Birth of My Second Rainbow Baby

My second son’s birthday was several weeks ago, and for those weeks I have struggled to know how to write his story. Do I write it as a combination of my own memories and what I was told? Do I write it based on my memories alone? Do I write it as a perceive it a year later? With all I’ve processed? Or do I just write it as a timeline of facts?

I have decided to write it based on my own memories, my own experience of it, perhaps with a bit of how I now perceive the experience, a year later. I had a great birth, and this is me honoring and protecting the memory of that birth.

A Second Rainbow

Before the births of Colt (my oldest son) and Abe (my second born), I experienced a devastating and traumatic miscarriage. That experience has left an ever-present mark on every area of my life. I wasn’t sure how my loss experience would affect my second live birth.

After all, I’d had one live birth and though my pregnancy had been fraught with anxiety and uncertainty, the birth had gone well. I’d had one empowering, confidence-building, joy-filled experience under my belt. Would that somehow balance out the fear and the sadness and the need for control that my first pregnancy and subsequent loss had bestowed upon me?

The answer is no. The uncertainty was still there. The anxiety was real. But perhaps for different reasons.

When I discovered I was pregnant with my second rainbow baby, my husband and I were thrilled. I had purposed during my first son’s pregnancy that I would hold onto happiness for as long as I could. That I would let myself feel all the joy, despite the possibility for loss and sorrow inherent in every pregnancy.

Pregnant!

I would feel the anxiety right along with the joy, of course. Because it was so very real too. But I wouldn’t try to shut out the love and the joy out of a desire to protect myself from the possibility of sorrow.

I conceived my son on day 95 of a my third postpartum cycle. I had hoped that once my fertility returned after my first son’s birth, normal cycles would resume. But instead my cycles were long and irregular, as they had been for most of my life, all of it, in fact, except for the three cycles before conceiving my first son.

Fertility awareness charting allowed me to determine an accurate due date despite having not had a period for three months! If you would like to learn to chart your fertility, fill out a contact form or check out my services page.

 

I knew the risk of miscarriage was higher with a later ovulation, and what about the dreaded possibility of another partially molar pregnancy (which my first miscarriage had turned out to be)? My due date was the 20th of June, just 5 days before the fourth anniversary of the loss of our first baby. Colt had been born 4 days past his due date, so I knew the possibility of this baby being born very near or on that anniversary was high.

A Stressful Pregnancy

When we found out we were expecting, it was in the midst of a very stressful year for us. This baby was a definite bright spot.

As with my first two pregnancies, I experienced constant nausea and vomiting multiple times a day. This time it held on longer than it had with my first son, and I was far more uncomfortable than I had been with him.

I was also bigger than I had been with Colt, and more people than I care to recall commented on it. Making the observation didn’t bother me; it was true, and I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. What bothered me was the assumptions people made because of how big I was.

“There’s no way you’ll make it to your due date.”

“That’s a big baby!”

“I hope that delivery goes ok…” (with the voice filled with foreboding…)

“They must have your dates wrong!” (Actually, THEY don’t determine my dates. I tell THEM when I know I conceived – thank you fertility awareness! And THEY, being my midwife, trusts me as a woman highly aware of her own body and fertility.)

I found myself caught off guard by my anxiety about my upcoming labor and birth. Again, I thought I would be more confident since my first birth had gone so well. But this pregnancy was so different. Would my labor be different too? I’d had a great birth. Maybe now it my “turn” for a crappy birth…

“The second birth is often as virgin as the first.” my midwife said. How right she was!

The last selfie I took before going in to labor!

Prelabor

As with my first son, I experienced frequent Braxton Hicks starting early in my second trimester. With my first, this had alarmed me, but my cervix had stayed closed and my baby safe, so I barely gave them a second thought the second time around.

Colt had been born 4 days past his due date, and his story is for another time, but my logical head said that this second baby would likely go a bit late too. My heart, however, thoroughly enjoyed the feeling that he would be a bit early. My head was right.

Four days past my due date, my husband was the best man in our dear friends’ wedding. I was so glad I wasn’t in labor. If I was going to go past my due date I might as well get to do the fun stuff! We danced to a bunch of our favorite songs, and I hoped all that activity would jumpstart labor. The next day when my muscles were aching I was glad that it hadn’t!

