We welcomed Baby Rose Athena into the world on Sept. 16, at 12:50 p.m. Here’s her birth story (with a little bonus background, for posterity’s sake).
Rose’s Story Begins
Rose’s story officially began last December, when after having an early negative pregnancy test (but it still being too early to confirm), I went for a run. During said run, I started crying to Taylor Swift’s song, “Mean,” and figured that might be a sign something weird was going on with my hormones. I was in a very bad mood, and as I stared at the bottle of wine chilling in the refrigerator, I told myself I could open it if I went and took another test and it was negative (even though it was still a little early). And wouldn’t you know it, that test, which was not an early detection brand, came back with two, no-bones-about it pink lines.
I’d really wanted that wine, but this was good news too.
In Which We Debate the Pros and Cons of the Baby’s Sex (As If We Have a Say in the Matter)
Pretty much immediately, I began to worry about how it could ever be possible to love a second kiddo as much as I love Pippin, as I’m pretty sure all people (especially mothers, I suspect) about to welcome a second child into the world do. We were on the fence about wanting a boy or a girl. We’d both kind of wanted a girl the first time around, but we had come to adore raising our wild, sensitive, (too) clever boy. We also kind of figured that brothers have a special bond, just as sisters do, though we also knew that brother-sister duos have their own special relationship as well. But as time went on, the pregnancy felt so different, and I found myself yearning for a girl for several reasons:
- My pre-kid thoughts that I’d have a girl
- The morning sickness was worse
- I’d always told Pippin he was my favorite boy, and I didn’t like feeling I might have to change that.
- My mom was threatening to disown us if we weren’t having a girl
- I suspected I was having a girl (Crying to a Taylor Swift song? Come on.), and I hate being wrong.
So when we went for our 20-week ultrasound, I was feeling pretty nervous. Our baby was being very modest on the ultrasound as well, and we were afraid we weren’t going to be able to find out. The tech said she was 60 percent sure that we had a girl, but I told her that would definitely not be good enough for the grandmother. She kept looking, and we finally got a clear shot. She raised her certainty to 90 percent, which she said was as high as she ever went, and so we felt relatively safe buying a pink cupcake to announce the news to my mom. Tyler made fun of me, as my reaction may have been slightly (OK, much) more elated than when we received the news that Pip would be a boy.
Fast-forward through the rest of the pregnancy: I started out heavier with this one, and though I gained less, I think I definitely felt that extra weight. I actually kept running for about a month longer into my pregnancy this time around, and I walked like a madwoman (thank you, Fitbit), but I found that, just like the first go-round, my body just really liked to hold onto every bit of weight it could. After a series of negative reactions of growing intensity on my part any time anyone at the birth center brought up my weight, they finally stopped mentioning it. I suspect a note was put on my chart. In any case, the pregnancy was rougher on me than Pippin’s was, and I was ready to be done.
But apparently my womb is something of a 4-star hotel, and my babies are content to stay put until I forcibly evict them. After doing castor oil with Pippin on the advice of my midwives, I told them I wanted to avoid that option if at all possible. Even as we passed the 41-week mark, my opinion has solidified that it wasn’t a route I was willing to go this time, even if it meant a hospital induction. Instead, I would try everything else, and I was given the go-ahead to pump to try to stimulate labor. After several days of managing to trigger contractions only to have them taper off shortly after I stopped pumping, I was feeling pretty downtrodden about the likelihood of managing another drug-free childbirth. I had my membranes swept for the third time at 41+4, and pumped that evening for several hours with the same results. I went to bed, figuring I’d at least get some sleep, but it wasn’t to be.
Labor Finally Begins
Contractions finally started coming again on their own around 10:30 p.m., and continued throughout the night. They tapered off around 4 a.m., which allowed me to get a nap, but woke me again about 45 minutes later. Around 7 a.m., we were told to come on into the birth center, with contractions picking up in intensity and about 6 minutes apart.
The room we’d put down as our preference wasn’t available, so we were put in the only available room: the one in which Pippin was born. It seemed fitting somehow. I labored walking around the room for a bit and enjoyed a smoothie before getting in the tub and enduring contractions there. I didn’t seem to be progressing as quickly as I’d hoped, so I got out of the tub. Contractions were getting much stronger, and they felt less and less manageable. Poor Tyler, as excellent a birth partner as he is, had to deal with me yelling at him a few times. It’s so hard to be a birth partner, because you know the basics of what you can do to help, but you never really know what the woman in labor is going to want or not want. Labor sucks, but I know that being a true birth partner has to be its own kind of hell, despite the privilege.
Cathy, the same midwife I called “the Closer” last time was with us for most of the laboring process, and she guided me through different pushing positions on the bed. My body never took over like it did with Pippin during the pushing process, which was both disheartening and exhausting. I suspect it’s because my water never broke, so there was nothing, well, to grip onto, so to speak. I remember joking between contractions about how it was so silly that I’d wanted so badly to go into labor, and that a C-section sounded pretty good right about now.
