Half. A. Year. Oh my! How is that possible? Probably a new baby, a big move, a huge transition and adapting to a new country sped things up a bit? Haha that’s probably an understatement. What a season, though, and to realize that we are already at this halfway point is mind-blowing.
Six months feels like that point where everything starts rapidly changing in a baby’s life. I remember this with Eleanor. It happened when we got back from holidays in the States. We left the day after she turned five months, and we returned six weeks later with such a different child. From that point forward, it felt like there was something new and exactly almost weekly. I remember making note of that – the rapid development I noticed in her!
Highlights & Milestones
I don’t know if this is a highlight or milestone necessarily, but it’s worth mentioning. Otis had his first appointment with our new pediatrician this month. It was technically his four month checkup, but because we just moved and it takes awhile to get in for an appointment as a new patient, it was done at five months. His next appointment will be closer to seven months as well because we had to space out the vaccines. After that, he should be on track with all future appointments. He did really well during that appointment, especially considering it wasn’t a short appointment per say. There was a lot to discuss and determine since we are new. I was really happy with the pediatrician overall, and I felt like it eased a bit of my fear in coming back to the US healthcare system. She’s been practicing for 30 years, and she seems to be very reasonable and not the type to rush to prescribe antibiotics every two seconds.
Otis is actually proving to be a little guy, just like his sister, despite arriving 2.5 lbs heavier! I was actually nervous when we saw his weight, and it calculated at the 6th percentile. I was expecting her to tell me to supplement or that he wasn’t healthy because that’s the “stereotype” I’ve heard here. She said the same thing our doctor in Newie said about Eleanor, though – “as long as he rides along that line then I am happy! Keep breastfeeding!”
A milestone this month was that he started rolling from back to belly (he actually did it for the first time at his doctor’s appointment.) He’s gotten quite good at it over the month. The only trouble is if he does it in his crib and gets stuck. This week I noticed he finished his morning sleep on his belly, though, and he seemed pretty content like that. He seemed a little confused when he woke up, though.
Otis is laughing a lot more and so much more talkative. I love when babies this age “talk” to you – so expressive. He loves watching his sister, whether she is interacting with him or just doing her own thing. He’ll find her in the room in two seconds! Almost every morning as he finishes his first feed, I’ll sit him up, and he’ll find my mom or dad in the room and get the biggest grin. It’s very sweet.
He loves playing in his jumparoo, and he gets really excited when people interact with him while he’s there, even if they’re on the other side of the room. He is interacting with his toys a lot more now, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he figures out how to scoot and eventually crawl. When he’s on his belly, he does a swimming-type move, so excited to get somewhere.
He cut his second tooth, and he now proudly grins with his two bottom teeth. It’s so cute! He is still a drooling machine, and I’ve had to buy some drool bibs for him so his clothes aren’t soaked all day, every day. It’s funny how different kids can be because I never had to do this with Eleanor.
We’ve given him a few purees at this point, but I’ve taken it pretty slow so far. He’s tried apples and pears, and he loved them both. I couldn’t get them in his mouth quick enough. This last week, I made some butternut squash puree, and he’s not quite sure about that one yet. The next one on my list is sweet potato, and now that he is officially six months, I will be actively trying new ones with him and eventually combining some.
I was waiting for all the teething pain to calm down before we worked on sleep training again. We’ve focused on it this week a bit more as he seems totally healthy and ready for it. Overall, he’s been quite a bit easier in this department than Eleanor. He seems to sooth himself rather quickly, especially now with his little elephant soother that he really loves. I’m still dreaming of a full night’s sleep, but I don’t think it’s too far off. Even though he does decently at night, his naps have gone downhill for some reason. He was taking 1.5-2 hour naps twice a day and a catnap later in the afternoon, and this past week or so, he’s gone down to the 45 minute naps that were Eleanor’s game. Hopefully we can figure that one out because 45 minute naps and me are NOT friends! (Especially when big sister is transitioning out of naps completely!)
Overall, he’s doing really well, and he’s a pretty easy, laid-back baby. His personality has been showing more and more, and we are loving getting to know our little Otis on new levels!
Photo below – “What is this white thing? I’m just gonna check it out…going…going…gone!”
- Toys: elephant crinkle toy, rattles, Sofie the Giraffe, his grey giraffe, jumparoo
- Foods: apples and pears are definitely his favorite (of the four that he’s tried)
- Being raised high in the air
- High pitched noises
- Being tickled – first giggles!
- Walks outside (Come on Spring!)
- His carseat toy that sings and lights up
- Big Sister!
- Chewing on everything (fingers, toys, his shirt sleeve)
- Medicine – we gave him baby Tylenol for the first time when his teeth were hurting him, and he loved it!
- Having to wait, even a minute, for milk
- Being cold (after bath time)
- Cold purees
How Am I Doing?
