This pregnancy was overall night-and-day-different than our first pregnancy. If you read the birth story of our first daughter, you might remember how wonderful all 40 weeks were for me the first time. This time, however, I experienced pretty intense morning sickness from the week I found out I was pregnant, until around week 17. Last time my allergies went away, this time they stuck around. Last time I had almost no other unpleasant physical symptoms, but this time I had horrible heartburn in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters and lots of back/hip discomfort. My environment and conditions were pretty different, too: during my first pregnancy I was working part time, coaching and maintaining a very active lifestyle. During this pregnancy, I was a stay-at-home-mom, babysitting, chasing around a toddler, and in the middle of our first move. It was a different sort of "active" but it was exhausting, nonetheless. Since our first pregnancy was a girl, it led me (and most others) to believe this child would be a boy...but either way, we decided to wait to find out for sure until the baby was born.
Because our pregnancy immediately prior to this one had ended in a miscarriage around week 7, we were seen by our OB very early on when we took our first positive pregnancy test in April of 2017. It was a very emotional first trimester as we relived the early weeks of the pregnancy we never got to celebrate. Plus, my sister's recent pregnancy had ended abruptly in August when my niece died during childbirth. It was hard to be excited without also being paranoid that something would go wrong. As we tried to decide when to tell our families, my sister called me and told me they were pregnant, due roughly a week or two after us. PRAISE GOD IN HEAVEN. And, let the emotional roller coaster of the "twousin" (twin/cousin...get it?!) pregnancies begin!
We began our pregnancy at the OB practice that we had begun our first pregnancy with. They kindly prescribed me some medicine to help with my morning sickness and I began to feel somewhat human again (while still continuing to get sick every.single.day.) Every ultrasound, every check up, every indication showed a healthy baby and a normal pregnancy with no sign of complications. Praise God. They originally set my due date at January 2, but at our next appointment moved it to December 30. I should go on record confessing that the entire time I thought they were wrong: I was convinced I wasn't due until the end of the first week of January.
Around week 15 (July) my husband's job moved to Nashville for 2 months. So we joined him! It was fun exploring a new city, but IT WAS SO HOT and I also had our almost 3 year old with me during the days as he worked very long hours. My morning sickness was almost gone, but I have a distinct memory of eating a small bowl of fruit only to immediately throw up all over our balcony, living room and bathroom. You almost just had to laugh, it was so horrible.
|15 weeks along in Nashville|
As our appointments progressed, we always commented on how many times an ultrasound tech/midwife/OB/nurse would mention our baby with a hand/arm by its head or sucking on its fist/knuckles. It's so fun to hear about these habits while your little one is in the womb and then see them continue that after they're born! I purchased an exercise ball and spent every evening straddling it, leaning on it, doing side lunges with it, etc. (I remember stating I thought I would birth on my hands and knees this time because it was the most comfortable position for me to stretch and relax in all throughout my pregnancy). I drank more water than I ever have in my life. I religiously took an afternoon nap when our daughter did. I tried to prepare myself mentally and physically as the pregnancy progressed. My sister and I text constantly: asking questions, sending pictures, commiserating, dreaming and encouraging. We even got a few maternity pictures together!
|My sister (left) at 27 weeks along, me(right) at 29 weeks along.|
When our appointments shifted to every week, we were told by an OB (our midwife's partner) and our midwife that we would likely deliver early. They predicted before Christmas, and we started to get our hopes up. We packed our bags early, made plans for our daughter to go with my parents and stocked the car with everything we would need. I experienced pretty regular Braxton Hicks contractions very early on, and especially in the 3 weeks before delivery. I began to think I would never know when real labor began because of how many "false starts" I felt. We celebrated Christmas with family close by and even braved our first "snow storm" of the season to drive to see family an hour and a half away...don't worry, everyone, the baby was NOT born in the car on these drives, contrary to popular concerns.
|Christmas' Eve 2017: 39 weeks, 1 day|
Partially to ease my mind, and partially because I'm obsessed with information, my husband agreed (at my pleading) to take another childbirth class at the hospital. The week before the class we had taken a private tour of the hospital. I highly recommend to anyone who is trying to prepare for childbirth to take a tour and take a childbirth class AT the place you will deliver. I feel both times it gave us a really accurate picture of how the nurses handle labor/delivery and what the hospital's views and protocols are.
At our 37 week appointment our midwife began talking about stripping my membranes. I was caught off guard, but it became clear that she was used to women wanting to end their pregnancies before their due date and before the New Year, in my case. My husband and I both decided we would rather be "hands off" in every way, and allow my body and our baby to work together and in their own timing.
At our 38 week appointment, I felt miserable. My face and hands and feet were SO swollen. I hadn't been wearing my rings for a while, but at this point I couldn't even zip my boots up! My blood pressure was a little high, so they took it again, and it was in the normal range but still high for me. When she checked me she said I was about 2.5cm dilated and 60% effaced. I still didn't want to initiate anything that would begin the cascade of interventions I was so afraid of. So we waited, again.
