welcome baby juniper
i can't believe our juniper will be a month old this wednesday, march 6. my last post was at the 34 week mark and she was born at 38 weeks and two days. now here we are almost a month after that. i've been working on this post since we got home from the hospital and was hoping to have our birth photography to include with it, but alas there have been some hiccups and it's not yet available. i wanted to get this out one way or another so. here it is, with more beautiful photography to come at a later date. this story begins at the 37 week mark with my attempts to prepare my body to start labor without medical intervention. and thankfully, i was successful. grab a warm drink and settle in. this one is a long one!
In order to avoid induction, I started pursuing natural means of getting my body ready to have this baby. My doula suggested visiting the chiropractor and acupuncturist, eating dates, and drinking red raspberry leaf tea. At 37 weeks I began all of these. I saw the chiropractor on Thursday, January 31 and the acupuncturist on Friday, February 1. After both appointments I scheduled another for the following week. Both times I did this I had premonition like I did before when I was assembling my vaginal birth recovery items in my Amazon cart before my 36 week ultrasound with Bina and felt a check of -- you may not be having a vaginal birth, hold off on that. This time it was when I was scheduling appointments for the following week for the chiropractor and acupuncturist -- you’re going to be cancelling these appointments. But I figured better to make and cancel than to not make them and need them. In addition to these measures, I had read that having sex three times is the magic number to get labor going. So I made sure we did that three nights in a row starting Thursday, January 31. I started eating banana and dates all week. And I began drinking my four cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day starting Sunday, February 3.
On Sunday morning, February 3, I noticed some blood tinged mucus and felt cramping when Bina nursed. In the evening I noticed mild contractions. The blood tinged mucus freaked me out a bit as I hadn’t had any spotting or bleeding all pregnancy this time. I called the OBGYN and the on call doc was one of my two favorites. He thought it was spontaneous bloody show until he asked if I had had sex in the last 24 hours. I don’t think he was expecting me to say I had. Ha. Because we had had sex in the last 24 hours, it wasn’t necessarily spontaneous bloody show. But if it was in fact bloody show, I could be in labor within 48 hours. FORTY. EIGHT. HOURS. My mom said she had this with my brother Chas and he came two and a half days later. So I started getting into gear finishing up things around the house, just in case.
On Monday morning, February 4, I noticed cramping in the morning when Bina nursed again and five more definite contractions after she finished. The blood tinged mucus continued throughout the day, as did mild contractions (nothing regular). I worked out with my trainer hoping that would be the last time before labor.
At 7pm we attended a “connection dessert” event at Ward Church to learn more about the church. During the event baby was moving more than ever -- straight up and down, then butt and feet out. It felt like the most she had moved all pregnancy!
On Tuesday, February 5, Bina and I stopped at Costco for gas and Bina told me she wants a baby brother too. Alright kid, lets get through this baby sister first. I don’t think mama can handle a baby brother at this point. We went into Costco for a few things and ended up buying a cart full of foam floor tiles for the basement to finish off the other side. I figured if I didn’t go into labor that week, I’d get to the basement floor that weekend.
My 38 week appointment was at 1pm that day. At the appointment I was 1cm dilated, 80% effaced and Juniper’s head was way down. My doctor was very excited and optimistic about attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). She thought that even if we needed to induce that I was in good shape to do so successfully. As she completed the cervical check she said of the head, “Oh it’s RIGHT there! I think if you cough, the head might come out!” Ha. I had been so cautiously hopeful for this VBAC attempt. Seeing my doctor all positive about it and excited about my progress helped me to get more hopeful. She said she’d see me next week. I was resolved that I wouldn’t be having baby that week, but still soon!
Bina always enjoyed looking at herself in the mirror at my appointments. Especially when sporting a new "fancy" dress we just bought from Costco.
That evening at home the dog hair was overwhelming me so I decided to vacuum the first floor at about 7pm. I got to the living room and as I started on the rug I felt something like bubbles popping as I leaned over pushing the vacuum. Then I felt that familiar trickle of fluid. I turned off the vacuum and went to the bathroom. Surely my water hadn’t broken like it did with Bina’s birth. That was so rare! Especially to have it happen both times. I didn’t have a steady trickle, but when I stood up I felt a periodic little gush. David and Bina were down in the basement. I called excitedly, “David! David! David! I think my water just broke!” Here we were again.