I am doing pretty well. Otis’s sleep is starting to improve, and that majorly affects me and my day. It’s so easy to underestimate the need for good, quality sleep each night. I think God gives us grace to deal with all the middle of the night feedings, but I think that grace can wear thin if it lasts for too long. Both of my kids seem to have improved a lot around the six month mark, but I think that has a lot to do with our own patterns and routines. All that to say, I am dreaming about the night I go to bed at 9 and wake up at 7! I am really wanting to get into a routine of waking before the kids, and it actually seems possible now. We got the light up clock for Eleanor, and she now wakes up at 7 or later, which is A-MAZING after 2.5 years of 6am wake up calls! I’ve tried to be very diligent about feeding Otis at 7am each morning as well, and it seems his body has gotten into that rhythm. Once I am getting more quality sleep, I am planning to wake early and get a good morning routine down. All these things are so helpful!
We are still adjusting to life back in the States. Robbie is working on the job thing, we are loving our church and small group, and we are catching up with new and old friends often. Now, if the weather could just catch up with the season, I think we would all be loving life. I can’t wait for the warmer weather here!!
I am so determined to stay on top of these monthly updates for the rest of this year. It’s not because I am feeling pressure about it, but just recognizing how hard it was to back track and write a true updates in retrospect for months three and four. I am sure I forgot bits and pieces. I really want to have these updates for Otis, though, just like I did for Eleanor.
So month five! I cannot believe that he’s only a month from being six months old – that just seems impossible. Time is flying!
Highlights & Milestones
Definitely not a highlight but certainly a “milestone” or something to remember at the very least – Otis’s fifth month started with me getting mastitis. While that is mostly about me, it certainly affected him. I never once got it with Eleanor, and this is the first time I ever got it with Otis. It’s basically the worst, and I don’t ever want to experience that again! All that to say, I was thankful that I had flu-like symptoms with mastitis and not the actual flu that’s been so bad this year.
Otis started really sucking his thumb this month. He’s been all about his hands for awhile, but it was always different parts/fingers. There were several times this month that we caught him sucking his thumb.
Otis and I went on our first solo flying trip – a very quick trip to Tulsa for some dental work and then right back home. He did a really good job!
He also became much more interested in toys. His favorites are the little green crinkle toy that Eleanor picked out for him before he was born. I think it’s an elephant. He also loved Eleanor’s Sofie the Giraffe so we got him his own because hers was pretty gross even after being washed. He loves the little grey giraffe stuffed animal that you see in his month to month photos, and he also likes his o-ball.
We slowly began some sleep training this month, or at least attempting it. He actually adapted insanely fast to putting himself to sleep, so that’s been a huge win! I think the first night he maybe cried for 2 minutes? It was so short that we didn’t even have a chance to reassure him – he was just like, “Oh ya I can do that. No big deal!” The only time he won’t do it is if we miss the window, and he’s either not tired yet or overtired. That’s a bit trickier. We attempted to start weaning him a bit at night, still doing a dreamfeed, but our plans were thwarted first by mastitis, second by travel and third by teeth. So at the moment, while his second tooth is just about to pop through, the boy is killing me in the sleep department and waking every 1-2 hours at night. I know it won’t stay this way – just a few days until his tooth pops through – but man, am I missing sleep!!! He does a much better job taking longer naps than Eleanor ever did so he can actually go 3.5-4 hours between feeds during the day. That makes things quite a bit easier and more predictable. We’ll get there.
He has really started following people when they walk around. He will crane his neck around to follow someone from one side of the house to the other, and when they notice him, he gives the biggest grin. We’ve gotten some “almost giggles”, but they’re still getting interrupted by hiccups.
He started sitting in activity center last month, but this month, he started interacting with it a bit more. We also were at some friends’ house, and they had a little jumper for their baby that Otis LOVED. So I hunted around on Facebook marketplace for a good deal and found one. Otis is way more entertained by this than the activity center. Before I looked, though, I told Robbie that we had to eliminate a few of these seats. He had 6! A highchair, a bumbo, a rockaroo, an activity center, a rock-n-play sleeper and a mat for the floor. TOO MUCH! So I sold the rock-n-play and am trying to sell the bumbo. We are giving the rockaroo back to my Aunt who it belongs to, and we put the other activity center in the attic for now, although I may sell that too. Now he has 3! Much better!!
Finally the biggest milestone is that Otis got his first tooth! I was so shocked because it’s such a different experience than what happened with Eleanor. I feel like we waited for-eeeeever for Eleanor’s first tooth. I think she was 8 months. I wrote this post in all the waiting, thinking it was any day now for months. With Otis, I noticed he was drooling a ton and chewing on his hands, and then one day, I noticed his gums were white. Then the next day, he had a tooth! He’s about to get his second one, too!
- Toys – crinkle toy, Sofie the giraffe, grey giraffe stuffed animal
- Jumparoo chair – absolute fav!