After the wedding I decided to stay at my parents’ house until the baby was born. As with my first, circumstances dictated that their home was the best place for me to give birth, and I had been feeling some anxiety about getting there once I knew I was in labor. Due to my nearly constant Braxton Hicks, by the time I’m sure I’m in labor, I’m far too uncomfortable to drive, and birth is too imminent to feel comfortable with the possibility of needing to wait for someone else to drive me. Also, the car ride in active labor with Colt really sucked. I wanted to be able to stay put this time.

The wedding was on a Saturday, and on Sunday when I got home from church I had some bloody show. That afternoon I napped with my husband, and in the evening I made brownies with Colt. I knew it was likely the last night we would go to bed just him and me, and I wanted to savor those bittersweet moments.

Colt fell asleep holding my hand

The next day, I felt tired and a bit crabby. I went to Meijer to get some snacks and had frequent, slightly more intense contractions as I walked around. I was a bit hopeful, but not too hopeful since I’d had that sort of pattern other times.

I came home and tried to take a nap with my son. He was struggling to wind down, so I ended up only sleeping 30-40 minutes, but I woke feeling a bit more refreshed.

Active Labor

That evening my mom made tacos and I was chatting with my sister and her fiance around 9 p.m. when I noticed a change in my contractions. “It’s real now.” I thought. I didn’t often get Ash and David to myself, so I chatted with them a little longer, ate three more tacos, and brewed myself a cup of red raspberry leaf tea. Then I went upstairs to my brother’s bedroom and did about 40 pelvic tilts and 20 lunges and called my husband, my friend, Abby, and my midwife.

“It sounds like you’re in early labor,” my midwife said “so try to get some rest.”

“I can’t sleep through these.” I said. She encouraged me to rest my body even if I couldn’t sleep so I had enough energy as labor intensified. “Ok, I’ll try.” I thought. “But first, tea and a shower.”

While in the shower in the bathroom off my parents’ room, my contractions started to intensify and I started breathing through them. I checked my cervix and thought I was probably 4-5 cm dilated. Looking back, and after more recently seeing a dilation model, I’m guessing I was probably more like 6-7 cm.

By the time I got out, my contractions were about 4-7 minutes apart and becoming steadily stronger. I had to pause several times as I got dressed and resting in bed was actually starting to sound like a pleasant prospect. I lay down on the bed in my parents’ room and my contractions spaced out to 7-10 minutes, but continued to intensify.

Around this time I started texting my friend, Emily, whose due date was just a week after mine. We had shared our pregnancy news with each other early on and during our whole pregnancies had been joking about having our babies on the same day. She was just starting to have some mild contractions, and it was so cool to be sort of “laboring together”. It was also a welcome distraction! By the time I could no longer focus on texting her, she had arrived at the hospital and was 4 cm dilated.

Waiting for the Midwife

During the time I was “resting”, my sister, Ash, was there with me. In between my contractions I lay on my side, and during them I got on my hands and knees and Ash lifted my belly with a scarf or gave counterpressure on my lower back. I was having a bit of back labor this time around, which was different than Colt’s birth. It was really special to have that time with just her and me just shortly before she got married, and her calm and quiet presence was truly a comfort.

Eventually I felt the need to get up and move around and go pee, and as I stood leaning and swaying against the bathroom counter, I started feeling quite a bit of pressure. I think I called my midwife around that time, and after listening to me through a contraction she said she would start heading my way shortly.

Soon my mom heard the tell-tale grunts at the end of my contractions, signalling that I was starting to give some small, involuntary pushes. At this point she became a bit alarmed, and somewhere in there, Ty, Abby, and my other sister, Erin, had come into the bedroom. They were all quiet and unobtrusive and I hardly noticed their presence. Somewhere in there my water broke too.

I knelt beside the bed, which allowed me to still rest a bit between contractions, but I was definitely starting to feel the urge to push. My mom called the midwife again, and she instructed me to lie down on my side to try to slow things down. Soon the urge to push was overwhelming, and despite my mother’s pleas not to push, I couldn’t help at least pushing a little. My mom and her own birth stories and positive attitude toward birth has been an inspiration to me, and she has attended at least 5 other births, but I know being present for her daughters giving birth is quite a different thing for her, and she did not want me to have the baby before the midwife arrived!

My parents have a very long driveway, and it’s easy to miss, especially in the dark, so when my midwife called to tell us she was getting off on the exit to our house, my sisters raced to the end of the driveway with flashlights so that she wouldn’t miss the driveway. This was especially memorable to my midwife.

