Today, I’m sharing Teddy’s birth story – I tend to get wordy with birth stories, so heads up, this post is long. After sharing Caleb’s birth story, I found it really therapeutic to write it all out and share. I also recognize, birth stories are deeply personal and fertility, pregnancy, and birth are tender topics. Having now grown and birthed two babies, as a mama I somewhat understand the intense grief that can surround pregnancy and babies – but also would never pretend to fully understand, having yet to walk through that kind of grief myself. But I want you to know, if you’re waiting for a baby, have lost a baby, or have experienced other trauma or grief surrounding motherhood, I see you. And I’m thinking of you, praying for you and sending you so much love.
Over the past 28ish months since conceiving our first baby, Caleb, I’ve been on a deeply healing journey with my body. After 10 years of hypothalamic amenorrhea due to overexercising and under eating, growing and birthing and nourishing two babies has been exactly what I’ve needed to restore trust with my body and peace with my body size & shape. I hope my experiences in some way encourage & empower you. And if reading about birth & babies isn’t healthy for you, that’s okay too – do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
The last few weeks of pregnancy this time around were straight up exhausting. With Cal, it was winter in Boston and he was my first baby. This go around, it was July in Virginia and I had an 18 month old to care for – totally different ball game. All I wanted to do was lay around naked in our air conditioning. But I also wanted to soak up all the time I could with Cal before our lives were going to drastically change. It was this push and pull of wanting time to stand still, but also wanting it to fast forward so I could feel physically comfortable again.
I was way less active this pregnancy because 1) I was chasing a toddler around and that’s tiring and 2) structured exercise is just not a top priority for me in this season of life. I did do Barre3 or Momma Strong for 10-20 minutes 3-5x a week in addition to walking, but around week 36 or so I stopped doing anything besides walking and my chiropractic stretches + Spinning Babies stretches. Maybe a prenatal yoga video thrown in here and there. I just had no motivation or desire to move more than that. As with Cal, I ate dates from week 36 onward and I also drank 2-3 cups of red raspberry leaf tea. I didn’t drink the tea with Cal because I don’t like to drink the tea hot and I was super pregnant with him in the winter – but I loved the tea iced with lemon so I drank it everyday this time around. This labor was much quicker and “easier” so I’m not sure if that factored in. Perhaps.
Overall, I rested as much as I could that final month. Nick was awesome and him and Cal were two peas in a pod every morning those final few weeks – eating breakfast, going to the park early, etc while I slept in as late as possible. During Cal’s naps I would nap or atleast rest and read or do something else relaxing. I wanted to be as chill & rested as possible – the less cortisol and more oxytocin flowing, the better.
With my first pregnancy, I decided to birth in a hospital with an OB group and that was 100% the best decision for me at the time. I didn’t have the confidence or trust in my body when it came to labor & birth yet for me to feel safe at a birth center or home. The hospital as a first time mom was right for me.
This time around, I started prenatal care with the midwives at UVA and planned another hospital birth, but this time with midwives. I had a pretty great OB and OB group with Cal back in Boston, but even with a positive OB experience, midwifery care was just different and I loved it. But around 26 weeks, things shifted for me and I began to question if the hospital was where I felt safest and most at peace birthing. I wrote more about our decision to have Teddy at home in this post if you’re interested in reading. Home birth is certainly not for every mom or every birth. I’m so, so thankful I was low risk, Teddy was healthy the whole time and home birth was a very safe option for us. When I first brought it up to Nick, he was a hard NO on home birth. But then, after he read over the research himself, we had a joint meeting with the certified-nurse midwife (CNM) where we asked tons of questions and we discussed it together over a 3-4 week period, he felt just as comfortable as I did. I still can’t believe he got on board with it.
I went into labor with Caleb right before midnight at 40 weeks + 6 days and had him late morning at 41 weeks. So once Teddy’s due date rolled around on a Sunday I thought surely we’d have 4-5 days before he came. That Monday at 40 + 1, I actually felt pretty good and energetic. Cal and I went about our normal day and I had a midwife appointment in the afternoon which was uneventful. Side note: I loved my prenatal care with Kelly – every appointment was an hour or more and so comprehensive. I realize this is completely unrealistic with hospital birth, providers aren’t given the time if they begged for it, but I really appreciated the care I received from Kelly and the ability to reach out via text or phone when I needed her.
