Vivian. The name means ‘alive’ or ‘life’ which is exactly what we prayed for during our pregnancy. As I carried our child, my request of God was to hold this child, full of life and vitality, and to welcome him/her with every opportunity and advantage. Ruth means companion/ friend; a vision of beauty. It was also the name of Cody’s paternal grandmother.
During this pregnancy, my husband never shared with me that he had concerns or was on-purpose guarding himself in the event that we would lose another baby. We were very hopeful and anticipating the opportunity to bring this life home but this pregnancy was burdened with emotional and worrisome clouds that cast shadows. And we tried to accept that there were no guarantees. I didn’t realize my husband was trying to protect himself, just as I was. I took his quiet, reserved and calm demeanor as par for the course. It’s his nature to not worry; to just let be what will be. That’s a bit harder for me…
Especially as the days ticked beyond our due date.
Our estimated due date was December 20. I had it in my mind that the baby would come before then. I don’t know why exactly. I just anticipated an earlier date. When that didn’t transpire, I thought certainly “close to the due date”. My midwife scheduled an induction date. Normal practice to “get a date on the calendar, ‘just in case'”. With each passing day we were coming up on that date I grew concerned that I’d have to cancel the appointment, or minimally, show up, but not for an induction, but rather for a Q&A meeting on our options and to ensure the baby was still OK. One side of me was not going to willingly go into an induction while the other concerned over carrying too long or just long enough for something to go wrong. I was anxious to get this baby on this side of the womb and revel in their life.
My husband joked, saying if I held on to the baby until New Year’s Day we could get all the prizes associated with having the first baby of the new year. It was a joke that he started in November. I don’t think either of us really thought that would be the reality.
I would have never guessed a New Year’s Day delivery and birth date. But that is what we had. One day before the ‘induction date’!
We went to bed on New Year’s Eve, well before the ball dropped and slept through the countdown. Before settling in I told Cody, “tonight is the night.” Granted, I had been saying that for many nights leading up to this one. I woke up around 1:15 am and went to the bathroom. I returned to bed and began looking at my phone. The first contraction came shortly thereafter, 1:30 ish. The second followed just a few minutes later while I was pulling up my contraction timing app. Cody woke up, asked if I was OK. “Happy New Year, Daddy!” was my response.
I grabbed the hospital bag and ensured I had everything I wanted and started dressing in the clothes I picked out for going to the hospital. Contractions were coming consistently every four minutes or so and were strong from the start. I decided to go downstairs as to not wake up our daughter. I told myself I would wake her up and say “goodbye” and “see you soon” and “you’re the best thing I’ve ever done” and “we were going to be bringing the baby home soon” before we departed. Things went too quickly and I didn’t get the chance. Probably for the best… she doesn’t like to see mama in distress.
We decided we’d head to the hospital ‘early’. Or so we thought…
We called grandma to have her come stay with Connie and she headed our direction while Cody went out to check on the cattle and water tanks. With the below zero temps, we had to chip ice and thaw the tanks in recent days and he wanted to be sure the herd would be OK without us for several hours. Grandma arrived while I was trying to manage the contractions that continued to come every few minutes. I know she felt helpless watching me but there was nothing to do but to ride the waves and get going.
Approximately 3:45 am
Just when I thought I would have to go out and retrieve him, Cody returned from outside and we were on our way until I realized we had not yet called the birth center or photographer. Quickly we made those calls. As Cody was on with the birth center I felt immense pressure and headed for the bathroom. In the hallway, my water broke and with it, the pressure gave relief. I realized I was much further along than I thought. With our first labor, our daughter arrived about an hour after my water broke and at that time we had been in the safety and comfort of the birth center for a couple of hours.
I quickly did the math and one hour (if we had it) minus the 30-40 minute drive did not give us much time. “We have to go!” Cody helped me get changed. He picked up his pajama pants off the bathroom floor and slipped them on me. So much for how I thought I’d be dressed for when I arrived at the birth center!
I’m glad I had the foresight to tell him to put towels in the car. With each contraction, more water leaked and the baby was making their way out. Five minutes into our commute I had the feeling and grave concern that the baby would not wait until we got to the birth center. At the top of the ridge, I urged my husband to get us to there. He assured me we would while I prayed to God and spoke to our baby. I asked for time and safety. We had waited this long, after all, we could wait a few more minutes. It was -14 degrees outside when we left. Not ideal conditions to deliver a baby roadside.
Several minutes later that same urge and fear rose in me. The baby is coming! Now. I told Cody to hurry and he called 9-1-1. We were about 10 minutes out yet. He informed the dispatcher that we were in labor, waters broke, contractions were strong, and we were speeding. He requested an escort to provide safe passage. The dispatcher was unable to locate anyone from the county in our area. And no one was answering at the city desk. We then got disconnected but managed to tell them what we were driving and our route.
At one point during the commute, I turned to my husband and asked, “boy or girl, dad?” He thought for a moment and said, “boy.” I agreed.