- Diaper changes – not sure if it’s the face-to-face or seeing the fan
- Big sister!
- Papaw and Gaga
- Very high pitched noises
- Growling like a lion
- Eating all day long!
- Being lifted in the air like he’s flying
- Ceiling fans and lights
- Car rides when he’s hungry (otherwise doing better!)
- Being hungry
- If he gets too cold after the bath
How Am I Doing?
I was so ready for January to be over, not because it was bad but because it felt insanely long. However, I found February to be rough. We attempted a Whole30, but honestly, with each thing that came up, it felt like too much so it became a Whole15. Mastitis, a lot of teeth trouble, Eleanor getting sick – those were some major things that happened this month. The teeth stuff in particular were very hard because one, I really don’t like the dentist, and two, I was losing hope that my teeth were ever going to feel normal/not in pain again after being in some level of pain since my appointment in December. Fortunately, I had a root canal. That’s a sentence I NEVER thought I would say, but it is so true. That really helped things out so much, and now, I hopefully just have to get the permanent crowns put on and I’m done. The root canal was actually a very redemptive experience. I wasn’t able to have anything to help with anxiety – laughing gas or anti-anxiety medication – and I did fine! I surprised myself actually. They did such a good job, and I am actually thankful for the experience.
Other than that, it has helped a lot that Otis is putting himself to sleep for most naps and usually taking good naps. That helps the whole day and for me to feel like I can accomplish a thing or two. We still don’t have a huge routine as a family yet because Robbie hasn’t started working full time yet. I think that will make a big difference for all of us. We’ve tried 6 churches at this point, and I think we are feeling to go to this last one for now. It really ticks all the boxes of what we were looking for, and we’ve met some lovely people there as well. We’ve been on a couple dates this month, which was awesome, and we’ve continued doing our Financial Peace Course. We are learning A TON in this season of transition, and I am currently still exploring and praying into some possible directions for my future that fit within the broad vision God gave me. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time, but I think new seasons are often that way. Overall, I am doing well – some challenges of course but some wonderful things happening as well. I am grateful for this new season!
Otis’s fourth month began on Christmas Eve and included time in Tulsa with family, his first LONG car ride (Eleanor’s too!), settling into his new home in Indianapolis and learning (and forgetting) how to roll over.
Highlights & Milestones
A major highlight that I guess started during his third month and continued into his fourth month was getting to meet and spend time with family. We were in Tulsa until a few days after Christmas, and it was so sweet to have everyone on Robbie’s side meet Otis.
Otis had his first Christmas, and although he’s too young to remember anything, it’s always fun to celebrate holidays together as a family. After Christmas, we drove up to Indiana – about a 10 hour drive – and Otis did surprisingly well. I was actually dreading this trip and ready for it to be awful, but both kids surprised me. I think because we were on highways and constantly moving, he slept much better.
Once we arrived in Indianapolis, we quickly realized that keeping an infant warm in these kinds of temperatures was new territory. Definitely not the “winters” of Australia anymore! We decided to get him a capsule (yay coupons!) with a cover over it so he would stay warm and not have to get in and out of the car seat outside. It has been life changing – for real! It was never necessary in Australia, but it has helped us feel like we can actually go places even when it’s cold. He seems to do a lot better in it as well. PLUS, it has adaptors for the stroller, so if we are running errands, I can just pop him in the stroller (or even just a shopping cart). It’s made life a million times easier!
Otis continued learning to use his voice and gave us some “pre-giggles” – the giggles that almost start but get caught by hiccups. Any parents know what I’m talking about there? It happened with both Eleanor and Otis.
A major milestone for Otis this month was rolling from his tummy to his back for the first time. We really worked on tummy time, and he started to get stronger with holding his head and shoulders up. Then one day, he decided to roll over. Funny enough, just like Eleanor, he only did it for that day or two and then hasn’t done it since. Eleanor did the same thing and figured out rolling the other way before doing belly to back again.
He started to hang out in his activity center, and I think he really liked to be able to see everyone. He didn’t interact a ton with the toys, and he only barely did some jumps. I think being able to see was the highlight, though. The chair affectionally became the “pooping chair” again because just like his big sister, he tends to have major blowouts when sitting in the chair.
We got a bumbo seat for him, but the boy really just wants to stand up. He wants to jump all the time! He does seem to be entertained by toys more, however. The little mat on the floor that has the toys above him seems to be a hit.
- Big Sister Eleanor is his favorite!
- Highway Car Rides
- New carseat
- His grey giraffe stuffed animal
- Green crinkle elephant toy
- The lights in the kitchen
- Gaga and Papaw
- Activity floor mat
- Ceiling fans!
- Sitting up
- Chewing on his fingers/sucking his thumb
- Bright colors
- Stop-and-go Car Rides
- Being hungry
How Am I Doing?