The Midwife Arrives!

She arrived and quickly began to set up. I was still being encouraged not to push, and I said, “She’s here now – I’m pushing!”

Soon someone said something about the baby having a lot of hair, and I was thrilled that they could see the baby’s head. At this point, labor was incredibly intense, and I was yelling, crying, and growling my way through contractions. I had pushed for an hour and a half with Colt, and wasn’t sure what to expect this time. The prospect of being almost done was so incredibly encouraging and gave me a renewed energy and strength.

Within minutes, the baby’s head was born. The cord was wrapped once around his neck, and my midwife calmly unwrapped it. With the next contraction I was being rather forcefully encouraged to push, but wasn’t really feeling an urge to, which makes pushing incredibly difficult and unproductive. I felt like if I could just get a good breath I would be able to have more force behind my pushing, but finally the baby’s shoulders were out. I still question this part of my experience, wondering if it’s really necessary to push before I feel any urge. Perhaps I perceive it as being far more urgent than it actually is, but in both my sons’ births, this part has been very stressful for me.

I was in a side-lying position when I gave birth. I had anticipated being in a hands-and-knees position again, but by the time the midwife arrived and I was free to just push, trying to change positions just didn’t seem worth it. But I can say, I definitely like hands-and-knees better. When they handed the baby up on to my chest, I was lying back flat and it was really hard to see him, whereas with Colt, they had passed him between my legs and set him on the bed in front of me. I was upright and had a chance to look at him before lifting him up to my chest myself.

We were going to be surprised by the baby’s sex this time, and I didn’t have the strength to move the baby around to check, so I asked Ty too. “We’ve got another boy, babe!” he said.

A “Big Baby”

My family helped me get propped up with some pillows, and the placenta was delivered uneventfully. Within probably 20 minutes of birth, our baby boy had latched on and was nursing easily. I was startled by how simple breastfeeding was this second time around!

Bonding

After an hour or so of skin-to-skin, my in-laws  arrived to be present for the newborn exam, which is one of my favorite parts of the homebirth experience. My midwife carefully checked baby Abe’s reflexes and joints and then weighed him.

9 lbs. 6 oz.

“9 pounds 6 ounces!” she said. I thought for sure the scale was broken. There was no way he was 9 pounds. He sure didn’t look like it to me. But a few days later we went to the chiropractor and he was 9 pounds 10 ounces, so I guess it was correct.

She measured his head and chest circumference. “He’s got a 15 inch head and no moulding!” she said. “You were built to birth babies!” I was pretty happy with that assessment and pretty proud of my 5’4”, 112 pounds not pregnant self for giving birth to such a good-sized baby. I have a pretty strong trust in God’s design for women and babies and the whole birth process, but I do wonder if I would have had more anxiety going into birth had I known how big Abe was.

Soon Colt woke up and sleepily met his new baby brother. He had the most fantastic bedhead, and of course he was hungry, so my mother brought him yogurt which he sat on the bed and ate.

Brothers!

Shortly after he was born, Emily texted and asked how things were going. I responded with a picture of Abe and “He’s here!” Several hours later, she gave birth to her second daughter, and I love that our babies share a birthday.

Sorrow for a Night and Joy in the Morning

Abe was born at 12:47 a.m. on the 27th of June, just 2 days after the fourth anniversary of the loss – and birth – of our first baby. Late June is always a hard time of year for me. I’m raw with emotion, sometimes traumatic flashbacks increase, but this time of year has now been redeemed. I still feel the pain and the sadness, yes, but it now exists alongside joyous memories of Abe’s birth. He has been pure grace in my life.

“Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” This verse (Psalm 30:5) is brief part of the psalmist’s testifying to the faithfulness, mercy, and healing of God. It doesn’t refer to birth directly, but later in John 16, Jesus says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” Here he refers to His people waiting for His coming, but I’ve found this common theme in the Bible of sorrow and then joy to be such an encouragement in my motherhood journey.

Whether it be the overwhelming difficulty of labor followed by the overwhelming joy of holding my baby, or the overwhelming sadness of losing a child in some part redeemed by the joy of another baby born at just the right time, or of the hope of a future joy of meeting and knowing that baby in heaven, that thought was a deep comfort and encouragement to me as I gave birth. There is pain, but there will be joy. I have lost, but I am receiving a gift.

