My 30th birthday came and went—summer of 2016 I was on Cloud 9 thinking that a new change was coming. Rob and I had been in the midst of preparing to make a huge move to Alabama where my mom’s family is. I lived there for a while when I was a kid and spent time there during the summers before moving there. When I moved away at the age of 13, I never saw myself going back but as I got older and started visiting again more, I felt myself being drawn back to my family roots. I’ve always been the sentimental one and interested in my heritage, the stories and memories of my family.
In July of 2016, Rob and I flew down with Bo to visit my family and also looked at a beautiful old farmhouse that belonged to a family member. She was looking to sell and we were seeing hearts and dreams. That old farmhouse was built in 1912, was white with black shutters, a wraparound porch and sat on 34 acres. In my mind’s eye, it’d be on the cover of Southern Living. It needed a whole lot of work but man did I have visions for that place! Rob and I were spitting out the dreams and plans for that old place—a farm-to-table restaurant, an event venue, a family friendly place where we would have craft fairs with food and live music. The thoughts and visions were endless. The last day we were there, Rob and I went down to the house and literally laid hands on it—we stood outside on the porch, just the two of us, and put our hands on the house, praying out loud and asking God if it was His Will, to make a way for us to get that house. It was a big deal, a big undertaking, but we were ready and willing to take it on together and we were so excited about it. However, the following month the whole deal fell through. We were so devastated. It was as if someone had taken a thumb tack and poked it in my happy balloon. I wasn’t mad at God or the family member. I was just so disappointed and my feelings were crushed. At the moment that Rob got the call that the deal was off, I went into a recluse place spiritually. I didn’t understand what God was doing. I didn’t even have Alabama on my radar to move to and then out of nowhere we were set to move there and I was surprisingly ok with it—I felt that surely it was God orchestrating the whole thing—only to be left feeling completely clueless and empty. I had prayed for almost 6 years to get back “home” to the south and I thought this was it. It was finally happening! I had officially entered into the Mohave Desert inside. I didn’t know how to pray anymore. I didn’t know what scriptures to read, what devotional to study. I was just dry as a bone.
Another month went by, I was still walking around the desert and found a cactus rose. I was pregnant with baby #4. Rob and I didn’t tell anyone at first because of the last two miscarriages, and because at my first sonogram, they discovered that I had a subchorinoc hematoma which is what they had discovered during pregnancy #3. They weren’t sure if that was why I lost the last baby but said it was a possibility and that this pregnancy was a 50/50 chance of miscarriage since I had had two consecutive ones previously. Something felt different for me internally with this pregnancy—I had a peace that everything was going to be ok even though from the very beginning, it was one issue after another. I lost count of the sonograms I went to—between checking the hematoma, checking the placenta and so on—I was in somewhat denial that I was pregnant again but was also trying to embrace it and all but begging God to speak to me and help me out of the desert I was in. I didn’t know what He was trying to show me or leading me to but I had a complacent feeling and decided to just roll with it.
