Modern Motherhood [№18]: Britt Havens

Posted: Aug 08 2015

How did becoming a mother change you? 

Becoming a mother changed me in many ways but one that totally caught me off guard was the new range of emotions that I felt after my children were born. My happy is so much more happy now that I have kids. I truly never thought I could feel this much joy. But at the same time I've felt new and deeper levels of sadness, stress and fear as well. It's like every emotion that I used to feel is on steroids now that I'm a mother. Which is amazing when those emotions are happiness, excitement, and love but super challenging and sometimes confusing when dealing with the harder emotions. Regardless of the challenges, I think the super charged emotions are a good thing. Being able to love this deeply and care this much for something is the most amazing thing I've ever experienced and though it hurts to love this hard, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

What surprised you most about your baby’s birth?

With my first birth (I ended up having an emergency c section) I was most surprised at how totally off plan things can go. I totally had this plan and vision in my mind for how it would all go down and it was WAY different than I had wanted. I had a hard time dealing with the experience and the disappointment/feelings of failure that I felt. With my second baby (a vbac) I was surprised again, this time because I couldn't believe that my body actually did it and that the vbac was successful but I also came to the realization that even though both births were so completely different, they both brought my two perfect, healthy children into the world. I think we put a lot of pressure on birth, and while it's a beautiful and amazing thing, I learned that it's just the first small step in this amazing and exciting adventure of motherhood and that no matter how it happens, it's after they are born that the good stuff really starts.  

What has motherhood taught you? 

Motherhood has taught me so many things. One of my favourite take always since becoming a mother is that I no longer care what other people think of me. As women it can be easy to find our worth in what others think of us, our appearance, our clothes or possessions. Since becoming a mom I've realized what's important and now, at the end of the day my biggest priority is my children thinking I am a good mother. They don't care if I wear makeup, have a perfectly clean house or capture every detail about their lives. They love me in my truest form. They see me at my best and my worst, and still think I'm amazing. Motherhood has taught me that at the end of the day, I can't find my validation in what other people think of me. I just need to try to be my best for them and when I fail (and I do) it's okay. Kids are capable of showing grace in a way that I am often not even capable of. They forget the bad, and remind you of all the good and that's what inspires me to get up every day and do it again and again and again. 

In what ways have you changed since becoming a mother of two from when you were a mother of one?
Since becoming a mother of two, I've changed a lot. On one side of things, I have more confidence because I have done this all before. I am more comfortable with a newborn and all that that stage brings. On the other end of things, there is more at stake. I have two now and I have experienced the good, bad and scary with my son so sometimes I find myself a little on edge and worrying more about my daughter. I definitely have a lot less time now, especially with nursing and I've had to becoming really good at multitasking and spending one on one time with each of my kids. Two is a whole new ball game and I love it more than anything, but am I the only one who looks back and can't believe I ever thought one baby was hard!?! :)

Birth Story

Elle’s birth was a really amazing and healing experience for me. My first birth experience was pretty challenging and ended up in a c-section so when I became pregnant with Elle, I was determined and hopeful that I would be able to have a Vbac. Attempting a vbac was a big decision for me to come to, and we spend the entire pregnancy preparing for it, but in the end it was the best experience and it went so much better than I ever thought it would.

Thursday we went to the splash pad near our house with Natalie and the boys. I was a week away from my due date, super uncomfortable and ready for this baby to come. When we were done at the splash pad I decided that instead of driving home with Zach, I would walk home to try to get things moving. Later that night Natalie and I went to get mani/pedis and Starbucks to get in some girl time before baby’s arrival. I went to bed that night feeling nothing until….

4am on Friday I woke up to cramps. Nothing super painful but just like a deep period cramp in my belly and back. I noticed they were rhythmic (probably every 20 minutes) but I would easily fall back asleep in between. I decided that I would see what was going on at 6am and go from there.

I woke at 6am and things felt about the same but they were much closer together (10 minutes ish). I told my husband that I was feeling “something” but that he should totally still go to work.  After a couple more minutes in bed and some more cramps I hopped in the bath to try and see if the “contractions” would stop or space out at all. I got into that bath fully expecting them to stop, Zach would go to work and we would wait at least another week to have this baby. Once in the bath things picked up a bit and I started to entertain the idea that this might be it. I hung out there for a while but then felt lonely and anxious and Dex had woken up so I went to snuggle with them in bed. Pretty much as soon as I got out a I had a couple really strong contractions and noticed that they were super close together. My husband was saying “Call Erika” (our amazing doula) but you never want to be the preggo who cries wolf and regardless of my increasingly strong contractions, I was still in total denial. I got my phone out to start timing and paced around the room. I timed a couple and when I looked down at my phone they were all 45 seconds long and less than 2 minutes apart. That’s when I knew (and finally admitted) that this was it. We called Erika and let her know what was going on and to head over whenever she could. I called my midwife and filled her in too. We also called my mom and sister who began the 5 hour drive to come be with me for the birth. This was it!!