Birth and motherhood is difficult and unpredictable and full of both sorrow and joy. But we have a gracious and merciful God who is with us in our sorrow, who delights to redeem every part of our lives, a God who has given us our children, whether it be for a moment or a lifetime, and will carry us mothers through this journey He has called us to.

A year later

What Your Baby Really Needs: A Minimalist Baby Registry

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When you’re preparing for a baby, especially your first baby, all the baby gear and stuff can seem overwhelming! And especially for those of us who are trying to create a frugal or minimalist baby registry, it can be hard to know what to prioritize!

Babies are about as expensive as you make them. They truly don’t need a ton of stuff. And a lot of what they use is used so briefly that it’s easy to find quality items in consignment stores or on Facebook marketplace for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them brand new. But many mamas will have a baby shower and will receive a lot of brand new gifts. Your baby really only has a few basic needs, so when you build registry, register for gifts that are actually going to be helpful to you, not just clutter up your house. Skip to the end for a super basic baby registry checklist!

Your baby needs nourishment.

I breastfed both my babies and didn’t need to pump regularly, but if you use formula or exclusively pump you will need some other items!

Nursing pads. For disposable pads, I like these ones by Lansinoh. For reusable, I like these ones.

A nursing/feeding pillow. Whether you’re feeding from the breast or a bottle, it’s nice to have some extra support while holding the baby. It’s surprising how heavy a baby can get when you’re not used to holding him! I’ve always just used the traditional Boppy pillow, but the breastfeeding support group I go to has the My Breast Friend pillows and they are pretty awesome!

A comfortable place to feed the baby. You very well may already have a great, comfortable place to feed your baby in your home, but if not, it’s worth investing in a comfortable chair for yourself. I love my gliding rocker (WITH the foot stool!). One of my special memories of my first son’s early days is my husband setting up a little nursing corner for me. I had my glider, a side table with a small lamp (great for middle-of-the-night diaper changes!), books to read, a water bottle, and a basket of snacks all within easy reach.

A manual pump. I LOVE this manual silicone pump. I so wish I’d had it when my babies were brand new. It uses gentle suction and you can use it while you’re nursing your baby to catch leaking milk on the other side. If you want to build up any sort of breast milk stash you don’t want any going to waste, especially in the beginning when it’s abundant!

Breast milk storage bags. I’ve used a few different brands, but Lansinoh is my favorite.

You may also want a good book on breastfeeding to have as an easy reference. These are a few of my favorites:

“Breastfeeding Made Simple” This is my favorite. Thorough and easy to reference.

“The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” Also very thorough, and probably a little more in depth in some ways.

“So That’s What They’re For!” A light, conversational tone. Very easy read, but not quite as easy to reference.

Your baby needs safety.

A place to sleep. What you choose for your baby to sleep in really depends on what your sleep plans are. My babies usually start out in their own bed and then move into my bed at some point during the night. It’s the best way for everyone to get enough rest. Always be aware of safe sleep guidelines, whether your baby is sleeping in his own bed or you are bedsharing.

As newborns, I like my baby very close, so a cosleeper or bassinet works well. A side sleeper is another great option. Your baby has his own space but is still nearby and easy to feed and check on.

I moved both my boys to a crib across the hall around 2 months. At this point they’re more easily disrupted by noise and other people moving around, so everyone sleeps better this way. I bring them into my bed when they need to nurse, and sometimes they still sleep significant portions of the night with me. We registered for a crib and mattress and chose one that could be made into a regular bed once we were done having babies.

A carseat. We like this Chicco seat for newborns and this Graco one for whenever they grow out of the newborn one all the way through booster age.

Infant care kit. I find the easiest, cheapest way to get basic items like a thermometer, a bulb syringe, nail clippers, etc. is to just get a basic nursery care kit. You can replace some items if you want to ( a Nose Frida instead of a bulb syringe, for instance), but at least you’ve got the basics.

Baby wash. I hardly ever use soap on my babies, but you might want to for a bad blowout or something. I usually use a Shea Moisture wash, but I love California Baby too. Both rate low on the Skin Deep Database.

Moisturizer. I rarely use actual lotion on my babies, but when I do it’s Shea Moisture. If I think they need some moisturization, I typically just use olive oil. If they’re going to be out in cold weather where their face might get chapped or windburned, I use raw shea butter. It’s kind of messy and hard to spread, but it’s very gentle and provides a great moisture barrier.

