Kara & Soleil's Story
The sun in California is sublime. It burns brightly year-round, refusing to hide behind clouds. It’s not shy or easily intimidated. It gives generously, burning away the concerns of anyone who turns in its direction. The spring sun reigns supreme. It casts a golden glow on the walls of Ricky and Kara’s bedroom in Hermosa Beach. On the evening of April 16, 2021, the sun never really set. Just as it dipped below the ocean’s horizon, Soleil began to shine brightly in the Romeros’ sky. This is her magical story.
Before Soleil existed, Sebastian and Diego were in charge of keeping Ricky and Kara on their toes. The onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020 did little to dampen the energy and laughter in the Romero household. Even with parks and beaches closed to the public, they found ways to play all day long. Life with two little boys was a blast, but the real adventure was about to begin. Kara and Ricky always knew there was more to their family’s story. They knew not to just quit while they were ahead. After all, three is a charm.
A few months after Diego’s first birthday, Kara recognized the familiar changes deep within her body: she was pregnant. The new life was a cause for great celebration, but her experience with miscarriages tempered her excitement. She held her breath each morning, hoping to elude any sign of the end. After returning from a family trip to Santa Barbara, Kara’s OB delivered the good news she had been wishing for. There was a heartbeat!
The first half of the pregnancy seemed to mirror all the nausea and discomfort that accompanied Diego’s. Kara concluded that it mustn’t be a girl, and she began to happily settle into the idea of being a boy-mom for life. The only food that was remotely appetizing was bagels. Toasted, with vegan sausage and eggs. She ate so many they jokingly toyed with the idea of using ‘Bagels’ as a name.
Kara’s body was working overtime, not only growing a baby, but nursing one as well. Diego grew even closer to Kara during that time, wrapping his body around her growing belly during feeds. Kara often marveled at the abilities of the human body.
At 20 weeks they were able to find out the baby’s gender and Ricky requested a confetti popper to celebrate the occasion. Noticing the windy weather, Kara suggested they do the reveal inside to avoid decorating the entire street with tiny paper circles. They gathered the boys in the living room, and Ricky’s cousin, who was visiting from Mexico, agreed to film the event.
“You’re sure it’s not the powder ones, right?” Ricky asked to avoid a disaster.
“No, that’s not what I ordered,” Kara confirmed.
Sebastian and Kara twisted the confetti cannon together, amplifying the tension in the room with each rotation. Finally it popped, releasing the answer to their curiosity. A cloud of pink powder shot into the air, filling the room with a rosy haze. Sebastian and Ricky immediately let out shrieks of happiness as they began jumping across the room. Diego on the other hand was utterly confused and terrified by the sound and commotion. Kara stood with her eyes wide and her hands covering her mouth, equally shocked by the powdery mess and the colour.
“Finally one that is going to love me the most,” Ricky said, reacting to the boys’ obvious preference towards Mom.
The pink mark on the ceiling stayed for months as a daily reminder of their newest family member. Everyone was beyond excited. The idea of a little girl seemed to fit perfectly into their world and their collective anticipation grew with each passing day. Given the pandemic, visits with the midwife took place at home and Diego got used to participating in the routine checkups. He helped the midwife place the stethoscope on Kara’s abdomen and knew to listen for the heartbeat.
During the final trimester, Kara focused her daily meditations on Soleil’s birth. She sat still, immersed in her imagination, painting vivid pictures of every detail. She knew she wanted a home birth in water. After delivering Diego almost completely on her own at the hospital, she knew she was fully capable, and so did Ricky. She studied up and watched countless videos of other home births to prepare; perhaps a habit from her days watching game footage to improve her soccer form. She took note of the nuances, synching her rhythm with the flow of what was to come. Kara learned that babies use their feet to push themselves out. That fact seemed to transform Kara’s perspective. Labour was going to be a team effort. The first of many challenges she and her daughter would conquer together.