At my appointment, baby sounded great, looked good, and was still hanging out ROP – meaning he was on my right side and posterior, aka sunny side up. He had been that way pretty much the whole third trimester no matter how many Spinning Babies exercises I did. Kelly assured me not to worry about it (posterior babies can result in lots of back labor in addition to longer labor and longer pushing) since he could flip in labor and this was my second go around. We made my next appointment for the following week when I would be 41 + 1 and I told her I hoped I would see her sooner rather than later – I did not want to still be pregnant the following week!
The next day, Tuesday, I woke up totally zonked despite decent sleep. I’d been sleeping in until as late as possible before Nick had to work, so I slept until 8am and then pulled myself together and met them at the park a couple blocks from our house. Bubs and I spent the morning playing at the park and doing our morning stuff.
I spent Cal’s entire 3 hour glorious nap that day laying in bed, I was SO TIRED. Tuesday evenings I get together with a handful of other mom friends for a bible study (it’s actually turned into a sanity saving motherhood social group) but I texted them that I wasn’t going to be there since I felt totally wiped and wanted to get to bed early in case I went into labor. With Cal, I didn’t get into bed until like 11:30pm and contractions started right as I laid down – if possible, I wanted to sleep first this go around!
We spent the afternoon in the backyard with the blow up pool & sprinkler and then grilled chicken kabobs for dinner. Looking back now, knowing that was our last dinner as a family of three makes me so weepy. When you reflect back on those final days/hours before birth every moment feels that much more sacred.
As I was cleaning up dinner and Nick was doing bath time with Cal, I started feeling crampy, but didn’t think much of it. I’d been having Braxtons Hicks all the time over the past few days and these felt similar. That was around 7pm. Usually Nick does bath/teeth/jammies, I come in to read some stories and kiss bubs goodnight and then Nick lays down with him for prayer + bed. That night, I wanted to lay down with him as he fell asleep and looking back, I am so glad I did. As I laid there cuddling his whole body with him repeatedly stroking my hair with his chubby little toddler arm slung across my neck I felt the cramps again, but these were different – they weren’t just the tightening that comes with Braxton Hicks. Again, I didn’t think much of it though because I hadn’t lost my mucus plug yet. With Cal, I lost my plug 24 hours before I went into labor so I thought I’d see it at some point before labor began.
Cal took longer than usual to fall asleep that night so by the time I got downstairs it was close to 8:45pm. Nick was hanging on the couch and I told him I was feeling cramps that seemed to be coming in regular intervals, but they were so, so mild they probably weren’t labor. Again, in my mind, I hadn’t lost my mucus plug! We laid on the couch and I ate a huge rice krispie treat and shared the last ice cream sandwich in our freezer with Nick. And then I had to poop. For the next 30 minutes I think I pooped like 6 or 7 times. This is when I started to think, “hmmm this could be labor” because I had the same thing with Cal – so much pooping during labor!
Around 9:15pm I told Nick to head upstairs and get some rest. If it was labor, he should be as rested as possible. I stayed down on the couch and laid there while catching up on unanswered text messages from the day. I figured I’d start timing these “cramps” to see how long and close together they were. I downloaded an app and laid there for 20ish minutes. They were 30-50 seconds long and 4-5 minutes apart. All this felt quite familiar because this is how Cal’s labor began, but I was really hoping this wasn’t labor because I was so tired and just wanted to sleep. I texted Kelly and told her I was having very mild contractions so just wanted to put that on her radar before she went to bed – but I didn’t think it was labor because I hadn’t lost my mucus plug (I was so hung up on not losing that thing yet!) She texted back, “Thanks for the heads up – don’t wait for a mucus plug as a labor sign, it’s not reliable. Call me when you’re having regular strong contractions.”
Around 9:45pm I decided I’d head up and get ready for bed and lay down to see if they’d go away. I was so tired and honestly did not want to labor all night so was really hoping they’d fizzle out. I got ready for bed and realized I was pretty much out of face wash so I went downstairs to make a new bottle (I just mix water with Dr. Bronners unscented castile soap + a bit of jojoba oil – easy and cheap!) – I was doing stuff during contractions so they were still pretty mild as I went about getting ready for bed. But when I went back upstairs a few minutes later I remember having to lean against our bathroom wall and take a few deep breaths through a contraction. I got in bed and laid there for 10 minutes timing contractions and taking some deep breaths, but I could still rest through them. They were now 40-60 seconds long and 3-4 minutes apart. It was about 10:15pm at this point and I told Nick I didn’t want to lay in bed and was going to go downstairs and get on the exercise ball.
