The story of Annie’s birth

23 November 2021

There are many ways to tell every story, and just as many ways to make meaning out of one. And so, as I thought about how to share the story of Annie’s birth here, as I twisted the memories from side to side, looking for what caught the light, I’ve come to decide that the story of our youngest daughter’s birth is above all a story of God’s faithfulness, His kindness, and His mystery. I would love to tell you about it.

Annie’s birth was my third c-section. To quickly recap: June, our first daughter, was delivered by c-section because she was breech. With Shep, I had the choice to attempt a VBAC or schedule another c-section. I planned to attempt a VBAC, but made it to my scheduled day with no signs of labor, and so delivered him by c-section, too. With a third baby at my practice, you no longer get a choice, so a third c-section it was!

I was a little nervous about this, because I had heard c-sections get harder with each subsequent one, but honestly was mostly relieved that I wouldn’t have to spend the whole pregnancy agonizing over whether to attempt a VBAC or not, as I did with Shep. And I had had two positive experiences with c-section deliveries and recoveries, so that was comforting!

One strange element of a scheduled c-section is that you get to choose your child’s birthday. As my due date approached, we compared the dates on the calendar to the doctors from my practice on call and debated the merits of various birthdays. In the end, it came down to either Thursday, July 8, or Monday, July 12. Those were the dates with my second and third favorite doctors (my first favorite, who delivered Shep, was not on call for the month of July!). We debated whether less-experienced nurses would be on during the holiday week. We discussed that a Fourth-of-July-week baby would be fun and festive. We looked at our work schedules. We considered proximity to John’s birthday (July 15th!). And we debated whether a few extra days might be just the time we needed to get John off crutches.

We eventually decided on July 8th. This time around, we didn’t need to worry about parents coming into town to watch our older kiddos, because they were already there! My parents had been staying with us for several weeks at that point to help care for all of us as John recovered and I progressed further and further into pregnancy.

And so we enjoyed our last few weeks as a family of four: a final date night to Mandolin, my niece staying with us to attend pony camp with June, our town’s Fourth of July parade, and, on the night before Annie’s delivery, a special picnic at one of our favorite parks with just the four of us. We ate pizza, the kids ran around, and we told them their sister’s name. It was special and sweet.

The next morning, we got up, took showers, finished packing our bags, hugged two sleepy kids, and left the house under a gray sky. We checked in at the Labor & Delivery wing at 6:30am for my 9:30am surgery, and after filling out a few last pieces of paperwork, were ushered to our room. Except… it wasn’t the room we were expecting. Instead of turning right to the Labor hall, as we had for June and Shep’s births, we were pointed left toward the surgical prep area.

And here, friends, is where we circle back to the primacy of expectations. Over and over again (and especially throughout pregnancy and my life as a parent), I have seen the power of expectations play out. When I have low expectations, I leave room for them to be happily exceeded. When I have high expectations, I leave room to be bitter and disappointed.

I made a particular point throughout my second and third pregnancies, and both newborn phases, to keep my expectations very neutral, and I really believe it was a key to my happiness throughout. I thought I had my hands open this time, too, but, as it turns out, not in the way I needed to.

Because the room we were ushered into was not the beautiful, comfortable, hotel-like room where we’d prepared for Shep and June’s births. No, this was a cold, empty, gray, windowless room with a narrow, hard, gurney-like bed. In my memory, it had a single crackling bulb dangling from the ceiling (that’s probably an exaggeration, ha). And friends, when the nurse closed the door after depositing us inside, I admit that I started to cry. And cried on and off for the next hour or so.

This is embarrassing to admit, no matter which way you look at it. As John gently reminded me, women have given, and still give, birth in circumstances orders of magnitude less clean, less comfortable, less safe. I had absolutely nothing to complain about, but, well, there it is. There I was. As I look back, I think a few things were at play:

Aesthetics matter to me. Lighting matters to me. A beautiful, comfortable space can lift my spirits and set me at ease, and a cold, harsh one can do the opposite. My emotions were already running high, knowing what was to come that day, and I think they went a little haywire when plunged into an unexpectedly harsh environment.

Something going off-script so early in the morning also sent me into a bit of a tailspin. If this was different, what else might have changed about the hospital’s policies? What else did I need to worry about or readjust my expectations on for the rest of the day?

Lastly and most significantly, being sent to this solitary, bare, out-of-the-way room made me feel less-than.

I know so many women battle feelings of inferiority when comparing their c-section births to “natural” ones, and thankfully, I had never really felt that way about either of mine. They were what I needed and resulted in healthy babies and a healthy mom, and that was good enough for me.

But to be put in this sad room, far away from all of the “normal” moms on the labor floor, made this feel far from a birth experience. It felt clinical. Surgical. None of the hustle and bustle, the cheerfulness, the light and warmth of the labor floor, the sense that exciting, wonderful things were happening all around us.

