My husband and I stupidly thought that it would take a while to get pregnant a second time since it took eight months to conceive our son, Tucker. We were wrong and, even though we had done this all before, seeing those two pink lines again still sent us reeling. Questions immediately began to form: How will we ever manage two; some days we can only barely keep the first one alive!? We love Tucker soooo much, how is it possible to make room in our hearts for another baby? How will we afford this?!?
I know, some of these questions are normal but the financial burden of two kids in daycare was a little frightening. We immediately began to crunch numbers and try to make sense of it, which ultimately meant something had to change. I was a teacher in one of the lowest paying states and knowing that I could easily cross the border into a neighboring state for a significant pay increase was very enticing. Not to mention that I have family there. After a heart to heart, Jesse and I decided to do whatever it took to make the move happen over the summer.
Fast forward three months… I was 32 years old, 28 weeks pregnant, and felt like I was starting over. Aside from having to get settled, moving my family of seven (we have four dogs) in with my mom who would now be our daycare provider, I had to get new health insurance, I lost my short term disability, and I had to find a new midwife (which was difficult in Oklahoma and I feared would prove equally so in Texas). Again, a very stressful time in our lives, but the financial security provided, along with my mom watching our son (soon to be children) for us, helped us to know that this was the best possible situation.
Soon, things settled down into a new routine and Jesse and I decided to do some research to find our new midwife. I was pleased to find out that midwifery was much more accepted in North Texas and we narrowed down our options to three nearby birthing centers. After touring these, we decided that All About Babies was the place for us and that Donnellyn, owner and midwife, would help us bring our second baby into the world.
One would think that since this was our second baby we knew what we were doing. And to an extent this was true. Pregnancy, both times, was very easy for me. I never got sick, I had reasonable amounts of energy, I was able to continue exercising, I never had swelling, and luckily I avoided severe discomfort. And, just like my first pregnancy (read about that birth story here) I was fully aware that I would probably go past my Dec. 9th due date. My mom was late with both my older sister and with me, and while genetics do not serve as guarantee, I knew that I should, once again, prepare for the long haul. Really it would work out perfectly; if baby #2 was late I would be going into labor over Christmas break. I wouldn’t have to worry about the “surprise! I’m in labor” texts I’d have to send and organizing substitute arrangements (though I was ready for both scenarios).
I was HUGE! I only gained 22 lbs this go round (I gained 30 with Tucker) but I was carrying VERY differently and felt like I was two times as big as I was with my first. In fact, I had quite a few terrifying dreams that during delivery the midwife realized that there was a second one hiding in there… Oh. My. Goodness. The thought of having two at the same time petrified me and searching the internet for “surprise twins” did absolutely nothing to quash that terror. (Spoiler alert: there was only one.)
Donnellyn was awesome from the start. I was anxious about coming in so late in the pregnancy and I feared I would not have the time to really connect with her the way I had with my midwives in Tulsa, but from the first appointment she made both my husband and me feel safe and secure. Her demeanor was professional but also motherly. She was warm and welcoming and made us feel like we were all part of the family. For example, Tucker, who was around 16 months, had just enough experience with doctor’s offices to go into fits when I had to sit on the exam table. Donnellyn made sure to make him part of the experience. She would have him help her measure my stomach, and press the button on the tape measure. He helped listen to baby’s heart rate by squeezing the jelly onto my belly and pressing the button to turn on the Doppler. She took the extra time to include him and it’s those small gestures that assured us that we had made the right choice in All About Babies.
Around Thanksgiving, my husband’s fear that I could go into labor at any moment kicked in and the idea of leaving the state was terrifying (I knew better, but had no “logical evidence” to provide). Luckily, Donnellyn helped convince him that traveling back to our home town for the holiday would be just fine as odds were pretty slim I’d deliver THAT early.
Then, before we knew it, December was here! My lesson plans and copies were ready, my students and co-workers began placing bets (I warned them I would make it to the break, but they didn’t listen), and our plans for labor were being solidified.