Diaper Ointment. If my babies have a rash, I typically start with going diaperless and using coconut oil or raw shea butter. If I need to I use Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. I try to keep things as natural as possible, but if the rash isn’t going away I use what works.

Your baby needs comfort.

Baby carrier.  A good carrier is a must-have. I’m sure babywearing saved my sanity (or at least my grades) when my oldest was a newborn. For the newborn stage, I love the Moby wrap. It can seem complicated at first, but I really like that it’s fully adjustable and so snuggly. A less complicated option would be the K’tan. The only downside is that you may need more than one size if more than one person will be wearing the baby. A structured carrier can be nice too, and are often easier for dads to manage. The Ergo and 360 are both great options. Use my affiliate links if you want, but honestly you can find really good deals on lightly used ones on Facebook marketplace ; ) Once my babies get a bit bigger (which is usually fast), I love a Mei Tai-style carrier. They are one-size-fits-all and easy to use. Again, easy to find used.

Clothes. People are going to get you clothes, so register for some outfits you actually want. Lots of onesies, socks (my kids never fit into the smallest sizes), sleep sacks, sun hat, jackets, maybe a special event outfit in each size? Just have fun with it.

Blankets. A couple nice big swaddle blankets are great for the newborn stage. I love muslin blankets for summer, and flannel ones for winter. People will probably get you lots of cute, soft blankets, but register for some that are big enough to swaddle with or if swaddling feels overwhelming, try these swaddle sacks. Also, sheets for whatever size crib or pack ‘n’ play you have.

Diapers. Disposable diapers can become really expensive, so by all means register for diapers! My oldest had pretty sensitive skin and could only use Pampers swaddlers. I part-time cloth-diapered both of my boys, and cloth-diapering has been a great money-saver for us! There are so many great cloth diapers options, but I really like the Alvababy pocket diapers, GroVia, and prefolds with Thirsties covers. Don’t forget wipes too!

Sound Machine. White noise is a necessity for decent baby sleep in our small, one-floor house. I like this one for home and this one for travel. As an alternative, you can just use radio static from a CD player. Then when your baby is three like my oldest, he can listen to audiobooks from the library. I know CD’s are a bit obsolete, but I’m comfortable with my three-year-old operating a CD player by himself. Not so with digital downloads and devices connected to the internet.

Speaking of CD’s, both my kids genuinely love music. JJ Heller’s lullabies are beautiful and soothing, both for mamas and for babies. I also love these Scripture-based lullabies and these Celtic lullabies.

Essential Oils. I don’t sell essential oils, nor am I brand loyal. I’ve personally used doTerra and Young Living, and I love both frankincense (immune-boosting and so nice for skin, both mom’s and baby’s) and the Young Living Gentle Baby blend (calming and just smells so good). If you use essential oils with your baby make sure you’re doing it safely!

Your baby needs you.

More than anything, your baby needs you. Your love and care for your baby matters way more than what you feed your baby, whether or not they’re using all organic, non-toxic toys, or what kind of stroller you get. So take good care of yourself in those early days of parenting. Invest in some items or services that will help you be a sane, happy, healthy mother to your little one. And don’t forget about your partner too. Having a new baby is a huge adjustment for both parents!

A few good friends. Being a new mom can be isolating. Maintain the friendships that are really good for you. You may loose some friends during this stage of life and that’s ok too. But spend time with women you can be real with.

Restaurant gift cards and fresh or frozen meals. Whether it be to have a date night with your spouse or order some take out, food that you don’t have to cook or clean up is pretty awesome during those first weeks and months with a new baby.

Help. Society doesn’t like to recognize it, and culturally it’s not always acceptable to ask for help. If you have friends and family members that you’re comfortable receiving help from, take it. If you don’t have a good support system, hiring a postpartum doula for even a few hours a week can be a lifesaver! Even if you do have a good support system, a postpartum doula is specially trained to help care for new mothers in a way that is empowering and validating to their motherhood journey.

Shared experiences with your baby. Memberships to local zoos, museums, or botanical gardens can be a great way for others to invest in experiences and memories for you to have with your baby. And those are priceless.

A Super Basic Registry Checklist {for Getting Started}

What are your must-have baby registry items? Let me know in the comments!