Like all other births, this story begins far before the actual birth day. Closing on our first year of marriage, a difficult first year, Eli and I found out we were pregnant on the Sunday before our anniversary, amidst an argument and a move from one crappy duplex to another slightly less crappy duplex. Eli’s first child and my second, we were excited, scared, overwhelmed, surprised, and anxious.
Ironically we had already booked an appointment with my OBGYN for the following week to check Eli’s sperm count because we hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. I called Monday morning to change the nature of the appointment and we happily went in together.
Funny side note-the OB shared an office with an urologist. The urologist my father in law happened to see. Of all the days in the world we would have an appointment at the same time THIS was the day. We sat awkwardly in the waiting room making idle chat, neither disclosing why the other was seeing the doctor that morning.
After a brief visit with the nurse, and everyone guestimating my due date, the doctor came in, did a vaginal sonogram and could neither confirm nor deny a pregnancy, and told us to schedule a follow up in 4 weeks. I know my body pretty well and just like with my first I KNEW I was pregnant very early on.
The appointment left us anxious and worried, and I had a distinct feeling that this pregnancy was not going to be as easy as my first. I was 4 years older, 40 pounds heavier, and probably in the worst physical health of my life. Four weeks later the pregnancy was confirmed and we were given a July 3 EDD. We trudged through the holidays and shortly after the New Year started I was laid off from my job.
I continued to eat an excessive amount of junk food and maintained my sedentary lifestyle. I felt like I was already so fat and out of shape, why start getting healthy mid-pregnancy? Bad logic, I know. I was pretty sick through the beginning and just didn’t feel amazing like I did with my first baby. I think deep down I knew all along that my blahs were related to my unhealthy habits and physical inactivity.
Each doctor visit was filled with anxiety about what may be revealed. Although I genuinely liked my doctor and had used him with my first baby, I had longed to have a natural childbirth with no drugs from as far back as I remember. I certainly didn’t consider myself crunchy or different than any of my friends, but I just knew deep down that I could have my baby(ies) the way women had been having children since the beginning of time. I wanted to trust in my body. With my first I did what I thought were the right things, and I was much healthier and more active than with the second pregnancy. I read “What to Expect. . .” and watched “The Business of Being Born”. I went to the class offered by the hospital on a Saturday afternoon. I mentally prepared the best I knew how.
I went into labor, went to the hospital, and low and behold ended up with stadol in my IV and then agreed to an epidural well into transition. I did have a healthy beautiful baby girl, a great experience, and a speedy recovery, but it just wasn’t what I wanted my birth to be. Maybe the idea that I wanted that natural experience, and realizing that my doctor was not very open to that, was part of that nagging feeling in the back of my mind.
The months passed and shortly before Easter the dreaded blood glucose test day was upon me. I went, I got pricked, I drank the sugar water that I swear is the equivalent of hummingbird food, I waited an hour, and I was told that I DEFINITELY had gestational diabetes and that I needed to start insulin treatments that day. I flat out refused. I was not told what my blood sugar numbers had been, and this was the last straw for me. My husband has type 1 diabetes, and I have seen the effects of insulin. I had read lots of research and I knew the risks to me and the baby and also the probability of developing type 2 diabetes, especially upon starting an insulin regimen. I left the office in tears and determined to eat only chicken or turkey breast and spinach, check my blood sugar, and begin exercising immediately. How could I have done this to my baby, to myself?
I did an ok job of eating healthier and exercising at first, and checked in with my OB the next week. His nurse told me to bring my blood glucose numbers back again the following week and she would check them. I was never offered a three-hour blood sugar test or any further observation. At my next months appointment I was offered a prescription to control my blood sugar, which had been very much in control according to my blood sugar log, and my baby was measuring a bit large, but not crazy big. I began to seriously consider other options.
We did have a birth center in our town, and I had gotten to know a girl in an organization with me that had her baby there just last year. She had positive things to say, and had actually used the same OB as I did prior to the birth center. She had mentioned several things about the birth center and something called Birth Boot Camp to me on a couple occasions but I blew her off. I had already had a baby. I knew what to expect. We didn’t have extra money for things like that, and I certainly didn’t want to be thought of as one of THOSE people. Besides my uber preppy, conservative husband wasn’t about to have any part of that, right?