As the days ticked by, I struggled between my desire to treasure the time with Tucker as an only child and the desire to “get this thing out of me.” The fear of not being able to manage two under two along with my inability to grasp how I could possibly share love with another baby both were constantly weighing on me. I spent many sleepless nights attempting to find answers to this and the only real consensus I was able to get was that “you just do.” I had to just accept that, I guess.
Christmas break was approaching and instead of being annoyed by people asking stupid questions (“how long before you’ll induce?” or “isn’t leaving baby in there too long dangerous?”) I enjoyed shocking them with how far past my due date I was. On the last school day before the break, I said my goodbyes to students and told them I’d see them in February. I packed up my bag, double checked my lesson plans and copies, and left for home.
And, just like with Tucker, once the distractions of work were removed from the equation I grew listless and again, every bump, wiggle, or tightening was over analyzed. I was 41 weeks and 3 days pregnant (10 days past my due date!) and there was absolutely NO change. Tucker was only 9 days late so I was venturing into uncharted territory and so we began running through the list of natural induction methods: spicy foods, long walks, and other “extra curriculars” 😉 as Donnellyn called it.
On Dec. 19th at 3:45 a.m. I woke up needing to go to the bathroom; not at all unusual. As I was trying to get comfortable and back to sleep I noticed that I was having some contractions. They weren’t painful, but they were pretty rhythmic and were about 6-7 minutes apart. This is where all my reading on second labors freaked me out. My mom swore that her labor with me was only 5 hours from start to finish (I honestly didn’t believe her). But a couple of my friends who had had their second baby also said labor was a lot faster the second go round so it made me a little nervous. Again, the contractions weren’t painful yet, but neither were my early labor contractions with Tucker so I figured I should maybe wake Jesse up. He helped me time a few and they were more like 5 minutes apart so we texted Donnellyn. She said to lie down and drink a lot of water and if they continued to let her know.
So we did. And the contractions kept coming, but again, weren’t really intense. An hour later (if it was only going to take 5-6 hours, we were running out of time), our nerves, I think, had gotten the better of us, so she advised us to come on in. I was anxious as we gathered our things, notified my mom (she was going to stay with Tucker at home), and hopped in the car. Jesse texted his mom and I let my sister know that “this was it” and they started making their arrangements. The contractions were a little more intense than when I had first noticed them, but were by no means unbearable. I “suffered” through one on the short drive there, but was able to talk to Jesse about my anxiety of birthing away from home (I was spoiled by getting to stay in my element at home the first go round).
When we pulled up, my anxiety really set in. It had nothing to do with the birthing center or Donnellyn, but I think I knew that I wasn’t quite there yet. As Donnellyn helped me onto the exam table to check my dilation, I had a sinking feeling. The contractions had stopped almost immediately as I set foot on the property and I knew what she was going to say. I hadn’t progressed since my last weekly appointment. I was more effaced but had not dilated much if any at all.
Donnallyn and the birthing team were very sweet. She led us into the birthing suite and allowed us to settle down on the bed to see if maybe, once I relaxed, things would pick back up but I knew I was not actually in labor. I was embarrassed and frustrated and felt so terrible for calling in all of the troops for a false alarm. It was even more embarrassing since I had done this all before; I should have known better?! About an hour later, as we were gathering our stuff to head home, Donnellyn, sensing my frustration, gave me a hug and assured me that we were very close. She even went so far as to say that she would see us again before another 24 hours passed.
I cried in the car on the way home. I had to call and tell my sister, who was taking time away from her family to be here, that it was a false alarm; baby was not coming yet. She was already two hours into her drive and would be arriving in less than 30 minutes. Jesse had to call his mom who was also already on her way, and let her know. I felt so terrible getting everyone excited and ruining their sleep all because of false labor. I was also frustrated that I was now 11 days late and there was no sign, not even a little glimmer that labor would be happening soon. Jesse did his best to reassure me and try and tell me that no one was upset or mad at me, but I couldn’t help it… the tears fell anyway.