This month involved Christmas, which I loved. It seemed so cozy and quaint this year. That is, after the horrible stomach bug swept through Eleanor, Robbie and then finally me on Christmas Eve. Fortunately it took a brief hiatus before hitting Deborah a couple days after Christmas! We had a great Christmas, though, and then we drove up to Indianapolis. I was shocked that the car ride went as smoothly as it did.
A lot of this month was settling into our new home in Indianapolis. We are currently living with my parents as we get settled and set a foundation for our future, and they have really gone out of their way to make room for us. We are so grateful, and it’s helped the transition go infinitely smoother. Not to mention – built-in babysitters are kind of wonderful, especially when your kids adore them! We took care of a lot of logistics – unpacking, health insurance, drivers license, bank accounts, etc. We enjoyed the slowness as well.
Otis was still waking a lot at night at this point, and it was starting to wear on me. We wanted to start working on it, but we felt to wait until he was about four months. I’ll update more on that in the next update.
Overall, this was a good month, even with all the changes. Otis and Eleanor settling well made it a lot easier on me because that was one of the harder parts of transition. I am thankful the year started off as well as it did, though!
Otis is about to turn five months old, and here I am writing his three month update. Life in transition. Life with two kids. It’s a different ball game this time around, but it’s good. So here I am trying to remember this particular month of Otis’s life because I don’t want to forget these moments with him. I’m struggling to remember all the little things from this month in particular. It was so busy, but alas, here’s what I can remember.
Highlights & Milestones
Otis’s third month of life was a big month for us as a family. It started as we were finishing our last couple weeks up in Australia. There was a lot of packing and visiting and “lasts” that were tough, but Otis was our MVP over this time. He was such a good baby through our transition, particularly through the traveling and jet lag.
During Otis’s third month of life, he became a dual Australian and American citizen officially, and we received both of his passports. I think I wrote about it in his two month update, but that one was late, too. Technically, we got them after he was into his third month.
Otis started to find his voice a bit this month, which is always fun. I love the look they get when they discover they can make sounds! He also got great head control – better than he already was doing in this area.
- Being rocked and cuddled
- Hanging out in the Moby wrap or Ergo
- Chewing on his hands
- High pitched noises
- Being swaddled super tight
- Eating allllll day long
- Fans & lights
- Riding in the car (what is it with my kids and the car?!?!)
- Too much alone time/not being held a lot
How Am I Doing?
This month was such a crazy month for me and for our family. As we wrapped up our time in Australia, it was so incredibly bittersweet. After being in the US for a few months, I feel like I have such a different perspective on everything than I did when we were still in Australia, and I hope to write about it soon. All that to say, at this point in time, I was trying to soak in all the hangouts and the prayers and the celebrating the past decade. I so appreciated our community in the way they came around us and helped in practical ways but also supported us emotionally during that time. We felt so loved.
The last day in Australia was very hard. There were still quite a few logistics to work out, more packing to do and a whole lot of goodbyes that were heartbreaking. At one point, there were about 12 people in our house all saying goodbye at the same time; it was too much in a short period. That night, I felt quite a lot of anxiety because it’s probably the biggest change I’ve experienced. Big changes prior to that was just me, the single adult female moving across the world. Big change now is our whole family, including two precious little ones. It was a tough night, but we got up and heading to Sydney the next morning all in one piece.
Traveling with two kids and all of our stuff was a challenge, but honestly, there have been more challenging travel situations – like pregnant with a toddler. Once we got out of Newcastle, my emotions calmed down a bit, and we were able to focus on traveling. I got every random bag search, questioning, etc. as we went through check in, customs and such. It was quite annoying considering I had a baby in my arms, lots of bags and Robbie trying to keep up with Eleanor. We got there, though, and we all did fine.
The first week back in the States was the hardest. Otis was a champ, though. Eleanor was quite jet lagged, and in her overtired state cried to “go home” a couple times, which was heartbreaking. All in all, though, we made it through that month, and Otis got MVP. Seriously, he was such a good baby! I hope to write more on transition soon, but that’s a bit of the actual “move” part.
I am a bit behind writing Otis’s two month update because let’s be real – life is insanely busy. I know we can often succumb to “I’m busy” being our motto, but well and truly, this is one of the busier of busy times in my life. Raising two littles, planning a move across the globe and finishing a massive season for both Robbie and me makes for long and full days. Alas, Otis has been two months for a week already, and before I know it, I’ll be writing his three month update. I am determined to at least get these updates written for him, but I am hoping for more.
Ok here we go…
Highlights & Milestones
When I wrote Otis’s one month post, he was just starting to give social smiles. Well the smiles are abundant now and incredibly cute. My heart explodes every time. He has this great smile that overcomes his whole little body sometimes, and then other times, he smiles with his sweet, little eyes. He will occasionally do a one eyebrow raise that worries me that he’s already trying to flirt. It’s pretty cute, though.