Rob and I eventually decided to tell our worship team one Thursday night at band rehearsal—I didn’t want to be congratulated because I still felt so blah and empty—but I also didn’t want to go through a miscarriage again, and at the end of the day, I was grateful that God saw fit for us to have another baby because I remembered my state of desperation in wanting to get pregnant with Bo. Our team laid hands on us and started praying “African Style” as we call it—I just sobbed as they prayed over us and our unborn baby. It brings me to tears even writing and remembering that moment. My friend, Alex was standing closest to me with her hand on my belly and said she just saw light radiating from my stomach and that she could see a dancer. I knew from the beginning of that pregnancy too that it’d be a girl. It was just a strong feeling I had. That Christmas we announced that we were expecting a girl. Before we found out she was a girl though, I randomly had a thought one day that if the baby was in fact a girl, I wanted to call her CC for short. Don't ask me why because I really don’t know where the thought came from. I knew her name would be Callie but I still thought of my cousin when I said the name outloud—I guess I hadn’t full grasped the fact she was gone and every time I uttered her name, her face would still come to my mind. I thought of the classic movie Beaches and Mayim Bialik/Bette Midler’s Character, C.C., when the idea came to me but that was the extent of my reasoning. That movie always makes me think of my best friend from high school, Jenn, so maybe that was another factor? Who knows. I just knew CC would be her nickname. I tried to think of a middle name that started with a “C” so that the nickname would make sense but either Rob didn’t like it or the name didn’t fit. A week or two before Christmas though, we decided on the name Callie Jude. Callie, of course, after my late cousin (she had been named after my maternal great-grandmother so it was extra special to pass down this family name) and Jude after Rob’s paternal grandmother. It was set—we were having a girl, her legal name would be Callie Jude but we would call her CC. She was due May 9, 2017 but in true fashion of my entire pregnancy, I had a distinct feeling she would come early. Bo had been born at exactly 39 weeks but I had this eery feeling she’d come even earlier. Throughout the majority of my pregnancies, I was in excruciating physical pain—my sciatica back pain was through the roof—but with CC it got to the point that I’d be in tears by the end of the day. On top of that, we found out fairly early on that she was breech. Of course ! I ended up going to a chiropractor to try and aliviate the back pain but also try and coax her to flip on her own. I also tried moxa acupuncture therapy. I was so petrified at the idea of a C-section, especially since I had birthed Bo totally natural with no meds. However, deep down in my gut, I also didn’t want to go through the traumatic natural birth and losing way too much blood experience that I had with Bo. Essentially I just wanted her to be born miraculously and not have to do all the medical stuff (haha!).
On Good Friday of this year I went in for my last sonogram to confirm that CC was still breech (I already knew she was because I could feel her head in the same spot it had been for months). I had Bo with me, thinking I’d be going to my chiropractor appointment afterward and then dropping him off with my in-laws so Rob and I could make it to the city for our 8 P.M. Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden. Yes, it was our final hoorah/babymoon/datenight/Valentine’s Day/early 5th wedding anniversary gift to each other and I was so looking forward to it. I was not letting anything stop me from getting to that concert that cost a small fortune and was worth every penny for the look on my dear sweet husband’s face when he found out we were going. Anyway, I walked into the sonography room simply thinking they were going to tell me the baby was breech and we’d go ahead and schedule a C-section, however after a few minutes, the sonographer called in the doctor and a midwife to explain that the baby essentially failed the test they conduct when a pregnant mother is that far along. CC scored a 4 out of 8. She wasn’t moving like she should—actually not at all—she was in a loose position rather than a tight fetal position and there was one other thing but the next several hours and months have caused me to forget. I had previously been told that CC’s cord was wrapped loosely around her neck so I figured that was a factor too. The doctor and midwife told me that they wanted to hook me up to a fetal monitor in order to monitor the baby’s heart rate. I was confused because I saw and heard her heartbeat on the sonogram but they explained to me that the sonogram is only a snippet of what the baby’s heart rate would be and that they needed to monitor me for a longer period of time. They told me that they would monitor me for 5-10 minutes and if the heart rate was ok, they’d let me go to the hospital by myself for further monitoring rather than be taken by ambulance but that either way, I’d need to go to the hospital for extended monitoring. I tried to remain calm because Bo was with me but when I had to start making phone calls—to Rob to inform him of what was going on and that he needed to get to the midwife’s office, and my mother-in-law to come get Bo—the tears started flowing. I laugh now thinking back at that moment because I was sweating so bad because of nerves, I was crying because I was scared but I was smiling because I was trying not to freak Bo out or make him feeling worried because Mommy was upset. I was a hot mess. Rob and my mother-in-law arrived. She took Bo while Rob and I headed for the hospital. The person at the registration desk in triage took my information, and I made sure to stress the fact that my husband and I had Billy Joel tickets for 8 P.M. show that night, and it’d be great to get in and out of there so we could make the train in time to get to that show at MSG. She laughed and said they’d see what they could do. Thankfully after a few hours of being monitored, they released me with papers that said to keep track of the baby’s movements and call the midwife if I had any concerns.