By week 39 Kara was beyond ready. The birthing pool was blown up in their bedroom and the Lauren Hill playlist was assembled. Sleep was elusive and Kara sought solace at her chiropractic appointments every few days. Soleil was due on April 22, but Kara was willing her to come early. On April 16, she went to see her OB for a routine checkup. Everything was in fine form, but the doctor warned that an induction would be recommended if the labour didn’t kick in naturally by 40weeks. This was not how Kara envisioned Soleil’s birth. She headed straight to her chiropractor to strategize.
“We gotta get her out,” Kara insisted.
“Well I can’t make her come out, but I can make your body relax so it is easier for her when she’s ready,” the chiropractor negotiated.
Kara accepted the compromise. After a few soothing adjustments, Kara headed home for her midwife appointment around lunchtime. She lay down on the couch with Diego nestled next to her while the midwife measured her belly and listened to the baby’s heartbeat.
“Would it be weird if I went into labour today?” Kara asked in response to the subtle cramps in her lower abdomen.
“Kind of. What are the odds?” the midwife responded rationally. “At least wait a few hours,” she added, half-joking. “I have another appointment an hour away. Give me a chance to get back!”
A half-hour later, the cramps had progressed into light contractions. She passed the time by playing soccer with Diego in the front courtyard. “I need to keep moving,” she thought, coaching herself. An hour later, Ricky took Diego to pick up Sebastian from Montessori school, and Kara took advantage of the alone time on the treadmill. She boosted the incline to ignite her body. “I’m not going to let these contractions slip away,” she resolved in her mind.
When Ricky got home, he started preparing for Sebastian’s 4:30 p.m. baseball game. By this time the contractions were regular enough, so they decided to call the midwife to let her know. Kara could still easily talk continuously, so the midwife advised it was reasonable for everyone to attend the game. But by the time they were ready to walk out the door, the contractions had absorbed Kara’s voice.
If this had been their first child, panic would have ensued. If this had been their first child, the world would have stopped revolving. But this was baby number three.Ricky immediately called their good friend John, who was also the assistant coach. John swiftly picked up Sebastian for the game, allowing Kara and Ricky to focus on the task at hand. They also called their doula (Julia), the midwife,and Ricky’s mom (who was on call to watch the boys) to update them on the situation.
Around 5 p.m.Kara slipped into their tub, seeking the warm water’s comfort. As the contractions progressed her focus narrowed. It was as if she became enveloped by an impenetrable shield. She could hear the commotion upstairs as the boys came home an hour later and Ricky juggled dinner and phone calls, but none of it disrupted her state of mind. She welcomed the contractions, doing her best to relax her body.
The chaos beyond the bathroom door escalated. Rush hour traffic stood in everyone’s way and Ricky was left to tend to everything by himself. He raced between the kitchen and the bedroom, filling up the birthing pool with hot water and preparing a meal that would pacify the kids. Updates from Kara made it clear the baby was coming sooner rather than later. On the phone, the midwife did her best to convey instructions for catching the baby, if it came to that.
“Ricky, Ricky, are you listening to me?!” the midwife inquired, sensing Ricky’s frenzied state.
“Not really!” he responded honestly.
Grandma and Julia finally arrived at 6:30 p.m. One look at Kara convinced Julia it was time to get her into the birthing tub. Things were progressing faster than anticipated.After the next contraction, Ricky called for Sebastian to come into the room. Sebastian had been waiting for this moment for months. He was old enough to comprehend what was going on, and the team was in need of their cheerleader.
Sebastian walked into the room, scanning the scene with wide eyes and bated breath. The sight of his mother enduring a contraction was a lot to take in and he immediately ran into the adjacent bathroom to process the overwhelming mix of emotions. The tears gushed from his eyes involuntarily. He emerged moments later, torn between his yearning to meet Soleil and the desire to extinguish his mother’s distress.
Kara reached for him. “Don’t cry, Sebastian. Mummy’s okay. Your sister is coming!” Kara reassured him as she embraced another contraction. The touch of her hand seemed to transmit a profound lesson on the difference between pain and suffering, and he instantly refocused, summoning the courage to walk into the eye of the storm for his sister.
After the next contraction Julia urged Kara to hold back, buying time for the midwife to arrive. Thankfully, she arrived minutes later and immediately began setting up the equipment needed for Soleil’s safe arrival.