When I was pregnant with Bina, I was asleep and my water breaking woke me up. I got up to go to the bathroom thinking I had peed myself but then realized what was happening and cried. I had two more days of work and meetings and I wasn’t ready! That dumb c-section was scheduled, for crying out loud. In contrast, when my water broke with Juniper I was just relieved to have a sign that OK -- this is actually happening! We’re a go! Because it was so unexpected, I found myself just laughing. There were no tears of distress. David went into worker bee mode assembling all the things we needed and contacting my brother to let him know it was time. We told Bina that baby sister was finally coming. I contacted my doula and the birth photographer. I called the on call OBGYN at my practice who suggested I go to the hospital quickly just to check and make sure there wasn’t pressure on the umbilical cord from the water breaking, and to watch for risk of infection. I took a long hot shower. The contractions intensified. We prepared our bags. My brother arrived and we said our goodbyes to sweet Bina who was so very excited to meet her new baby sister. I was so glad it didn’t happen in the middle of the night so we could say a proper goodbye to Bina. Not so ideal that it was right at her bedtime, but she took it like a champ. Slept the whole night for my bro!
We arrived at the hospital just a few minutes shy of 9pm. I remember because valet was supposed to be open through 9pm but unfortunately they were not. Our hospital tour was scheduled for the upcoming Sunday, February 10. I ended up texting a friend who had delivered at this hospital before to see where we should go. We made our way to emergency, checked in, and then waited for labor and delivery to come and ok us to head up. As we waited, Trump’s state of the union address was playing on the televisions in the lobby. Oh what a perfect start to this labor experience -- the voice of Trump. Ha. I had doubled up on pads to catch my water but I could feel that they were filling quickly. I had an old pair of Uggs on that I’ve had since college. I was starting to regret my shoe choice as I didn’t want to have them wet with my broken bag of waters! A nurse came to the lobby to ok us to go to labor and delivery. Thankfully the pad held until we could get upstairs to a room at about 9:30pm.
The water breaking made everything a bit messy. It’s harder to move and walk around when you’re constantly leaking fluid. I got the mesh panties on and the giant labor pads. I planned to labor in my Milkmaid Goods robe with my soft comfy Gap bralette so I wore them with my fabulous mesh panties. I found it comfortable to sit with my tailbone on the edge of the bed and kind of sway back and forth. The nurse had to hook me up to all the fun monitors because I was attempting a VBAC. In these cases they’re more vigilant about checking baby’s heart rate for distress because it can signal uterine rupture which I was at higher risk for, having a cesarean section previously. They started me on fluids as well as I had mentioned I may want an epidural. My plan was to go for as long as I could and then if having an epidural would help me continue to progress by relieving tension, stress, anxiety -- then I would get one. After listening to countless episodes on The Birth Hour podcast, I knew that epidurals could be especially helpful in allowing the body to progress if mom is under a lot of stress and unable to relax to allow the body to do its work. The nurse mentioned a wireless monitoring system that she might be able to get for me since I was wanting to move around during labor for as long as I could. By this time, our doula Rachel had arrived and I asked for prayer that we would be able to get the wireless monitoring system as that would allow me to labor as I had hoped -- moving about. And God answered. We got one! The birth photographer Marcie arrived and it felt like a girls party. We talked and laughed and I would pause to work through a surge.
Around 11pm I was dilated to 2cm and 90% effaced with contractions every minute or so. Through every contraction (or surge, as we call them in hypnobirthing), I would focus on my breath. In and out through my nose, repeating to myself that if I’m breathing then baby is breathing. I remember verbalizing to Rachel the visualization of the contractions opening my pelvis and pushing baby down. It’s not pain, it’s intensity. It’s purposeful. We tried different positions. Me on the ball with my arms and head laying on the bed. Me on hands and knees laying my upper body across the top of the bed. Rachel and David doing hip squeezes and head squeezes. Anything to help distract me from the sensations I was feeling in my pelvic area. I kept breathing through. Eventually I ended up back with my tailbone on the edge of the bed, swaying, and then wrapping my arms around David’s neck as he sat in a chair across from me as each surge hit. I couldn’t talk through the surges at this point.
After eight hours of laboring intervention free, at about 3:30 in the morning on Tuesday, February 6, I started getting scared by the increasing intensity of the surges. I was exhausted. The night before I had only gotten about four hours sleep because I was timing contractions, wondering if I would be in labor the next morning. I should have been sleeping because those contractions were nothing compared to what I was experiencing in actual labor. My increasing fear and exhaustion led me to use my code word for GET ME THE EPIDURAL -- frozen margherita x3. David suggested we wait another 20 minutes. I didn’t want to wait because I knew I was already getting scared and if we had to wait an hour from when I asked for the epidural to get one, I didn’t want to be in a panic by the time it finally came. I was checked again and was 2cm, 90% effaced, and her head was at -1. And I was so discouraged. Eight hours of these surges and that was all the progress I had made? Rachel and the nurse assured me I was doing great and not to be discouraged. I knew from The Birth Hour podcast that progress can be slow and then quick. But it was still a blow to my perseverance.