We had our 39 week appointment with our midwife on December 26 and we found out I was about 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced. I was just glad I was making progress of any kind. My swelling had gone way down because I had committed to guzzling enormous amounts of water over the past week and refrained from eating things high in salt. It worked! My blood pressure was normal again. I tried not to let our midwife's talk of induction bother me, even when she made it clear she wouldn't let me go past 31 weeks. Let's just say, I did some squats and camped out on my exercise ball even more than normal.
On Sunday, December 31 I remember feeling a few Braxton Hicks contractions as I got ready for church. By 9:00am I was pretty sure they were different and that labor might be starting. I loaded an app to my phone called "Full Term" that helped me track and time them. By 10:00, I was debating if we should go to church or not because I wasn't sure I would be able to sit that long. However, they weren't powerful and they weren't close together yet, just overall uncomfortable. We went anyway and I sat through the service trying to keep track of how many I was having. I gripped the pew in front of me and swayed through the songs, trying to relax and still very unsure if this was "it." Despite my internal doubts and questions, I remember grabbing my husband's hand as we walked through the snowy parking lot and saying, "You know what, hun? Maybe today IS the day we meet our baby."
When we got home, I laid on the couch, clicked the start/stop button on my contraction app and dozed off intermittently. My husband made our daughter lunch and checked in on me. We had agreed to let my parents take her with them to my sister's house for New Year's Eve so we could have an evening alone, and juuust in case labor started while they were gone, we wouldn't have to find a back up for our daughter. By 1pm when they came to pick her up, I had to hide in the bedroom because I couldn't fake being OK. We packed up after they left and got ready to head to the hospital, but decided to take a quick (SLOW) walk in the freezing cold first, just to make sure. After 4 contractions in less than 30 minutes, we decided to begin our hour commute.
The car ride was opposite of our experience last time. We laughed together as we listened to the playlist I had made for our baby's arrival. I had listened to it for weeks leading up to this day as I worked in the kitchen or stretched on my exercise ball at night, so I felt like Baby was learning the songs :) When we got to the hospital, I was thinking the ride was too comfortable. They are going to send me home. I might not be in labor at all... so we went to the bathroom and then went and walked the hospital parking lot again. We noted it was about 3:30pm when we began to walk. My husband was better at tracking my contractions than I was, and he assured me they were staying consistent. We decided to go inside, even though I was still maintaining my composure. I really hadn't been able to talk by the time we got to the hospital for Naya's birth, so this was a little new.
They got us set up in a triage room and got monitors on me to check our baby and my contractions. They said I was between 4-5 cm dilated and about 70% effaced...not the kind of progress I was hoping for. Although I was disappointed, they encouraged us to walk for an hour and see if I made progress. I immediately asked for a huge jug of ice water and a pack of goldfish and we began around 4:45pm. As we walked up and down the halls, I held my husband's hand or leaned against the wall as a contraction would come and then we would continue. I focused on breathing deeply, keeping my hands/eyebrows/jaw relaxed instead of tense, and swaying, bending over or squatting until they would pass. At this point, my contractions were coming about every 3-5 minutes and last around 1 minute, peaking almost always right at 40 seconds. It helped me to stay focused knowing that after 40 seconds they started lessening. At the hour mark, we headed back in and were checked again, only to find out my dilation hadn't' changed at all. I was now 80% effaced, which they considered a good sign, but I was bummed. The OB on call came in to consult with us and told us I could either go home and wait it out or walk for another hour. We decided to walk the same 4 small hallways for yet another hour. At this point, I can distinctly remember the contractions coming closer together, because I would realize how long we had been in the same hallway after I had to make multiple stops. I kept refilling my water and stopping at the bathroom just about each lap we made. The creepy historical photos throughout the hallways gave me some comic relief in the midst of the increasingly painful contractions. This was the first time I broke down and cried saying "I just don't know if I can keep doing this all night!" I KNEW the contractions and my body were getting prepped, but it really seemed like our nurse was not convinced, and that was extremely discouraging to me.
|This picture was in the hallway and resulted in lots of exhausted laughs (note the person to the front/right).|
|A quick selfie walking the halls! (5:32pm)|
Everything becomes pretty blurry at this point. By the time they had us set up in a room, it was about 7:15pm. We were introduced to our new nurse, but I could feel myself checking out of reality and sinking into a different place. My eyes were closed a lot now. The contractions came close together and I would announce each time "here comes another one" because I still felt like no one was taking me seriously. A nurse commented "Aw! Maybe you'll have the first baby of the new year!" and I thought to myself, Yeah right! This baby is making it tonight! My husband ran back out to the car to get all our things and text our families (who knew nothing about this process so far) and I requested our nurse stayed with me in the room until he returned. I just didn't want to be alone. I turned up the volume on our playlist, requested a birthing ball, and rested my forearms on the bed as I bent over and swayed my hips.