When we got home I went straight to bed and slept for quite some time. When I woke up, my sister, Mackinzie, my mother-in-law, Glenda, my mom, Jesse, and Tucker were all having a great time visiting in the kitchen. I wanted to cry again but my sister hugged me and said she was happy to see me, regardless. We hung out all day and everyone did their best to help me get my mind off it, but I definitely felt pressure to “perform.” Everyone was waiting. Everyone was ready. Everyone knew their roles. Baby just didn’t care at all.
Mackinzie and I took a long walk that afternoon and spent some time catching up. We ate lunch together… then dinner… and then sat around the table and chatted. As I sat listening to the conversation, I had one very intense contraction that came out of nowhere. I went to the bathroom shortly thereafter and realized that I was losing my mucus plug. I decided to keep that to myself though, as I had already caused enough commotion. I also knew that losing my plug could happen slowly, for days, before labor might really begin in earnest.
Soon, we were all heading to bed. I couldn’t help but feel sad and emotional. My sister had only made plans for one day away from her family so she was leaving after breakfast. Glenda was on break and had made arrangements to stay for a week, but the longer baby stayed in, the less time she would have getting to bond with her newest grandchild. I hated that I couldn’t do anything and as I drifted to sleep I resigned myself to my powerlessness. I had no control and that would have to be okay.
At 4:00 a.m. I woke up, as per usual, needing to pee. As I settled back into bed, I once again noticed the rhythmic contractions of my body but knew better than to sound the alarms. Fool me once, shame on you, false labor. Fool me twice… shame on me! I closed my eyes and tried to get back to sleep. At 4:30 I needed to use the bathroom… AGAIN. This time I noticed that the contractions were still happening and seemed to be building in intensity, in fact it felt good to push a little through them, so I stayed on the toilet and did just that. But I refused to believe that it was labor and after two or 3 more, I went to lie back down. I couldn’t get comfortable though. I tossed and turned through another contraction or two and then decided I was more comfortable on the toilet. I think this is when Jesse woke up. He asked me if I was in labor and I said “No. Go back to sleep.” As I was sitting on the toilet, I wondered if it was maybe something I had eaten. As I mentioned, it felt good to push through the waves so I thought that maybe I just needed to relieve myself. The contractions didn’t feel much different than the night before and we all know how that turned out, so I was just going to sit and wait until it stopped. The only difference was that I could tell I was losing more of my mucus plug.
Not long after, Jesse knocked on the bathroom door and asked if I was okay. I explained my situation and told him, once again, to go back to sleep. He asked if he could time them and I relented but told him I really didn’t want to alert anyone again. When he reported that they were about 3 minutes apart and lasting around a minute, he demanded that we text the midwife. I didn’t really want to leave the comfort of the toilet, but needed to in order to get my phone. That’s when the first real contraction hit me. It caught me off guard and I had to double over on the floor to breathe through it.
That contraction was at 4:45 in the morning and I was still hesitant to let Jesse wake the troops. I was terrified that it would all come screaming to a halt again. He did text the Donnellyn who told us to keep track for a few more minutes. They were still about 3 minutes apart but I couldn’t walk or talk through them and really felt more comfortable on the toilet- so that’s where I headed. I thought it was strange that I felt so pushy so early and still thought that it might stop if I could just go to the bathroom. While I labored on the toilet, Jesse quietly re-packed our stuff. In his need to feel productive and useful he even made the bed (I still think that’s cute!). He was waiting for me when I decided to come out of the bathroom.
“Should we wake your mom up? Or tell your sister? Donnellyn suggests we head her way.” I very vaguely comprehended Jesse’s words.
I was naturally withdrawing into myself in order to get through the waves. It felt good to be in a deep squat. I squatted next to the bed while Jesse took care of last minute things and woke up the others. I squatted in the living room on the way to the kitchen as I couldn’t get very far before another one hit me. I squatted in the kitchen while Jesse grabbed our coats. I couldn’t believe how pushy I felt. I wanted to curl over and bear down; the contractions seemed to demand it. It took hours to get anywhere near this feeling the first go round so I assumed we still had some time.