I was so happy to see the anesthesiologist. I followed instructions as carefully as I could -- sitting on the bed with my back arched and chin tucked, not moving. Notifying them when a contraction came. The nurse said I was one of the most still patients they had had. Honestly, I was just terrified of moving and being paralyzed for life for this. Ha. Also, I’m an enneagram 1. Following directions is my game #rulefollower. I knew I wanted the peanut ball after the epidural was placed as this can aid in dilation while bedridden from the epidural. I was laid flat on my back to allow the epidural to kick in uniformly on both sides. Then I was laid on my right side with the peanut ball between my legs. I could still wiggle my toes and move my legs a bit, which was a nice contrast to the spinal for the cesarean. I was impressed by how much I could still move. I settled back into a somewhat comfortable side lying position.
There were two times during the birth that pitocin came up. It was explained to me that it might be something the doctor would want to pursue if I weren’t progressing or if I started running a temperature. Both times I asked -- what if we wait? And then got to praying that God would allow my body to open on its own and not require further intervention. At some point my temperature was slightly elevated and my “what if we wait?” resulted in another read of my temperature, which had gone down to an ok range. Crisis averted. Pitocin was off the table for the moment. By 4:15am I was 4cm dilated. I was pleased with the progress to 4cm. That’s something! My body was going to do this. We were able to rest and get a bit of sleep. Lying on my right side I still had discomfort on my left. But the pain wasn’t quite intense enough to keep me awake, thankfully.
When I was still at only 4cm at 6:45am, I started to get more discouraged. Come on, body! Do your thing! I got you the epidural to relax and open up! At this time I also realized that the epidural had only taken effect on the right side of my body. I was still feeling the surges on the left side, intensely. It made me anxious. I continued focusing on my breath.
When talk of pitocin returned at around 8:15am, I found my anxiety increasing. I knew pitocin would increase the intensity of the contractions. I also knew it would put me at a slightly higher risk for uterine rupture. I was having a hard time weathering the surges with my half medicated body. We tried different positions. The bed was set up into a chair to allow gravity to help me labor down. Then I was laid back on my left side, then back up into the sitting position. I was slightly afraid each time I changed position because I noticed that was typically when I would be overcome by nausea and vomit. I had three rounds of this. I was just thankful I didn’t experience it more than that. There were a couple of times during this process that I wasn’t sure if I would have the strength to continue to endure and in the back of my mind contemplated that I might need to have a c-section.
I was ecstatic to find out at 11:15am that I had progressed to 9cm and 100% effacement with baby’s head descended to 0. Her arrival felt so imminent! We were almost there! At this point I had been laboring for 16 hours and was concerned that the check would result in more news of failure to progress. My last check at 6:45am, almost 12 hours into this labor, had me at 4cm. And within another four and a half hours I had progressed to 9cm! Just like my episodes of The Birth Hour podcast had informed me -- progress may be slow and then fast. Unfortunately at this time we also found out that I was running a temperature and would require antibiotics for myself and baby. My water had been ruptured for 16 hours by this point and with cervical checks, the risk of infection was higher.
At 9cm, I felt as though I was going through transition. The contractions were one on top of the other. I started feeling the urge to push and at about 12:15pm got prepped to begin pushing. But when I was checked 30 minutes later, I was still at 9cm. Not ready to push yet. I wasn’t sure how I was going to endure more contractions at this point. I was frustrated and just wanted this labor to be over. A week or so prior to this, I asked a friend of mine to share the fear release meditation she said she had listened to before to the birth of her second daughter. When I was told I had to continue waiting through these intense surges, I brought to my mind the visualization that had come through that meditation: a field of wildflowers, sunny with a gentle cool breeze, the sound of a creek, my toes in the cool creek water feeling smooth rocks. I focused on each element of that visualization as I continued to breathe.
