Helena is almost 3 months old today. I started writing this weeks ago but never got around to finishing it. I’m scared now the memories have already started to fade a little, so I’m not going to go back and make any edits to the parts that I had already written in an effort to keep those things frozen in time when they were fresh. So if this seems like it jumps around a bit, that’s probably why…
Helena came into the world at 8:04 AM on July 7, 2021. She was 19″ long and weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces.
It all started with this text message to my midwife:
I knew, as my midwife pointed out, that it could be days still–but I also knew if things went the same way they did with Myles, that I might be having a baby in the next 24 hours or less.
I tried hard not to get too excited. I can’t recall exactly when I went to bed (I think it was a little after 11 PM), but I didn’t rest for long. I started having contractions around midnight and started tracking them with an app on my phone. At first, I was able to lay in bed and track them, while flipping back and forth between TikTok and the contraction-tracking app.
Mike was asleep in our room upstairs, and I was in the spare bed downstairs. (I had been sleeping downstairs for a while because as I got VERY pregnant it was more comfortable to sleep alone with my huge pregnancy pillow arranged just so.) I figured I would let him sleep as long as I could. I thought surely–despite the app telling me repeatedly that I should go to the hospital (ha!)–that I wouldn’t need anyone till at more reasonable hour in the morning.
I was wrong.
Around 1:30/2 AM, I got too uncomfortable to stay in bed. I moved to my recliner in the family room. At first I sat and knitted, continuing my contraction tracking. The pains were coming steadily. It wasn’t very long till I couldn’t sit or knit anymore. I ended up on the floor on my hands and knees with my head resting on my chair instead. I had YouTube playing on my iPad, propped up next to my face for distraction.
Around 3:30 AM, I got up to use the bathroom and realized I was having a really hard time functioning through the contractions. I called Mike’s phone upstairs, planning to wake him and ask him to come downstairs to help me call our midwife and my mom. I felt like if I tried to make the calls myself, a contraction would hit and I wouldn’t be able to talk or think straight. His phone rang and rang–no answer. I called him over and over, and he wouldn’t answer. It sunk in that I was going to have to go up the stairs and wake him. (Yelling wasn’t an option, because I didn’t want to scare Myles who was also sleeping upstairs. Ben was in Arizona visiting his mother and wouldn’t return until July 8th.)
I gritted my teeth and climbed the stairs, using my phone as a flashlight. I shook Mike awake and he startled awake with a yelp. I’d been holding the phone under my chin like a flashlight at a campfire, and I guess it made for a pretty ghoulish vision to wake up to!
Thank goodness despite scaring him half to death, Mike was able to wake up and take charge. He made calls to the midwives and my mom. He moved the dog’s kennels to the garage and put them outside so they wouldn’t be a bother during my labor. He inflated the swimming pool and started filling it with warm water. I also asked him to plug in the twinkle lights … because for some reason, in the midst of labor, twinkle lights seemed VERY important to me.
I resumed my position on the family room floor, face buried into my recliner chair. I ditched YouTube, but still had my phone on the chair next to my head, and every time a contraction would hit, I’d tap the big “Contraction Started” button in the app to time it. After about an hour of tapping, my mother arrived. Another half-hour passed, and my midwives arrived.
I was only vaguely aware when the midwives came in. I heard them carrying in bags and setting up their supplies, but all I could do was rest my head on the chair and breathe and moan. I recall at one point asking if I could please stop tracking my contractions because having to concentrate on tapping the start and stop button over and over was getting very frustrating for me. Jenny laughed and told me I could absolutely stop.
Poor Mike tried valiantly to continue filling the pool. I had purchased a 100-foot long hose and an adapter that would enable him to hook it to the sink. Unfortunately, I had overlooked the fact that we have one of those fancy kitchen sinks where the main faucet is a sprayer, so that adapter wouldn’t work. Mike was filling 5-gallon buckets as fast as he could, but it was clear that the pool wasn’t going to be filled, or if it did get filled, the water would be too cold by the time it was full. No one told me outright it wasn’t going to work, but I noticed the buckets stopped coming. I was a little heartbroken and maybe a touch scared. I had experienced water birth. I knew I was capable of that. I wasn’t so confident about birthing without the luxury of being in water. But I was also worried about complaining; somehow even though everyone was there specifically to support and care for me, I didn’t want to come off as demanding if I asked about the pool. So I tried my best to let it go, and psyche myself up for a different birth than I’d previously experienced.
