I wrote down Sybil’s birth story a few days after she was born but decided not to share it until today; her six month birthday. It’s hard to believe that day is today. Sometimes when I’m driving, or drifting off to sleep, or waking to nurse her in the dark hours of the morning I replay that day like a movie in my mind. I. LOVED. those first few days. Re-living those moments with her is like warming up in the summer sun after a long winter; it penetrates my bones.
And it all started on July 29, 2013: The day we found out I was pregnant with our first child. Pregnancy was a miracle for me and something I did NOT take for granted. Sure, I went through my fair share of pregnancy woes and misery, but overall, it was transformative; full of growth and profound beginnings. And it was sweet. "There is such a special sweetness in being able to participate in creation." - Pamela S. Nadav.
Ironically, it was exactly ONE YEAR AGO TODAY, October 15, 2013, that Don and I went in for a gender check ultrasound and took an unopened sonogram into the Utah mountains to find out we were having a baby GIRL. After that, we saw the world (literally) through rose colored glasses. Everything turned pink; starting with her nursery.
Our due date was set for April 7, 2014. That day came… and that day WENT… and then the next day went and six more days after that. I’m convinced that even though each month has an average of 30-31 days, the last month of pregnancy has 7315 (especially when you're overdue). Luckily, gramma had come from Idaho to
terrify me with her horror stories help and comfort me and sew blankets for the baby.
On April 14th we went in to the midwife’s office for a non-stress test and ultrasound. I was dilated to a 3 or 4 and everything looked good except I had a little more amniotic fluid than usual, around 24 cm, and it was thick which can indicate the presence of meconium. Both my midwife and my OB recommended that I be induced that day, but we declined.
When we got home I grew unsure of my decision and was a little worried about my amniotic fluid. I asked Don for a blessing after which we felt resolved in our decision. The Lord promised if I had complete faith and trust in Him He would keep me in His care. Our daughter had not been born because it was not her time, but we were promised she would come on her own and God would bless the hands of all those people who would help deliver her.
I felt at peace and so did Don.
Around 9:30pm that night I started having what I could only assume were mild contractions about 10-20 minutes apart. I had been told by virtually everyone that contractions were unmistakable and that first time moms have long labors… they were wrong on both accounts. I had no clue those were “real” contractions and I figured this would go on for days. (It didn't. It only went on for about 10 hours.) Real or not, at 9:51pm Don and I decided to start keeping track of my contractions by texting each other the time they started. In between each text we cleaned the house and prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually for the birth of our daughter. That night, there was supposed to be a blood moon eclipse. We weren't really tired; in fact we were both a little anxious, so we sat on our balcony and watched the moon rise. The eclipse peaked around 1:30am and, staring up at the night sky, I could sense that the veil was thinning; her birth was near.
We decided to try to get some rest. I sat in bed googling things like "how to sleep through contractions". I never did find anything on the subject. :) At 2:14am contractions started getting stronger. At 3am I ran a hot bath with essential oils to relieve my pain and help soothe my body and mind.
By this time, even though I was moaning in pain every few minutes, I was still convinced I was NOT in labor. Don was of a similar opinion at that point; he was trying to get some sleep. However, after listening to me struggle through a few contractions in the tub, he started to grow concerned. He got up to help me in to the shower and recommended we call the midwife. My contractions were 8, 6, 2, 5, 3 minutes apart.
We woke our midwife from a dead sleep at 4:00am and once she heard me go through a contraction she jolted out of bed and told Don to get me to the hospital! I must have sounded pretty convincingly in labor. Of course that put Don in a bit of an excited/frightened panic as he started gathering things and loading the car. In his rush, Don asked me to hurry (oh yes, he did). I stood there frozen; one pant leg on, trying to catch my breath through a painful contraction. This guy wants me to hurry... I'll hurry YOU! The only reason he is still alive is because his run is much faster than my
waddle pregnancy swag. ;)
We pulled up to American Fork Hospital at 4:26am and I told Don to go ahead and park so I could walk in with him. He gave me a funny look, but complied. I was in control and feeling quite normal in between contractions so I wanted to take my time and enjoy every moment. I had a pretty big contraction just as we walked in between the automatic doors so I stopped, held on to Don, and focused on breathing. It must have looked pretty funny; a pregnant lady blocking the automatic doors, frozen in pain, looking like she might have a baby right there in the lobby. But it was early in the morning and the only other living soul in sight was the security guard who seemed to be expecting us. He asked if I needed a wheelchair and I shook my head no while Don, simultaneously, nodded (emphatically) YES.
