Letter to Camille Grace

Hello sweet baby. For the first time in nearly 40 weeks, as I write you lie snuggled in a loved one’s arms, soundly sleeping. It’s August 1st – our due date – a box on the calendar I’ve dreamed of for a long, long time. Thankfully, you made your appearance 13 days ago, and I was so happy to meet you.
Over the last 13 days, I’ve loved each of your smiles. I’ve nibbled on your adorable feet and melted when you curled your strong fingers around mine. We’ve danced and played, and we’ve cried some too. We’ve both been learning a lot, and sometimes when you’re crying I tell you how sorry I am that I don’t always know how to fix it. But when you’re sleeping peacefully, or when your precious blueberry eyes are open and looking at me, I think we’ll be just fine. Be patient with me – I want to the best mommy for you, and we’re still learning. You are such a gift, an answer to prayer, and I am so thankful for you and I love you very much.
I don’t want to forget all the details around your birthday, so I’m hoping these pictures and this timeline will help us remember.
July 18th, 2006
8:45 p.m. – I get this email from Nana and Granddaddy:
“Please remind Camille that tomorrow should be her “birth” day according to Granddaddy and Nana.”
Nana and Granddaddy were in Atlanta for a Chicago concert, which meant they were already much closer to Savannah. For months, they’d been saying that July 19th would be a perfect day for your birth, because they could just drive on down the rest of the way. And since Nana had to start back to school August 1st, an earlier birthday would mean she could spend more time with us.
8:58 p.m. – I send this photo to Anna, who’d been receiving my weekly belly updates. This was taken just a few minutes earlier, to mark the beginning of week 38:
9:12 p.m. – Your Daddy sends several emails to our friends to work on a “phone tree,” getting our plans in place for notifying friends when the big day arrives. Allen comments that he wouldn’t mind getting a 3 a.m. wake up call, to which I type this prophetic response.
“You all are too cute. How about 3 a.m. tonight? That works for me. Now if only I can convince baby…”
10:31 p.m. – I get this email from Anna, in response to the photo:
“OH, BABY! She’s definitely riding lower than before. Hopefully that means she’s headed out! I get up every morning and check my cell phone for a message from you. I’m getting impatient, too.”
July 19th, 2006
3:00 a.m. – I wake up with an upset stomach. At first, I blame the Mexican food Daddy and I ate the night before. As I lie there, the pain gets worse, and like many previous nights, I wonder, “could this be a contraction?” But it doesn’t feel like what I imagined. I imagined a tightening all around my stomach. Other friends described them as starting slowly and building all day as they accomplished last minute tasks like showering, packing, even baking cakes and all sorts of things.
Instead, my pain is concentrated very low and very intense. I think, “there’s no way I could bake a cake right now. This came on too quickly to be contractions – it must be really bad indigestion.”
I pace in the bathroom for a while, occasionally peeking in at your sleeping Daddy, trying to decide if I should wake him.
4:30 a.m. – I tap your Daddy on the shoulder and ask him to wake up. I tell him how I’ve been feeling. “Just for fun, let’s time these pains to see if there is any pattern to them,” I say. I don’t want to be silly and stay up all night timing indigestion – but after an hour and a half with no relief, I feel like we should do something.
The first contraction we time is about 30 seconds long, with about 6 minutes in between. The next 2 are about 45 seconds long, coming at 2 and a half minute intervals. Your Daddy wakes up a bit more.
4:40 a.m. – We call Dr. Pettigrew. In a sleepy voice, she tells me to come into the office when they open at 8:30 unless the pain gets to be too much. Neither of us is sure I’m in labor, and she reminds me that first babies usually take a long time to appear.
But the pains continue, and I’m becoming more certain they must be contractions. If they’re not contractions, something else must be wrong – because it’s just too much for indigestion. Your Daddy starts gathering things in bags, and stops to snap a photo of me mid-contraction.
6’ish a.m. – Daddy has packed the car, and we sit around the living room timing the contractions. There is no reliable pattern, but they do seem to be coming quickly. I’m already thinking about an epidural for pain relief, and not sure about waiting for the office to open at 8:30. One contraction lasts 90 seconds, and 30 seconds later is followed by another 90 second contraction. “Okay, that’s it,” Daddy says as he stands up. “We’re going to the hospital.” I’m grateful, and he helps me to the car.
7 a.m. – We get to the hospital, and your Daddy calls family to put them on stand-by. I’m still worried the nurses will tell me I’m making it all up and that what I need is a Rolaids and a nap. The triage nurse in labor and delivery asks, “What brings you here this morning?”
“I think I’m in labor.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I think I’ve been having contractions since 3 a.m.” I don’t sound convinced, and neither is she.
“You’re way too talkative to be in active labor,” she says, “but we’ll check anyway.”
A few moments later, we’re being admitted to the hospital, dialated 3-4 centimeters and definitely in labor. “You fooled me,” the triage nurse said. I’m proud. And very excited.
Your Daddy and I get settled into room 368, and I’m getting more and more uncomfortable. The nurse checks again, and I’m 5-6 centimeters. I know the pain will only increase, so I ask for an epidural. The procedure is strange and frightening, but more psychologically painful than actually painful. And the results are great. Here’s a pic of me enjoying a popsicle, blissfully pain-free thanks to the epidural:
Grammy and Nana and Granddaddy arrive, all very excited and very ready to meet you. We talk, and we wait, but it’s not long before the nurses clear the room because we’re getting ready to push.