I also remember wishing Jenny would check to see how dilated I was, so I had some sense of a timeline. She didn’t offer, so I finally asked. I forget sometimes that with home birth midwives, they tend to be pretty hands-off and let the mother guide things unless there’s a medical reason to step in. I can’t recall now what my dilation was, but I do remember that it was less (I want to say 2cm less) than what I was when Valerie (my prior midwife with Myles) checked me. That hit me hard too: with Myles, I was 7cm by the time I was getting mildly uncomfortable. I was already in a lot of discomfort, and way less dilated.
What my mind kept coming back to is that the baby will come regardless. It’s a process and there’s no stopping it, so why fret? You just have to ride it out and be excited for the beautiful prize at the end.
I never really moved from my spot on the family room floor in front of my chair. I’ve read a lot of books about home birth and one of the things that has always fascinated me is the variety of places, when given freedom to choose, women seek out as safe and comfortable places to give birth. It reminds me of whitetail deer, and how mother does seek out dark, quiet thickets and if they are disrupted, their labor can actually stop. I think human mothers are a lot more like other mammals in the animal kingdom than what we care to admit. Most humans also seek out dark, cozy spaces too. For me, it was under the twinkle lights, resting on the floor against my favorite chair. And the funny part was, I had a bed all made up and ready in the room adjacent. I had two sofas to choose from. But somehow your brain goes into instinct mode and you go to where you feel comfortable in the moment.
So, the family room floor got covered in chux pads, and there I stayed until sometime around 7am or so. At that point, my midwives decided that I should try and go to the bathroom. They kept insisting that my bladder must be full, even though I was certain it wasn’t. So they managed to get me to my feet and walk me across our family room, through dining room to the kitchen, through the music room, and into our downstairs bathroom. This took several minutes because every time a contraction hit, I would have to stop till it passed.
Our downstairs bathroom is tiny. It has a toilet, a small sink, and a shower stall, and only about enough open floor space for two average size people to stand nose-to-nose. I obediently sat on the toilet and tried to pee while the midwives waited outside the door in the music room. Nothing happened, except another hard contraction which gave me visions of having to birth the baby on the toilet (it happens) alone with the midwives unable to fit into the tiny room with me. I was glad to get out of that room – but unfortunately, when I got up, I took about 2 steps into the music room and fell to my knees as the hardest contraction yet hit me.
At that point, I couldn’t pick myself up. My midwives were calm and encouraging, but I also could sense some urgency in their voices; they were trying to get me up and moving so I could get back to the family room where all of their supplies were located but they were also recognizing that I might not be able to get up and move, and they were discussing (quietly) if they should start moving their equipment into the music room. It was interesting in the moment because I was almost having this out-of-body experience where I was completely consumed by the pain I was experiencing, but I was also observing that they were being calm and gentle and encouraging with me, but quietly in professional-planning crisis mode simultaneously. (Midwives are incredible people. I’ll say it a million times over.)
It finally became clear to me that they really wanted me to move. A contraction eased up and I realized if I was going to go, I had to GO FAST or I wouldn’t make it. I asked Mike to stand in front of me so I could hold onto his arms. I said something to the effect of “Okay, GO.” Mike walked backwards, holding my arms, and I walked as fast as I could shuffle through the music room, the kitchen, the dining room, and back to my spot by my chair. I knew if I stopped moving, I wouldn’t get up again; wherever I dropped, that’s where the baby would be born. Thankfully, I made it back to my spot before the next contraction hit me.
That little journey across the house did serve to get my labor progressing a lot faster. Everything after that point was a blur. I do know that my dear friend Erica came walking in, ready to photograph the birth. I think I said hello to her, but I’m not entirely sure. I was pretty intensely preoccupied by that point.
Jenny felt that the baby was getting caught under my pelvic bone. We decided that I should try laying flat on the ground to see if we could get the baby to move around the bone. She kept apologizing saying that she knows that’s usually the last position most mothers want to birth in (flat on their back) but that giving it a try might just do the trick… and sure enough, it did!
With my only prior experience with birth having been in water, this was a whole different experience for me. I remember feeling like sharp bones were stabbing into me. At one point, I remember just asking that someone would HELP me because I had the sense something was stuck or wrong. (It wasn’t.) When I started to push, my water still hadn’t broken. As I pushed, I felt a sudden GUSH as she crowned and my water broke. The process was slower with Helena from there. With Myles, I felt a POP and he came out FAST. With Helena, her head emerged, then there were several seconds before she finally turned, then the shoulders, then the rest of her body. I’m actually very thankful, silly as it sounds, that I’d watched the entirety of Call the Midwife during my pregnancy, or I might have panicked over her slow arrival.
She didn’t cry much. I kept asking if she was okay, and of course, she was. She finally let out a few good yells to reassure everyone.
