‘WHAT IS THAT?’: Expecting couple surprised to find girl-to-be is actually a boy at birth

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“The story begins on April 14th, 2018. My daughter Milly was 2, Lyndon 8 months old. I was photographing a beautiful wedding at North Ridge Country Club, and I was reminiscing all day about how the last time I photographed a wedding there, I was pregnant with Milly and no one knew it except for my husband Will and I.

Courtesy of Nancy Ray

So many memories came rushing back to me as I stepped back in that place to photograph another beautiful wedding. Except that this time I had TWO children, and had to sneak out to my car to pump during the reception. I remember being really hungry that day and my friend Jen gave me her RX bar to keep me going. When I went to pump, I only pumped 1 ounce, which was not a lot for me at that time. All in all, it was a sweet wedding full of nostalgia for me.

Courtesy of Nancy Ray
Courtesy of Nancy Ray

Then I began to put a few things together. I thought to myself, ‘I’m super hungry. My milk supply is dropping. And I haven’t gotten my period since having Lyndon.’ And all I could think about was how I was pregnant the last time I was here. ‘Could it be that I’m pregnant again? Surely not!’

The next day, as we were driving home from church, I told Will. I didn’t want to freak him out, but I told him I needed to take a pregnancy test just to rule out a crazy thought I had the day before. I assured him I was NOT pregnant, but since the thought crossed my mind, I needed to know for sure.

Well, let me tell you. That line popped up SO fast on the pregnancy test that there was no denying it! ‘Um, BABE….’ was all I could say. Then I showed him the test and we both proceeded to cry and laugh and cry again in disbelief. We spent a good hour or two on the bathroom floor together laughing and crying as we wrapped our heads around it. I WAS FOR SURE PREGNANT.

I had no idea how far along I was because I never got my period! I thought, ‘I could be 6 weeks or 12 weeks. Who knows?!’ Sure enough, after a confirmation of pregnancy at the doctor a few days later, they confirmed I was 6 weeks pregnant. This was NOT in our plans whatsoever, but after the first few days of shock wore off, we began to fall deeply in love with this tiny person and our excitement began to grow.

Fast forward to July 9. The day of our anatomy scan. We had always had gender surprise babies, and loved finding out in the delivery room. But after having two girls in a row (both of which we thought were boys), my sweet husband said he just had to know if he was gonna be a girl dad for the third time. He of course has always wanted a son, so he wanted some time to process if we were having a third girl! Who could blame him? So, we asked our ultrasound tech to give us an envelope with the gender written inside for us to take home and open together.

Will and I went on a date and sat outside in the summer air. We placed our order and then grabbed the envelope. We didn’t want to wait any longer to find out! I made him open it. ‘IT’S A GIRL!’ As soon as we read the words, I laughed so hard. ANOTHER GIRL! I was thrilled. Will put his head in his hands and couldn’t believe it. He smiled, shook his head, then put his head back in his hands. It was just hilarious, because he comes from a long line of boys. We didn’t think we’d ever have one girl, much less three!

My pregnancy this time around was the most difficult of the three. In my 2nd trimester, my legs and ankles became very swollen, and the varicose veins in my legs went a little crazy. As in purple and blue and 80-year-old grandma looking crazy all up and down my legs. They burned and were sore. I wore compression stockings to the top of my thighs most days of my third trimester. (Do me a favor and don’t imagine me and my giant belly trying to squeeze those sausages into compression stockings every morning.)

I kept getting checked at the doctor to make sure nothing was wrong, and even though I was at a higher risk for blood clots, thankfully everything kept checking out as completely normal. My acid reflux was another level with this one too. I would prop up with 5 pillows every night to sleep and take two Zantac. I’d cut off all food and water at 7pm, and I’d STILL have acid reflux. I also experienced pregnancy insomnia. I would wake up some nights at 2am and lay in bed for hours and hours, unable to go back to sleep.