But once they assured me I was making progress, and with Cathy directing and Tyler right there with me, I managed to find some strength to keep going.
Our Baby Girl is Born
I felt the ring of fire once but couldn’t complete the push, and I knew I had to do next time to stay sane. Cathy told us to get a camera ready, and I said, “Not like this!” I remember I was sweating from the exertion, but on the next contraction, I pushed and pushed and pushed, and pulled so hard on Tyler’s shirt I’m surprised I didn’t rip it off. After what felt like forever (I’m pretty sure I remember yelling, “Get her OUT!”), she was put on my chest as they pulled off the remnants of her amniotic sac. She’d come out “with a veil,” and during the process to get her out of me and into the world, it was broken and pulled away. As she screeched (she sounded like a cat who’d been stepped on), I felt her kick out her legs immediately down my torso, just as she’d done for the past several months in the womb, much to my chagrin.
Everything in those first few minutes is a bit of a blur. I had Tyler take Rose while I delivered the placenta, which took longer than I remember. (I think most of this labor experience was marked by impatience on my part.) In comparing the two births, I’ve been describing them as inverse experiences. With Pippin, the first 90 percent was torture, and the last 10 percent was great. With Rose, the first 90 percent was great, and the last 10 percent was absolutely terrible (despite being totally normal, minus my water never breaking or being broken).
An Honest Appraisal of Finding Our New Normal
The last several weeks of pregnancy, I was already experiencing anxiety about how Pippin would handle everything, and wanting to make sure that the transition was as positive as possible for him. Baby Rose had brought him many gifts to the birth center (three books and two Duplo sets, which is probably overkill, but #momguilt).
I’m not sure Pippin ever really grasped the concept of the fact that Baby Rose would eventually come out of Mama’s tummy, which how could you at two years old? He looked a little confused when my mom brought him into the room and he saw the baby. We didn’t really try to force anything and mostly just let him focus on the gifts, emphasizing that they were from Baby Rose. He’s been into the Birthday Song lately, so he and Daddy and his Aunt Chrissy and Gaga all sang Happy Birthday to Rose. I told him he was a big brother now, like in the book we read, and he said, “No!” and hugged Daddy, which was admittedly pretty cute and probably the sentiment of many big brothers and sisters out there. (Aunt Chrissy also got that one recorded for posterity.)
I managed to keep it together until we were heading home, about 5 hours after Rose had entered the world. I didn’t have an immediate connection with Pippin right after he was born, and I didn’t have one with Rose either. And I felt both guilt at that fact plus nostalgic for our days with just Pippin, which is a lot of emotion on a day where you’ve endured both a physically and mentally exhausting experience. I knew it would get better, and that Rose and I would develop just as strong a connection as Pippin and I had as well, and Tyler reassured me of all this too, of course.
Most of my baby blues weepiness in the first few days were related to missing Pippin and wanting him to be happy. I sensed (or thought I sensed) a little sadness and uncertainty in him, and whether real or imagined, it broke my heart. He’s understandably been asking for a little extra attention since Rose arrived, wanting to be carried, etc. He’s uninterested in Rose probably half the time, and curious the other half, which seems like a pretty good mix. On the second or third day, he said, “I kiss Baby Rose,” and I instructed him to kiss her on the head, which he did — twice. So when he is interested, he’s very sweet and sometimes a little too helpful (e.g., tossing one of his old soft toy rattles onto her head — which she slept through).
We’ve done our best to give him some fun days and some one-on-one time with each of us as well as lots of family time, and his Aunt Kate has been especially sensitive to him needing extra attention.
I was really weepy on Day 5, and having had a pretty rough time with postpartum depression last time around, I was worried it was coming on again. Tyler cancelled some brief plans to stay home because I was so weepy, despite my objections, because he’s a wonderful husband and parent. We’d both been taking shifts staying up with Rose because she’d been vomiting quite a bit (normal, but still scary), and we’d both had a couple of really rough nights in a row. So we decided, since the vomiting had passed, to move to keeping her in her room at night and trying to get some sleep while she slept. I’d started pumping exclusively since she wasn’t a great latch and I didn’t want her to get dehydrated from all the vomiting (plus it had worked very well for us with Pippin), so we were able to both take turns feeding her, and we were both able to get a full night’s sleep, even if in chunks. And that has helped tremendously. We also scheduled a day date for next week, which is always a nice thing to have on the agenda.
Yesterday, I didn’t cry at all, and I’ve only been a little teary today in writing this about Pippin’s transition, which I think is normal and not baby-blues related. I don’t think I’m out of the woods yet, but I’m feeling more optimistic about avoiding PPD this time around, or at least experiencing a less severe version.
Baby Rose and I are still working on our connection, but it’s growing. I remember saying to Tyler some time around when Pippin was six weeks old, that I’d loved him from the start, but that I felt like I was really starting to fall in love with him finally. I expect it’ll be similar with Rose, as she starts to become more and more human, and we start to settle into various renditions of our new normal.