January Enters The World
I had a feeling that this baby might be an early one since Ruby was born at 38 weeks, so I did all that I could to prepare for an early birth. I did all the usual nesting-type activities…made bazillions of freezer meals, washed & organized baby clothes & diapers, cleaned everything in (& out) of sight,. I prepared so much that I literally had nothing left to do after 36 weeks. It was my intention that I would have a few weeks to do nothing but relax & enjoy time with our family of three before we became four, but I wasn’t prepared for the waiting to drive me crazy!
I found myself not wanting to make too many plans after 37 weeks. I kind of wanted to hunker down & stay home all the time, yet I knew we’d be doing that after the baby came, so I didn’t want to get sick of being at home all the time. Plus, Ruby still wanted to be active & do things out of the house, so we did something small just about every day.
The day before the baby arrived, I asked Ruby what she wanted to do & she said she wanted to “go to the mall to play on the fruits & vegetables” so we found ourselves there. We first went to Barnes & Noble, where I enjoyed a latte while Ruby played with the train set & was overwhelmed with books. We each picked out a book to buy & then went on to the little play area in the mall (the fruit & vegetables). We were there for over an hour… me sipping my latte, reading my new book (Wild) & she, making friends & running around like a crazy little person that she is. Then we went to a few stores & bought her some fall clothes & winter boots, two things I wanted to do before we had a baby in attendance. We came home, had lunch, & both had some nice quiet time in the afternoon. Our evening was pretty relaxing, too. We enjoyed a lovely salmon dinner & John had a meeting with a guy from church.
That night I put Ruby to bed & like I had been thinking for every night for the past couple of weeks, I thought, “this could be the last night I kiss just one little face goodnight.” For some reason it was a profound thought that went through my head often. “Maybe this will be our last time going to the park just the two of us.” “Maybe this will be the last time I drive anywhere with only one car seat.” “Maybe this time will be the last time I can give her both of my hands… all of my attention.” Like any parent of one child, about to have two, I hung on to those moments like they were gold. They were very precious to me & I didn’t want to gloss over them.
The night before the baby was born, we went to bed early. Who am I kidding? We had been going to bed early for weeks by then. I had still been sleeping famously at night & had been intentional to actually take a nap during the day, starting at week 36 because I knew I wanted my body to be incredibly rested. So we went to bed like any other night.
Even though I thought I might have the baby “at any moment” after 36 weeks, part of me thought that this kid might stay inside of me forever because of how great I felt. My midwife reminded me that I didn’t have to feel miserable before having a baby. I feel like so many women complain about pregnancy so much, especially nearing the end, so I was sort of waiting for that time to come because it definitely came when I was pregnant with Ruby. But this time I took so much better care of myself. I ate better, I moved my body in healthy ways every day, I rested a lot & I knew what my limits were. Plus, I was taking great supplements every day, so I never really reached the “I’m miserable” wall (of course I had moments of feeling awful, but I wouldn’t ever say that this pregnancy was challenging).
I started having some light cramping that would go on & off for about a week leading up to the birth. The cramps resembled the starting of my period— they weren’t painful at all, just mildly uncomfortable. Several nights I would go to sleep with a bit of cramping, hoping to wake up to full on contractions, but every morning I would wake up with nothing. It was kind of disappointing. We just wanted to meet our baby so badly, but at the same time, trusted that s/he would know when it was time to come. As much as I wanted the baby to come, I didn’t want to take control & do something to make it happen (although the Friday before I went into labor, I did have some pressure points worked on at my chiropractor’s office to relieve some pain I was feeling).
At 2:00am on Wednesday the 24th, I got up to pee like I normally did every morning. I felt a tiny bit of mild cramping, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. I crawled back into bed & started praying. That was my routine every night after getting up— to spend a few minutes praying for my baby, my body, & our family before drifting back to sleep. But I was distracted by the cramping so I prayed, “God if something is going to happen tonight, can you just make it happen? Otherwise, can you take this cramping away so I can go back to sleep?” Immediately I felt a pop & then warmth. My water had broken! Talk about an answer to prayer!
I quickly shuffled about & woke John up, declaring the good news. After I got up & changed (thank goodness I was sleeping on a towel), I came back to bed. I hadn’t been feeling any stronger cramps & when my water broke with Ruby, I didn’t start having contractions for like 12 hours, so I just wanted to rest more than anything else. But then about 30 minutes later (3:00am), contractions actually started happening every 2-3 minutes for 40 seconds. I called my midwife LeAnn at 3:30am & after chatting with her a bit, she told me to call her back when the contractions started getting stronger. John & I sat in our kitchen & he made me some scrambled eggs & toast & we were able to have some quality time together.