We had his 6-week checkup this past month, and that went really well. He weighed in at a whopping 10lbs 11ou (4.85kg). It’s actually pretty average (48th percentile), but compared to Eleanor, who only weighed 9lbs at her 6-week checkup, this is huge. He did really well at the appointment and actually did better than Eleanor ever did with his first set of shots. He only cried for a few seconds and then settled.
Another highlight this past month was that we finally got his birth certificate in the mail and went to Sydney to get his Report A Birth Abroad at the US Consulate. He slept through the whole thing, but we were excited. The day before, I sent off for his Australian passport as well. Of the four passports we’ve had to get in the last month (including Robbie and my Aussie passports), we finally received the last one yesterday, which was Otis’s Aussie one. We will be traveling back to the States with eight passports between the four of us.
He has found his hands this last month, and he’s started to suck on them just like Eleanor did. Robbie always said it looked like Eleanor was eating an ice cream cone, and the day Otis started doing this, I immediately remembered that comment. It’s good because it helps him to last a little longer laying on the play mat or in his bassinet. Overall he’s slowly but surely gaining tiny bits of independence, which helps me to get a little more done throughout the day. He is still a massive cuddler, though, and I’m often holding him throughout the day.
We haven’t gotten anywhere with sleep training yet. We did sleep training with Eleanor, but I’d say we didn’t really do it until she was about six or seven months old. There were many reasons for that. While I definitely don’t plan to wait that long with Otis, I sort of feel it’s a bit much for this season. Everything is about to change, and we are going into a new time zone, as well as into “holiday mode” for Christmas. I think once we settle in Indianapolis, we can start working on it a bit more. I am looking forward to us all getting a little more sleep, though!!
Another sort of milestone is that he has mostly outgrown all of his newborn clothes. The only newborn items that even remotely fit him anymore are pants. What can I say? My kids have short legs! He outgrew newborn diapers, though and definitely newborn shirts and onesies.
- People – he will smile for just about anyone and sleep like a rock if he’s being held. He does not, however, like to be alone!
- Eating – this kid loves his milk!
- Movement – always moving his arms and legs and appreciates when he’s being moved – in the car, in the pram, in your arms.
- Fans – just like his big sister, fans bring much entertainment.
- Baths – he actually really enjoys baths, even since we’ve transitioned out of the sink into the big tub. He loves the warm water.
- Black & White Paintings – we have two paintings/pictures in our living room of different Paris scenes, and they’re black and white. We will often find him smiling at these if we are sitting on the couch near them.
- Eleanor – he loves his big sister!!!
- Waiting – he does not like if he has to wait for food, even if it’s just to get a diaper change or to find a suitable place to feed him. Not so good with the patience thing yet :)
- Car Rides – our children are not the kind of children that you put in the car to get them to sleep. He’s just like Eleanor and is generally not a fan of the car, especially when we hit red lights.
- Being Alone – he doesn’t have much endurance for being put down by himself under the play mat or on a blanket, but I have noticed that he’s building up an endurance. Slowly but surely he’s getting a little more ok with it.
How Am I Doing?
I really wasn’t sure how to answer this question at first. I thought maybe I should keep it just about how I am doing in regards to being Otis’s mom, but I can’t truthfully answer a question like this without including everything. Let’s be real: life is FULL ON right now. I have a 2.5 year old and a two month old, I’m wrapping up one of the biggest and most significant seasons of my life, saying goodbye to people I love so deeply, moving across the globe and starting anew with my little tribe in a place thats familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. You could name most emotions right now, and I’ve probably felt it recently. I actually don’t even know how I’m feeling half the time because life is just too busy to stop and think about it. I want to write a bit more about our transition in the coming months because I think there needs to be more written about something we all do at different points in our lives – transition. This is what I’ll say, though – life is incredibly bittersweet right now. As excited as I am for the future and confident in the vision and direction God is leading us in, I am so sad to say bye to my friends and community, as well as this beautiful nation that has adopted us in. It’s breaking my heart to see Eleanor’s little heart and mind trying to comprehend everything when we sell something or pack something away, but then I think about the beautiful gift of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins that she is getting. There are things about life here and in this situation that are far easier than in the States and also things that are super hard here that will be easier there; such is life. Conflicting emotions. At the end of the day, we rely on that vision and trust from God, though, and the excitement quickly follows.
Other than that, I am physically tired, but that’s to be expected given the season! I am loving having two kids, even if it is twice as hard at times. Everyday that goes by with Otis, we get to know him a little more, and we are smitten. It’s such a privilege to be a parent, and what people often say, I’ve found to be true – it’s the hardest but absolute best thing I’ve ever done!
Even though I wrote a couple months ago about taking a maternity leave of sorts, I always had it in my mind to write about our new baby’s birth story. After experiencing birth for the second time, I am so excited to write this story simply because it’s such a completely different story than Eleanor’s.