Approximately 4:15 am
We arrived at the hospital and proceeded to the ER entrance as they directed us. When I overheard the birth center tell Cody to go to the ER when we arrived I was put off. I thought, “why the ER?” Our last experience there was when we lost James and I didn’t want to be delayed or experience anyone unfamiliar with us or our birth plan. When we arrived to have Connie, we went through the main entrance and proceeded to the birth center directly.
Once we arrived at the ER I was glad this was the entrance we were directed to. I was being rocked with contractions and would have had a hard time walking the distance from the entrance to the birth center. Doing so would have been complicated further by my frozen pants. The pants I sported were soaked and would have quickly frozen in the frigid temps. At the ER we were able to park in the ambulance bay and I received a wheelchair escort. The elevator was waiting for us and we were taken directly to the birth center.
Things slowed down a bit once we got to our room. Contractions were still strong but not coming as quickly. Protocol requires monitoring to assess mama and baby are OK and obtain a baseline check. I was informed the doctor would be called when the time was right and then they checked me. The nurse turned to the other and said, “OK call the doctor, she’s fully dilated.” 10 centimeters! Wow!
They got me strapped to the monitors. This was by far the worst part of my labor experience. When you’re having a contraction, your body (my body) craves movement to find a comfortable position. I felt limited in my ability to move and being on my back or hips was very uncomfortable. I honestly don’t know how other women labor this way as it was not conducive at all. Despite the nurses telling me I could move as I wanted and to not worry about the monitors and cords, it was difficult to feel free while wired.
In addition to the monitoring, I needed an IV/saline well inserted. Following my labor and birth with Connie and then again after losing James, I hemorrhaged. The first time they were unable to get an IV in me as my veins had collapsed so to avoid a repeat, the plan was to insert the well during labor, “just in case.” I have good and visible veins a-plenty but apparently, the presence of ‘valves in my veins’ made it difficult to advance the line. The fourth attempt was successful. And they finally got enough information from the monitors to unstrap me. I headed straight for the tub, looking forward to the relief and cushioning it would provide.
Before entering the tub I was informed that my file was missing the water birth consent form. They could let me labor in the tub but not birth in the tub. I was confused. I had a water birth with my first and had been discussing the same for the past few weeks with my midwives. I informed the nurse I would sign it now so she had what was needed. Unfortunately, that would not suffice, it had to be completed and approved in advance.
I had one contraction in the tub and when the second arrived I felt the need to push. I told them I needed to get out. I was supported by one of the nurses to continue to labor in the tub if I desired but I wanted to get out as I did not want to be in a situation where the baby was crowning and then they would try to move me or to birth the baby in the tub and then be rushed out resulting in an early cord cutting.
Approximately 5:00 am
They attached a birthing bar over the end of the bed and I took a kneeling position while leaning into the bar. I don’t know if this position would have been as appreciated for my first birth experience but this time around it was and it allowed me to labor with the support of gravity.
The birth photographer arrived, camera poised and ready to start documenting. I was so glad she made it and would be there to capture the arrival of our child.
Just as it was with Connie’s birth, once the ‘pushing phase’ of labor started, things slowed down and time between contractions became several minutes. I got on the bed, began focusing on the music playlist and prepared myself for bringing my child forth. During this time, the doctor prepared and brought the medical table over. I looked at this table adorned with various gadgets and medical tools and thought, “what is all that? the only things needed are the clamp and scissors for cord cutting… here I am trying to have a natural birth and I’m staring at medical tools, how serene!” My dear husband either had the same thoughts or sensed mine and grabbed the photo of our daughter, our Miss Connie and placed it at the corner of the bed. I removed my eyes from the tools and focused on her sweet smile and recalled the result of our first pregnancy–a healthy, lively child.
The doctor had been briefed on my history and status upon arriving. She inquired about my history of hemorrhage and indicated that administering Pitocin in advance could prevent a hemorrhage altogether. I simply and quietly said “no” then went back to focusing on my goal: delivering this child. While no one else in the room fully realized how close I was, I knew we were just minutes from meeting our child. I could feel their position within me and each contraction brought us closer.
Weeks before this, I had been reading about no-push childbirth. The theory is that during the pushing phase, the uterus is doing what is needed to expel the baby and that bearing down and pushing may not be necessary and leads to increased tearing and trauma. I decided I wanted to try this when the time came and to breathe through the contractions and not bear down.
My next contraction moved the baby down further and crowning was starting. I remember a nurse behind me say, “now let us know when you feel the need to push.” I didn’t push, rather I grunted and grimaced and focused on the song playing. Inside my head, I was having a conversation and telling myself that the baby was close, that the baby’s head was crowning. I had my eyes closed during this as I focused. Cody told me afterward that the doctor looked over and noticed the head and jumped up at that time, proclaiming, “there’s the head!” She took her position to guide the baby out.
