The Birth Story of Bridget Avery Whipple
Country: United States
We found out I was pregnant again at Good Earth grocery store, where we stopped to buy a vegan pizza on our way to the Whipple Christmas get together. I brought the fresh pregnancy test into the bathroom while my husband Chantz walked the aisles with an 11 month old Henry on his hip. It took an eternity for the result to pop up, one of the reasons I didn't want to use a digital test (I'm a master at detecting even the faintest pink line). But Chantz wanted the clear certainty of a yes or no answer, and I obliged, certain myself that it couldn't possibly be positive. I hadn't even had a period yet since Henry was born, and we were nursing around the clock. Still, I became agitated and anxious the longer it took to get a result. Surely a not-pregnant test would be quick to process!
And then it came. Crystal clear and unmistakable. Pregnant. I stared in disbelief, my hands gripping the bathroom counter, and swore. Loudly. Just then I heard a toilet flush and a middle-aged lady emerged from another stall. I was mortified, I thought for sure the bathroom was empty. She seemed very concerned as I stepped away from the counter to allow her to wash her hands, still unable to bring myself to leave the restroom and face my husband with yet another overly-confident but ultimately false “definitely not pregnant, we should just check to be sure” report. “Is everything okay?” the woman asked. I assured her it was, and apologized for swearing. Then in a daze I tossed the test in the trash and walked out the door, not at all ready to leave that moment before I had even processed what had just happened.
“So are we pregnant?” Chantz asked nonchalantly as I approached. “Yep!” I blurted out. “Wait, seriously? Really?” “Yeah. Really. I would show you the test, but I threw it away.” I said. We shared a wide-eyed incredulous moment, and my sweet sweet husband said, “Well, oh well! I guess if it's happening now there isn't much we can do about it! We will just have to figure it out.” I should clarify that the reason we hoped not to be pregnant at this point was that Henry was still so young. We wanted more time to spend with him since we were still figuring out how to be parents in the first place, and especially wanted more time to recover our finances before bringing another baby into the mix. We knew a baby would come. We had planned to have children close together in age. Just not this close! Needless to say, it was an emotionally tumultuous night figuring out how to reconcile our complicated feelings without letting on to extended family that anything was amiss.
Fast forward to our 20 week anatomy scan. We had long since recovered from the shock of another surprise pregnancy, and were so very anxious to learn more about the little person growing inside of me, particularly whether we were welcoming another son, or a daughter. I longed to create the kind of relationship with a daughter that I had with my own mother, and we knew that we wanted to keep our family small, so there was a lot of hopeful anticipation in this fact alone. When the technician confirmed that I was indeed carrying a little girl, we both cried great big tears of joy! I had a feeling deep in my gut that told me this was the case all along, and to have that feeling validated restored my faith in my own intuition, which was rocky after my repeat certainty in non-pregnancy. It was the healing confirmation I needed to trust in myself again.
This baby was so so very good to me. I thought my first pregnancy was easy, but there were days this time around that I forgot I was even pregnant because I was virtually symptom free! We had changed our diet in the last year from the typical fast American fare, to a well researched Whole Food Plant Based one, so not only were we both happier, healthier, and lighter, but I managed not to gain a single pound until the last two weeks of pregnancy and my body and sweet babe rewarded me for it.
I could tell already that this girl was mellow and quiet, but with a powerful spirit. Unlike her push push go go brother, she got herself where she wanted to be and then stilled herself. Not soft, per se, but characteristically unfussy. We had chosen Avery to be her name long before we even knew we were pregnant, and I had become very attached to it, but one night Chantz had a dream. She came to him and very clearly communicated that we had it wrong. She let him know that she was not an Avery, she was a Bridget, and that was that. It took me a few days to let go of the name I had so attached myself to, but I loved, LOVED, not only that she was the kind of soul to know so firmly who she was and to alert us of our mistake before she was even born, but that she went through Chantz to do it. They are intrinsically and indubitably connected.
I had other little nagging feelings as the pregnancy progressed too. Thoughts like, “research unassisted birth and precipitous labor” and “have a contingency plan” crossed my mind, repeatedly. I think that all along Bridget knew just how she meant to enter this world, and just like she had told us her name, she was telling me to prepare for it to happen her way. Still, I was adamant that I would responsibly report my progress throughout labor, and get to the birthing center at a reasonable time. I wouldn't put my husband through such an unfamiliar and nerve-wracking situation if I could help it, however sure I was that I could handle any version of delivery that came to be.