When I had Ruby, labor was so quick & intense (as in, there was almost no time in between my contractions & they were very strong from the start) that we hardly had time to think. I didn’t eat or drink much, so I had a rough time keeping my energy up (read Ruby’s birth story here). It was nice just to be able to have a contraction, chat a little, eat a bit, have another contraction, etc. About an hour later (4:45am), the contractions had increased in strength & were becoming more intense. I called LeAnn back & she said she would be there in about an hour.
At 6:00am the birth team arrived & my contractions were every 5 minutes, lasting about 60 seconds, but becoming stronger & stronger. LeAnn checked me & I was dilated to a 5 & my cervix was 75% effaced. Things were moving along! At this point, we had moved down into the basement (where we planned to give birth) & I was either sitting on my exercise ball or on my hands & knees with it under my chest. it felt really good to keep moving & swaying, letting gravity do its thing (last time I sat on the toilet for a lot of the labor & even though that’s what I wanted at the time, looking back, it might not have been the most helpful position because I didn’t move much).
I also was breathing deeply through every contraction, keeping my mouth open as I exhaled & often making deep sighs to help me through. Another thing I wanted to focus on during this birth was to keep my face & mouth relaxed & to vocalize more because I’ve heard that these things cause a laboring woman’s cervix to open & loosen, which was definitely what I wanted. With Ruby, I felt a lot more panicky & didn’t really know what to do with all that power, so this time I wanted to really be intentional about how I thought about it. I didn’t want to think of every contraction as painful, but instead as the only way to meet our baby & that really worked for me (not that they weren’t painful… I just didn’t want to focus on the pain).
Around 6:45am, LeAnn encouraged us to go for a little walk outside & I thought she was completely nuts, but I complied. We went out & literally walked around for 5-7 minutes. It was just really uncomfortable for me to be outside. It was cold for one thing, but also I felt insecure about making any kind of noise. If it had been in the middle of the night, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal for me, but I didn’t want anything to get in the way of me doing or sounding the way I needed to. We did get to see an incredible sunrise, though, so I consider that walk to be worth it.
We came back inside & hung out in our kitchen for a little while. Then our neighbor, Erin showed up. She was there to help tend to Ruby should she wake up. We chatted a little bit & I remember talking about how I was already so tired (mostly just sleepy tired). Eventually we went back down in the basement— I just really felt comforted to be down there for some reason. During this whole time, my mood was great. This was another thing I wanted to intentionally focus on during this birth. I wanted to be able to celebrate what was happening, instead of fear what was about to come. I knew that it would get more challenging, of course, but I wanted the environment during the birth to be light, cheerful, & happy.
At about 7:15am, LeAnn then encouraged us to just walk up & down the stairs a few times if we weren’t going to walk outside. She knew that keeping me moving was the perfect way to keep opening me up & she didn’t want me to hole up in the basement too much. I got to the base of the stairs & almost immediately threw up. LeAnn said that that probably opened me up another centimeter or two & I seriously think that it did. Somehow I managed to walk up the stairs with John’s help, but once we got up to the kitchen, we had to stay up there for a few more contractions before coming back down. I was definitely going through transition during this time, which is totally the worst! It’s the most difficult time because you’re not pushing yet, although the contractions are so intense. I felt kind of helpless during transition, but somehow I made it through.
Eventually we made it back downstairs & I found myself hanging on to the supportive pole in our basement, really gripping it through every contraction. All of a sudden, LeAnn was there in front of me, saying that I was sounding pushy. I guess there was a difference in the sounds I was making & she could easily distinguish that. I told her, “it’s too soon to push.” I just felt like it wasn’t time for some reason, even though I really wanted to get on with pushing.
The birth team nearly had the pool ready (this time I just wanted to labor in the pool, but not actually give birth in it because I wanted more guidance when pushing so that I hopefully wouldn’t tear as bad/at all). But before I went in, LeAnn wanted to check to see how dilated I was. At 7:47am, I was fully dilated & she asked me if I wanted to get into the tub, but I declined. I just knew that there was no way I would want to get out of it once I was in, so as much as it sounded so lovely to be in there, I resisted. I was minority disappointed by this, only because I knew how comforting the warm water would be, but in the end I am so glad I never crawled into that tub!
So instead of getting into the tub, we moved over to where i planned to give birth & I started actively pushing at about 7:52am. Pushing this time was so incredibly different. I don’t know what it was— whether it was experience from already having one baby, the herbal tea (that has been known to tone the uterus, among other things) I was drinking in mass quantities, my healthier, stronger body, my perspective or a combination of these things— but pushing was so powerful. I didn’t fear it like I did last time & although it was incredibly uncomfortable, I didn’t resist it as much. I was in a sort of sitting up but leaning back on John position, so I was able to grip his hands through every push & I had the birth team all at my feet, encouraging me through every push.
