get her food. I wonder if in our collective caveman paleo days women were just handed whole sides of meat not long after giving birth, that’s how real the hunger is. I hunted for some goodies I tossed in my camera bag before I left that morning & handed a small package to Olivia. Around a mouthful of oatmeal crackers, she says, heart full, “Nothing could ever top this Christmas. Best Christmas ever.”
Big brother & the newly minted big sister arrived right after Olivia’s dinner was served. They were stunned. They stood in shock, sometimes stretching out a hand to touch her but mostly in adorable shock. One time they leaned in & crowded her face (get used to that, baby girl) & then sat back & looked at each other in astonishment. The best was his young voice, full of questions only his mom & dad could answer, in full stream of conscious, no breaths in between: This is my baby sister? She’s going to come home with us? She can play with us? She has to get bigger? She was in your tummy? And now she’s not anymore? This is my baby sister?
Thank you so much to Olivia & Kyle for inviting me in to such a tender time in your life. I hope all of your photos become memories you’re glad to have shared together as you celebrate your daughter each Christmas!
Happy to be so,