As my estimated due date approached, I became frustrated with myself for feeling like I was done already. Henry came eleven days over his EDD, and I expected to go over with this baby too, though perhaps not quite as much. I wanted to enjoy every last day, like I had with him, and felt myself becoming disenchanted with remaining pregnant, despite the fairy-tale ease of it compared to my first, and I know so many others. I should have realized this was a sign she was coming, and stopped insisting that we had weeks left.
The morning before she came I began to notice slowly that the usual round of Braxton Hicks I was used to experiencing never stopped after breakfast like it had so many times before. The surges were very light and beginnings and ends were indistinct, but they didn't let up all day long. Around 4:00 in the afternoon I realized that they had ramped up just enough that I could probably actually time them, and so I did. Ten to twelve minutes apart, and 30-60 seconds long. By the time we went to bed that evening at about 9:30, there had really been no change in that pattern. No increase in intensity, no decrease in interval. I had called my midwives after an hour or so of timing to let them know things were a little different that day and to be aware that we could possibly be getting things started, but I wasn't convinced that it was the real deal since there had been no real escalation all day. I was convinced that I would go to sleep and things would just stop completely like had happened before Henry was born. I still had this idea stuck in my head that we would for sure pass her due date which wasn't for almost a week.
I did continue to labor lightly through the night, however. I got up about every hour, had a minute long contraction, went to the bathroom, and then went back to bed. At about 3:00 in the morning I became concerned that my frequent movement would disturb Chantz or Henry, who were both in the bed at that point. I came upstairs and laid on the couch in stead, still in a stretched out labor/bathroom pattern.
When Chantz came upstairs a little before 6:00, his usual go to work time, I had come to a point where I could no longer sleep through or between surges. A few of them were intense enough that I dropped to my knees and swayed my hips. It was also at this point that the interval between the contractions (still roughly 1 minute long) began to vary more considerably. Sometimes it was 5 minutes between, sometimes 10. The pattern was so unpredictable that it is difficult for me to pinpoint a time that I would consider the start of active labor versus early labor, but in retrospect I think this must have been it. By the time Henry got up at 7:00 I was still conversing normally, walking around and taking care of normal morning tasks, and only had to stop and breathe/sway through maybe half of the surges. I never “got in the zone” the way I had for the last 3-4 hours with Henry. This had me convinced that we were still hours away from baby. Still, I called my midwives again to dutifully report that I was still laboring, and that I would call again in an hour or two to let them know I was ready to come to the birth center to settle in for the big finish.
My mom already had plans to take her mother to an appointment that morning and would be done around 11:00, so we called Chantz's mom to come get Henry for the interim, figuring that would give us plenty of time to get to the birth center, and then my mom would get Henry when she was done, when we may or may not have a new baby for him to meet.
I did call the midwives again at about 8:40, which was when I began experiencing contractions intense enough that I was vocalizing through them and didn't want to get up from my kneeling position at the ottoman in the living room, though I was still completely calm and coherent between. Sweet Henry was very interested in what was happening. Once I started getting louder he came over and leaned on the ottoman next to me and put his hand on my arm to ask if I was alright. I smiled and assured him that everything was okay, and I was yelling because my body was working really hard to bring Baby B out. He accepted this with a smile and went on playing, matching each shout of mine with a monster growl of his. I laughed at the odd comedy of it and Henry's sweet innocence, but then I would be hit with a contraction and it hurt to laugh. Chantz's mom would be there to get Henry at 9:00, and we would meet the midwives at the birth center at 9:15.
Only we didn't make it to 9:15. I had continued to track contractions through this whole time (another reason I was in denial about how close we were) and they never got consistently closer than 6 minutes apart, but in the 15 minutes between the last call to the midwives and when Chantz's mom arrived to collect Henry I had a run of extremely intense pushy feeling surges that didn't let up at one point for a full 7 minutes. The grave realization struck me that the stinging pushing feeling I was experiencing was my baby descending down through my birth canal. We were not going to make it to the birth center. I was not moving from that spot. I was having a baby. Now. I quickly removed my pants, felt between my legs, and recognized the bulging bag of waters and my baby's head mere centimeters from crowning. Very calmly and directly I said to my husband, “Chantz, I can feel the baby's head, and I am pushing. Go get the chux pads out of the bathroom and put one underneath me.” “What?! No! We can't do that, we are going to the birth center! We need to get in the car!” He cried. “No, I am not moving. I can't move. She's coming now.”