I remember the nurse not being able to get my picc line in the first time, and having to ask someone else to come and do it. I remember trying to express to the nurse (who seemed very young) that I had a very quick transition/pushing phase with my first baby. I remember asking her if she knew if the OB would let me deliver on my hands and knees or a birthing stool (which I had been assured would be fine) and her commenting " I think as long as you are in the bed, she'll be fine with it." I prepared myself mentally to be in the bed, but I knew beyond any doubt I couldn't lay or sit again at this point. We got a stack of pillows and they arranged the bed so that I was kneeling, resting my forearms on the pillows which were on top of the head of the bed. When my husband got back I remember saying as each contraction came "I just need you. Come here, can you hold my hand? I just need you here." The only comfort at this point was a cold wash cloth on my forehead. I remember beginning to shake and feeling so uncomfortably warm. My nurse was chatting and calm and suddenly said, "You're not feeling pushy, are you? Let me know if you are." I said, "I'm feeling pushy!" and she quickly asked the OB to come check on us as she prepared the room.
At this point I took off my hospital gowns because I couldn't deal with any form of restriction whatsoever. I felt my body beginning to push as each contraction came and I started saying "OK, come on baby! Just come on." Soon I heard a weird groan and even scream start coming from my mouth that startled even me. My nurse requested to check me again and I don't even remember agreeing or moving. She tried to check me from the back because I didn't move, but she couldn't tell, so apparently my husband and another nurse got me to my side. As she tried to check me and announced "Woah! Definitely an 8. Maybe a 9..." I felt a gush of water and she said "I just broke your water by checking you. Sorry!" I climbed back to the head of the bed and felt distinctly like I was getting ready to push the baby out. I said "I feel like the baby is right here! I feel like it's coming." The OB's voice was suddenly behind me making small talk and then saying, "Do you feel like you can get on your back and push in stirrups now?" I literally laughed. "NO. No I do not feel like I can move from this position" I responded. The nurses seemed uncomfortable and someone said, "Is that OK? We can put her on her side..." and the OB said my favorite thing: "I mean it's really up to her. I've never delivered hands and knees before but it's really up to her." That's the last thing I remember before 3 pushes that delivered my daughter. Before the OB shouted "It's a girl!!! You have another girl!" I could hear my baby wailing as only newborns do. My husband immediately came and said in my ear "You did it. She's here. She's fine. You did it!" I cried and buried my face in the pillows out of complete exhaustion and relief. The worst part of this otherwise incredible moment was I wanted to hold her immediately, but there was some confusion about how to get her to me. The logistics of birthing on your hands and knees mean the person who catches your baby needs to pass the baby through your legs for you not to get tangled in the umbilical cord. Instead, they let the cord pulse for 1 minute, let my husband cut it, got me turned around and finally placed my baby on my chest. She was just about inconsolable as I nuzzled her close and whispered to her "I'm so happy you're here! We love you so much. I love you. Daddy loves you. Jesus loves you."
As the OB worked to get the placenta delivered, my husband and I finalized her name. The OB noted that I hadn't torn at all and announced her time of birth as 8:29pm, about an hour and fifteen minutes after being admitted. The nurse looked at me and said, "I think your body was just made to have babies!" I laughed and treasured that sentence as I stared at our daughter in absolute disbelief. They later weighed her at 8lbs 6oz, and we believe she was probably 20 in long, although they measure her at 18. (9 days later at her first appointment she would be measured at 21 in long while perfectly still and asleep.)
We text our families. My parents were making a 3 hour drive to get to us so that Naya could see her baby sister. We watched the ball drop from our postpartum room as our newborn wailed in my arms and we laughed together thinking of how different our lives would now be.
We didn't tell anyone she was a girl until Big Sister came and met her. My husband got Naya from the waiting room and she came in to see Vienna Grace in her pink hat. Naya shouted in excitement, "It's a gull?! It's a gull!!!!! It's my baby sister!!" and we taught her to say Baby's name. My parents then came in and visited, followed in later days by lots of other family members.
|First picture together as a family of 4!|
Looking back now, I am very thankful for how things happened and I know God's hand was evident each step of the way. However, I recognize that I would have preferred to birth in a hospital, birthing center or other location that examined me less and trusted me more. I felt safe and secure the whole time and I'm so thankful for the care we received, but when it was all said and done I remember thinking, "This birth taught me to TRUST my body and my instincts. I knew I was in labor at 9am! I knew we should go to the hospital and I knew we needed to stay. My body felt different and I realized it, I just second guessed myself too many times." We are continuing to transition, slowly but surely, to normal life as a family of four and we love our newest little member, Miss Vienna Grace <3