About 15 minutes later, I decided I didn’t want to be alone downstairs – it felt eerie to be alone and if things picked up I didn’t want to be yelling up to Nick with Cal sleeping. I wanted Nick with me, so I went back upstairs to get him. We came downstairs together, he turned on some worship music and I walked around the downstairs as contractions came. They were definitely picking up now. They weren’t that intense, but I didn’t want to talk during them now. I then pooped like 5 more times. Every time a contraction was coming on, I felt like I had to poop. At one point I just chilled out on the toilet for a few contractions. I remember glancing at the clock and it was around 10:50pm.
I then laid across the exercise ball and began to cry. One of our favorite Spotify playlists was on, it was dim and calm and Nick was laying on the couch timing contractions. It suddenly hit me that these were the final hours of pregnancy, of our life as a family of three, and the dinner we just had a few hours prior was our last as just us. The day that we just closed was my last with Cal as my only child – my first baby. I didn’t expect that intense wave of emotion, but I let the grief and sadness wash over me and just cried. In a weird way, it felt like I was betraying Cal. He was upstairs sleeping and I was downstairs in labor with his brother – his whole world was about to be rocked. Nick was tender with me – reminding me of the goodness to come and while yes, our last 18 months with bubs were so, so good…the next 18 would be that much better with two boys.
I felt like contractions were getting closer together, but I could still very much talk and rest in between, although I still didn’t want to talk during them. Because they were so close and because I went from 6cm to delivered with Cal in 35 minutes I wanted Kelly and Sarah (her assistant midwife) there sooner rather than later. Kelly had also told me in the weeks leading up to my due date to call her soon and to not wait because this labor would be quicker than my first. So Nick called Kelly. I think contractions were 45-60 seconds long and 2 minutes apart. She listened to me labor through them, but in between I would talk with her too. Given how close they were together, even though I was talking and very aware in between, she decided she’d make her way over and tell Sarah too as well.
After Nick hung up the phone I told him I wanted to get upstairs because I did not want to be transitioning and having to walk up stairs – all of the birth stuff was upstairs and I planned on laboring in our shower and bath and birthing him somewhere in our room (preferably our bed) …I didn’t care for a birth pool because 1) that felt like such an ordeal to order and set up and 2) I was reallyyyy praying for a quick labor where I wouldn’t even have that much time for a tub. I LOVED the tub with Cal and it was such a lifesaver for pain, but we have a pretty big bathtub that would do for laboring. I wasn’t ever set on a waterbirth.
We went upstairs and Nick made the bed (we put on a vinyl cover with old sheets just in case things got messy) while I laid on our floor on my left side and deep breathed through contractions. They were definitely picking up, but I was coping well and felt confident in my ability to do this – after all it could be a long night and this was just the beginning (or so I thought..) Sarah got there first since she lives all of a few blocks from us and met me on the floor. I told her I just wanted to go to bed (I just wanted to sleep!) to which she calmly said, “Well, you’re on the labor train so just let go and ride it out.”
I didn’t want to get in the shower or bath too soon since water for me really helps ease the pain – I wanted to save that for when things got unbearable. But Sarah encouraged me to get in. As I laid there on the floor, I could feel Teddy moving around. With him being posterior I was expecting a good bit of back labor, but all my contractions were in my lower belly and pelvis so at some point during the beginning of labor he had flipped anterior and was now LOA (thank God!) just like Kelly had predicted when she told me not to worry he was posterior for all the weeks leading up to my due date. If you’re like, “what do all these positions mean?!” check out this article – LOA is the ideal birthing position, but babies are born all the time in “non ideal” positions.