When we got to the L&D floor, it seemed to be a ghost town. There were only a few nurses. The floor was dimly lit and it was still and quiet, but they had been expecting us. It was like a scene from a movie. You know those scenes when someone really important (and pretty, and smart, and awesome) ;) is about to enter the room so they roll out the “red carpet” and everyone lines up with their chests puffed out ready to serve her in any capacity? That’s exactly what it felt like; I felt like the Queen of Sheba. I got to my room and the nurses asked me to undress all the way. My face turned red and I was like, “All the way, really?” And they laughed and said, “Honey, you’re about to have a BABY… so yes… all the way.” I had been so focused on keeping my mind and body relaxed I had scarcely prepared for what WAS coming. She was coming. Gulp.
They checked me; I was dilated to a 7 and in transition!! I can sum up that moment in four syllables: ALL.E.LU.IA. I was shocked frankly, and sooo relieved! It was nice to have some validation that my struggles were legitimate. I had made it this far without chemical intervention and had managed everything really well to that point, so I declined the epidural and committed to an all-natural birth.
Minutes later Kathryn, my midwife, arrived; she looked soooo tired but I was eternally grateful to see her. She fiercely stepped in and seamlessly guided me (and Don) through contractions: pushing on my knees, rubbing my back, encouraging breathing, and suggesting different positions. She believed in letting nature run its course so I was instructed to listen to my body and do whatever felt right. Kathryn, along with our nurse Kimmy, put Don and me at ease. They had such a calming presence and were so very attentive to my needs; emotionally and physically. Things actually got EASIER with their guidance and direction and I found myself settling into my bed, surrendering. I was grateful for this team I had. I trusted them implicitly.
Words that were only ever nice concepts had become my way of life; my lifeline. I looked out our hospital room window. It was so silent, so dark but starry and bright. The world seemed to be taking in a big breath. It felt like Christmas Eve; calm, bright, still... It was absolutely beautiful. My room was quiet. There weren't many people there, but they were all there for me, for Sybil. It was dimly lit and comfortable, peaceful. My mind reflected back to a blessing Don had given me just hours earlier, before contractions started. I was asked to trust God with all my soul. I was promised that my body would be able to do what it needed and that God would send angels to encircle us when the time came. He would bless the hands of those who would help usher in our daughter. I felt those blessings fold over me like a blanket and it was one of the most reverent moments of my life. I was full of peace and reverence; I was in awe at what was taking place in the world, my world.
At this point I was really, truly enjoying labor; talking, laughing, smiling, taking it all in. After a couple hours though things got more intense. Don and Kathryn had been pushing on my legs to help with contractions but that grew less and less effective as I became further dilated. Kathryn was so gentle and kept rubbing my forehead, asking me to try to melt into my contractions and relax my body. It sounded so lovely, and helped immensely, but I could feel myself moving further and further away from their voices. I kept telling myself to relax, melt in, let go. At around 6am I was at 9 ½ centimeters. My team had been so calm and positive during labor, and I loved that there was no rush, but after some time had passed and nothing had changed Kathryn recommended breaking my water, so we went with her suggestion. Aaaaaaand then things got EXTREME!
My body went into a sort of survival mode. I had studied birthing techniques, like hypnobirthing, during pregnancy but the pain I was experiencing at that point was so unbearable I couldn't manage it. No… like I couldn't manage it no matter WHAT. After I pushed through a few more excruciating contractions a feeling of panic started to creep in. I wasn't sure if I could go on like this. I started shaking and vomiting and SCREAMING through contractions. I had a new nurse at this point (shift change) and this new person thought it would be a good idea to SHUSH me while I was screaming...mhmm. I have no idea how she survived it, I was out of it, remember? ;) (This nurse apologized emphatically an hour later, and you'll find out why in about three pictures from now.)
The biggest mental block I faced was not knowing how much longer I could go on. I looked up at Don, pleading him to help me. When I met his eyes and really saw him, I saw compassion and love. My eyes trailed down to his trembling hands and then I closed my eyes and heard his breathing. He was nervous excited and maybe even a little scared. But that man was a calm, strong presence in the room who helped me feel secure and safe. He was so sweet and supportive without ever having said much. He guided me through, he held me, he caressed me, he loved me, he spoke to me, he prayed for us, he laughed and cried and paid attention to my spiritual cues... in his own way he was the perfect father and husband.
When the next contraction ended my body went limp and lifeless. I was EXHAUSTED. I felt like I had nothing more to give. The only thing I felt I could do was draw inside myself and when I did I met my Savior.