A brief recap of my first experience when we welcomed Eleanor – my water broke at 38 weeks and 3 days. We went to the hospital because there was quite a bit of blood when my water broke, and they wanted to make sure baby was ok. Her heart rate was very high, they gave me fluids, it calmed down, and they sent me home with an appointment 12 hours later to reassess and an induction time the following day if I hadn’t gone into labor on my own. Got home and contractions started. They picked up and intensified. Went to hospital – only 3cm – got sent home. Labored all day with intense back labor at home and went back around 6. At 8:30, the contractions were intense and back labor was draining my energy. They checked me…4cm. Decided to try for a couple more hours but if no progress was made would get an epidural. 10:30pm…4cm. Switched rooms. Got an epidural. After a couple hours, her heart rate started decelerating. They realised she was posterior and made me move positions. They also started a syntocin (pitocin in the US) drip. Another hour, heart decelerating more. Wanted to check her lactate levels and told me if over a certain amount would have to take me back for an emergency c-section. Other Dr. wanted to check me again, and when she did, I was at 9cm! Another 30 min, I was at 10, and 1 hour of pushing after that, Eleanor made her debut!
After you have a baby, your attention goes straight to the baby, and unless you actively make the decision to “process” what you went through, it sort of becomes “out of sight, out of mind”. As time goes on, the feelings aren’t as raw, and you can almost forget that anything challenging happened…
…until you get pregnant again and approach your due date!
As I passed 33-34 weeks this time, I started getting nervous. I had hoped to have a natural birth without any medication/pain relief with Eleanor, and even though I am so proud of the hours and hours I endured before getting an epidural, I was doubting I could actually do it naturally this time because of that experience. I also spent the bulk of my pregnancy worried that he would be posterior and that I’d have back labor again. The back labor is what really got me with Eleanor.
After I passed 38 weeks and 5 days, I felt like I was late, even though I was technically still early. Oh the joy of your first baby coming early! I tried to mentally be ready for anything, but I don’t think I really prepared myself well enough. On Saturday, 23 September, I woke up as normal. I hung out with Eleanor and Robbie that morning, and we tore off another paper from Eleanor’s countdown until Gaga and Papaw came. Around 9 or 10, I was lying on the couch while she was eating her “second breakfast” and watching Moana, and I felt a pain. I had a brief thought that maybe it was a contraction, but I didn’t think much of it. I had sort of resigned to the idea that this baby wasn’t going to come early. I did think about the date, though, and I thought maybe it could happen since it was my Grandpa’s and my sister’s birthday.
Another 15-20 minutes went by, and I felt it again. Nothing too crazy or intense but enough to be distinct and definitely enough to be out of the realm of “braxton hicks”. I mentioned it to Robbie but just continued on.
That kept going all day long. This is my “I hope this is it and not just a really long and painful day” face, followed by my giant torpedo belly in the final day before Otis arrived.
It would be considered “early labor”, but it was tiring both physically and mentally because it was enough that I couldn’t ignore it and yet it wasn’t progressing closer than 15-20 minutes. I went from walking around the yard, sitting on the ball, and climbing stairs hoping to help move things along all the way to giving up and trying to sleep and back again. After we put Eleanor to bed, I went outside, and I cried.
My friend Jess came outside and gave me the biggest hug and prayed for me, and soon, Robbie came out and joined as well. I didn’t want to be “defeated”, but I was starting to feel like my body didn’t know how to progress on its own. I was also starting to have back pain, which didn’t help with my fear of him being posterior.
I came back inside and decided to take a bath. I knew that lounging back wouldn’t help things along, but it felt like it was the best plan so I could at least relax. My contractions stopped while I was in the bath, and I was able to relax. I spent some time praying and letting go of the idea that this had to go a certain way or even the idea of him being born on my Grandpa and sister’s birthday. The bath really helped, and when I got out, I felt a little more relaxed.
About 30-40 minutes after I got out, contractions started again, but they were still slow going and not progressing past the 10-12 minute mark. The back pain also intensified. I went through the process again, and just after midnight, I reached the “defeated” point and called my midwife. I knew I wasn’t ready to go in to the hospital, but I needed some reassurance. My midwife was actually off that day so I got her partner, Bec. Bec said that baby was probably posterior but that just like I suspected, the contractions weren’t doing enough for me to come in. She recommended a heat pack for my back and to try and rest.
Like I said, defeated. In my mind, it was happening all over again. The back pain was going to tire me out and my hopes for a natural labor were done. So I sort of “gave up”. I stopped trying to move things along, all my expectations were gone, and I just went to bed. I tried to sleep. That was 12:30am.
Apparently that was exactly what needed to happen and what happened next just reinforces my belief that labor is mostly a mental game!
A contraction hit me that got me out of bed and on my feet. It was incredibly intense. It was long. It was different.