It was about 11:45pm or so when I got in the shower and it felt sooo good. Our shower in our master bathroom is so tiny – it’s one of those single person showers you find in a locker room. Whyyyyy that is the case, I do not know (we rent) but also…first world problem. Given the size, Nick and I couldn’t be in there at the same time so he was standing right outside and putting his arm around the curtain to apply some counter pressure to my back during contractions without soaking our entire floor in water lol. Even though I didn’t have back labor with Cal or Teddy, the counter pressure was helpful for me because it gave me something else to focus on. I kept telling him, “harder harder” which I paid for the next few days when I had a major bruise on my sacrum…oops.
I labored in the shower for maybe 30 minutes or so? Contractions were getting stronger, but in between I was very much aware. So much so, that I took off my wedding band to hand to Nick (idk why? maybe I thought my fingers were going to swell?) and also gave him all the shampoo + conditioner bottles so I could rest my arms on the little shelves built into the walls. Kelly came in a couple times and asked to check baby’s heart rate – if I was having a contraction she always waited until it was done. I really was so impressed at how respectful and gentle the midwives’ care was during the birth. I was always asked before they did something – checking baby’s heart rate, checking my blood pressure, examining my perineum post birth etc.
Baby continued to look good. At this point my legs were getting tired from standing and I was uncomfortable in the shower. I also started to feel some mild rectal pressure which I also felt with Cal when I was in the shower at the hospital. With him, I was told I was only 5cm at that point so I knew I could still have a good bit of work to do, even though I didn’t know how far along I was because I didn’t want checked at all this time around. I decided I wanted to get in the bath. It was around 12:20ish in the morning at this point.
In contrast to our locker room shower, we do have a great big bathtub that stands on four legs with a shower head attachment so Nick could spray that on my back. The bath still wasn’t the most comfortable thing though because I really just wanted to be on my hands and knees and your knees against a hard bathtub floor isn’t the comfiest. Once Kelly put a towel on the bottom that was so much better.
I maybe had 5-7 contractions (not sure how many?) in the tub before a few contractions hit me that were much different. The peak of them were pretty intense where I had to REALLY work to not thrash my body and focus on relaxing my jaw and every part of me. That was my focus the whole labor – stay as relaxed as humanly possible so my cervix would open as quickly as possible. I wanted to work with the contractions, to just surrender to them so labor would be over. I didn’t want to fight it. Those last few were intense, but I still didn’t think I was in transition since I hadn’t lost my mind yet. With Cal, I went utterly primal and was thrashing, growling, dropping f bombs. The works. Looking back, I think a lot of that pain was caused by my mind spiraling because I was being told I was only 6 centimeters dilated, yet my body was literally bearing down and pushing a baby out.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was transitioning. I do remember telling Kelly that I wanted to go to sleep. And at one point saying I was going to throw up, but thankfully I never did. So although I didn’t think I was transitioning, Sara knew and quietly walked out of the bathroom to our bedroom where Kelly was prepping birth stuff to let her know. Then with the next contraction, my body just started bearing down and pushing. This actually threw me a bit because of being told I could not push because I was only 6cm dilated during Cal’s birth. Being told you can’t do something your body is doing without your control can really make your mind go bonkers.
Kelly calmly told me I had to get out of the tub – our tub wasn’t full enough at the time to have baby fully submerged if I pushed him out in there. In between contractions I got on all fours on our bathroom floor. And then I started pooping again – I don’t hear women share that they poop right before pushing a baby out so maybe I’m the only one or maybe the only one sharing lol. Either way, if it happens to you, know you’re not alone! Apparently my body likes a cleared out colon before baby arrives.
It was 12:41am at this point. I know that because of the birth records Kelly sent me which state when the second stage of labor starts. I didn’t want to move from the bathroom floor at that point and I kept asking Kelly, “are you sure I can push?? I was told I couldn’t with Cal so I’m nervous to push if I’m not fully dilated!” Since I hadn’t gotten cervical checks, nobody objectively knew how dilated I was, but the midwives trusted my body. And deep down, I did too. Kelly calmly and gently reassured me, “Just go with your body Robyn.”
After one contraction of involuntary, body-bearing-down pushing on the bathroom floor, they all convinced me I could make it to the bed in between contractions. I didn’t want to move at all, but also knew the bed was a better place to birth my baby. During this whole time, Nick was so supportive. The night before I went into labor we had talked about how he could be most helpful to me and I told him I needed tons of words of affirmation. He was everything I needed during Teddy’s birth.
