In the running for the highlight of Eloise’s birth: chowing down on a tuna sub and sipping iced coffee in the backseat on the way to the birth center, only to discover on arriving that I was almost completely dilated. Truly the best moment, though, was meeting our baby girl only a couple hours later, caught completely off guard by her head of dark hair and an altogether unexpected reason for my tears.
From the beginning, I had high hopes for our second baby’s birth. Evan’s birth had been one change in plans after another. This time, I hoped to spend our early birthing time at home, in peace, followed by the uneventful birth center birth that never came to pass for Evan. I wavered for weeks over whether Hypnobabies birth method was worth the investment of time and money. Our doula, who specializes in Hypnobabies, never pressured us, but I’m so glad I pursued it in the end, and I pretty much owe sole credit to Hypnobabies for enjoying that tuna sub in such comfort.
My terminology follows the Hypnobabies course language–it might sound a little funny, but it’s not hard to follow, and is totally worth using to reflect the natural event that childbirth is.
I had baby fever as soon as I forgot the discomfort of Evan’s birth. I wanted SO badly to be ovulating, and I would take embarrassingly frequent pregnancy tests on the fluke that we’d gotten so lucky without trying. That was never the case (a blessing in hindsight for our family), and when my period returned at 16 months postpartum, we got right to work! Easier said than done when a nursing toddler is keeping you up at night more than he did as a newborn. On our third wedding anniversary, I surprised Steve with the news of a positive pregnancy test. We were a bit stunned and so excited that it was finally time to add to our family. A couple weeks later, I called him on his work trip in Dallas, with the news that I wouldn’t get the chance to share a birthday with this baby, after all. I had started spotting, then bleeding, over a couple of days. Steve came back as soon as he could catch a flight so we could process this early loss, a chemical pregnancy, together.
It was tough, but not devastating. We knew we wanted to keep trying, and I felt so fortunate that we conceived my very next cycle. I had a crippling case of “food poisoning” in early December, during some round of tainted salad greens in the news. Steve had to take over mid-diaper change at bedtime while I curled myself around the toilet, calling my mom in tears to see if she could bring Saltines. The incident came and went, but when we pieced together the timeline, positive test in hand not much later, we realized that it must have been a case of some strong implantation!
And so it began. I was slow to call for the first appointment, and took several more tests to confirm, I think waiting to see if this one would “stick”. I was hesitant to even state factually that I was pregnant for a few weeks. It didn’t feel like it counted yet, given what we had just been through. But it began to count, and quickly, as my belly popped right out and–I hate to even recall it–I lost my taste for cheese. Or really much food at all. As we shared the news, and how sick I was feeling compared to my first pregnancy, we got a few it-must-be-a-girl’s, and the wives’ tale holds true this time. We opted not to find out the gender until the birth again (it’s the best surprise), and the nausea came and went and eventually faded, giving way to some unsightly and painful varicose veins, a maybe-real case of gestational diabetes, and much less rest than I got while pregnant with Evan. I otherwise took my health much more seriously this time around, not willing to give up our birth center birth for ANY reason that I could control. I ate as best I could, I took my blood sugar faithfully, I lifted weights, and when I didn’t feel up to strength workouts anymore I walked…and walked…and walked. Usually upwards of two or three miles a day.
We bought a house, we took Evan to the beach in Florida with a few days planning, and as home renovations progressed, we decided baby would join us in our temporary apartment near my parents, baby’s Nana and Papa.
And Papa–before he got his new grandbaby girl, he got a diagnosis of stage 4 kidney cancer. It put this new little life into glaring perspective, but Papa got to see her in person often, and we hope he’s somewhere watching with a smile as we celebrate Eloise’s birth every year. Eloise will carry a little Papa wherever she goes: Eloise Scot, whose name she got from mama Tessa Scot, whose name I got from Papa Scott.