1:30 p.m. – The nurses say I can start pushing, so we do. Your Daddy is wonderful, counting to 10 during each push to give me a goal. He tells me how well I’m doing. When the pain returns, he helps me breathe.
We’ve been pushing, but you seem to be stuck, so the nurses have me try all sorts of different positions. Your Daddy promises he still loves me no matter how crazy this whole thing must look. I’m getting tired, but still determined.
4’ish p.m – Dr. Pettigrew starts talking about a C-section. No matter how hard I push, you seem to be having trouble descending. Fortunately, your heart-beat is still strong and you seem to be tolerating labor well, but I’m running out of energy. But I’m not ready to move to plan B yet, so I just think about you and how much I want to see you, and I keep pushing.
6’ish p.m. – Dr. Pettigrew returns, and after all this time she says we haven’t made any more progress. It’s time to agree to a C-section. I cry because I’m worried about you and I’m worried about me. I want to bring you into the world as naturally as I can, but I also don’t want to subject you or me to any more hours of pushing. It can’t feel good to you, and I’m exhausted.
6:15 p.m. – Your Nana and Granddaddy come in the room to tell me they love me and that they’re proud of me and that it will be okay. We say a prayer.
6:30 p.m. – I call Nikki. She had a similar experience about 7 months ago, and I want her reassurance that everything will be okay. She says all the right things and helps calm my nerves.
7:00 p.m. – I’d been listening to your heart-beat on the monitor all day, as a welcome backdrop to all the events. But suddenly, my brain zeroes in on the sound, which is changing. Slowing. The steady beats are gradually slowing, and when I tell your Daddy he runs into the hallway to tell a nurse. They don’t seem overly concerned, but I am terrified. After everything, after all this time, I just want you to be okay. The nurses have me change positions, and your heart-beat rebounds. They think you probably rolled onto your cord and compressed it a bit, which they assured me happens all the time. I’m still shaken, and am relieved when they immeditaely roll me toward the O.R. Suddenly the C-section seems like a great idea. I need you to be born so we can know you’re okay.
I admit, the C-section is scary for me and for your Daddy too. I can’t see what the doctors are doing, but I know, and I am in a fog of exhaustion and fear.
7:29 p.m – The only clear moment I remember from the operating room. At 7:29, I hear you cry. The sound is beautiful, piercing through everything else. “Is she okay?” I whisper? “Yes,” someone replies. I don’t remember what else is said, I just remember your cry. Dr. Pettigrew lifts you above the blue tarp so we can see you, and your Daddy takes your very first picture:
The nurses examine you, then swaddle you in a blanket and hand you to Daddy. He brings you near me and we have a brief moment to say hello. You are beautiful.
Daddy follows you to the nursery while I head to recovery. Your precious feet are coated in ink as you make your first stamp on the world:
As I sit in recovery, the nurse and I listen to every sound in the hallway, waiting for the sound of your bassinet rolling toward us. Finally, your Daddy pushes you into the recovery room, and we enjoy spending these moments together. Your Daddy and I cover you with kisses.
We are moved into our own room, and your Daddy takes this picture. I look a lot more tired than in the earlier photos, but I’m so happy to be holding you – my healthy baby girl.
The next few days in the hospital, I am shown so much love. Your Daddy is amazing, not even hesitating to take care of me no matter how difficult the task. Your Aunt Erin massages my swollen feet. Your grandparents take shifts being at the hospital with us in case we need anything. Your Uncle Jeff and Aunt Michelle come from Atlanta to be with us. You’re one of the first babies Uncle Jeff has ever held, and you’re an angel for him. You two look very sweet together, and I look forward to all the great relationships you will have with all our family.
Saturday we bring you home from the hospital. It is surreal- but wonderful – walking into our house with you, knowing this is where we will grow together as a family.
The first couple of days at home are especially difficult. You have to spend your first evening and night on a special photo-therapy bed to help you get over jaundice. I cry to see you strapped into the device, and I’m forever grateful to Nana and Grammy for taking shifts to sit up with you through the night. The next day, I’m relieved you’ve made a lot of progress, and we can stop the photo-therapy. “I can throw the Bili-bed in the trash?” I ask the doctor. He laughs. No, I can’t throw it in the trash, but I can give it back. We don’t need it anymore.
The next day, we begin having a really hard time breast-feeding, and my heart breaks when I hear your hungry cries but can’t seem to help you eat. Then we are rescued by a very nice lady at another hospital who helps us work through the problem. You eat contentedly, and I am so happy.
Your Daddy and I love taking pictures of you, like this one as we cuddle one afternoon:
Sometimes, I think you get tired of all the picture-taking. I call us the paparazzi. This is what you look like when you’re really hungry but your Daddy and I are still clicking more photos:
Your Daddy is already such a good Daddy, and I’m excited about the bond you two are growing. Just look how peaceful you are sleeping on his shoulder:
Sweet Camille, as you sleep, know you are loved very much. Sweet dreams angel.