I’m finally able to write about Teddy’s birth. It was a magical and spiritual event that I will treasure forever, just as I treasure Charley’s birth story. The reason I say I’m finally able to write about it is that Teddy unexpectedly passed away just three days after he was born, almost to the minute. There aren’t words for the kind of grief, pain and despair you feel from losing a child. We only had three days with him and it felt like we were just getting started on our new life together when it was completely shattered. One of the best ways to describe it is that you feel like the wind is knocked out of you, that the ground has given out from beneath you, and a part of you is missing. And yes, it aches.
I’ll share more about Teddy’s death and losing him later. For now, I want to focus on remembering his sweet entrance into the world.
It was March 29th and I was a couple days shy of 40 weeks. My mom had arrived in town, we’d gotten most everything in order, and I was able to get my scheduled prenatal massage and chiropractic adjustment. [I can’t tell you how badly I was hoping I’d get that massage before baby Teddy arrived! ;)] I asked my chiropractor to do some pressure points to help encourage labor to begin. I did the same with Charley and it worked like a charm! My mom, Charley and I went to Target to grab some essentials and then had burgers and fries for lunch. I was feeling “fuzzy” all day and couldn’t really focus or speak. It was really hard to converse with my husband or my mom! I felt a sense of urgency to take a shower that night. I can’t tell you why, but I just felt like I had to or else I wouldn’t be able to shower for a long time! I got in the shower around 9:30 and noticed something that could be a contraction. I had about 4-5 of them while I was showering, so I figured they were about 10 minutes apart (I got out at 10:15 and decided to start timing them). I texted my midwife and doula first, just to let them know stuff was happening and that I would start timing them. As soon as I did that, they really picked up. I was kind of in denial about how fast the contractions were coming. Sometimes the rushes (I like to refer to them as rushes…”contractions” seems so painful! They’re just a surge of energy. Like a wave.) would come 4-5 minutes apart. One time a rush came after only 2.5 minutes. I was racing to get my hair dried and curled and I did some minimal makeup, just to feel somewhat put together! haha
My midwife and doula had about a 45 minute to an hour commute, so I was a bit nervous. I decided to have Ben tell them to just head on over and meet us at the birth center. I’d rather be safe than sorry! I knew I could have this baby on my own, but I really wanted their support!
We headed over to the birth center. It’s only about a 15 minute drive for us. Our city is filled with trains and of course we got stuck behind a train! I had one rush while we were in the car, but I had remembered how uncomfortable it was to have them in the car with Charley and I pretty much told my body that I wasn’t going to have another rush until we got there. And I didn’t have one until we got into our room! (Yes, our bodies can do that kinda thing. It’s amazing.) We got settled in and I had my vitals taken, then my doula listened to Teddy’s heartbeat. Everything was perfect. I felt so relieved that my birth team was there, I was in my room at the birth center, and I was about to meet baby Teddy!
Of course I had my Native American flute music playlist playing! (This playlist helped me get through Charley’s birth and it has continued to be a very calming and meditative thing for me) And it’s become something that my husband and I, my birth team, and a few friends have joked about. But hey, if it works, don’t knock it! Anyway, that’s playing in the background, I’m just doing my thing and feeling a lot more coherent than I was during Charley’s birth. With Charley, I spaced out. I went somewhere else completely and didn’t talk to Ben at all. This time around, I felt more with it and was able to speak to him at times and tell him that I loved him. I’d ask for him to come back to the bed and hold my hand after a rush. That was something I wasn’t expecting – to be more “with it”… for lack of a better term! I know that Ben appreciated that.
I had to stand for each rush just as I did with Charley. The movement really helped me focus on breathing him down. My hips also hurt like heck when I give birth. I expected them to hurt again this time around so I knew I would need counter pressure from my doula (again!). As Teddy moved further down and the rushes grew stronger, I’d call to my doula (aka I’d yell “my hips!” or sometimes I’d say her name) and she’d come and push on them as I swayed. Counter pressure is a wonderful thing!! Just as I did with Charley, I focused on keeping my jaw open and relaxed. Open jaw, open cervix. Take note of that affirmation if you’re wanting an unmedicated delivery and just repeat it over and over and over.
I would rest in between rushes by laying down on the bed. I tried to take advantage of those rest periods. I had been up since 7:00 am the previous morning and we got to the birth center around midnight, so I was pretty exhausted. I’d lay my head down on a pillow, holding Ben’s hands as he knelt on the other side of the bed. I liked having him near me.
Since I had been up for so long, I was a little worried about fatigue. Although I felt more coherent during active labor than the first time, I totally lost my sense of time. I felt like my labor was taking forever and that a lot of time had passed (when in reality, it only took me like 2.5 hours from arriving at the birth center to pushing baby out!!). I wasn’t sure how I was progressing and I was a little self conscious about it. That’s when I started talking to Teddy (in my head). I tried to change my attitude and I told him how excited I was to meet him. I told him, “okay buddy, we can do this!” And, “we’re a team and we’re going to do this together!” My tiredness turned into excitement and I started to focus more on my perineum. One thing that I’ve learned through chakra meditation is that focusing on an area will bring energy to it and open up any stagnant energy. And in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, one of the ladies sharing her positive birth story said she remembered Ina telling her that her mind would relocate to her perineum during labor. I did just that and I believe I said something along the lines of, “yes! I’m having a baby!” And then my body made more progress and Teddy moved down even more.