So basically the pregnancy was super eventful but entirely normal. The tracks I listened to daily as part of Hypnobabies made it impossible to picture anything BUT a beautiful, natural birth at the birth center. They put my mind in charge and gave me an incredible calm about the birth. I KNEW I would have the right birth for our baby, and although I took on Hypnobabies to equip me in the case of an intense birth like Evan’s, I was intent that the right birth would indeed be the one we planned.
…before we get back to the food. Yep, you read that right! After two years of pouring myself into figuring out this parenting thing (or sometimes having a child suck every last ounce of energy out of me), I’m going to be back to this space in some capacity. Of course, I envision posting regularly three times a week, but I may be settling for posting our very favorite recipes or dinner plans once a week, for starters. You can expect recipes of the same nature–comfort food and new favorites with a healthy twist–but in a lot more family-friendly prep time. Because I’m certainly not GAINING time in life: we’re moving soon and there’s a new baby on the way, due around the end of summer.
So all of a sudden here we are, living in Minnesota, with a two-year-old, and a baby on the way–let’s back up for just a few minutes and try to fill in some of the gaps between Evan’s birth and…today.
The biggest theme of the past two years is that parenting ain’t easy. I have gained so much respect for alllllll of the mamas and daddies out there doing your best for those kids, whatever that looks like. In total honesty, Evan’s first year of life was extremely isolating for me. Sure, we occupied ourselves with some travel, visits from family, outings to the park and baby yoga and sometimes our old favorite restaurants, but those things were just a temporary reprieve from the day-to-day that not even being a stay-at-home blogger can prepare you for. My husband was gone 12+ hours a day working hard, sometimes traveling while I tended to Evan’s every need, primarily for milk. Lots of milk. We were lucky to have a bit of help from a post-partum doula and a babysitter/assistant/fellow mama, the adult interaction of which probably saved my sanity overall. I never fell hard and fast into post-partum depression, but, looking back, I was likely teetering on the brink (and will be much more prepared to tend to my mental health with baby number two).
Click here if you missed part 1!
Hospital, Here We Come
Perpetuating my nerves, Steve was going to drop me off at the entrance with my stuff and run to park the car. Although I wasn’t in labor yet, I didn’t want to be alone for even a few minutes. Strange, because I’m normally an introvert who loves solitude. In the first of many demonstrations of how perfectly orchestrated Evan’s birth would be, my fears were relieved when I spotted our birth doula, Dawn, walking toward the car as we began to unload. Over two months (okay, now TEN as I edit this) later, all the emotions are getting more difficult to recall, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t decide whether to shed tears of joy and relief or jump up and down in excitement. My giant belly made jumping nearly impossible, so we settled for a hug and I think I tried to articulate just how happy I was to see her.
If I can pause for a moment and make one recommendation to pregnant women, it’s that your support team is everything. The plans you make for the birth of your child are 99.9% likely to be different from what you envision, but there can be a constant. A supportive partner, your Mom, your sister, your best friend, excellent midwives, a practice whose doctors you’re ALL totally comfortable with, and, my personal must-have, a (well-trained, experienced and/or familiar) doula: THESE are the people who will get you through the most intense, life changing experience you’ve ever been through, no matter what happens. Stay tuned throughout the rest of the story to find out why Steve, Dawn, and so many others were critical to a positive, if unimaginably challenging, birth experience for me.
I can’t remember the exact details or chain of events; whether I carried a bag or if others insisted on doing it for me, or who did the talking at hospital check in. I do remember that it was about dusk on that Monday night (March 27) when we made our way in to Danbury hospital, past the security desk, and up to the “family birth center”—one last reminder that I was not to give birth in an actual birth center (apparently hospitals are allowed to slap whatever label they choose on their maternity ward). We had to get past a few reception areas once in maternity, and I was thankful that we took that hospital tour months ago, the one I was sure would be irrelevant, but that I admitted at the time eased my nerves surrounding a hospital birth significantly. The hospital tour convinced me that it wouldn’t be SO bad, and I was about to find out that was precisely the case.