I called the birth center and one of the midwifes named Mary answered, we briefly chatted about my concerns, she said we could come in for a consultation-I made sure it was free-and before we hung up, I had an appointment with her the following week. What was I thinking? Eli was going to kill me! I cooked something he liked that night and after dinner gave him a back rub, just when he started to get comfortable I mentioned that we might want to talk to a midwife at the birth center about some options regarding my diabetes. That was the angle I played, just praying he wouldn’t go into a rage. We had already met our insurance deductable and paid our part to my OB, so as long as it was free, he was open to going in to listen.
The appointment day came, we went in, Mary and the staff was all incredibly friendly, professional and down to earth. They answered our questions, Eli didn’t kill anyone, and they gave us some things to consider, we were especially encouraged to enroll in the upcoming Birth Boot Camp class that was starting that week, regardless of where and how we decided to birth.
I called the instructor but was REALLY worried about the cost. Things were getting tight with me out of work and the baby approaching. Besides, did we REALLY need that? I started to get excited about the possibility of having the baby out of the hospital and told Eli a small fib about the cost of the classes and enrolled us. In the meantime, I was supposed to continue logging my blood sugar, diet, exercise and water intake for Mary to review in a few weeks and decide if we were even candidates for out of hospital birth.
I had an appointment with my OB before we were scheduled to return to the birth center and was in all kinds of panic trying to decide if I should tell him I was seeking other options? Say nothing? Tell him I was done? What if he tried to push more pills my way? What if he said that dreaded C-word again in regards to my birth? The questions mounted as the time for my next appointment neared. He DID prescribe another medication for the gestational diabetes. I did NOT have any intention of filling it. He DID say that it was likely that I would have to have a C-section this go round. I decided right then and there he was no longer helping me bring this baby into the world. I couldn’t find the courage to tell him that day, so I just mentioned that I was enrolling in a natural childbirth class and that they may be receiving a request for my previous records. I felt like such a chicken! We may not even be candidates for birthing through the midwife we were talking to.
Uncertain and begrudgingly we went to our first Birth Boot Camp class that week. Just how I wanted to spend a Thursday night-with a bunch of granola loving hippies that were going to judge me for not raising chickens, and washing my hair regularly and eating bread whenever I wanted. I mean crap, if we have a boy we want him circumcised and regardless these kids are getting their shots. I just want to have this baby with no drugs and not be called crazy by my “normal” friends and not feel like I have to join a commune before I can be allowed to do this, is that too much to ask? IS IT? What were these yahoos going to say when they found out I had already had a baby AND got the epidural? Was I going to be publicly shamed? Or worse, social media shamed?
Eli and I were both so happily surprised to meet people we would actually want to spend time with! Bonus most of us already had birthed a child . . .. in a hospital. . .. with an epidural or c-section. Most of their stories were actually traumatic and scary, and all of our tales were tinged with disappointment for what we had been through and worry that it could be repeated.
As we started the class, I thought to myself, let the shoving of opinions down my throat begin. I could not have been more wrong! Our instructor was nice, open, gave us lots of options and even tailored the information to our specific birth situations. I was introduced to a whole new world that night. Not the one I had so carelessly judged the way I myself desperately did not want to be judged. But to the idea that this pregnancy belonged to my husband and I. That WE made the choices-in our day-to-day actions, in our care, and ultimately in our labor and delivery. I left excited about what was to come and invigorated in my determination to have this baby naturally.
At 34 weeks pregnant and with a green light from another midwife that worked through the hospital-the midwife that delivered both of my sister’s children via cesarean, the midwife I had heard about but was convinced I wanted nothing to do with-we officially fired our OB and became clients at the birth center under Mary. Already we were having fewer doubts about our ability to see this through, despite much trepidation from the grandmama’s to be and the normal peanut gallery of naysayers. Each week at our birth classes we grew stronger as expectant parents, husbands, wives, and friends. Eli and I were doing our homework regularly and discussing the pregnancy as a couple for the first time really.
My diabetes was staying completely under control with diet and exercise as I was being much more intentional in both on a daily basis. We were discussing choices we may need to make throughout the rest of the pregnancy, during our labor, and of course for the new baby once he-we had begun to call him Rufus and truly felt he was a boy, although I never like to find out the sex-arrived.