Two weeks before my due date, I broke down. Sleep deprived, emotionally exhausted, working extra hours to finish everything. I would cry to Will almost every night. I ended up calling my mom, asking her to fly in to be with us to help with the girls so I could finish work with extra help around the house and with the girls.

I was begging God to speak to me, and to help me. I felt very out of control. I remember praying in church and feeling like He was telling me that my physical pain and emotional instability would be reversed and I would be healed – that I would be more energetic and lively day by day leading up to the birth. I began to claim that every day as my reality – that all my painful symptoms were being reversed so I would be energetic and stronger than ever for birth! I posted scripture to my mirror and read it out loud every day. My faith was being stretched in a very real way.

My due date was December 10th, 2018. In both of my girls’ pregnancies, I never saw my due date. Milly came one day early, and Lyndon 3 days early. I was expecting this baby to arrive 5-7 days early according to the trend of my girls. I began having cramps and light contractions on December 7th and made mention of it to Will. They were very sporadic though, so I stayed hydrated and kept on with life as usual.

Well, WOULDN’T YOU KNOW that on December 8th, 2 days before my due date, the biggest snow that Raleigh has seen in December in years happened! Here’s what you have to know Raleigh completely SHUTS DOWN when it snows. Stores close, schools close, people don’t know how to drive, everyone clears out the grocery stores days leading up to it. 2 inches of snow is a lot for Raleigh, and we woke up to 7 inches on the ground!

It was beautiful and I was feeling great. We went exploring outside and watched Christmas movies. We had family staying with us since the roads were so bad and we wanted someone there overnight in case we had to leave. At 3am on December 9, my contractions became regular. I timed them at about 10 minutes apart. After an hour, I woke up Will and we called our midwife.

Typically, I labor a long time at home, then head in to the hospital when things are super intense. This time, I was Group B Step Positive and I was having my baby at a birth center, so they wanted me to arrive at least 4 hours prior to when the baby would be born so I could get my antibiotics. When I called at 3am, I was pretty much thinking, ‘This is it! We have to drive on black ice in a snowstorm to have this baby.’

But my midwife and I both agreed for me to have a tall glass of water and try to sleep one more hour before deciding. Well, after that, I fell asleep for 3 hours and my contractions disappeared! This was after they were 7-10 minutes apart for a couple of hours. I hadn’t had prodromal labor with the girls, but I did with this baby! It was tricky to know when it was the real deal or not.

The funniest part was that on the 9th, we lost power. THE DAY BEFORE MY DUE DATE, we completely lost power in our house. We spent about 4 hours straight packing for ourselves, packing for the girls, packing for Winston, packing for the hospital (thinking we wouldn’t come home without a baby), and moving all of our refrigerated and frozen items into coolers and putting them on our snow-covered porch

We loaded the car completely with our bags, 3 carseats, 2 children, and one giant dog. And on top of that, Milly was crying and crying, saying her tummy hurt. Bless. As Will was manually pulling up our garage door, toddler crying, car full of suitcases, 2 kids and a great dane, the lights came back on. WHAT. We didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, to stay or to go somewhere that guaranteed power overnight.

We decided to stay. John (Will’s bro) and Sam (John’s wife and my bff) came to stay with us overnight just in case I went into labor. Not so side note: they MOVED that weekend and came to stay with us. They love us.

The 10th was my due date, and it was a great mama day. There’s not much to say about this day other than it was a blissful, normal day with my girls. I felt strange all day, like ‘is this really my due date?’ But it was life as usual, and it was a gift.

The 12th, I woke up feeling off. I always want my coffee, but it didn’t look good to me. My stomach was feeling weird. Milly was crying and begging me to hold her when I had to run to the bathroom to throw up. Thank the LORD for my sweet mama and the timing of her arrival! I’ll spare you the details, but I spent the rest of the day throwing up in the bathroom or laying on my bed very weak. Being 40w2d pregnant and throwing up is a unique kind of awful.