Rob and I made a mad dash for home to change clothes and then headed to the LIRR to make the train, bound for the city. We had an awesome datenight and got back home super late. The next morning we grabbed breakfast and headed to our Easter band rehearsal. Our church normally has two services but for Easter (and occasionally Christmas), we have one huge service at a local middle school auditorium. My discharge papers had said to monitor the baby’s moments but even after several hours, I hadn’t felt even a flinch from her. I didn’t want to go back to the hospital but I also didn’t want to risk something being wrong so ultimately we decided to call the midwife who, of course, advised to go to the hospital to check things out. As soon as I walked into triage, CC started flipping around and when I was hooked up to the fetal monitor, she started really showing off. While I was at the hospital, the midwife scheduled me for a Version for two days later—Monday, the day after Easter—in order to externally try and flip CC so as to avoid a C-section. An hour later we were headed back to band rehearsal. Easter Sunday came and went, and Monday finally arrived. I was instructed to pack a hospital bag in the event that the Version put me into labor and I had to have an emergency C-section. The Version was not fun...at all...and it was unsuccessful. I felt so defeated. I literally held on to the gurney rails, and Rob and the midwife’s hands for 10-15 minutes, in excruciating pain while two medical residents and a doctor tried to literally turn my baby around from the outside (and at one time, the inside) of my body, only for it not to work. I had my little breakdown moment and then I was done. I knew I had tried everything—chiropractor, acupuncture, Version, nearly standing on my head at home (FORREAL...I really tried this!)—and it was left up to God of how my birth was going to go. I trusted Him. I was scared about dying during childbirth but I trusted Him. There was no other option to me. I had an appointment for the following Monday to schedule my C-section but around 11 p.m. that Wednesday, two days after my Version attempt, I went into labor on my own. I didn’t have a chance to work myself up about an impending C-section date—at 1 A.M. we headed to the hospital and it was confirmed that I was indeed in labor and that before it became an emergent situation, they would perform a C-section once the OR became available. I was literally shaking like a leaf. My chest hurt from shaking. I was so scared but trying so hard to keep it together. I leaned my head back on the exam chair in my triage room, closed my eyes and started praying hard while also rebuking the devil. I know the devil can’t hear your thoughts but I rebuked him in my head anyway. I kept saying outloud to Rob, “I reeeeeally don’t want to do this. This sucks. Can we just go home? I don’t want to do this.” And he finally said to me, “Babe, I know this isn’t what you want. This isn’t the birth you or I wanted for our girl but I can’t help but think maybe this is God’s way of looking out for you. You lost so much blood with Bo—like a lot—so maybe this is His way of protecting you.” Wow. I never thought of it that way. I was still scared but I had a peace and I was just ready to get it over with.
God is so cool with His details. The doctor on call that night/morning was Dr. Brian Hunt. I didn’t know him from Adam’s housecat—he looked a little familiar because I had probably seen him in my midwife’s office at some point during my pregnancy—but I had never met or talked to him. He came in right before I was to be wheeled to the OR and introduced himself. I don’t go many places or speak to many people around here who don’t catch my accent and ask where I’m from, and it was no different that day as I was meeting this random doctor who was about to cut me open. After asking me where I was from, Dr. Hunt informed me that he got his Undergrad at The Citadel. As in the prestigious college in Charleston, South Carolina, two hours from where I had lived for 10+ years of my life and still called home in my heart. Where my mama was. I think I laughed internally and thought, “Ha! God you really are in the details!” After he went through the whole schpill of what was about to go down, the doctor asked if I had any questions for him. I simply requested that he not let me die. He probably thought I was nuts but I was super scared about surgery as it was the first legit, major surgery I’d ever undergone. Shortly after all the logistical talk, I was wheeled back to the OR and at 4:57 a.m. on April 20, 2017, Callie Jude made her grand entrance. She was so tiny—much smaller than Bo had been at 8 lbs., 1 oz. and 21.5” long—she weighed 6 lbs 9 oz and was 19” long. Our tiny dancer.
Life has been crazy and at time overwhelming since she joined our world 7 months ago but, as so many people assured me, I can’t imagine what my life and what our family was like before she was here. I want to squish her every time I see her. She is the most beautiful baby girl—she’s a total mama’s girl which drives me nuts sometimes—but she is such a good, sweet baby and so funny. I never thought of it before I started this little blog post series but she’s my little desert rose. My desert kiss* from God Who has set me on the journey back to Him.
*Words inspired by the song lyrics of my dear friend and mentor, Shell McGovern.