As the next contraction came I again talked myself through the phases and reminded myself that once the shoulders were out this would all be over and I’d be holding my baby. Internally, there was some fear. Was the cord wrapped, would the baby be OK/breathing/healthy, would I hemorrhage severely? It was hard to remove all concern until that baby was in my arms.
The burning was intense during the crowning but was only going to get more intense as the shoulders descended. As the shoulders emerged I was convinced I was tearing as the stretching was intense. But I did not push, the baby transcended with gravity and the contractions until I felt the relief of all pressure. I looked down and there was my baby.
I remember thinking the skin color was perfect, and the cord was not tangled, and the baby cried out. Relief. Gratitude. Joy. All consumed me and I reached for my baby as the nurses helped position me back on to the bed. This was it, the moment I had been anticipating for months, if not years. I was holding the life I prayed about so often, and this life appeared to be everything I prayed for. I wept and signed. As did Cody. Any guard he put up over the past several months was let down and he succumbed to being the sappy and grateful father.
The doctor did a quick exam and reported that there was no tearing. I was surprised but so glad for that news. Healing after Connie’s birth was difficult and took several weeks. (This time around it was amazing to be able to walk and go to the restroom unassisted and not have any lingering pain after returning home.)
After several minutes, Cody asked me if I was ready to see what we had. Just as it was when I held Connie for the first time, the consideration of gender didn’t matter, I was holding this perfect, beautiful, healthy life and had everything I’d ever wanted. I lifted the baby up and looked past the cord to reveal our little lady. I was surprised for only a brief moment. I only thought boy because the pregnancy and its symptoms were different than what I experienced with Connie. But I was glad for a little sister to join big sister, Connie. We’d been told by many that this was a boy, or that they hoped we would have a boy. Some thought if we had a girl we would want a boy to have one of each, and I think others even wanted a boy for us as a replacement of sorts for James.
When I was pregnant with Connie, my concern was having a girl. What would I do with a girl? The drama, the worry, the boys. Once I had her, I couldn’t imagine any other result or a better fit for our family. And with one girl already, I felt better prepared for a second. Afterall, we have the clothes and toys; and if we have to go through the drama with one, what’s one more?! I actually would watch boys while I was pregnant this last time, I wondered what I would do with a boy. The energy, the noise, the intensity…
When Cody cut the cord it was beautifully white. All the blood had transferred in to our little girl and she had the benefit of the extra blood and iron.
Our lil lady arrived at 5:26 am on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2018. She measured 8 pounds, 3 ounces, 20.5 inches. The weight was a surprise to me. As I held her I was confident that she was smaller than Connie was. Her head and mouth seemed smaller and she seemed more petite. I couldn’t believe that she weighed seven more ounces while measuring the same length as her big sister.
My mother arrived about 40 minutes after Vivian did and she was surprised to see a baby already in my arms.
As I envisioned our birth experience, what I was looking forward to most, following the arrival of and holding our precious child, was the introduction of my children. We had planned for Cody’s mom to bring Connie to the hospital after she woke up to meet her sibling. I had set out her outfit to be worn which included her “BIG SIS” t-shirt. A shirt we got for her while we were pregnant with James to help us share the news with family. A shirt that has been hanging in her closet for 18 months awaiting this day.
The meeting wasn’t exactly what I envisioned. Connie arrived intimidated by the hospital setting and the photographer capturing her every move. But when Connie first saw me, she perked up and asked, “what you got, mama?” I showed her to her baby sister and took in her reaction. For a moment she was focused on that new life but then quickly felt the pressure being applied by everyone else in the room and retracted. We gave her space and I had Cody take Vivian so I could focus on Connie and over time, she gravitated towards her sister. These images are very special to me. I’ve been told by friends that witnessing my children together over the years will be one of the most rewarding parts of being a parent. And as a mama, I have a front row to the best show–watching my children grow up. Lord knows the latter goes way too fast.
From the time we brought Connie home, I would refer to her as the best thing I have ever done. I tell her frequently that she is exactly that. With the pregnancies that followed, I continued to tell her that. I wondered what I would tell the next child. I never came up with a good fit or something that seemed as weighty until I held our Vivian.
Connie’s birth defined my purpose; Vivian’s, my destiny. For whatever reason, we experienced the losses we did to bring her into this world. She is the child we were destined to have, hold and raise. She was destined to be the completion of our family unit. She will have a profound role in our lives. Our Vivian Ruth, our destiny.
Gratitude and credit to Anya Wait Photographer for capturing these images and documenting the birth of our rainbow baby.
We are very appreciative of the tremendous team at Reedsburg Area Medical Center. Each of the nurses had reviewed our birth plan and knew our desires. They supported us with genuineness and compassion and celebrated with us. Both of my birth experiences were awesome. Following, we were well cared for and enjoyed the quietness and support offered by the birth center before returning home. Thank you, RAMC and the nurses that were a part of our story.
Looking back, I am glad I had two different birth experiences–water birth vs. birth bar. Both were perfect for their respective births and facilitated a great experience and perfect result.