I went to the bathroom and walked around the kitchen a bit as another one hit. I had been keeping track of the contractions on my phone all day, and I continued to do that. I came out to the living room to see if sitting on the ball would help, but I found that incredibly uncomfortable and unhelpful. I went back to the bathroom/kitchen, walking around, leaning into the counter and breathing as contractions continued. I decided to hop in the shower and see if the hot water would help a bit. It definitely helped, but I found myself getting overheated very quickly with the intensity of the contractions. When I got out and powered through another contraction, I looked at my phone.
2 minutes apart.
It was only about 2:35 at that point. I was in disbelief that maybe things had shifted and this was actually happening. Because Eleanor’s labor took so long, I was hesitant to call the midwife again. I was super hesitant to go to the hospital too early and be sent home. After another 10 minutes of intense contractions, though, I realised that I was starting to have a hard time distinguishing between when these contractions were starting and stopping, so I called Bec back.
Almost immediately after she picked up and I got out “they’ve picked up and gotten really close together”, I was slammed with another contraction. She waited patiently, and when it passed she said she would meet me in at the hospital. Apparently midwives have this special ability to know just where a woman is at based off her breathing during a contraction.
I woke up Robbie, who was a bit surprised considering he’d only gone to sleep a couple hours prior. He got dressed and called Sai, our friend who was organised to stay with Eleanor. Fortunately she lives in the flat upstairs, so she came right down. I was already outside waiting by the car.
Robbie got the bag in the car and hopped in, and I waited for a contraction to pass before getting into the “box of pain on wheels”!
Car rides are THE WORST when you’re in labor, and the pain of it from Eleanor came flooding back as we took off for the hospital. Only this time, it was about a million times worse. I couldn’t sit in the seat so I lifted up and leaned into Robbie’s shoulder…and yelled.
We got to the hospital at 3am. I had 4-5 contractions on the walk in. When we got to the ward, we were greeted by Fiona. My friend Jules had just told me about Fiona that week. Fiona did a YWAM DTS back in the day, and she’s now in charge of the midwives at the hospital. I looked up from a contraction, noticed her name tag and said “You’re Jules’ friend!” Even though I had never met her, it was nice to see someone that was somewhat “familiar”. She was so lovely and exactly what I needed as we arrived. She walked with us to the room and worked with me through a couple contractions. When we got to the room, she asked if she could pray for me, and I was so grateful.
I immediately asked for the bath, and considering these are massive bathtubs, they started filling it right away. I walked around the room working through contractions. The contractions were so intense and unlike anything I had experienced with Eleanor. I was still skeptical that things had actually progressed, though, because I had convinced myself this baby was posterior and would take forever.
Not long after that, I got into the bath. The hot water was a welcome relief at first, but the contractions were so intense and long that I was quickly getting overheated. That’s when I remembered the lovely ice machine and the giant cups and asked for some iced water. In between each contraction, I found my mouth so dry and started chugging water to keep hydrated.
I felt out of control to be honest, and I found myself yelling the typical things that you hear women say – “I can’t do this!” It’s too much!” “I want this to be over!” “I want an epidural!” I don’t remember yelling or saying much at all when I was pregnant with Eleanor, but this was an entirely different scenario. Robbie and Bec, my midwife, kept reassuring me that I was doing well and that I could do this. Bec was trying to check the baby’s heart rate while I was working through contractions and trying to tell how things were going. She said she could see things progressing and that I was doing well.
Eventually, it became too much, and I yelled again, “I want an epidural!” Bec responded that if I wanted an epidural, I would have to get out of the bath and let her check how far along I was. Then she said, “BUT, I think what we are going to find is that you are going to have a baby before you would get the epidural.”
My response? “I don’t believe you.”
So I got out of the bath tub, and I actually found the cold air so refreshing in that moment. I got onto the bed for her to check baby’s position and to see how far dilated I was. This was the first time I had been checked, and it was probably only 3:45am or so. We had literally only been there for for about 45 minutes.
She felt for the baby’s position, and he wasn’t posterior. He was at an angle but in a fine position. Then she checked me.
I was shocked and grateful and in disbelief. Hearing that I was at 9cm was all I needed to have a fresh belief that the end was near. It was the most reassuring moment because I knew my body was doing what it was meant to do. I knew that these awful and intense and long contractions were actually transition – the hardest part of labor. It wasn’t in my head. This was reality, and it was incredibly gratifying to know that I was doing it. That I was near the end. I couldn’t believe it.
She told me that my water just needed to break, and then I would be nearly ready to push. She thought my water would likely break within the next contraction or two. I got up off the bed and asked for a mat to kneel on and lean onto the bed. She also asked if I wanted to try the nitrous gas, and I said sure.