What followed was a period of a few intense minutes that passed in an instant, and also felt suspended in time. Chantz ran to get the chux pad under my knees, and I continued to manage the pushing. At my direction he also frantically called the midwives and let them know that we wouldn't be able to make it in before the baby came. And then there was Henry, still trying to get in on the action, with no grandma to intervene. Chantz quickly brought him upstairs to my youngest sister Sara (clothed in her robe after having just finished a shower), asked her to take him until his mom showed up, and then sprinted back down the stairs to me in the living room. He made it just in time to witness one last great push, when my water burst open in front of the baby's head. I heard Chantz swear behind me. Her head came through, followed instantly by her body and the flood of remaining water.
Because I had been supporting myself through the crowning process my hand was underneath her as she was born, but she essentially plopped right down onto the chux pad I was squatting on. In a flash Chantz was there to lift her up and hand her to me as I pulled my shirt off with my spare arm to hold her to my bare skin. She gave us a few great loud hearty howls, and then calmed right down as I held her. Her cord was so short! She barely reached up to my own belly button. Chantz grabbed a clean towel from the bathroom and covered us as I knelt there in the middle of the living room floor. I asked what time it was. 8:56 am.
Just then Chantz's mom arrived for Henry. Chantz had pulled the car into the garage and it was there, running, waiting for us to get in and go to the birth center. When she saw the open garage and we didn't answer the front door she assumed we were already in the car, and came through the garage to find us. She did find us. All four of us. Chantz ran up the stairs to get Henry, quickly handed him off and said “Take him! There's a baby here!” She was understandably taken aback. “What do you mean?! Are you guys okay?! Do you need anything?” “No! Just take him and go!!” We both yelled.
Finally there was a quiet moment and Chantz helped me stand and carry this new little being with me to the glider in the corner (protected by another chux pad). I thought we might attempt to nurse then, but her cord was so short there wasn't really a way to make it work. In stead she peed a few times in the towel and that seemed to keep her happy. After a few moments of rest Chantz became anxious to get us both to the midwives so we could get the official stamp of health and well being. (We could have asked them to come to our home, but felt good about sticking to the original plan, minus of course which side of my body the baby was on.) I put my long night shirt on and we slowly made our way up the stairs to the car, my seat protected by yet another chux pad. (Boy am I glad I listened to that prompting!) We drove the 15 minutes to the birth center with me holding Bridget in a towel on my lap, cord still attached to my body. It may have been the most surreal moment of my life, and probably Chantz's too, but it was oddly peaceful.
We were greeted in the parking lot by my beloved midwife Harmony, who helped us slowly and precariously to the birthing suite and into bed. Bridget's cord had finished pulsing and I pushed her little placenta out so we could finally try breastfeeding again. She latched on like a pro and actually seemed hungry, unlike Henry, who was disinterested in eating for hours after his birth. (One of the many fun little differences two and a half pounds makes in a newborn.) Once we finished nursing and cuddled for a while Bridget was weighed and measured. 7 lbs. 10 oz. and 21.5 inches long. She felt teeny tiny in my arms and had the sweetest disposition. Truly, characteristically unfussy. Perfect. I was also checked for any damage the quick birth may have caused. There was one small tear, but it was pretty enough that when given the option I chose to forego stitches. I believe my exact words in that moment were “Oh, God bless America! Stitches are the worst!” We enjoyed a slow morning cuddling and resting and nursing, and then after lunch we packed up and headed home. I was eager to see my baby boy and introduce him to his little sister.
We surprised my sister Jessica when we got to the house, who had come over to cut Sara's hair and was not expecting us to be back so soon. She happened to have her camera with her and took some beautiful photos of us all together, and Henry's first introduction to “Baby B”. He knew just who she was and was very eager to hold her, even though he was completely wiped out from such an eventful morning. The whole experience still feels completely surreal. I almost can't believe that I did it, again. I pushed that baby out of my body, totally calm and in control, and with no fear. I've been hearing my birth affirmations play through my head every once in a while in the week and a half since it happened. “I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turn my birthing may take… My baby's birth will be easy because I am so relaxed and confident…” It wasn't what we had planned, but no part of bringing these two babies into the world really has been. Bridget Avery came just how, when, and where she meant to. And I was blessed with the strength and capability to make it so. Our little family is complete and I could not be more utterly filled with joy and contentment.