Will came home from a long day of work around 6pm and said he felt terrible. I had looked forward to him coming home to be with me and care for me, but he was very sick when he arrived. His fever was 102.5, so he went straight back out to the doctor. He later texted me, ‘I just tested positive for both strains of the flu.’ I thought, ‘SERIOUSLY?! I’m 2 days overdue with baby #3 and sick as can be and my husband has 2 strains of the flu?!’ We both couldn’t believe it. We agreed he should stay at his mom’s house that night to spare me, my mom, and the girls from catching it.

I’ll never forget waddling around our bedroom packing his bag for him. ‘Lord, what is happening?’ I had to stop and breathe as I put his pants, shirts, boxers, toothbrush, books, and medicine into his overnight bag. I was so incredibly weak… it was so difficult to just pack the overnight bag for him. I put his bag on the outside steps of our house when he arrived. He had just thrown up in the bush outside our garage. He could barely drive himself, but we had no other choice. We weakly waved goodbye to each other, and off to his mom’s house he went.

8:15am. I woke up with contractions. Every 10 minutes or so they would come, and they were regular now. I called my midwife and we agreed I needed to come in and get fluids. I told her that Will had the flu and I was terribly sick the day before, and she said that fluids could help slow labor down.

9:00. I took a bath and got dressed. I realized in the bathtub that I needed to breathe through each contraction. These were getting real. I was moving very slowly and couldn’t talk through them. I knew I needed to grab my overnight bag. I probably wasn’t coming home.

10:15. I called Will and he wasn’t answering his phone. I texted and called again. Nothing. Praise JESUS Grammy (Will’s mom) was still there! She went in to wake him and tell him to head to the birth center. He called me back and said he’d get dressed and head that way. He took lots of meds and got ready to go.

I’ll never forget little Milly saying, ‘I want to give one more hug to the baby!’ She ran up and hugged my belly so big. Tears filled my eyes. I hadn’t touched or hugged my girls for the last 48 hours because I didn’t want them to get the stomach bug. That last hug was just what my mama heart needed.

10:40. The drive to the birth center was about 40 minutes. I texted my wonderful birth photographer and friend Lauren (who lives two hours away) and let her know I was on my way to the birth center. I remember my mom asking me which way to turn at a stoplight and I couldn’t talk through the contraction and just kept pointing to the left. We arrived at 11:15am, and I was still breathing deeply through contractions. My midwife Rebecca was amazing. She was such a calming presence and listening ear. I was so happy she was there when I arrived.

12:15. Just after she escorted me and my mom to my room, Will arrived. HEARING HIS VOICE WAS EVERYTHING. I cannot even tell you. The assurance of his voice coaching me through each contraction gave me such peace and confidence. I was so grateful for his presence. He was still sick with the flu, but God gave him such amazing strength that day. He was ready to support me however he needed to, face mask and all.

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

I laid there and labored on the bed. As things began to intensify, I began to break down emotionally, mentally, and physically. The IV was super slow and I was physically at my weakest. After having 2 unmedicated births with my girls, I knew what was ahead of me, and I knew I COULD NOT do it. I was DONE. I said, ‘I want to go to the hospital and get an epidural. I don’t want to be a hero today. I want some help. I can’t do this.’

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

Rebecca came back and told me, ‘We can transfer you if you want, but your husband cannot go with you. They aren’t allowing anyone with the flu into the hospital.’ Without hesitation I looked at her and said, ‘Then I’m not going.’ Then I looked straight at Will and said, ‘I’m not doing this without you. I can’t do this without you.’

I had been begging God to make my decision clear, and He did. I was not about to have this baby without Will. He has been my rock for all of my babies’ births, and I had to have him with me. So, I prepared myself mentally for the long haul, for the hardest thing I’d ever do.

1:15. Things got really intense. I was having major contractions in the bed and was pushing the baby down, and I yelled, ‘I’m sorry I am pushing!’ I had JUST been checked and was 4cm so I knew it was too early to be pushing! Rebecca said, ‘Let your baby move down. It’s okay.’ Goodness I needed to hear those words. To just let my body do what it was going to do. Lauren, my birth photographer, arrived and it was so sweet to see her familiar, comforting face and to know she was there.