What happened next is too sacred to recount, but the experience solidified my testimony of the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not only does He live; He carries people in their hour of need. He carried me. When the next contraction came I gave what I could and He made up for the rest. All at once heaven and earth met. The veil had parted. Her head was crowning. Almost immediately after her head came through her body was delivered and we heard magic in the sound of her first cry.
With courage and strength I never knew existed in me, I delivered my first child, my sweet Sybil Grace, on April 15, 2014 at 7:11am.
When they placed her on my stomach it only took a few moments for her to calm down and relax into the warmth of my skin. It was like she instantly knew I was her mother and she was safe. I stared at her. She was the most beautiful little crumpled up potato I had ever seen. Kathryn said she was perfect and healthy in every way; no meconium! I on the other hand wasn't doing very well. I got a little bit of tunnel hearing and had a hard time focusing and staying in the moment. By medical definition, I had experienced a mild postpartum hemorrhage and that loss of blood combined with the extreme amount of pain I endured had put my mind and body in shock. The first thing I wanted to know was if she was okay; she was. The second was if she had inherited her dad’s ears. ;) Everyone got a good laugh out of my incoherent concern about the size of my baby’s ears, but when I was assured she did NOT have that Christensen gene I was relieved! ;) They tried to bring the baby up to my chest but her cord was too short so as soon as it stopped pulsating Kathryn handed Don the scissors and he chose to cut her cord. He said it was mesmerizingly beautiful. He wasn't sure how he would feel about all the goo and the screaming and the blood and the screaming (did I mention the screaming?..) but he saw beauty through it all and found himself in awe.
Cutting the cord brought some relief as they laid the baby on my chest and I got to look into her eyes and see her face for the first time. It was magic. There really is no other way to describe it... it was pure magic. Her lips were so defined; big and pouty and deep red, so kissable. Her fingers were loooong, just like mine. Her little wisps of hair were dark brown and her eyes were deep blue. And that new baby smell! I was intoxicated; it was so healing to me. The next thing I knew they were taking Sybil to weigh her. I looked at the foot of my bed to see red numbers flash 10 and 2.9. I almost came up out of my SKIN! I gasped, “Is she really ten pounds?!” Yep, 10 pounds 3 ounces, 22 inches long, and a huge 37cm noggin. I couldn't believe it. I had lived through one of my greatest fears: I delivered a 10 pound 3 ounce baby naturally, with absolutely no medication. Would I do it again?.......
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Ask me later. ;)
Kathryn told me I had not torn my perineum which seemed like a miracle to me, but I had slightly torn internally requiring four stitches. I felt every poke and thread but compared to what I had just gone through it felt like NOTHING. Next came the “uterine pushes of death” (which if you've ever given birth you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about), and after a few of those I was
DONE with mankind ready for a breather. I was glad for my team and their watchful care but I needed to be alone with my family. Once the room was ours, those first few moments we shared together were some of the greatest of my life.
Time slowed down almost completely. I felt my heart settle in to my rib cage and immediately start to stretch and grow so big it seemed like it might burst. The bond with my baby was not intense or instant, that took a little bit of time. But my love for Don instantly grew five times infinity. Seeing him with her…. it was amazing. I saw him with completely different eyes. Watching him become a father was one of the greatest joys of my life. Nothing has made my love stronger than to see the man of my dreams with the girl of our dreams.
The weight of the event that just took place was so heavy I could feel it, and yet… everything was so weightless and light. Though the past few hours were somewhat of a blur, everything seemed to come into clear focus for just a few sweet minutes. It felt as if the sun had waited to rise until Sybil’s arrival, like everything outside that delivery room had paused in reverence. Once everything was still and calm, everything was bright. The sun filtered in through the window and poured into the room like liquid gold. A brand new tiny human, her soul only minutes old, was lying on my chest; the sun resting on her head like a kiss, her ear pressed up against the beat of my heart. She was calm and alert. She was everything.
The angels who helped usher her in to this life lingered in the room, their presence like a warm blanket. It seemed as though heaven was nearby, like she brought it with her. I kept glancing down at her, reveling. I was her mother! She was my daughter! Heavenly Father had given me a piece of Himself to care for and watch over until her return to Him. I felt endowed with power and humbled by His grace all at the same time.
Don took this quiet opportunity to pull a ring from his bag and place it on my right ring finger. It was a small rose quartz center stone on a twisted sterling silver band. It was a symbol meant to represent the start of motherhood and our eternal family. I hope to one day pass it on to Sybil.
After we were settled in our recovery room and the baby had been bathed and tested and swaddled, we welcomed a few guests.