The last memory I have of leaving was hugging my sister, who was half dressed and frantically looking for her keys, and then turning to walk down the hallway to the garage door. I couldn’t make it and had to double over on the ground and moan through the wave. I recall feeling surprised at how quickly it all escalated.
I had quite a few contractions on the 8 minute ride and having to sit in the bumpy car was not pleasant. They seemed to be right on top of each other and I was very thankful for the close proximity of the birthing center.
I didn’t have time to process my fear of being away from home this time. I didn’t really have time to do anything but focus on keeping my body loose and my fingers relaxed (which was the ONE thing that seemed to work during my labor with Tucker). Donnellyn escorted me from the car and helped me to the ground as the next wave crashed in. I hadn’t even made it up one of the back stairs and she said, “Now THIS is more like it!”
I could hear the bath being drawn in the birthing tub and couldn’t wait to slip into the warm water, I remember the immediate relief it provided with my first labor. It was 7:00 am and as Donnellyn got the exam table ready I squatted next to it, fearing having to climb up and lay on my back. Donnellyn waited until the next contraction ended and said she would be try to be finished before the next one came. I was fully dilated with a bulging bag of waters. No wonder I felt so pushy… I was in transition (only 2 hours after the first contraction)!
I had two more contractions on my way to the birthing suite and this is where time gets really fuzzy. I remember changing into my black sports bra and wrapping a towel around my lower half as I waddled to the tub. I remember that the room was dimly lit and there were people around, but it was only Jesse’s reassuring voice I could hear. I remember stepping in to the bath and feeling immediate relief as the water touched my ankles. I remember the feeling of bliss as I sank lower and the warmth surrounded my legs, belly, and back. That’s when I completely surrendered to my labor and the concept of time disappeared.
I moaned, remembering to keep the sounds deep. I kept my eyes closed. I swayed in the water. I attempted to relax completely to the best of my ability before, during, and after the contractions. I mentally focused on keeping my fingers and hands loose.
Every once in a while Donnellyn would use the Doppler to check baby’s heart rate and then disappear into the background. I can’t speak for Jesse, but it felt very much like it was just the two of us working together; his job was to keep me comfortable and encourage me, mine was to let my body do its job.
I spent most of the time in the tub squatting with my feet flat on the ground. I would lean forward on my arms to be near Jesse and relax until the next contraction came and then push back upright to bear down. I recall Donnellyn suggesting that I try leaning back and putting my feet up against the side of the tub which I tried, but I couldn’t get comfortable. I didn’t have the traction I needed to help push. It seemed as though every third contraction was stronger than the rest and it was on those that my body demanded that I push. I would curl over, put my chin to my chest and groan- but it all seemed so fruitless. I was fully dilated, I was fully effaced, I was pushing…. where was baby?
Even in the midst of labor I recalled my friends who said things like, “I pushed twice and she was here” or “it was so fast, I don’t even remember pushing really” and I began to get discouraged. It felt like I had been pushing for days!
Jesse could sense my discouragement and tried to reassure me that we were almost done. I remember wishing Donnellyn would tell me that I only had _____ more minutes and baby would be here but she didn’t. In fact, she only stepped in to get vitals and then stepped back to watch and let me do what I needed.
After a few more contractions and what felt like no progress, I began to get frustrated… no… desperate. And through my tears I asked what was taking so long. Then, I opened my eyes for the first time since I stepped into the tub and begged Donnellyn to break my water. That’s when I saw all the other women in the room who all had a job to do but were so great about being quiet and respecting the moment. She explained that I would have to get out of the tub and on to the bed in order to do that but would only do so if I really wanted.
Tucker was in my arms 15 minutes after my waters were broken. I decided leaving the comfort of the water would be worth it.