We got to the bed right before the next contraction hit. With Cal, this whole part of his birth is a total cluster in my mind. I don’t remember contractions starting or stopping. I just remember mental chaos and people scrambling around the room and being told I couldn’t push, but then I could push. I’m not sure how much of the physical pain I was feeling was from my mind being out of control and also not being confident in what the hell was happening to my body or if I really didn’t have a break in between contractions. It’s all a blur.
With Teddy though, I definitely felt a break (although short) in between those pushing urges. Pushing is so uncomfortable for me. I know some women say they find pushing contractions “easier” than labor contractions, but for me…nope. It feels like you are projectile vomiting out of your butt hole and the intensity of that is…wow, no words. Pushing on the bed was the first time during his labor where I made really loud noises and I screamed. But I immediately shoved my face into our pillows because I knew Cal was sleeping and told myself, “Shut your trap and just get your baby out Robyn.”
My water broke at 12:43am (per Kelly’s notes) and with the next contraction Kelly said, “Okay, he’s crowning” and that’s when it clicked for me and I thought, “Oh my goodness he ACTUALLY is almost here and this is all almost over!.” It just felt impossible to me that he could be here already.
All I wanted to do was push with all my might and launch this baby out of my body to get it over with as quickly as possible. But by some divine miracle, Kelly was able to get me to take some deep breaths in order to give a few moments for my perineum to stretch so I wouldn’t tear. I remember saying, “KELLY I JUST WANT HIM OUT NOW.” and then shoving my head back into the pillow and saying to myself, “It’s just sensation, it’s just sensation” because this time around I could very much distinguish the ring of fire people talk about. His head gently popped out and one more push brought his whole body into this world and they passed him through my legs right to me.
He had a nuchal cord that Kelly slipped right off and about 40 seconds after he was born he let out his first cry and pinked right up. Immediately, that post birth euphoria hit. The full body, joyful sobs and eyes full of tears as you meet your baby that you and your husband made together. That feeling will never get old. I would bottle it up if I could. I looked at Nick and said, “That felt so easy! I would totally do that again!” Two things I definitely did not say after Cal’s birth.
I am not one of those people who thinks birth isn’t painful. If you are – man, I want some of what you got. For me, it is painful. But it’s productive pain. It’s worthwhile pain. And it’s a pain I know my body can handle. Although Teddy’s birth wasn’t pain free, it literally felt 75% less painful than Cal’s birth. When I pushed him out and he was in my arms I could not believe it was over and done. The best way I can describe his birth is that this time around I didn’t feel like something was happening to my body. I felt like I was in complete control, my body was doing something and I knew how to work with it in a more effective way.
While his birth was ⅓ of the length of Cal’s birth (less than 4 hours vs almost 12 hours) which made everything over with quicker, I think there were a few key things I learned from my first birth that made a huge difference in how I physically & emotionally experienced this birth.
- I never had a cervical check. After Cal’s birth, I knew numbers meant nothing. The only thing they did for me the first time around was mess with my mind and disconnect me from my body. Kelly doesn’t routinely do cervical checks during labor anyways so she was very supportive of this. Because I didn’t know how far along I was, it was much, much easier for me to stay present and to take it one contraction at a time.
- Being at home, pain relieving drugs were off the table. I am glad, even after having a home birth, that I had Cal in the hospital. As a first time mom, that is what I needed, especially with the breastfeeding support following his birth and just figuring out how to care for a tiny human. But not even having the option for an epidural this time around took the decision away. One less thing to suck my mental energy during labor.
- The midwives’ confidence in my body. I’m not knocking my OB during Cal’s birth, really I had a wonderful hospital experience for a hospital birth, but I wonder what would have happened if I would have been told I could push when my body was instinctively bearing down? Would that last hour or so of Cal’s birth been less painful and chaotic and wild for me? I’m not sure. All I know is that Kelly & Sarah’s trust in my body helped me trust my body to push my baby out, allowing me to stay mentally calm & focused, which I’m certain translated to less perceived pain.
Would I birth another baby at home? Absolutely. If we are blessed to have more biological babies and unless it would be unsafe for me to birth at home, I can’t imagine birthing any other way now. That’s just me.