Around 2:15pm the OBGYN from my practice checked me, felt the cervical lip that was preventing me from dilating to a full 10cm, and was able to move it out of the way so that I could begin pushing. FINALLY. She also was able to turn baby's head so that she was in the right position for birthing. I was exhausted but excited to be so close to birthing this babe out of my vagina! I began pushing about 10 minutes later. I could feel the contractions coming thanks to my faulty epidural so I didn’t need any help figuring out when to push. It felt good to be doing something productive with the surges. First the nurse coached me on how to push properly, from my bum while holding my breath, chin tucked, eyes open. My first push I was breathing out as I was pushing. Then I started pushing with my face, eyes closed. Had to make some adjustments to get it right. I had no idea how long pushing would take but since I knew baby’s head was so low I assumed it wouldn’t take long. I asked my doula how many pushes I had left and she kindly informed me she doesn’t make predictions like that. Every birth is different. I ended up pushing for about an hour and a half. At one point my heart rate was increasing and the nurse had me hold off pushing through a contraction. My blood pressure was fine the whole time, but my heart rate got a bit high. I ended up being monitored afterwards for tachycardia.
By 3:15pm, baby’s head was visible and my contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart. I had the mirror setup at the end of the bed so that I could see the progress I was making with each push. I was so exhausted that I was thankful for the breaks between pushing to catch my breath and muster up some strength to keep going. A half hour later we were almost to the ears. I remember when the OBGYN said baby would be out in one more push. PRAISE JESUS THE LAMB OF GOD. I gave it all I had and out came baby Juniper Brittain at 3:52pm, 7lbs 11oz, 19.5” long.
She was immediately placed on my chest covered in vernix and blood. The nurse started wiping her off with a towel. I remember saying over and over again “oh, my baby!” I couldn’t believe it! Euphoria washed over me, finally able to fully embrace my VBAC instead of cautiously hoping. This VBAC I had prepared and hoped for and wasn’t sure I was going to be able to achieve even through the end of labor. We did it! I looked up at David and saw tears in his eyes, and I felt the tears welling up in my eyes as well. I held the little being who had grown in my body for the last 38 weeks and two days, in awe of what my body had accomplished, humbled by the opportunity to have had a vaginal birth with David by my side as my teammate through the whole process. And we had a birth photographer who captured all of it!
Juniper stayed on my chest as the OBGYN massaged my abdomen (massaged is a euphemism) to release my placenta. Since I had run a fever during labor, there was likely infection in the placenta so I wouldn’t be able to encapsulate it like I had hoped. In the moment that didn’t matter to me at all. I was basking in the euphoria of my vaginal birth after cesarean and this tiny purple human that was gradually turning pink, my prize for enduring 21 hours of labor (and 38 weeks of pregnancy!). Once the placenta was delivered, the OBGYN set to repairing my tears. As I listened to her explain what she was seeing and doing to the residents, I started getting concerned that I had a fourth degree tear. I had tears in the muscle fibers of my rectum. Tears in my vaginal opening. Tears in my urethra. Thankfully I did not end up with fourth degree tearing, but I did end up with third. The stitching up was quite the process and I’m thankful I had my babe in my arms on my chest to distract me a bit from what was happening to my poor trashed pelvic floor.
About 45 minutes later, Juniper was taken to the other side of the room to be weighed and measured. My stitching was complete. My doula and birth photographer had packed up to head home after a long, long night and day supporting me and documenting my labor and birth. The party was finally over and recovery was about to begin. Juniper was taken to the special care nursery with David at about 6pm to receive her first round of antibiotics.
We were told we would need to stay 48 hours from that point. I was completely exhausted from the labor but so glad that once it was over, I had no residual shaking or nausea like I did after the c-section with Bina.
I had lost more blood than usual during labor and when I tried to stand up to go to the bathroom I felt quite dizzy so I ended up having a catheter release my bladder and we decided to try for me to walk again later. I was so elated I had my successful VBAC that I was really positive throughout the hospital stay. Also nothing post labor compared to the pain of labor so. There’s that.
I knew my recovery wouldn’t be as easy as I had hoped due to my third degree tearing, but I was still banking on it being more mild than c-section recovery. In the first two weeks after the birth, I wasn’t quite sure that was the case but by the two week mark I felt I was getting around much better than I was post c-section. At three and a half weeks post I still feel lots of pressure and the sensation that my uterus is trying to fall out of my vagina if I stand too long. Laying down is for sure the most comfortable position. I’m learning that any way you have a baby, by birth or by adoption, via the vagina or a c-section, it’s hard. It’s just hard for different reasons.
My mom came from Tuscon, AZ to be with Bina while we were in the hospital. She and Bina came just a few hours after baby was born to visit. Bina meeting baby was everything I had hoped it would be and Bina has really done so well with this transition.
She adores her baby sister and has shown zero animosity towards her. All the animosity and defiance is directed towards mom and dad. That also may just be the fact that she is three and a half. But boy has it been more challenging now that we have two! She constantly warms our hearts with her sweet interactions with Juniper and the way she plays so well independently. Bina gets in her own little world and it’s just adorable.