On the next push, Soleil’s head began to appear.
“Go Mummy! Go Mummy!” Sebastian chanted.
The midwife guided Soleil’s head and directed Ricky into the catching position. A small adjustment to Soleil’s shoulders released her into her father’s hands. Ricky cradled his daughter’s tiny body and lifted her onto Kara’s chest. Soleil was silent, unaware of her new surroundings. The videos taught Kara that this was normal. She rubbed her daughter’s back, waking her up from a nine-month sleep. The tension in the room immediately dissipated once Soleil began to cry.
“I can’t wait to tell my teacher about this!” Sebastian exclaimed, causing the room to erupt in laughter.
The midwife directed Kara out of the tub and onto the bed to release the placenta. Soleil latched onto her mother for a feed immediately. Sebastian began recounting the events of the evening, waving his Harry Potter wand around like he was casting a spell.
“I was scared at first and then I wasn’t and then I was so brave,” Sebastian narrated, while jumping on top of the bed. His gusto expelled the wand from his right hand, launching it into the depths of the birthing pool. He paused the story as Ricky extracted the wand from the murky waters. Still good.
The midwife channeled Sebastian’s energy and focus towards Soleil and his mother. It was time to cut the umbilical cord and she knew Sebastian would be the perfect assistant. After the cord was clamped Sebastian followed the midwife’s instructions eagerly, leaning into the sense of duty he felt towards his new little sister.
Shortly after, Diego and his grandma entered the room slowly, keen but nervous to meet Soleil. Diego gravitated towards his mother and knelt up on the bed next to her. Kara lifted the towel covering Soleil to reveal their new family member. Diego tilted his head, trying to process the disconnect between Kara’s belly and the human lying in front of him. He was delighted, but it was clearly overwhelming,so after a little cuddle Grandma steered him back upstairs to his comfort zone.
The hours after Soleil’s birth were calm and comfortable. Julia helped clean up the room and then bid Kara farewell. It was clear that Kara was no longer in need of her support. The midwives continued their assessment of Soleil and monitored Kara’s vital signs.
There were no florescent hospital lights, no beeping machines, and no busy nurse’s station. Just the tranquility of home. Kara remained with Soleil as Ricky put the boys to bed. Sebastian had grown up that afternoon and decided to sleep in his own bed for the first time, with Grandma. Things just clicked into place. Like Soleil was the missing piece of their puzzle.
That night Kara lay in her bed, with Ricky on one side and Soleil on the other in her basinet; both sleeping serenely, exhausted from the birthing experience. Adrenalin refused to let her eyes close and she kept replaying everything in her mind.She had never been so fully present. She was hyper aware of what her body needed and in full control of her choices. It was unbelievable how closely reality had mirrored her meditations. Soleil helped Kara see her strength and power in a new light—a lesson that she would constantly remind her mother of in the years that followed.
As the months passed, Soleil’s personality began to unfold. She adored the boys and everything they did made her laugh. She was unreserved and adventurous. Laying still during feeds was impossible; there were far too many interesting things to explore. The sound of her mother’s voice was instantly soothing. One verse of Kara singing the ABC song was all it took to quiet her cry. Soleil also had a flare for drama, perfecting the fake cry long before her first birthday. She had a confidence about her, and she knew how to get what she wanted. Those who knew Kara well often shared a smile noticing that the apple did not fall far from the tree.
As the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the Romeros returned to their natural habitats: the beaches, the playgrounds, the baseball diamonds. The bonds between them only became stronger as new memories layered on top of one another, forming indestructible connections. Together they were the ultimate team. Each with their own strengths, playing different positions.
Kara and Ricky could easily see the future. Perhaps the street signs were a bit blurry,but the sentiments were crystal-clear. The feeling Ricky would get seeing Soleil’s face light up every time he walked through the front door. The delight Kara would experience when Soleil confided in her. The sensation of their hands entwined or their bodies warmed by a hug. The piñatas smashed, the food shared, the fights resolved. There would always be love. And even on the cloudiest of days, Soleil would continue to shine brightly in their sky.