After Teddy was born, Kelly helped keep him right on my chest as Nick helped me turn around and lay back in our bed for skin to skin and we stayed there for the next 2 hours together. He never left my chest for anything. After about 15 minutes he started rooting around and latched right on to nurse and then nursed pretty much for 2 hours straight. I was uncomfortable right after he was born because I could feel my placenta still in there, so after 10 minutes when I asked, they told me I could give a gentle push to see if it would come out – one little nudge and it detached completely. Teddy still stayed attached to the cord for almost 40 minutes before Nick cut it. And then Nick and I just laid there in the bed soaking him up while the midwives cleaned up (you would have never known a baby was born in our bed!), put in a load of laundry, brought me something to eat (I had zero appetite so I chugged gatorade and some fig newtons so I wouldn’t pass out when I eventually got up to shower) and then came back in to ask me if I wanted to shower. YES. I couldn’t wait to shower! Kelly helped me to my own shower and walked me through peeing (for some reason, peeing only 2 hours after pushing out a baby made me nervous…) while Nick had skin to skin time with Teddy. Being in my own shower was glorious.
After showering, Kelly examined my perineum and I was so, so thankful this time around I didn’t tear – it was worth slowing down and breathing him out vs catapult pushing him out like I did Cal. Then, she checked my uterus again and massaged it to make sure my bleeding was controlled and my uterus was contracting down. There was pitocin on hand to inject if it was too much bleeding, but thankfully we never needed to use it.
Then they did the newborn exam right at the foot of our bed. Everything went great and our little dude was 7 lbs 5 ounces and 20 inches long. Nick heated me up one of the frozen breakfast sandwiches I had prepped the week prior – the only freezer meal I made because I thought breakfast sandwiches sounded good no matter when I went into labor. Bacon, egg and cheese on a hearty english muffin. I also ate two granola bars. It didn’t take long for my appetite to come back and eating food from my own kitchen was also glorious.
Kelly educated me on how to monitor my bleeding, how to care for Teddy’s cord stump and some breastfeeding basics and then they wrapped up and left around 4am. Less than 8 hours ago I was tucking my toddler into bed and now I was laying in our bed with a 3 hour old baby. I couldn’t believe it.
I feel so insanely grateful to have had this experience. As excited as I was to birth Teddy at home, I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like once it all panned out. Would I end up wanting to go to the hospital? Would fear creep in? But once labor started it felt so peaceful and safe and natural to be at home. As if it was supposed to be this way all along.
The final month of pregnancy I prayed and prayed for a quick, smooth labor & birth in the middle of the night while Cal slept. We had a plan B and C for childcare if it didn’t go that way, but I am still in disbelief that it did unfold the way we hoped. We do not have a champion sleeping toddler who never wakes…
Although Nick was initially hesitant about home birth, afterward, he said he’d totally do it again – everything just felt simpler at home. Cal woke up around 6am and came into our room to meet his baby brother and life continued on as usual – now with the addition of our sweet Teddy. We were all together, at home. It felt like the most ordinary, yet extraordinary thing.
I didn’t do as much birth prep this time around and instead focused a lot on postpartum. But some things that were super helpful for me in planning for a home birth:
- Re-reading parts of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – it was a good refresher on not fearing birth and staying relaxed
- The Happy Homebirth podcast – I listened to the Birth Hour often too, but during the final month of pregnancy I discovered this podcast and devoured it because all I wanted to do was fill myself up with positive home birth stories. It was also really helpful for me to listen to stories where there was a complication, but the midwife was able to calmly and skillfully navigate the situation at home and mom and baby were healthy
- All throughout labor, I visualized Teddy coming out and being placed on my chest and the bliss that would come with that – keeping that in mind kept my eyes on the prize
After having two unmedicated births – one in the hospital and one at home – I am so glad I’ve had both experiences. Each birth was special in its own way. Cal was our firstborn and we crowded eight of our best friends into our hospital room that night to celebrate with pizza and champagne. Teddy was born peacefully at home during a global pandemic which was sacred and intimate and everything I hoped for. I’m only a few weeks into being a mama of two, but just like their births were unique in their own way, I’m learning that my love for them, while equally intense, is also unique to each child. This postpartum has been different than the first go around and there’s a lot I want to say about it, but I’ll leave that for another post.
Thank you so much for all your love & support!