I started packing and trying to get in some time with Dex when I realized that this would be my last time with him as my only child. My doula showed up around 9am (thank goodness) and contractions had gotten pretty strong. No closer together but they were starting to stop me from talking and puttering around. I needed counter pressure on my back for each contraction and a hot water bottle to help with the pain. At this point I started getting coupling contractions where the first one would totally kick my butt and then about 10 seconds later there was another mini contraction (so fun!) that was shorter and less painful. My midwife arrived and I immediately wanted her to check me. Already this labour was so much more painful than with Dexter so I assumed I had dilated quite a bit……… I was one centimeter! ONE CENTIMETRE PEOPLE! Last time I got to 3-4 centimeters without a whole lot of pain and here I was dying at one cm!!? I tried not to cry or get discouraged and got back into the bath. We all hung out in the bathroom while I laboured for another hour and things got REAL. I was literally crying “no no no” with each approaching contraction and making a host of other sounds that I never knew I could make. An hour later, we checked again and I was a four! Finally some progress.

We then decided to head to the hospital. I wanted to stay home as long as I could but with being a vbac we did want to be in the hospital just in case of any complications. It was the longest 10 minutes of my entire life (seriously though, there are few things as torturous to me as labouring in a moving vehicle) but we arrived and got settled into our room really quickly. My awesome midwife was already filling up the tub for me and I got right in. The water didn’t help much with the pain and we ended up having to move to a different room so after getting out and moving rooms I was ready for an epidural. This was a tough choice for me. Everything I read about vbac said that you have a higher chance with a natural birth but my contractions had been less than 2 minutes apart for 5 hours at this point and I was desperate for a break. It was now noon, the epidural was in place and perfect because I could still feel a lot and move my legs and toes. We did another check and I was at a 6. This number is significant for me because with my son that’s the most I ever dilated. As thrilled as I was to be 6cm, I was terrified that I would stall there again.

I rested for the next couple of hours. It was such an amazing experience to be in labour during the day, in a room with big windows and the sun shining in, with my closest family and support. We chatted on and off about baby names and made our gender predictions for this baby. It was honestly such an amazing time. I remember laughing so hard and some points and thinking how it was just the best day ever, and my baby wasn’t even here yet.

We checked me again at 5pm and I was 9cm dilated. I instantly started crying. This was such a big deal for me because it told me that my body can do this. I didn’t stall at a 6cm like last time and I was one cm away from our meeting our baby. It was then that my doubts completely went away and I knew. I knew in my heart that this vbac was happening.

We waited another hour (6:20pm) and when we checked again I was still a 9 but my water hadn’t broken yet. While my midwife was checking me, my water broke anyway and I was instantly a 10. We talked about letting me labour down for another hour to get the baby nice and low but then Elleana (midwife) suggested that I do a little practice push just to see where we were at. At this point, I’m assuming I’m going to practice a couple times, not be very good at it, wait an hour, and then maybe push for two hours before this baby actually arrives. I wasn’t even taking the practice push too seriously, nor did I have a clue what I was doing so I just went for it and pushed as hard as I could. I could sort of tell that something exciting was happening based on everyone’s reactions but when the push was over they told me they could see the head and it was time to have a baby.  I could barely process what was happening. I wasn’t emotional (which I’m usually super emotional), I didn’t even know where anyone was standing, I just became fiercely determined to push this baby out. My vbac was within my grasp and it was the moment I had been preparing for and praying for for so long.

I pushed the next contraction and her heart decelerated. They threw the oxygen mask on me and told me to take deep breaths (which totally scared me) and there were loud beeping noises coming from the monitor. I was losing my mind on the inside but knew I had to stay focused. After another push and another decel, they called in the NICU team just in case, which also scared the crap out of me and I knew that something about these pushes was stressing my baby out. I literally thought to myself, I’m getting this baby out next push. Sure enough, next contraction (so three total) her head was out. Her shoulder however, was stuck. Without a contraction, my midwife looked me in the eyes and basically said “push as hard as you can right now”. I did (I swear my head was going to pop off) and out came our precious second born. They placed her on my chest briefly, which was a moment I had longed for for so long. I was so focused on getting her to cry/breathe that I didn’t even think to check what this baby was. I was so in the zone but I heard my mom say something like “she’s okay” (trying to reassure me because I was scared) and then Zach said “It’s a girl??”. I still hadn’t reacted to the gender thing yet because I just wanted her to cry. After a minute they took her across the room so the NICU nurses could check her out. I heard my baby cry and then I just started bawling and processing everything that just happened. I had a vbac! I did it! I have a DAUGHTER?! 

My husband went with our baby and was at her side for her first moments. He brought her back to me in a pink hat and kept saying “She’s perfect, she’s so beautiful”. Something about seeing that pink hat made everything so real and I let all the emotion of the last 10 minutes out at once. My baby girl on my chest, in her pink little hat and everyone I love around me – it was easily the (tied for first) best and most intense moment of my life. It took me so long to process everything. I had stressed about the vbac for so long and now it was behind me, and I did it! I had wondered for 9 months who this baby was and here was my daughter, in my arms, healthy and peaceful.

I feel very blessed to have had the birth experiences that I have had and although they could not have been more opposite (one 3 days of labour and a c-section, the other, 6 hours of labour, 10 minutes of pushing and a vbac) I love both experiences for different reasons. If there is one thing both experiences have taught me it’s that birth is just the first step in a long and amazing journey. I used to put so much pressure on birth but I am learning that birth is beautiful no matter what and down the line a few months/weeks/years when you hear your baby say I love you, your birth plan not going exactly to plan will be the last thing on your mind (that’s been my experience anyway). I know all of our journeys are VERY different (some very easy and some painful and difficult) but bringing a child into this world (adoption, birth, the desire at all to be a mother) is incredible and beautiful and I love that us mamas all have that in common and how brings us together.

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