Just over a year ago on June 22nd, my husband and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Porter, into the world.
A lot of people say that when your children are born, you realize you didn’t know what love was before then.
I never thought that could be true because I knew love long before she was born. The love I have for my husband, Kurt, is indescribable; it’s a mad and it’s a deep love that I’ll never have the words to explain. But after having her, I realize that what people mean is that they’ve never felt that kind of love before. It’s a different love; it’s a new love; and it’s beyond unique to anything you’ve ever felt before.
The day Kurt and I got married, we vowed many things to each other. One of these was to love each other in sickness and in health.
When I was going through labor, he followed through with this vow more beautifully than I ever could have imagined.
Let me go back to that day. I’d like to try the best I can to put love into words, and everything about what I saw and what I felt that day was what love means to me.
On June 21st, I woke up to a morning no different to any other one that month; extremely pregnant, extremely uncomfortable; extremely hungry; and extremely anxious to meet our daughter. My husband willingly went on a long walk with me just as he’d done every day before then. Before we went, he buckled my shoes that I couldn’t reach, and he waited patiently on me as I waddled through a mile of breathing hard and asking the same questions I asked every other day. “When do you think it’ll happen? What do you think we’ll be doing? What do you think she’ll be like?” He answered them just as excitedly as every other time I’d asked.
Our day was nothing out of the ordinary. We watched TV while Kurt was prepping for his new job on his computer and I was simultaneously bouncing on my exercise ball and drinking my red raspberry-caffeine free-herbal tea.
Getting ready for bed was nothing out of the ordinary, either. We stayed up longer than usual finishing a movie, brushed our teeth, and got into bed.
When we finally laid down around 1:30 AM on July 22nd, I started having contractions. This was also nothing unusual since I’d been having them inconsistently for three weeks. Five minutes later, I had another contraction, a bit stronger. Five minutes later, another. And then another.
I wasn’t a stranger to false labor, so I tried everything my midwives told me to try when I was experiencing this to see if they went away. If they did, (and they always had before) it wasn’t real. I drank a big glass of water, I laid down on my left side, I took a bath. They were still intensifying. It was real labor this time.
Over the next hour, Kurt stayed up with me and helped time my contractions. He folded up pillows for me to lay with to make me more comfortable, he held my hand, he talked me through them and reminded me to breathe, he rubbed my hair, he rubbed my back. Between contractions, he gathered everything on the list I’d made that we would need for the hospital that wasn’t yet packed.
I couldn’t walk or talk through the contractions anymore. It was time to go to the hospital.
“Remember all those times we talked about the moment I’d look at you and say it’s time? …well, it’s time.”
Kurt smiled. “Alright, let’s go!”
He helped me to the car. He drove fast. He got us there quickly and safely.
It all happened in a rush; we checked in at the front desk, a nurse came to walk us to labor and delivery, I was checked, and they quickly admitted us after finding that I was already 6 cm dilated. They took us to our room and hooked me up to monitor the baby’s heartbeat my contractions.
Love was the nurse who stood patiently by my side as I was doubled over in the hallway breathing through a contraction. Love was the nurse who was there at 2:30 AM monitoring that my baby; a complete stranger’s baby; was healthy. Love was every nurse who came into our room in the dead middle of the night and asked how they could help.
It was time to have our baby.
There are so many things that I vividly remember about that day. One of those things, honestly, was the pain. It was excruciating. It wasn’t explainable or comparable to anything I’d ever felt; it was nearly unbearable. But it meant that our daughter was on her way, and I remember that excitement even more vividly than the pain.
Kurt called our parents and our brothers to tell them the baby was on her way.
Love was my parents waking up in the middle of the night and driving 2.5 hours to sit patiently in the waiting room for hours on end until it was time to meet their grandbaby.
Every 3-5 minutes for nine hours, my contractions came. Each one hurt worse than the last. And through every single one, Kurt rubbed my back and calmly talked me through it:
“You can do this, Ginny. You’re stronger than this. This is one contraction closer to meeting our baby. You’re doing so good.”
Love was my husband holding my hand through ‘sickness’ and encouraging me until I was back to ‘health.’ Love was that vow put into action without a necessary word that it was being done.
Love was my midwife, Vanessa, who not only started her day at 6 AM, but started it helping people.
“Vanessa, can I do this?”
“Heck yeah you can do this!”
Love was her encouragement, love was her empowerment.
Kurt and I walked the halls of the hospital, stopping with each contraction to lean against the wall, breathe, and for him to rub my back.
No sooner did we get to the start of the hallway when my water broke.