Although Eli was being much more supportive and interactive with regard to the pregnancy, he was staunch and vocal that he intended to stay strictly above my waistline during labor and delivery. And whatever we did or said, he did NOT want to hear the word ‘placenta’! As the weeks passed, although my belly measured a little larger than normal, Mary seamed pleased with both the baby’s growth and ours. It was a real blessing that she and BBC had motivated me to get healthy, we were going to need that strength sooner rather than later.
Eli lost his job when I was 33 weeks pregnant. The next week, on May 15, a tornado hit our slightly less crappy duplex with us in it. As we huddled together praying in our bathtub, our home falling down around us, we relied on some of that strength. And outside of our family, our midwife and BBC buddies were some of the first people we contacted. The next day our midwife showed up to help, just to help however she could, just to be there, not because I was pregnant, but because she had become a friend. She later offered us her own apartment to stay in, would your OB do that? Huh? I didn’t think so!
I was so beyond happy that I had already begun to be healthier, because in the week following the tornado I probably walked 10 miles a day, moved boxes, bagged stuff up, and helped our friends and neighbors try to untangle our lives. I could never have made it if I had been as unhealthy as I had just a few weeks prior. My parent allowed us to move in with them in the aftermath until our new house, ironically just in front of theirs, was move in ready.
On Memorial Day weekend, I think the stress and exhaustion from everything set in. I had slept almost 14 hours straight-something I did immediately prior to labor with my first-and upon waking began to have contraction like cramps. We called Mary, and she asked us to time them and gave us several things we could do to attempt to slow the contractions. They worked, thank heavens!
A week later we moved into our new home. Very pregnant, convinced I would cruise right past my EDD just like my first, and very unmotivated at that point in time, I did not focus on doing any laundry for Rufus or fully setting up a room for him. I did however, continue to walk regularly and eat healthfully. By June’s end, as we closed in on our last Birth Boot Camp class, and our EDD, we found ourselves closer as a couple, communicating better through each class and appointment, armed with knowledge and liberated to make intentional choices about how we would bring this baby into the world together.
We had tried new things like chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture and steered through the many joys and a few scares (Rufus turned breech then flipped back a week later) that pregnancy brings. In the process I had developed a rockin’ tan and my super preppy, ultra conservative husband had somehow morphed into a fairly open minded soggy cheerio (not quite crunchy granola) guy. He even sincerely let me consider moving our birth from the birth center to the house-which we ultimately decided against.
Friday, June 28 was just like every other day the preceding week-hot! Eva was attending vacation Bible school in town and determined not to waste gas, I had made a habit of dropping her off each morning, going for a 6 mile walk at our local park, then running some errands before picking her up at noon. I had run all my errands and done all my shopping, so I decided to spend the extra hour I had that Friday morning walking. It was hot, but several places on the walking path had nice shade and there was a good breeze. Once I settled into my pace it always felt good to walk and I seldom wanted to stop, so that morning I just didn’t. I walked the entire final hour, and out of sheer curiosity I stopped by the sign that marks the distance on the path. Guessing that I had walked just over six miles-my pace was significantly slowed by my big ole belly-I was shocked to realize I had actually done over 9 miles! 9 months pregnant! Go me (insert very pregnant lady doing a happy dance in a public park!).
I had only brought 2 water bottles with me and finished those off rather quickly, so on the way to pick up my daughter, I stopped by my family’s little hamburger restaurant to refill. Of course there were people from our church there and old friends I had not seen in several weeks. Of course they asked the compulsory, “when are you ever going to have that baby?”, like it was up to me! Sweating and stinky, I gave them the canned “ . . .. we’ll see, whenever he gets ready, blah blah blah. . . .”.
Distracted by the visits I left to pick up my child and forgot my water.
Before we ever made it home I started feeling a little funny, crampy, but I just chalked it up to the extra hour of walking and the lack of water for the morning. We got home, ate a small lunch-maybe peanut butter sandwiches and fruit? I really don’t remember. Then we went swimming. I only stayed out a couple hours, much to Eva’s disappointment, and made her come in the house with me to rest. I was just so tired. Why had I not taken more water with me? I put on a movie for her and set her up with some fun in her playroom and lay down on the couch to try and rest for a while.
At 4pm my husband got home. Eva somehow convinced him to take her swimming, which he readily agreed to so I could rest. After they were outside splashing away, I got up to use the restroom and had a pink mucousy streak when I wiped. I honestly thought it was probably just due to the extra walking combined with lack of water and lay back down.