I was beyond grateful to have my own mom there; she was a little piece of heaven to me. When she met her 9th grandbaby it was love at first sight. She was so tender and nurturing with her. I wish my dad could have been there. When Don’s parents arrived it was something special to behold. This was their FIRST grandbaby despite their old age, and the look of pride and love on their faces was something I'll never forget. Grandpa Kent was so captivated by her and they seemed to form an instant bond. His rough exterior melted away the moment she was placed in his arms. His eyes were glued on hers; he didn’t want to let her go. We shared the news of our new baby with the world and everyone was so happy for us and seemed to share in our joy.
That night, we settled on her name: Sybil Grace Christensen.
As we deliberated over our experiences with her those last nine months and in that first day, Sybil Grace seemed so fitting. Sybil is of Greek origin meaning “prophetess”. In Greek and Roman legend the sibyls were ten female prophets who practiced at different holy sites in the ancient world. In later Christian theology, the sibyls were thought to have divine knowledge and were revered in much the same way as the Old Testament Prophets. Grace is a family name. It means God’s favor and love; A simple and beautiful quality, kind, polite, and fair. That was her in every way. Our little Sybil Grace.
We were in the hospital as a family for two days and were able to spend nearly every minute of that time together. It was a like a fairytale. Don was so sweet and gentle with both me and Sybil. We talked about how perfect this whole experience had been. He told me how proud of me he was. He told Sybil how beautiful and brave she was. We shared our perspectives on the whole experience so far and it brought us both to tears. We were a family. That was such an overwhelmingly beautiful truth.
For months, I had prayed that I would experience Sybil’s birth however God intended. I learned so much from that sacred day:
God answers prayers. He answers my prayers.
I am loved.
I am stronger than I ever imagined.
The female body, my body, is amazing.
The bond of eternal families is real and palpable.
Marriage and parenthood, they’re gifts. SUCH. Sacred. Gifts.
Birth is not a one-time event; Parenthood is a constant series of birth and rebirth as it sheds the lesser self for a more holy, righteous one.
Now 6 months later looking back, I’m in awe of what our life has come to be. Don and I were not fully prepared for this! How can you prepare for this?! The lack of restful sleep, the cruel absence of naps, the aching back, the feeling that your body is a watering hole ;), the ninja moves, the precision and acrobatic talent it takes to remove poop filled clothing, the laundry, the constant worrying, the HOLE in your heart as you lie in bed at night missing her…. And even though we did our best - we imagined and dreamed it, we anticipated it like Christmas morning, we looooooonged for it - but we were not prepared for how much we would L.O.V.E this tiny human, and how completely and perfectly and simply she would love US.
Sybil Grace. She has CHANGED us. Her dad and I spent more than 20 years becoming who we are, and more than 8 years shaping who we are together.... and in six short months this wildly perfect little creature has made us into something new. A family. A father. A mother. And suddenly we are learning everything all over again. I can't believe she is 6 months old already. It seems like it happened all at once! I love this happy little baby with everything inside me! Some days, I wrap my arms around her and I can hardly believe she exists in the flesh. I love squeezing her tightly in a momma bear hug; soaking her in all at once. I've had so many visions and dreams and thoughts of her in my life, and she is finally here in my arms!!!! Sometimes, that fact is beautifully overwhelming and impossibly happy.
Thank you Sybil. We're forever grateful to you for choosing our family. Happy Halfsies. We love you. xoxo - Mom and Dad
*Don put together this awesome video of a few iPhone video clips we captured the day of her birth. Check it out:
Sybil Grace Christensen from dc films on Vimeo.
I've been preparing for motherhood since I was a little girl. I've inherently known all along... this is my life's purpose. It's who I'm meant to be. Ever since I knew I had become a mother, that rightness has consumed me. Her presence has shone through me with a brightness and illumination I've only ever known as the light of Christ. His light shines in her like a beacon, reminding me who she is and whose she is; reminding me who I am. And the moments I've shared with her, those quiet tender moments spent in the warmth of her nursery, have been some of the most peaceful moments I've been blessed to have. In those sacred moments, I know I'm right where I should be. I can feel God's embrace, setting me apart for this new calling, whispering to my soul His words of comfort, sharing in my joy. And I send up my gratitude to Him with all my being.
To My Love,
Your father and I have prayed for you since our own beginning. We've whispered wishes swirling in the wind with dandelion seeds. We've sent them floating up into the night sky with burning lanterns. We called on heaven, your dad's strong hands resting on my head, and heaven answered... with blessings and promises falling down like rain. And you sent us hope, with every morning sun, you sent us hope that you would come. And faith and angels ushered you in.
Now, here you are. Nestled close to my spirit, resting peacefully near my heart, until you are ready to be in my arms.
I have been called; I am your mother. You are my joy.