I am SO. SO. SO. GLAD. So very glad that Jesus did not give me what I wanted in my timing -- kids spaced two years apart. I have learned and grown so much in the last almost three years since we moved to Michigan and I became a stay at home mom. Having my two girls spaced almost four years apart has been so good. I’m constantly reminded that God knows best, even when in the moment I cannot see it. Hindsight is 20/20.
David was able to be home for three weeks and our time together as a family has been so sweet. I am so thankful for him and his support. This time around I’ve been much more mobile and since this is already my job, I’m much more comfortable. We have had our moments of frustration, and still do of course, but overall I’m just so grateful for an experience that I feel redeemed the very difficult time I had the first go around.
Mentally and emotionally, this post partum experience has been night and day compared to my first. I want to be careful not to make a judgement on either birth or post partum experience. It wasn’t that Bina’s was bad and Juniper’s was good. Both were (are) hard for different reasons. I do not regret the way Bina’s birth and my post partum experience went. I think her birth was true to her personality and that I needed to go through the breaking of the last almost four years to be who and where I am today. The difficulty of my first experience with motherhood has refined me in a way nothing else could have.
Juniper happens to be, so far, a very easy baby. Not much crying. A great nurser. My nursing experience has been completely different this time. I didn’t have to use any of the nipple care items I stocked up on. That could be a combination of things -- I have been nursing Bina for the last almost four years and am now tandem nursing. My boobs are primed for this! Juniper doesn’t nurse for as long as Bina did (10 minutes vs 45 minutes). At any rate, it’s just been a much more pleasant experience this time around. And it makes me thankful I decided to keep nursing throughout pregnancy even when I very much wanted to quit! Juniper’s cry is quite muted compared to Bina’s. And witching hour doesn’t really exist for her, while for Bina it was from 3-11pm every night it seemed. So I think Bina was just a hard baby and Juniper an easy one so far. I’m thankful for this order though, because I was prepared for another Bina and pleasantly surprised by how chill Juniper has been. Bina is so sweet with her when she cries in the car, saying “It’s okay! It’s okay! We’re almost there” in a gentle, sing-songy voice. That kid. She can be such a threenager and then so beyond her years in empathy. I love her. I love both my girls. They’re so very different and I look forward to seeing how they continue to grow in their unique little personalities. They are both going to be forces to be reckoned with!
We had a scare with my poor mom coming down with Influenza A the night we got home from the hospital. She went to get tested the next day and got on Tamiflu, then checked into a hotel for a few days before deciding to fly home early, worried about giving the flu to any of us. Thankfully, none of us caught it and for the time that we needed her most, during our hospital stay, she was able to be with Bina. I am so grateful for that.
Friends from my table at my Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group, a neighbor, and my yoga instructor stepped up to bring us food the week we had anticipated my mom being on food duty while she was planning to be here helping us settle in as a family of four. A friend who had recently trained as a post partum doula came over with a slew of snacks, cleaned up my house and held my baby while I napped. We ended up with meal trains from both my MOPS group and our former church, totaling five weeks of meals. It ended up being really sweet to have time to adjust as a family of four during David’s three weeks off. And I was blown away by the amount of support we received from friends and family. It was quite different to be already in all my moms groups as a stay at home mom and have all of them there for me post partum this time.
I’ve had my moments because heck, it’s hard to have a baby. It’s a major life transition, and doing that with another kiddo around is one more person’s transition to manage. Juniper is a chill baby, but we’re still sleep deprived. Overall, I feel so much better mentally and emotionally than I did the first time. I worked really hard to prepare for this birth and to set myself up for success physically, mentally, and emotionally. God did a lot of heart work in me. It’s the kindness of God to see the fruit of all of that work, and to see His hand so clearly each step of the way -- sometimes in the moment, but often in hindsight. I know I’m not out of the woods yet, as post partum mood disorders can show up anytime in the first year post partum. But I feel confident in and completely humbled by my great support system and I know that whatever comes, God will grant us the grace to endure. And so I take things one day at a time, recalibrating expectations when necessary, like I have several times already with my recovery from my tearing, and soaking in this newborn stage. I feel like I really didn’t enjoy the newborn stage with Bina. I was so stressed about everything and there was so much crying. This time I know how short this season is and I’m living in the moment, cherishing the smallness of my new human and the joys of her being in this wonderfully portable season. Sweet baby Juniper. I’m so glad she’s ours. And I’m so humbled by and thankful for each day of mental and emotional health along this journey post partum.
Baby Juniper, it was so hard to wait for you but so very worth the wait. Welcome home to the crazy Sobey family. You are one loved little girl.