I don’t remember when, but there was one moment where Teddy’s heart rate dropped dangerously low and my midwife told me to lay down on my back and we were going to “get this baby out now.” Scary words to remember, but for some reason I was calm and at peace. I just agreed and wanted to do everything she told me to do. And I knew that panicking wasn’t going to help Teddy or me. Well, another rush overcame me and I had to stand up. They checked Teddy’s heart rate right after it and it had gone up! And pretty much one or two rushes later I all of a sudden felt him coming down. I hadn’t planned on “catching” him, but it was instinctual. I realized he was coming with that rush and there wasn’t anything I could do about it! I was swaying side to side and slowly getting lower to the ground. Then the rest is a blur. I remember reaching down and I felt his head. Then I said something like “I’m having a baby!” and his head and body slipped out into my arms. It was the best. My midwife had one glove on, I guess, and she helped me safely guide Teddy to my belly/chest. My doula and midwife helped dry him off and wrapped him in a towel around me. Ben came around to the other side of the bed and helped support me from behind. He was born at 2:22 am.
We were shocked. Teddy was so tiny. Apparently my midwife reached over and touched my belly after I delivered him just to see if there was a surprise twin in there! Ha ha! I don’t remember everything I said but I remember telling him how much he surprised us and shocked us with how fast he came. I also remember saying almost immediately, “Oh you smell SO good Teddy!” I told Ben how he smelled amazing and it was the best smell in the whole world. I miss that the most.
Ben was concerned from the beginning because Teddy was so tiny. I was on cloud nine and not concerned at all. He was breathing and his apgar score was fine. I was totally shocked but also ecstatic. They helped me get up on the bed safely while still holding Teddy. I can’t remember when but Ben cut the umbilical cord at some point. I was just basking in the moment and taking in all of this newborn sweetness.
It took awhile to deliver the placenta, but I remember the afterpains being horrible. They were hard to handle and took a lot of focus and breathing to get through. I had remembered that breastfeeding would cause that and had heard it’d be worse with each baby, but for some reason I had forgotten that it could start before breastfeeding! I think I delivered the placenta about an hour after having Teddy and it was a challenge. Some of the contractions didn’t feel very effective or strong enough to deliver it. I was trying to encourage Teddy to nurse during this time. Charley just went right for it! But Teddy needed some encouragement. I remember his mouth being so so tiny and I was trying to help him get a good latch. He did pretty well but it was a struggle and he only had a few really good strong sucks. Later we discovered he had a tongue tie, which was making it hard to get a good latch. We had our midwife clip it later that evening.
I finally delivered the placenta. When it came out and my midwife showed it to me, I immediately thought, “wow, that’s tiny.” Then she and my doula said something like, “oh that’s why.” It didn’t really sink in until after Teddy had died, but he had a velamentous umbilical cord insertion with a variation that included one artery stopping short a couple centimeters before reaching the placenta. Basically, the cord was in the membrane instead of inserted deeper in the placenta, where it should be surrounded by Wharton’s Jelly. My midwife said most babies with this condition don’t make it past the first trimester. We were just marveling at how he was a miracle and we kept commenting on how he was a little fighter and he was a miracle! He fought so hard to see us.
As I’ve processed this more and of course Google’d the heck out of it, I’ve been shocked at how it wasn’t detected. All of the signs listed were absent during my pregnancy. My midwife said she went back and looked over my records and there weren’t any signs. My anatomy ultrasound scan at 18/19 weeks didn’t show anything and everything was right on track. My fundal height was measuring on track, my weight gain was steady, and I didn’t show any signs of preeclampsia. As I mentioned, most babies with this condition don’t make it past the first or second trimester, and many result in stillbirths. All of this is heartbreaking, but also reinforces that Teddy really WAS a fighter. He fought so hard to see us and everything I did during my pregnancy only helped him make it here. I try to remind myself of that often – my body WAS nourishing Teddy, even if he wasn’t getting everything he needed. Both Teddy and I did our best with what we had.
When my midwife finally did Teddy’s newborn assessment and we weighed him, he was 4 pounds 4.5 ounces. He was small but mighty and I was so in love. We put two hats on him and kept him bundled and against my chest. We put a heating pad around him and lots of blankets around us to help him maintain his temperature. My midwife did a great job of educating us and reinforcing that the two most important things for Teddy right now were to keep his temperature stable and make sure he gets enough to eat. We had a printed handout of red flags to watch out for and also a worksheet where we would write Teddy’s temp, my temp, and other info such as nursing time and wet/dirty diapers. Just like I had when I had Charley in the hospital. She reminded me of some helpful information for those first few days (like how they have one wet diaper and one dirty diaper for each day of life) and I was ready to bring our bundle home! He was swimming in his newborn onesie that I bought for him and I remember ordering two preemie sized onesies on Amazon as soon as we got home.
It was unusually cold for the end of March (like 30 degrees cold!), so Ben preheated the car and we had Teddy buckled into his carseat, surrounded by lots and lots of blankets. We had everything ready to go so that we could quickly get him into the warm car. I sat next to him in the backseat and reassured Ben that everything was okay. It was about 5:30 when we left the birth center and drove home. I remember looking out the window and noticing the full moon. It was low in the sky and yellow. It was a special full moon called the Blue Moon, and I couldn’t help but feel immensely happy and content.
Thank you for reading about Teddy Oliver’s sweet entrance into the world and I hope that it affected you in some way. It was incredibly difficult to write, but at the same time, it’s very therapeutic. I want to honor him by sharing his birth story.
You’re our little fighter and we’re so thankful you fought so hard to meet us, Teddy. Mommy loves you so much and I miss you every second of every day. I’m so proud of you.