Things moved very quickly. Lights came on and there was a big shuffle. People were helping me out of the tub, toweling me off, and helping me cover up. Jesse stayed by my side the entire time holding my hand. I was escorted to the bed and before I could lie down, I had to deep squat on the floor through a contraction. Then I was on the bed… and OH MY GOODNESS… lying on my back through the contractions almost killed me! I writhed in pain! This pain is what Donnellyn was attempting to prevent me from having to suffer through, but she worked quickly and I suddenly felt the familiar pop and gush of water. I heard her quietly report that the waters were clear and I begged to get off the bed and squat again. After that contraction I was quickly escorted back to the water.
I got into position and on the next contraction I felt that indescribable feeling of the head moving lower in my pelvis! Yay! Progress.
Another contraction and again, more downward movement of baby’s head! It was so much easier when I could feel what was happening. I grabbed the bottom of my feet for extra leverage.
Donnellyn monitored baby much more frequently it seemed and, at one point, reminded me to take big, deep breaths in between contractions and “get baby as much oxygen as I could”. Baby’s heart rate would drop during the contractions which didn’t scare me but I could tell it worried Jesse so I leaned back after each one and took as many slow deep breaths as I could before I felt the next one coming.
I moved into the upright, deep squat position, grabbed the bottoms of my feet, and pushed as hard as I could. I attempted to keep my moans as deep as I could but with each wave I heard my voice get higher and higher, verging on a scream (oops!). I was still able to feel baby moving lower, but after the contraction finished, Donnellyn put the oxygen mask over my face and again encouraged big deep breaths. The same thing happened in my first labor and I knew Jesse was anxious. I looked over at him and told him everything was okay before the next contraction came. I am not sure why I was so sure things were okay, perhaps a mother’s instinct?
Then, I felt it. My deep, guttural moan turned into a high pitched shriek. The RING OF FIRE. With Tucker, this intimidated me and I pushed weakly out of fear. This time, I knew better. I pushed as hard and as long as I possibly could and felt the baby’s head emerge. It was surreal to look down and see it in the water.
With Tucker, the head and body all came at once. With this one, I wasn’t so lucky. I heard Donnellyn tell me to wait before I pushed again. She said something about a “nuchal hand” and mentioned that she was surprised that I didn’t complain about “back labor” (I think it had something to do with the way baby was facing. The nose was pointed toward my thigh not toward my back). I was taking deep breaths and it seemed like forever before another contraction came, but when it did, there was no waiting. Without warning my body gave another long, hard push… another final shriek emerged from my lips… and after the strongest contraction yet, baby was out.
I leaned back against the side of the tub and asked Jesse if it was a boy or a girl. He said he couldn’t tell…. ? What? Donnellyn giggled and announced it to the room as Jesse handed me my red-headed, ginormous, baby GIRL! Sage Elise Whitsett was finally here!
Jesse and I were both amazed and he kept kissing my forehead as I stared down adjusting to the idea of a girl. What do you do with a girl?!?!
Then I asked if my sister was there. She was, according to one of the assistants, and I asked Jesse if it would be okay if we let her in. I can only imagine how intense listening to the process outside of the room was for her; she cried immediately upon entering and seeing her niece.
The birthing team, after allowing me time to rest, helped me to my feet with baby still attached, wrapping us both up in warm towels. One of the benefits of birthing centers and homebirths is that Sage never once left my arms, let alone my sight.
Once we were comfortable on the bed and Sage was latched on nursing, the chord finally stopped pulsing and Jesse was allowed to cut it. At some point, I delivered the placenta which was amazingly difficult (not for complications or anything, but after having just pushed with all the strength I had, the idea of pushing again sounded and WAS terrible). Also, I had read that the cramping of the uterus contracting gets more painful each pregnancy and I can vouch that that is true. As Sage nursed and Donnellyn pressed on my stomach, it took everything in me not to cry out.
Sage nursed well on both sides and that’s when I realized I had no clue what time it was or when she was officially born. It felt as though we were well into the afternoon so I asked. I was shocked when Jesse told me that it wasn’t even 10 am and that Sage was born at 9:04. I was only in the tub for two hours, though it seemed like days. From the first contraction to holding her in my arms, only 4 hours and 45 minutes had lapsed! Though I did push for two of those hours…
Soon, my sister went out to relieve the moms and watch Tucker, so they could meet their newest grandbaby. I wasn’t ready yet for Tuck to join us as I wanted to clean up a little so my haggard appearance wouldn’t frighten him.
