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My first child, a baby boy named Beau Douglas, was born at Baby and Company. It was dramatic and really primal… exactly how I wanted it to be. I was in the bathtub and had been pushing for roughly 20 minutes. On my last push, only his head came out. So I had to stand up, with a baby head hanging out of my vagina, and get out of the tub. I rolled onto the floor and gave it one more big push, and he was here. I did it. Birth, au natural. I high-fived my midwife Maddye and my husband. Over and over again, I said, “I can’t believe I just did that.”
My second child, a girl named Lady Nell, was born at St. Thomas Hospital with an epidural at 32 weeks 6 days. If you had told me this would happen when I got pregnant, my immediate response would be, “What did I do wrong?”
On Saturday, October 19th, my friends and family were gathering in Nashville for my baby shower while I was teaching my yoga class at Inner Light. In the final moments of class, while my students were resting in savasana, I felt the warm and familiar gush of my water breaking. I was 32 weeks and 3 days pregnant.
I’m a planner. I don’t just make a grocery list. My grocery list is separated into store sections and in order of how things are set up on each aisle. My first thought after I felt my water break was, “This is not the f*$#king plan.”
I called Baby and Company. According to my students, I was cool as a cucumber. Inside, I was panicking. I’m going to have a preemie baby in the NICU. The NICU is for people with profoundly sick babies. Not for people like me.
My husband met me at the hospital, and we held each other in disbelief. I allowed myself approximately 2 hours to freak out. I cried, blamed myself, blamed my toddler for being too active, blamed the weather for being too hot. I should have drunk more water, took more breaks, picked up Beau less.
Then, the center OB Dr. Thigpen came in to meet with us. He immediately put my mind at ease. His presence is angelic, light, and calm. Yes, I was going to have a premature baby at some point in the next 10 days. But now we had a new plan: Keep her in as long as possible, get two steroid shots to help develop her lungs, and deliver a healthy and tiny little girl.
But after being in early labor for three days, my body started to take over. The medicine to keep me from progressing took a back seat. The contractions started coming more frequently, and I was so exhausted I could barely make it through. I was confined to the bed with the fetal monitor, and I couldn’t use the beautiful bathtub in my room to ease the pain.
“I’d like my epidural now, please.”
It was glorious. Exactly what I needed. I knew what an all-natural birth required, and I didn’t have it in me. The plan had changed again, but this time it was for my wellbeing. It’s OK to accept the help when you need it. I took a nap, y’all.
A few hours later, it was time. The bright lights turned on, Dr. Thigpen put on his scrubs, and people began to flood into the room. Countless NICU nurses waited in the corner, while labor and delivery nurses flanked Dr. Thigpen. My vagina was on stage.
My husband held my hand, and I pushed for about a minute. Lady rushed out of me in a hurry and immediately began screaming. The flood of relief I felt as they placed this beautiful, tiny 4lb 4oz baby on my belly is indescribable. I looked back at my husband and my sister. We were all crying tears of joy.
I learned very quickly that the NICU was not just for profoundly sick babies, but for babies who might need a little extra help, too. People reached out, telling me their own NICU stories. I was humbled and overwhelmed at the kindness and care being given to our baby. Yet again, I was being asked to change: To change my perspective and accept help and support from others.
11 days later, we brought her home. Still under 5lbs and just shy of 35 weeks, I was in awe of her strength. It kept me going in those early days. She was ready to be here, so I had to be ready for her.
My second birth has forever changed me. I didn’t let the struggles of breastfeeding defeat me, and I approach parenting with less rigidity. I just kept going and evolving and learning, trusting my intuition rather than binding myself to the expectations of other babies her age. I’m now a mother who rolls with the punches, embraces change, and releases control. Thank you, Lady, for shaping me into the new and improved version of myself.
Rachel’s music choice to accompany this Guidelight is Three Little Birds by Bob Marley
Rachel was born and raised in Birmingham and graduated from The University of Alabama. After years of working in politics in Nashville and then private equity in NYC, Rachel left the corporate world and found yoga. After two months of practice, she was hooked and decided to obtain her 200-hour certification from Yogamaya. In November of 2017, she and her husband moved to Nashville and had a beautiful baby boy, Beau. She loves sitting on porches, kittens, The Crimson Tide and snuggling with our latest addition, Lady.