Then out of nowhere, about 30 minutes later BAM it hit me-what if this IS the start of labor? Holy guacamole, I have done nothing, NOTHING!!!! I HAD to do some laundry, I only had about 3 gender neutral onesies, there was literally nothing washed for the baby, not a blanket, not a burp cloth, NOTHING! I frantically began washing a few necessities we had for Rufus, and planning out how I would attack getting the bathrooms cleaned, sheets changed, floors mopped etc before Eli and Eva came in. So what that I was probably doing all this for nothing, at least I would have a clean house before bed tonight, right?
About that time, I got busted. In came my family, happy to see me up and going, but bewildered about my determination to Clorox the bathrooms RIGHT NOW. When I should have been starting dinner, a new thought hit me, we don’t even have a car seat for the baby. If and I do mean IF I have this baby tonight, they won’t even let us bring it home. Great I’m going to be THAT mom that CPS gets called on before the baby even makes it to my vagina or we’ll just live at the birth center. Yeah right! They would just looooove that, haven’t we annoyed those poor people enough? Pregnancy makes you do kooky things; labor can make you downright crazy. Knowing Eli loves to shop, I casually mentioned this to him and the next thing I know, we are heading off to Fort Worth to the nearest Babies R Us to pick up the travel system Eli wanted. My contractions were not painful but coming at predictable and regular intervals by now, so I really didn’t care who won the battle of which car seat and stroller was better. He could definitely have this round. Once we got to Miller Brewing Co and the bread factory on the interstate, I figured it was safe to tell them I was definitely in labor. I had to spill the beans sometime, and sooner was probably better than later.
Eli was completely not surprised. What? Not surprised? Dang that BBC for preparing us so well how was I supposed to get everything done in labor without letting on to my hubby now? Telling him was sure to induce a panic stricken tornado of chaos. But here we were, driving to get a car seat in a town 60 miles away in labor and HE was not the panicky one. He was calm, even jovial. Who was this man? Well, whoever he was, I liked it, and I’m decided to just stick with it for the time being. If the crazy train made a stop at another junction, I would just deal with it then.
We told Eva together that she was finally going to get to meet her baby brother or sister soon. He was ready to come out of Mommy! She was so excited! Then we called my mom, and asked her to go over to our house and throw that load of clothes in the dryer. Shockingly, she didn’t seem interested in interrupting her dinner with the neighbors to change someone else’s laundry. I really felt like I needed those baby items dry, I had to up the ante to get her motivated, I had to tell her it was the baby stuff in the wash and it HAD to be dry. . . .tonight!
Looking back this was probably not nearly as necessary as it seemed at the time, but hey, anytime you can convince someone else to do your laundry, you take that and run with it! Needless to say, filling her in motivated her substantially. She was down right excited to go change the laundry. I asked her to promise not to tell anyone, so imagine my surprise when 5 minutes later my youngest sister texted me, then called, wanting to know if I was having contractions, what was going on, was I really in labor this time? The beans were officially spilled.
We decided we would finish our shopping trip and then let my mother in law know to be on standby. We happily and casually perused the aisles of Babies R Us. Surely annoying the workers, it was closing time at this point and the last thing they wanted were some looky loos that dared to ask if they would-gasp-help us install the car seat. I remember going to the bathroom in the store with Eva, and having more bloody show. My contractions were becoming more noticeable at this point too. Not painful, just annoying and not to be ignored. I was a little snippy with Eli about things that did not matter. That may or may not have been the contractions fault, but that’s what I’m going with.
After checking out we lumbered back to our car. I imagine we were quite the spectacle with a ginormous box and a ginormous lady in labor. Without killing each other we managed to install the car seat and shove the worlds largest stroller in the back. Eva was whining because she was hungry, had we forgotten about dinner? Oh darn! What was wrong with me? Oh yeah, I was in labor!
Since we were close and we don’t have one in our hometown, we decided to go ahead and trek the one parking lot over to Target. Eli would run in and return what needed returning and grab what needed grabbing. While waiting in the car I figured it might be a good time to let Mary, our midwife, in on the news. She was sweet and calm and excited for us. Her advice was what we expected to hear from our appointments with her and our prep in BBC, try to get something to eat, try to get some rest, continue to time contractions and text her if we have any other news or questions.