Donnellyn helped Sage finish clearing her lungs, but again, she was never out of my reach; Donnellyn kept her close to me and would hand her over between suctioning. It was nice to get so much time together initially and it was nice that Donnellyn was defensive of that mommy/baby time. At one point, someone (can’t recall who at this point) requested to hold her, obviously just excited about it all, and Donnellyn firmly stated “not yet”. I was thankful because I was not ready to hand her over to anyone just yet; Jesse and I were still admiring her and wrapping our heads around the morning’s events.
Next it was time to do Sage’s assessment: height, weight, and other general items. We all knew she was a big baby but the two hours of pushing all made sense when we realized we had a GIANT on our hands. She was 22 inches long (was spilling out of the pink carrier), her head was 15 inches around (OUCH), and she weighed a solid 10 lbs! Woah! I felt so much better about my struggle to push her out when I heard this! No wonder it wasn’t a quick 2 pushes! Donnellyn also reassured me that having a nuchal hand and slightly transverse head position also added to the intensity of it all.
Then, it was my turn. With Sage nursing comfortably and Jesse and I snuggled together in bed, she checked my uterus’s ability to contract again (OUCH) and examined below to see if I would need any stitches. Amazingly, even with the nuchal hand, I didn’t. Donnellyn said she was kind of shocked because she was trying to get the hand in a better position when I finished pushing and she felt a pop as Sage passed through. She was sure I had torn. I believe that being in the water as well as being allowed to push in the position I felt most comfortable helped with this. It also probably helped that it took as long as it did to push. My body had time to adjust.
Anyway, I passed Sage off to Jesse while I went to the bathroom and got cleaned up a little.
Then, Tucker came in to meet his new baby sister. The whole staff at All About Babies did such an awesome job of accommodating us and making the moment special. Donnellyn, just as she had with all the previous appointments, helped Tucker feel like he was part of it all. She had him help listen on the stethoscope to baby’s lungs and encouraged him to touch her hands and feet. It was very, very sweet.
After the introductions we all sat around visiting and eating the meal the moms had put together: a spinach and egg quiche, fresh fruit, and smoothies. We snapped some pictures with our amazing birth team, and, by one o’clock in the afternoon, we had collected our belongings, packed up the car, and traveled home as a family of four.
Some Other photos I love!
This is the fortune cookie Tucker opened during his lunch at the birthing center. A small gift can bring joy to the whole family. We thought it was very fitting for the events of the day!
Our Awesome birth team! I cannot recommend All About Babies highly enough! Any soon to be mom who wants to feel listened to, trusted to do what feels right during labor, and supported to birth the way they want should tour this place. They have a team of midwives that all work closely together and are teaching other women who want to learn the art of helping mom’s labor and birth naturally (two of the ladies in the picture are midwives in training!)
This is probably my favorite picture of the entire day, the herbal bath for baby and me. She loved it and so did I! Her eyes were wide open taking it all in, relaxing in the warmth of the water. It helped to get us both cleaned up and, while I didn’t tear, it is probably one of the reasons I felt so refreshed leaving the birthing center a few short hours after the baby was born.
One last thing about the awesomeness of using a birthing center- we arrived at 7:00 a.m. and we were home in time to put our son down for his afternoon nap at 1:00 p.m. (obviously, my fast labor was part of that equation, but still!). Our regular rhythms were not terribly disrupted. We didn’t have to be away from our son for an extended length of time, we were able to sleep comfortably in our own bed, and the birthing team helped support us during the pregnancy, labor, and delivery. They came to our home to do the two day check-up, they did the blood testing at the same time, saving us from having to go to the doctor’s office for a few more days, and my midwife was available 24/7 by text message (even during the holidays) if I had questions or concerns. What doctor does THAT?!?