When our pediatrician found out that we ended up with quite a different birth than we had planned, she was genuinely sympathetic. But, until that point almost a week after the birth, I had hardly questioned our experience, except when I flipped back to the birth chapters of a few baby books, or got a birth newsletter in my email with a list of ideal birth practices (lots of which I didn’t experience). While I believe our minds were created with incredible abilities for visualization and even the power to shape our experience, I’m also confident that sometimes God overrides our best laid plans and intentions for a more perfect experience than we could have dreamt. In the case of Evan’s birth, that’s exactly what happened.
The Original Plan
You can read the details of our original plan in this post, but, in summary, we were planning a birth center birth free of any pain medication, as well as minimal fetal monitoring. Through 40 plus weeks of pregnancy, we were clearing all the hurdles to birth at the birth center with flying colors, until, somewhat quickly, we weren’t.
A Long Beginning
Evan hardly ever had the hiccups in utero, most likely because he was saving them all for his entrance into the world.
On March 5, 2017, almost a week before my supposed due date of March 11, I spotted a bit of blood when I went to the bathroom and was ecstatic. I spent my whole pregnancy praying I would never see a drop of blood (I didn’t), and then at 37 weeks, arriving at term, that mindset flipped and I was desperately hoping for any sign of spotting. I took a shower, dried my hair, and let our doula know, hoping and praying that things were about to start happening, and Steve was seized by the reality that there was a baby arriving in our very near future. The car was promptly organized and all our birth bags laid out, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
We are in the home stretch people! I’m a little bummed we didn’t get a slightly early baby, but the signs of labor do seem to be appearing, albeit very slowly. It’s up to the baby, and I’ve been trying to relax and remember that this baby’s arrival time was appointed before he or she was even conceived.
So what have I been up to in the meantime, as I continue to stink at regular posting here on NCK? Every week for the last month, I’ve made multiple batches of two or three of our dinners and packaged them up for the freezer. I’m proud to say that, at this point, we have a month, give or take, of dinner for at least two in the freezer. I also have one pan of lasagna ready for the birth center and several sweets, snacks, and/or breakfasts (plus about 60 pounds of raw dog food…yummy).
Time is finally starting to run out. Maybe that’s a bit of a weird way to say it, but at this point I have to assume there could be very little time left to read books, prep meals, or finish the final items on my pregnancy checklist. Of course, there could be over a month, but, at the same time, I have to trust that Steve and I have done everything we can to prepare for birth and a baby, and that, really, we’re ready. The world will not end if I don’t have the perfect birth playlist, every Mommy supply I might need in my first post-partum days, or a plan with five levels of backup for dog care (I mean, they’re pugs…all they really need is food).
With that in mind, the big task of the last week or so, something which will be really helpful if done right with plenty of time to spare, has been gathering, preparing, and packing the things we’ll bring to the birth of our little one.
I’m not calling it a hospital bag or a birth center bag because that just helps us keep an open mind to our place of delivery. If I go into labor before 37 weeks, I sadly won’t be cleared to birth at the birth center. However, after touring the hospital, I actually feel much more at ease about that possibility. We’ll be ready either way, and we’ll keep counting down the days until we can celebrate that all systems are go for a birth center birth (February 18)!
Since I could end up with either a 12 to 24 hour stint at the birth center, or a three day hospital stay, and we live an hour away from either place (assuming no emergencies that call for delivery at our local hospital), I’m trying to pack efficiently but adequately for a quick or extended absence from home. If we do get our wish and end up at the birth center, we’ll be slightly overpacked, but I say better to be prepared in this case than to have my husband driving back and forth to fetch belongings when he wants to be with our new baby.
My list is based on what the midwives advised, plus what I foresee as our individual needs, so I can’t say it’s the Pinterest-worthy, go-to list for every woman birthing outside the home, but hopefully it’s either interesting or gives you some ideas! Feel free to share what worked for your birth bag or what you’re planning on in the comments below!