Rebecca asked, ‘Do you want to get in the tub?’ I immediately said YES.

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography
Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

1:30. I had my final contraction. It was the most incredibly intense experience, but full of God’s great grace. I began yelling, ‘The baby is coming! The baby is coming now!’ My midwives sprung into action. Without any coaching or pushing, my baby was being born! My body was just doing it! I felt every bit of it and couldn’t believe it was happening SO fast.

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

I gave it all I had with that push, and sure enough my sweet baby was born! Rebecca caught my baby, passed her to me through my legs, and I pulled her close to my chest tightly.

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography
Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

They wrapped her in a blanket as I laughed and Will cried and we couldn’t believe it. The word to best describe the arrival of my sweet baby was RELIEF. After a long, difficult pregnancy, and after 24 hours of sickness and weakness, it was all reversed in a moment! I felt strong and excited and so full of joy.

I turned my snuggly baby over and saw something interesting between her legs. ‘WHAT IS THAT? IS THIS A BOY BABY?!’ I looked at the midwifes with wide eyes and they smiled so big and said, ‘YES! We have been waiting for you to discover him!’

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography
Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography
Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography
Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

I looked at Will and he quickly came over and lifted the baby’s leg to see for himself! Then he proceeded to fall on the floor! ‘It’s a BOY! We have a SON!’ I kept saying it over and over. I couldn’t believe it!

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

Her name was going to be Rosie, and I had called her Cozy Rosie all week because she was overdue. For a moment, it was a little sad to think that my tribe of 3 girls wasn’t happening, but those feelings quickly disappeared. I kept staring at him thinking, ‘It was you all along!’ I realized we had our Beaufort boy!

We had picked out the name Beaufort William when we were pregnant with Milly, 4 years prior. We had the name ready when Lyndon was born, too. We loved the name. Beaufort, North Carolina holds some of our fondest memories and a rich family heritage on Will’s side of the family. When it all sunk in, we were overwhelmed with JOY. I began to cry because of how sweet God was to hold out on us, to surprise us like He did!

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

We sat there and just LAUGHED. All the pain, weakness, and desperation of the hours leading up to his birth vanished. Will was unbelievably strong, and says that he felt horrible the day before and the day after his birth, but that he felt supernaturally sustained the day Beaufort was born. We rested. I did skin to skin and nursed constantly, Beaufort pooped 5 times in the first two hours of his life (welcome to being a boy mom I guess!). I ate the biggest, most delicious sandwich from Whole Foods (thank you Lauren for not only being a birth photographer but an amazing friend who went to get us all food). It was bliss.

Every person we told that evening was overjoyed. It was the craziest surprise for us, but so sweet to see how everyone else was so surprised and excited, too. Facetime calls to each of our Dads, an evening visit from Will’s mom, texts to our dearest friends… the responses were priceless.

When all the visitors left and we settled down to rest a bit more, I couldn’t sleep. Will slept next to me, Beaufort kept crying to eat, and I just soaked it all in, wide eyed, staring at my boy. At about midnight, I decided to take a shower (quite possibly the best shower of my entire life) and packed my bag. We went over all the details with our midwives, and we were dismissed at 1:30am.

We arrived home at 2:30am, and I settled into the bed to feed Beaufort again before catching a nap. Will went to sleep in the nursery – his quarantined flu spot for the next 3 days. We did it. We were home.

Courtesy of Lauren Jolly Photography

And after having 3 babies, there is one thing I know to be very true: He is in our midst in every wave, every breath, every worship song, every moan. In labor and delivery, His presence so very rich and real. He is right there when life enters this world. And that was the greatest gift of all. We welcomed our son into a room full of His presence.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nancy Ray. It originally appeared on her blog here. You can follow her journey on Facebook here and Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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