Myles had woken up and come downstairs sometime while I was pushing. He woke up worried when he heard my yells. My mother was there to intercept him and take him to the other room. A few moments after they placed Helena on my chest and we knew everything was OK, he came back into the room to meet his little sister for the first time. He was so excited and overwhelmed by the experience!
We spent the rest of the day resting. Erica’s daughter Amelia joined us and she and Myles played together. Erica hung out and kept an eye on things so Mike and I could rest and bond with Helena. She also was kind enough to put Helena’s very first diaper on her.
Welcome to the world, Miss Helena Faye. You are so loved.
Baby Size: According to the Baby Center app, Baby Girl is about 15.75″ from head to toe (about the size of a large cabbage) and around 3 pounds. What to Expect says she’s as big as a bunch of broccoli.
Total Weight Gain: My appetite is finally just starting to kick back in, and I’ve been chugging water like crazy because we have our final ultrasound this Friday and they told me to be sure to be well-hydrated for that. So I’ve put on about 2 pounds. I’ve gained/lost two pounds in past weeks, so we’ll see if this sticks!
Maternity Clothes: Still about the same with this — non-maternity sweatpants and stretchy jeans still fit, and I can still wear my bigger t-shrits and hoodies no problem. My favorite thing has ended up being my denim overalls from Motherhood Maternity, though. I bought them specifically for a photoshoot and I was really hesitant to spend the money when I did … and now they’re my absolute favorite thing to wear, so I feel better about having spent that money!
Sleep: I’m napping pretty much daily: sometimes a power-nap on my lunch break, and almost always a little snooze after work or after dinner.
Best Moment of Week: We got to see our friend Jess who was in town visiting from Tennessee. She brought us some adorable baby gifts from our registry as well as a Woodstock-themed counting board book that is the absolute CUTEST thing ever!
Miss Anything?: I miss being able to jump up out of bed or off the sofa without a struggle to scoot/roll and not strain my back or pelvis. I miss not being able to just “muscle through” things like hauling 50 pound feed sacks. I don’t like having to ask for help.
Movement: Baby girl is BUSY, almost all the time. 99% of the time I love this because it’s reassuring she’s healthy and doing OK in there. About 1% of the time it’s exhausting because she decides to just settle somewhere in my guts and SQUISSHHHHHH or put pressure on me till I feel like I’m going to explode.
Food Cravings: Ice cream and french fries (eaten together, alternating back and forth but not dipping the fries IN the ice cream). Chocolate. Frozen or iced coffee (but not TOO much of course).
Anything Making You Queasy or Sick?: Anything spicy or acidic.
Happy or Moody?: I’m admittedly getting more moody and emotional. Most of the time I’m still happy overall but I’m starting to get to the point that things are getting harder to do and I get frustrated and emotional that I can’t just “power though” things the way I want to, and some days it feels like I never will be able to again. (Even though I know that’s not true.)
Labor Signs: I’m starting to have Braxton Hicks contractions occaionally. I had one last weekend that was strong enough that it took my breath away for a second. Usually in the evening, baby girl gets “settled” and puts a TON of pressure on my guts. I’m just starting to get more nervous – not because I’m anxious about labor and birth in general, but because Myles was born early at 35 weeks. So this span of time from 30 to 37 weeks is probably the most stressful for me, because I really want to make it to 37+ weeks with this baby so we’re able to have another home birth with our midwife. (Our first midwife took a chance and let us stay home with Myles at 35 weeks; this midwife won’t deliver at home unless I hit 37 weeks, and I don’t blame her.)
Shopping/Nesting/Preparation: I started rearranging and getting some things put away for the baby. We have some built-ins that have a spot that’s perfect for a changing pad, and shelves where I have baskets for toys and pacifiers and whatnot. I found an unused dresser in my parent’s basement that we’re going to bring over so I can start washing and putting away baby girl’s clothes (I’ve been anxiously waiting to start that project!)
I also started gathering all the things on the homebirth checklist from our midwife as well as all the “fun” postpartum care things. I got a swimming pool to set up in the family room, just like I had for Myles’ birth. I’m hoping to have another water birth with this baby, so I wanted to be prepared.
Looking Forward To: Our last ultrasound is on Friday evening after work, and I’m super excited. The last one we had, I wasn’t as well hydrated as I should have, and baby girl wasn’t super cooperative posing for pictures. This time, I’ve been chugging as much water as I can daily to prep so hopefully that will help (the ultrasound tech said it would). I’m hoping we can see some detailed face pictures with the 3D/4D ultrasound that they do. I’m so anxious to see her little face, fingers, and toes!