John also prayed intensely for me the whole time, which was so helpful. I didn’t want any kind of fear or anything to creep in, so I just kept telling him to pray for me. Whenever something specific bothered me (like I kept getting leg cramps for some reason), I would just tell him to pray for that & he would.
Like I mentioned before, I wanted a lot more “hands on” through the pushing so that LeAnn could guide the baby out. With Ruby, I feel like I was just push, push, pushing! I was discouraged that she would come down a little & then go back up. With this baby, I expected that to happen & wanted it to so that my bottom could really stretch out over time, not all at once. LeAnn was able to tell me what progress was being made with every push, which I also really wanted this time. In the water, it’s way harder to tell exactly what’s going on because when water moves, it distorts things, which was another reason I chose not to give birth in the tub this time.
At 8:04am, they started to see a bit of the baby’s head. LeAnn applied a warm compress on my bottom, which felt amazing & relieved a lot of the pain. At 8:18am, they could see about 7 centimeters of the head & at 8:24am, they could see all of the head. At 8:25am, the head came out with one giant push & LeAnn unwound the cord (it was around the baby’s neck once loosely) & then the body followed in that same contraction. I scooped the baby up quickly & pretty much just freaked out. I couldn’t believe it was (nearly) over (I say nearly because I still had to deliver the placenta, which I did 8 minutes later). We checked her over right away & discovered that she was definitely a girl (Ruby was right all along) & to our surprise, she looked identical to Ruby at birth. Hairy, healthy, & absolutely gorgeous. Immediately, we all started taking bets on how much she weighed & specifically, how big her head was because she seemed quite large. I guessed 9 pounds.
She ended up being 8 pounds, 4.5 ounces & 22 inches long. Her chest was 14” & her lovely head was 14 3/4 inches, & she was born 5 days before her “due date.” To compare, Ruby was 8 pounds, 9 ounces, 20.5 inches long, her chest was 14” & her lovely head was 14” all at 2 weeks early.
We shared the name we had picked out: January Eve. There’s no intense backstory behind her name— just a name we loved & thought would be perfect for a lovely little lady if we were so lucky to get another one.
Besides having a fast birth & a healthy baby, we were relieved that Ruby did incredibly well throughout the birth. She actually slept through most of it, waking up just 10 minutes or so before January was born. She & Erin came down one time to see me & then went back upstairs until they heard her sister’s cries. She was so excited to see & kiss her & was so proud that she was now a big sister. Finally! Her sister was here! And for all of you who are wondering, she wasn’t even heartbroken that we didn’t name her sister Duke or Ruby2, although she did have to ask us several times what the baby’s name actually was.
After January was born, we had a few precious moments with just John, me & her. When Ruby was born, this was my favorite time— being able to be still & appreciate our new baby instead of being filled with exams, chatter, & busyness. We snuggled her up & thanked God for this precious little miracle. We couldn’t believe that she was here with us & that she did so well during the birth.
Then one of my biggest fears came true. LeAnn did an exam on me & discovered that I had torn again. But this time, I actually tore in 4 places! I couldn’t believe it & was immediately filled with grief. My mind flashed back to the 7-month recovery after I had Ruby & all of the excruciating pain that I endured during that time, all because my body didn’t heal properly. I had a good hard cry about it for a bit & then chose to get on with it.
I say that as if it’s a small thing, but really, I knew that I couldn’t let myself even start to get depressed about it because it would be so easy to go & stay there. I knew that if I started to feel depressed, that it would really take over, so I didn’t want to give it an inch. Of course since then, I’ve had many moments where I’ve had to remember this because it’s easier said than done.
LeAnn wanted me to go to the bathroom before anything else happened. This was surprisingly difficult for me & took about 30 minutes for it to actually happen. After giving birth, I lost a lot of blood again (actually more this time than I did with Ruby) & that was partly due to my bladder being full at the time of January’s birth (when my bladder was full, it was pushing on my uterus), so it was important that I empty it so that more blood wouldn’t come out. I started feeling pretty weak & was growing pale, so if I wasn’t able to pee, I would need a cathader. That was a motivator! I eventually relieved myself.
Because of my past experience, we decided to forgo stitches on all but 1 of the tears. LeAnn gave me 2 small stitches & gave me strict orders to stay in bed to rest, except to use the bathroom. We had already planned to stay in the basement for a few days after the birth, but now it was extended to at least a week, pending how I am doing.
She also instructed me to take a sitz bath for 20 minutes, 3 times a day (I’ll be sharing the recipe for that in about a month when I’m back into posting more regularly) & apply some healing salve on my bottom multiple times a day. I’m happy to report that I’m already feeling so much better even though I did have more tearing this time around. I’m praying that the rest of my recovery will go just as well!
Thank you all so much for your kind words, prayers, & thoughts during this time! I so look forward to sharing more squishy baby pictures with you all, as well as my 4th trimester loves with you soon.