She came back with the gas and the mat, and I hated both of them. I took one breath of the gas and wanted to throw up, so I quickly abandoned that idea. I started to kneel on the mat, and I was so uncomfortable and abandoned that idea as well. It’s crazy when you do this naturally because you can really feel every little thing so you know what your body needs and what it doesn’t need. I didn’t want the bath, and I didn’t want the mat. So I climbed onto the bed, and they raised the back of it upright. I draped myself over the back of it and held on for dear life. I was staring at the corner of the room and the floor, and I was kneeling on the bed. I felt as comfortable as possible. Robbie was up near my head, and the midwife left the room to get something.
In that moment, I yelled out a prayer “JESUS BREAK MY WATER!!!”
This is Robbie’s favourite part of the story (::sarcasm::). Almost immediately after yelling that prayer, I had the mother of all contractions. It was the worst and longest of all of them and will be burned into my brain forever. About 20 seconds in, as I was yelling like a crazy person, my water broke. It was like the movies. It was loud, like a water balloon had been thrown against the wall, and it went everywhere. Robbie was like a deer in headlights. As he says, “It was a very intense moment because you hear it, you see it and you smell it! It went everywhere, and she was still yelling in pain!”
I was still yelling because the contraction kept going, and I was certain the baby was going to come out right then. I yelled for him to go find the midwife. I knew she needed to be in there right away.
He went to the door to see if he could see her in the hallway, and as she was coming back, he told her my water had broken. She came in with another midwife, as well as my student midwife. They were all behind me, and as I was still freaking out through this crazy long contraction, Bec yelled to me “ASHLEY! You need to breath and you need to listen to us or you will tear!”
I seriously felt so out of control the whole time we were at the hospital. I felt like a crazy person, and I surprised myself by how much I yelled. They told me I didn’t yell that much, but I feel like I was crazy. They gave me specific instructions for pushing, and I tried my best to listen and do as I was told.
Pushing without an epidural is insane. The human body is unbelievable. I just cannot even comprehend how God created our bodies to do this after going through this with no pain relief and coming out the other end in such great shape!
I started pushing at 4:10am, and after a few huge pushes, Otis Daniel came into the world, fist pumping, at 4:19am!
2.5 hours of active labor. I cannot even believe it. We were only at the hospital for an hour and twenty minutes when we had our baby. My mom had a dream a couple months ago that he came really fast – boy was she right!
I immediately turned around and sat down and held him to my chest like nothing had happened. The relief was instant. It was the most incredible moment. I felt so proud, and I kept saying to Robbie, “I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I did that.” I was shocked.
My midwife Bec called my actual midwife Libby later that day, and she said, “You may want to call her. I think she may be traumatised with how fast it all happened.” Libby asked a bit more about it, and although she did get in touch with me, she felt confident after knowing about my first labor experience that I was likely feeling so happy with how things went this time. She was right.
I was still in shock for a couple days, but I was so proud. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was really doubting myself. I prayed so much into this and into the labor. I wrote out everything I hoped for in a note on my phone, and it almost all happened exactly as I had prayed and hoped. I prayed that God would show me that I could do hard things because I wasn’t believing I could at that point. The entire experience was so redemptive, and I am really grateful.
We spent a few hours relaxing with Otis. I got checked out and repaired (only one tiny tear), and they checked Otis out to make sure he was all good. They weighed and measured him, and we were all shocked to find him two more pounds than Eleanor was at birth. Eleanor was 6lb 2ou, and Otis was 8lb 5ou! Their head circumference and length were exactly the same, though – 34.5cm and 48 cm respectively.
Around 8:30am, they said everything looked great, and they would finish our paperwork before sending us on our way. We headed home around 9am – 6 hours after arriving at the hospital! *The midwife program I went through is for low risks mums, and they allow you to go home 4-6 hours after birth as long as mum and baby are ok. Then your midwife does home visits for up to 2 weeks. I loved this program and so preferred coming home rather than to the post-natal ward with 4 women and their babies to a room!
We got home to peace and quiet and were able to rest for a couple hours before my friend brought Eleanor home. Before I could rest, though, I sent Robbie down the road to get me food – the best ham and cheese croissant of my life!
Around 11, Eleanor came home, and it was so wonderful seeing her and giving her a great big hug! She was pretty excited to meet her little brother, and we all settled in together before my parents arrived the next morning. Talk about perfect timing! Good job, Otis!
I have two pretty different stories when it comes to childbirth, and I am so glad about that. I have experience with my water breaking early, with a long labor, with a posterior labor, with an epidural, with a tiny baby, with staying at the hospital, AND with a short and intense labor, with a completely natural labor, with a bigger baby, and with coming home immediately after. I will say recovering from a labor with no pain relief was actually a million times easier than when I had an epidural, but I am not sad about either experience. Every birth experience is so different, and every woman is so powerful and capable and should be proud. I have a renewed respect for the human body, for God’s willingness to let us create with Him and to bring new life to this earth. It’s such a beautiful privilege!