My mom also started planning a “sprinkle” (small shower, not focused on gifts- just more of a celebration) for us later in June. I’m really grateful that we’ve all been able to get vaccinated (Mike & I got our second Pfizer doses back on March 30th) so I feel good about getting together in a small gathering with family and friends who have also been vaccinated. I really didn’t know if we’d be able to have anything, and I’m really looking forward to it. Now I just need to NOT have the baby early (I’ll be 35 weeks by the date of the shower, so *fingers crossed*!!)
How far along? 26 weeks (Sorry I skipped a few weeks there! I felt like there wasn’t a drastic difference so I thought I’d take a break for a bit!)
Baby Size: According to the Baby Center app, Baby Girl is about 14″ from head to rump (about the size of a scallion) and around 1.75 pounds. What to Expect says she’s as big as an acorn squash.
Total Weight Gain: Still not much. Some days I’m up about 2 pounds, but then the next morning I’m back to 0 gain. I was starting to think my scale was broken, so I tried the one at my parent’s house, and the results were the same.
Maternity Clothes: I went wild a couple weeks ago and ordered a bunch of maternity tank tops from Old Navy. I also ordered 6 stretchy (non-maternity) sundresses from Wal-Mart in various colors. They’re my favorite ones that I love to wear all summer – tank-style with pockets! They’re so roomy that I’m thinking I should be able to wear them even up to my due date. (I’m anticipating being HOT this summer, what with being due at the end of July and all. So I want to be prepared!) OH! Someone in a mom’s group on Facebook recommended this nursing bra and I got one to try out in anticipation of needing a few later on. Holy crap – most comfy bra EVER! It’s like, the perfect mix of supportive but comfortable. I ordered 2 more.
Sleep: When I sleep, I sleep well. But I have a bad habit of staying up too late at times, then I take a nap, and then my sleep gets all goofed up and I wind up having a night where I don’t sleep at all. Whoops.
Best Moment of Week: We had a checkup with our midwife and everything is going well. My blood pressure is outstanding. (Fingers crossed it stays that way!) I’m not having any issues with swelling. The heartbeat is strong. Overall, just good news! Next visit we do the glucose test, and that one is one that always makes me nervous, for whatever reason. Hoping it will go well also.
Miss Anything?: I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever be able to eat normally ever again without heartburn misery.
Movement: LOTS! Baby girl has been VERY busy. I’m just barely starting to feel movements on the outside of my belly too – but no one else has been able to feel them yet. Mike is super anxious to get to feel her move.
Food Cravings: Fresh cut Fries. Ice cream. Iced or frozen coffee (in moderation, of course). Chicken, bacon, and cheese croissant stuffers from Dunkin.
Anything Making You Queasy or Sick?: Oh, I’ve got ALL the heartburn and acid reflux – BLEH. As long as I stay away from tomato-based and/or spicy things, I’m good though. Unfortunately, things like tacos, spaghetti, and chili are my kids’ favorite dinners – and I can’t eat any of them without paying for it afterward. I’ve been much more into steak and potatoes-type meals recently. I’ve been “iffy” about chicken. It sometimes grosses me out because the texture bothers me.
Happy or Moody?: Happy most of the time. Moody occasionally. (I think that’s just normal, right? LOL)
Labor Signs: Nope – thankfully! 🙂
Shopping/Nesting/Preparation: Up until last week, I haven’t been in a “nesting” mood really. I’ve been SO busy with goat-kidding season, milking goats, getting ready for Myles’ 8th birthday (tomorrow!), etc. that thinking about a baby just hasn’t been on my mind. BUT it really hit me the other day that I’m nearing the end of my second trimester. (WHAT?!) Couple that realization with Target having their car seat buyback deal right now, and that threw me back into prep-mode. I took one of Myles’ old car seats and traded it in, then used the 20% off coupon to get a high chair.
I also got a bug the other day and started unboxing and assembling things – the high chair, the new car seat, the bassinet. I am SO happy with the bassinet we got (the Arm’s Reach Clear-Vue Co-Sleeper). I was skeptical when I started assembling it because it felt like it was going to be a little flimsy, but once it was all together it’s super solid and it has TONS OF STORAGE in side pockets and a basket on the bottom. I LOVE that!! I haven’t connected it to the bed yet (it can also be a free-standing bassinet, so I just have it parked off to the side of the room and I’m using it to hold clothes for now…)
I started sorting clothes by size so that I could assess what I have and what I still need. I’m still looking for the “perfect” dresser, and once I find that I’ll start washing things and putting them away. (Still lots of time for that!) I also want to get some little baskets and drawer-divider/organizers to keep track of all the little bows and socks and assorted baby doo-dads.