Love were the nurses who not only quickly offered to clean up a perfect stranger’s bodily fluids up off the floor, but did so with a smile.
Love were the nurses who came into our room every 10 minutes to check on us.
Love was what happened next:
As soon as my water broke, my contractions doubled in intensity. My socks were soaked and my legs had water all over them. Kurt got down in the floor and folded up a towel for me to stand on so that my feet wouldn’t be cold. He took off my wet, bloody soaked socks, he held me through another contraction, warmed a washcloth, and gently wiped the water away from my legs. He put my legs into the holes of my mesh pad one at a time, and essentially put a diaper on me. I don’t have the words to explain how it felt to watch my husband sit at my feet and take care of me in a way and a time that I couldn’t take care of myself. Love is the only one that comes to mind.
Vanessa came in and stayed with me. She and Kurt took turns rubbing my back, and they both talked me through it.
“I know it’s hard, Ginny, but you can do it. Breathe through it as best you can. You’re so close to meeting your daughter.”
One of the most vivid memories I have of that day was looking up after my hardest contraction. My eyes were closed, my head was down, and I was trying with everything in me not to scream because of the pain. It was the only contraction I didn’t hear Kurt say anything, and when it was finally over and I looked up, I saw why.
He was crying.
I asked him what was wrong.
“I hate seeing you in this much pain and not being able to do anything to help you.”
Love was my husband who cried not for his own pain, but for mine. Love is someone who cares so much for you that your pain becomes theirs and vice versa. Love was the selflessness and the empathy that my husband gave me in that moment (and always does).
After nine hours of labor, it was time to push.
I pushed for an hour.
Throughout that hour, my husband, my midwife, and the two nurses by my side held my legs, pushed my hair out of my eyes, wiped the sweat from my forehead, made constant trips to the sink to keep a cloth cold to keep on my head, got me ice chips, constantly reminded me that it was almost over, and did everything they could’ve possibly done to keep me as comfortable as possible in such an uncomfortable time.
That was love. That was so much love.
My modesty was gone and my fear kicked in. Could I do this? Would I be a good Mom? Would my baby be okay?
They showed me love, and because of their love, I believed in myself.
“Alright, Ginny. One last good push. You’re about to meet your daughter. You can do this. Give me all you’ve got.”
I couldn’t speak. I looked at Vanessa and shook my head, took a deep breath, and I pushed with everything I had.
So many things flashed through in my mind: the first contraction I’d had ten hours prior to that moment and the love that so many people had shown me since then; that somehow I loved my husband even more than when we walked into the hospital; that I was about to be a Mom, and together, we were about to be parents; that our daughter, my dream, was almost here; and I channeled the moment hours prior when Vanessa looked me in the eye and had no doubt in her voice when she told me I could do it.
The pain was absolutely blinding.
And then it disappeared when I saw her.
Love was 11:44 AM when we saw our daughter for the first time.
It was a new-found love.
It deserves its own word, its own separate emotion.
But that moment… that was love.
“You need to cut her umbilical cord fast, and then I need her. Her heart rate is dropping.”
That was a new-found fear that also deserved its own word; its own emotion.
Love was the team of nurses who stood around our just moments old baby and took her life in their own hands. Love was how they took care of her and the rate they worked to do so.
They got the fluid out of her lungs and we finally heard that little cry. She was okay – a relief that’s it’s very own, too.
Love is the career that all of these people had chosen; to put people’s lives before theirs. To sacrifice sleep for families they don’t even know. To care for someone so tiny and helpless. That is love.
Love was seeing my husband see our daughter for the first time. He cried. He cried hard. When we knew she was going to be okay and I finally looked away from her, I looked at him, he looked at me, and I will never forget what or how he said it:
“Ginny, that’s our daughter!”
That was love.
And the love I had for my husband after everything that day, after seeing him hold Porter, after he officially became a Daddy, was a new-found love.
Love was the moment I finally got to hold my daughter on the outside of my body and she looked up at me for the first time.
Love was watching my parents see Porter for the first time. It was the moment they both shed a few tears looking at their daughter’s daughter. Love was the moment I got to watch my parents be grandparents for the first time and hold their first grandbaby.
Love was what I felt for God. For always, but newly for the ability to grow, carry, birth, and feed a baby. Our baby. For the man I got to experience it all with, and the family we had behind us, just excited to love her.
Love was what I believe God had for us when He trusted us to be her parents. For believing that we can take care of someone who depends on us, completely.
Love was that day and everything and everyone who filled the moments in that day.
And one day when Porter asks me about love, I will tell her all about June 22nd at 11:44 AM when I saw her for the very first time – and every day since then that I’ve had the precious gift of being her Mom.