I want you to know how much I love the God who sent you, and how much I love the man whose love for me helped to create you. Your father is an amazing man. He is genuine and patient. He is kind, sweet-natured, and gentle. He will protect you, defend you, and support you. Whatever strength you lack, dad will lift you up and make you whole. And OH will he make you laugh. He's the funniest person I know, and so adventurous. You will always find adventure and wonder when you're with dad. He is the patriarch of our family; his priesthood power will bless you, and find you when you need to be found, and keep you. Know that your dad loves our Heavenly Father with his whole heart, and he will love you with the same fervor and intent. I trust dad to keep our hearts in his, and I know beyond any mistakes or flaws you'll see, he is the perfect man for us.
Your dad and me... we love each other. We have found happiness in our life together. We have secured a place within our collective soul where home resides. And that is something that we, our darling loved little girl, want to share with you.
There is a place for you here, waiting. It's here in our hearts and in our home. And while we've waited we've watched you grow. We watch you kick, we feel you move, we whisper sweet wishes, hoping you'll hear. Dad plays his guitar and reads words on pages. Mom sings lullabies and basks in the sun with you. Together, we dream of you. We imagine your beautiful, smiling, calm presence. We imagine kindness. We see a tender spirit... soft and mild and meek. We hope you'll inherit my courage and creativity and your dad's curiosity and love for learning. I see your dad's eyes: intelligent and full of wonder; able to see the world with wisdom and awe. He imagines you with my big heart: sensitive, open, and intuitive; able to heal the wounded and share happiness with the joyful. This sense of feeling and connection will keep you close to Heaven but will sometimes be a lot to carry. So, I hope you learn to develop your father's strength and center, his sense of calm. We imagine your thoughtfulness, always reaching out to others the way we try to do. We imagine God's selflessness and love in you. We hope you'll carry it... carry us and who we are in you... always.
But whoever you'll be, without any doubt and beyond what my mind can comprehend, when I imagine you I see God. And I see God's love. You were crafted in His image. His spirit resides in you and He will always be near. As long as you look to Him first and always, you will be in the arms of the one who holds the world in His hands.
And while we have you... for the brief time we have been chosen to be your stewards here on earth... we will keep you close to His spirit, resting peacefully in His heart, until you are ready to return to His arms.
Welcome to the world, and welcome to your family my little queen.
May you be surrounded by love, inspired to learn and grow, and always know that you are deeply cherished.
- Pleasant Grove, Utah, United States
- Welcome! My name is Mallory Christensen and I am a professional photographer in Utah County specializing in weddings and portraiture. I just happen to have the best job in existence, too. Photography is what makes my heart beat. It's what I love. And the people I get to photograph absolutely and completely fill my life with happiness. I guess you could say that makes me one blessed little lady. -- Speaking of blessings, I was recently married to the very biggest blessing of my life, Mr. Christensen. He absolutely... 100%... completes me. We share our home with a puppy I love named Mazie. You'll find I also love nail polish, bright colors, Christmas, antique jewelry (no really, like I'm obsessed), and I find I'm most happy when I'm living my life for my God, doing His work, and serving His people. -- It's nice to meet you. Let's get acquainted! ♥
What Sort of Photographer Am I?
RULE BENDER Master smile cracker
Occasional bride calmer-downer
And/or mother of the bride kicker-outer
That about does it.
I see pictures in everything that I do. I can't turn it off. Even when I put my camera down, I’m notoriously more concerned with whether it would “photograph well” rather than its other practical uses or beauty. And, to me, it’s as natural as breathing. I crave it. I feel so blessed to do what I love and what inspires me. I love what I do, and I do what I love. Which is life, of course.
I love the response of life to my sense of touch. Though many might guess sight would be my favorite sense… to me, there isn’t one without the other… or the other... or the other. My passion is to experience life with all my God given senses. And well, my craft of photographic inspiration?… let’s just call it my sixth.
I'm constantly growing: growing in my knowledge of photography, growing in life, and growing in my relationship with my Savior. I find every joy in capturing the response of others to the stimulation of their senses. It is an unending mystery and adventure for me to see how everyone experiences life so differently. Life is fuller as we experience it with sound, taste, smells, textures, and sight. My passion is creating photography that breathes it.
Specifically… it’s laughter. A simple, child-like smile. The mystery in someone’s eyes. The humble tear of an un-expecting groom. Sunlight. Love’s embrace….
So. Burst out into laughter. Then laugh… until you cry. Live. Breathe. Enjoy the moment. And then let me be there to bottle it up, and let it live.
Life is after all what you make it, and, well, mine tastes pretty sweet.
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