Looking Forward To: Though it isn’t related to this pregnancy or baby, my firstborn is having his 8th birthday party this coming Saturday, April 17. I’m looking forward to that! It’s going to be the first time in a LONG time that my family and friends will be getting together, so that’s super exicting. (We’re all fully vaccinated now!)
My mom also started planning a very small baby shower (sprinkle) for me, and I’m pretty excited about that too! It feels sort of silly having one for a second baby, but we’ve had family members call and request we have one. I guess after 8 years between babies, people are excited to celebrate, and that makes me feel SO LOVED. So we’re working on picking a weekend in June for that. I’m REALLY hoping it won’t go like my last shower for Myles–I was 34.5 weeks along, had my shower, then went into labor a few days later at 35 weeks on the nose, and I hadn’t even unpacked or sorted all my shower gifts yet. (We literally had to move stacks of presents from the living room to set up my birth pool!) I’m a little suspicious, so I’m leaning toward having the shower when I’m at least 36 weeks. (Haha!)
One of the fun things about expecting a baby girl is how many fun knitting patterns there are out there to make! It always seems the most fun patterns (frilly, lacy things) are always for girls. So I’m taking full advantage and I’m so exited to make lots of sweaters, hats, booties, and other projects! (My Ravelry queue is quickly filling up!)
Baby Girl’s Pinwheel Baby Blanket (Project Link on Ravelry) Pattern: Round or Pinwheel Baby Blanket by Genia Planck Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Dreamin’ in White/Yellow
The first thing I had to knit for baby girl was a pinwheel blanket. I knit one of these for Myles when he was a baby that he used all the time, so this baby needed one as well! I used a yarn that has been in my stash for probably 10+ years now. I’m thinking this will be our last baby and most of our friends are done having babies, so I thought it was high time to use up the baby yarns in my stash.
It’s really hard to judge how large the blanket is when it’s all scrunched up on the circular needles, and I was too lazy to feed it onto waste yarn and stretch it out, so this blanket turned out a bit larger than Myles’ blanket. Even though I loathe doing seed stitch, I really love the edge turned out. (It was worth the tedious knit-purl-knit-purl!)
Baby Girl’s Baby Surprise Jacket (Project Link on Ravelry) Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann Yarn: KnitPicks Swish DK in Wonderland Heather, Green Tea Heather, Haze Heather, Blossom Heather, and Frosting
The second knit that I tackled was the classic EZ Baby Surprise. I’ve knit two of these in the past (one for a sample for the knit shop, and a second for a knitting class I taught) but it’s been almost 15 years since I last knit it, so it took dusting off some brain cells to remember how it comes together. It’s an incredibly clever pattern; it’s all knit flat in one solid piece of garter stitch with some very clever decreases and increases. When you finish, you fold it up origami-style and there are only 2 seams (the tops of the sleeves/shoulders) to seam, and POOF you’re done! The toughest part of this pattern is that it is almost written in prose-style, which is not at all the way more modern patterns are written. If you just follow the directions on faith, though, it turns out beautifully!
I started this on a Sunday and had it finished by Thursday, after only spending a bit of time each evening knitting on it. (Not bad for less than a week!) I still need to weave in my ends, seam the shoulders, and go shopping for some cute little buttons – but I’m going to call it 95% done at least.
So, what’s next?
I have leftover yarn from the Baby Surprise Jacket, so I thought I would knit a coordinating Marley Hat (from Itty Bitty Hats by Susan B. Anderson). If there’s still leftover yarn after that, maybe I’ll make some coordinated booties as well. (Because why not?)
I also have some leftover white/yellow yarn from the blanket so I thought I’d dig through my stash and see if I can find a green and another medium-to-dark shade to pair it with and knit the Upside Down Daisy Hat (also from the Itty Bitty Hats book) with that. I’ve always loved that hat and meant to knit one — but I never had anyone to make one for!
I (*cough*) may have also placed an order today for yarns to make a Helena Sweater and a February Baby Sweater. I knit the Helena pattern way back in 2009 for a friend’s baby and I remember loving the pattern, so I’m very eager to do that one next as soon as the yarn arrives! I knit the adult-size version of the February Sweater for myself about 10 years ago also, but I’ve never made the baby-sized version. I guess I’m a creature of habit, and I definitely love lace patterns!
Anyone have any other “must-knit” baby patterns for little girls? I prefer things that can be knit in one piece with minimal seaming. (One of these days I need to get over myself and learn to properly do mattress stitch; I avoid it like the plague.) I’m especially looking for a sock or bootie pattern that actually stays on little feet. (Bonus points if it uses fingering weight yarn because goodness knows I have lots of little leftover balls of sock yarn in my stash!)