So yes, I cried. More than I’d like to admit – a hot concoction of frustration, confusion, anger, shame, and embarrassment. And I prayed. And finally, I slept. And when I woke up, God was gracious to give me a new lightness. I could joke with John about our surroundings, text with our families, follow the track of Tropical Storm Elsa (the eye was right over the hospital when I was in the operating room!), enjoy watching Wimbledon on the TV. I didn’t even mind the first few times our nurse popped her head in to let us know our surgery slot was being pushed back – from 9:30, to 10:30, to noon – and I was able to enjoy the now-familiar rhythms of c-section prep: meeting with the anesthesiologist, chatting with my doctor, getting a stomach bath, drinking the nasty liquid.

Finally, around 1:30pm, I was wheeled back to the surgery bay, John walking gingerly alongside. (Yes! He was cleared to walk in his boot without crutches just a day or two before her birth, though he still used them to get around most of the time.) As before, John and I parted ways at the surgery suite door so he could put on his gear and I could receive the epidural. Soon enough he appeared at my side, squeezing my hand.

One thing I was adamant about this time around was that I wanted worship music to be playing in the delivery room. As the surgery began and John pushed play on the songs I had put together, tears started to trickle down both sides of my face. He was, of course, worried when he saw this, and I remember saying, “No, no, it’s okay, they’re good tears, they’re good tears.”

In that moment, I was completely overwhelmed by the goodness of God. I was here, I was alive. My husband, the absolute love of my life, was at my side. I had two amazing, healthy babies waiting for me at home. I was about to meet our third baby and I just couldn’t wait to hold her in my arms.

I thought about the worries I had sustained in all three of my pregnancies, how I didn’t have to worry about those things anymore. I thought about how lucky I was that I even got to have a third baby. I thought about how grateful I was for this season of my life, of carrying and giving birth to our babies, how grateful I was to have been invited into this miracle and mystery three times over. How could I not cry? I’m tearing up now.

I said this was a story about God’s goodness and God’s mystery, and it is. I don’t know why I am so lucky. I don’t know why others are not. But I can assign the goodness and faithfulness of our story to God, because He is good and faithful, even when the circumstances are not. It’s what I’ve chosen to build my life on. The song that was playing when Annie was born was so fitting:

“There’s so much that I don’t see
But I see You, but I see You
And there’s so much that I don’t know
But I know You, but I know You
And there’s so much that I don’t understand
But I have seen Your goodness
And it’s just enough, that I’ll

Bet all I have on You, I bet all I have on You
I bet all I have on You, I bet all I have on You
‘Cause only a fool would find real love and just give it up
I bet all I have on You, I bet all I have on You.”

Our daughter was born at 2:26pm and weighed just over 7 pounds. She had a head full of dark hair (still does!) and looked absolutely horrified to find herself in such a bright room. They kept her in the warmer for longer than I remember June and Shep being there, but she and I got to snuggle as they finished the surgery (which was smooth and uneventful – just how we like them :)) Soon enough, we were wheeled out into the surgery hallway, where we were monitored for another two hours or so before scooting over to the family recovery floor (thankfully, the same lovely rooms that we were in after both other births!).

In the months since, she has lived up to the promise of her birth – she is a true sign of God’s goodness and faithfulness, the sweetest and most precious baby girl. I’m so grateful for her story, and as always, for getting to share a bit of it with you. xo

P.S. Shep’s birth story and June’s birth story.

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Abigail Gray
November 23, 2021 8:18 am

I have been so looking forward to this post and loved reading the story of Annie’s birth. What a special day!

November 23, 2021 9:18 am

I’ve cried reading all of your birth stories (I cry reading most birth stories!), but WOW, being pregnant and reading a birth story is a Whole Other Thing. #sobbing You have taught me so much about keeping my hands open and having low expectations, and while I wish you had gotten the visually beautiful experience from the start, I’m so glad it wound up working out for the best — and with Annie at the end. :) Love you and your words, friend!

November 23, 2021 9:20 am

I love the transparency about the initial room – if I’m being honest, I could see the same thing bothering me enough to tears as well! And, as my husband and I start discussing when to start our own family, it was such a great reminder to see God’s control, faithfulness and kindness woven throughout this story. Congratulations on your precious girl!

Victoria B
November 23, 2021 11:35 am

Beautiful! Thank you for your honesty. Cheers to your completed family!

November 24, 2021 9:54 am

What a beautiful story and testimony of God’s goodness, friend! I, too, had a moment where the aesthetics of the delivery room mattered. My first room was a room with no windows and I literally waited until one with windows opened up. It does matter. Congratulations on your birth – Annie is so beautiful!

November 25, 2021 8:20 am

Loved reading every bit of this my friend!

November 29, 2021 7:29 am

So many happy tears over here! What a beautiful and powerful birth story. Praising the Lord for the gift of Annie – and for His faithfulness and abundant goodness!!