Birth Story: The Arrival of Austin McGovern

I told myself all sorts of comforting lies while I was waiting for baby #2 to arrive.

He would be early. 

My labor would go more quickly with a second baby. 

I would be better prepared to handle the pain and discomfort of labor. 

Nope. As his due date approached everyone I saw reminded me he could arrive at any time and asked for an update on any signs he may make an appearance. There were none. Each day was a regular day. I wasn’t having any contractions, just the expected soreness of a woman carrying 40 extra pounds in her middle.

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Although I was tempted, I didn’t try to encourage the baby’s arrival. I took walks every day but didn’t chow down on jalapeños or drink castor oil, etc. I thought about it but I read a few articles that discussed how “natural induction methods” would only cause contractions not labor (oh, hell no). Most importantly though, I just wanted to give this baby the space to take his time.

Yes, I complained about waiting. Yes, I was getting frustrated and increasingly short with people who inquired about him. It felt like the ultimate game in patience, which is very dramatic of me as I went into labor only two days after the due date.

We were hoping for a punctual baby on October 26th but on October 29th just after we put Haines down for his nap, I had my first contraction. Tyler was trying to get me out of the house for a mental health break but I found myself frozen in pain in our kitchen. I went to bed instead.

With Haines my contractions slowly increased in frequency and intensity. This time they  started with a higher intensity and were irregular for hours. Contractions are jerks. Because of my previous history (tested GBS negative but Haines developed sepsis at 2 weeks old) our midwife encouraged us to go ahead and come in so I could get antibiotics in plenty of time. My midwife practice seemed as traumatized as we were by that experience.

Laboring at home is definitely my preference. Last time I felt much more able to handle the pain, channel my thoughts, be distracted, etc. At the hospital I was just watching the clock. An hour has passed, where were we now? Any progression? It felt like torture BUT the anxiety of not knowing when to leave for the hospital for antibiotics had also weighed heavily on us. I barely got to the hospital in time to deliver Haines and Tyler was especially worried about a repeat.

When I arrived at the hospital I was only 3 cm which is basically… nothing. My contractions were only 10-12 minutes a part and manageable pain wise. The hardest part was how nauseous I felt. My midwife encouraged me to eat (a pleasant surprise!) but I stuck to ginger ale and ice.

After several hours of laboring at the hospital and only progressing to 5 cm my midwife broke my water in an effort to speed things up. In case you were wondering, that is a very unpleasant experience. My midwife felt sure this would do the trick but two hours later I was not quite 7 cm and completely worn out. The contractions felt brutal. The idea of an epidural had previously terrified me but I was ready for some help.

Honestly I had been so proud of myself for having a natural birth with Haines, I really wanted to do it again. It was solely a pride/vanity issue. Now? Now I know that epidurals can be the best thing ever. It kicked in quickly and my contractions all but melted away. My midwife gave me pitocin while I took a nap and I woke up a couple hours later ready to roll. She came in to check me and found the baby’s head coming her way!

I was completely taken off guard that it was time to push but we got started immediately. In 3 contractions, Austin McGovern joined the world!

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When Haines was first placed on my chest, I felt terrified. I was overwhelmed by giving birth. I was overwhelmed by having a baby. The joy of his arrival was completely overshadowed by the incredible change that had just taken place in my world. When Austin was placed on my chest, it felt like everything. I don’t know how to describe the way the room came to life, the total joyous tears and chaos as everyone celebrated his arrival.

And instead of feeling like Austin was a stranger, I knew him. He was mine, he was ours. He was here.

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Preparing for Childbirth: What I Know Now

Facing childbirth the second time around is a very different experience. While every pregnancy and every birth is unique I do have an idea of what to expect this time. Perhaps in contradiction, I not only know that I am capable of getting through this, I also am more open to medical intervention. I am more trusting in my midwife practice to guide me either way and I trust more in my own ability to make decisions in the moment, something I was very unsure of before.

I became pretty overwhelmed emotionally as we got closer to our due date with Haines. Like 100% totally terrified. Although I was constantly reassured that my body was built for this, I still maintain that being totally terrified is a legit way to feel. That shit’s no joke and you have no idea which way it could go. There’s only so much you can control as well. Once you become pregnant, you’re no longer in control. There’s this tiny little being announcing its needs, subtly or loudly, and they can sometimes conflict with your own.

It’s great to have a plan. It’s great to have an idea of what you’re hoping for or what your limits are but the best you can do is build your toolbox.

Prenatal yoga// I’ve talked about this in detail before. I’m a big fan of prenatal yoga. I feel like it taught me patience, calm in the face of chaos and the ability to breath through discomfort. It also gave me physical strength and flexibility in preparation for the physical act of labor.

Hydration// All medical professionals tell you to drink up when you’re pregnant. It gets old, but it can prevent preterm labor. Put your big girl/mama undies on and drink more. Infuse it, flavor it, do what it takes.

Get physical// My exercise regularity has really dropped off but I’m still trying to get moving as much as possible. My work offers fitness classes Monday through Friday and I try to make it to at least two. I spend most of class making modifications, which pisses me off, but I’m going to try to keep going. I constantly have to remind myself to prioritize exercise over work or just life as I know it made me more physically ready for labor and helped in my recovery previously. Can’t stop, won’t stop, right? (Until I can’t take it and then I’ll be taking a lot of tiny walks.)

Read up, but don’t go crazy// I’ve known moms on both ends of the “I google everything” spectrum. One of my coworkers purposely read nothing around labor. She felt like more knowledge was going to be too terrifying. Most other women I know read obsessively about it. I purposely have kept away from the Internet (I mean, as much as I can- I’m only human!) as too much information feels dangerous but I did read The Birth Partner which I found helpful for pain management tips. I also forced Tyler to read it.

Go with the flow// Mentally prepare yourself for a drastic change in plans. As in all things with a baby, there are only things you can impact. There is nothing you can control. You can’t control another person right? It feels like you should be able to as they’re living inside you but no way, no how. During labor with Haines I tried eating (nope), taking a bath (nope), using a warm sock filled with rice on my back (nope), walking (not really) to help me manage the pain but none of my prepared activities worked with how I felt. I sat in the recliner with my eyes closed and Tyler held my hand. I couldn’t tolerate anything else.

Get support// I think one of the most important things you can control (for the most part) is who your support/medical team is. You can choose a doctor or midwife who you feel comfortable with and who agrees with your general philosophy on medicine. You can also add in a doula to advocate for you and coach you through the process. It’s expensive but for many it’s a great additional member to your team.

We opted not to do a doula as Tyler wanted our experience to be more intimate. I was on the fence about it as Tyler’s been known to be super queasy/light-headed with blood, etc. In the end, we were fine. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The most important thing I told Tyler was that I was never to be left alone once I started laboring. Mission accomplished.

Remember the end goal// There are only two things that really matter in the end. It’s that you and baby are healthy. Sometimes that means going against what we had hoped for our birth plans. It can mean incredibly difficult situations, but as long as you and baby come out okay everything else will work itself out. Try not to get too wrapped up in the rest.