My daughter’s birth story isn’t as long as her brother’s. In fact, it was a whirlwind experience that still amazes me.
I can’t believe I just did that.
This thought swirled around and around my exhausted brain after my daughter’s birth two Sundays ago. Before I tell her story, I have to fill you in on some details from my son’s birth. I’d been quite uncomfortable for most of my pregnancy with everything from severe nausea to swelling to increased Fibromyalgia pain. However, I’d made all attempts to have as natural a birth as possible. I switched to a midwife practice at a freestanding birth center. I dragged myself and my husband to a comprehensive, multi-week birthing class. I had read and planned for an ideal, natural birth. What ended up happening was a lengthy labor (about 44 hours) filled with many interventions. While I was grateful not to have had a C-Section and I knew that all my interventions were absolutely necessary, I was still a bit disappointed in myself. Deep down I felt as if my body had let me down.
So when I got pregnant with my second child, I was anxious about the labor and delivery from the beginning. My primary strategy was to avoid thinking about it. But as the months passed, I finally had to accept the inevitable. I talked with my amazing doulas and the midwives about what I could do differently this time and about how it would be. They all reassured me that this time would be easier and faster. I didn’t believe them, not really.
When I woke up on that Sunday morning, I noticed a strange feeling. I’d been experiencing light contractions on and off for about two weeks, but these were different.
Menstrual cramps times a thousand.
That’s what it felt like and that’s what I’ve heard people say to describe labor pain. My first labor felt completely different so I wasn’t really sure what was happening. I went downstairs and my mom made me scrambled eggs. The contractions intensified immediately. When she handed me the plate I said, “I think I’m in labor.” It was about 11:00 a.m.
Each contraction was stronger, longer and closer together than the last. I barely had time to catch my breath, let alone time to make phone calls, finish packing my bag, or use the restroom. With each contraction, I started feeling a gush of water.
Oh my gosh my water’s breaking!
I finally got on the phone with the midwife. She asked me a few questions and I had a few contractions during the brief conversation. She suggested we make our way over to the birth center. I was in shock. I called my doula and asked her to meet us there. My husband and I kept looking at each other.
This is happening. So. Fast.
At around 2:00 p.m. we headed out for the longest car ride of my life so far. The birth center is about a 20 minute drive and having intense contractions while sitting in the front seat was excruciating. Once we arrived, the midwife checked on my progress. I’d had nightmares about this where they told me I was zero. With my son, I was only 3 cm when we arrived. But this time I was eight.
I labored for a bit in the tub, but really couldn’t get comfortable. I preferred to be upright and almost standing. The next couple of hours were a blur. They tell you that keeping your mouth and jaw relaxed and open will help progress contractions. And for some reason I also felt I had to keep my eyes wide as well. I must have looked bug-eyed, but of course nobody said anything about my unblinking expression. I remember focusing on tiny chip in the tile, my doula’s sparkly ring, pictures on the wall, and the sweat beads rolling down my body. I was sort of amazed to be sweating like that. I don’t remember ever sweating like that.
It wasn’t long before I felt the urge to push. After a few fruitless pushes, the midwife suggested I try to rest for a few contractions. If you’ve never been asked not to push, it’s sort of like being told not to breathe. I could hold out for only so long, but it was torture not to push with each contraction. They wondered if there might be a positioning issue, but eventually decided that my overfull bladder was the likely culprit. After it was emptied, I “rested” a bit longer. I don’t know how long the whole process took. I was staring at the clock for most of the time—though the numbers made no sense to me. I think I was looking at that clock for some answer as to when it would be over.
I am never doing this again.
This was undoubtedly the worst part of the labor. It brought me back to my first labor experience. I’d had the same feeling that time, but I was stuck at 7 cm—my body completely unwilling to dilate further without rest. All those insecurities came back to me and I started to panic. I was overwhelmed with negativity. I just wanted it to be finished. Everyone there reassured me that this time was different. I only had a tiny bit to go and it would be over so soon.
When the midwife gave me the all clear to push, I immediately got out of the bed. Upright was the only comfortable position. And after giving birth in the hospital bed last time, I felt so much better having gravity on my side. With the help of my husband and doula who were supporting me with all their might, I gave a few pushes and was holding my 8 lb 14 oz little girl by 5:30 p.m. It was about six hours after labor had started. Six hours. I was amazed.
The great thing about having a low intervention birth at the birth center is that they let you go home when you want. Having a toddler at home to consider, I wanted to spend our first night at home so that we could be there for him in the morning. I wanted him to meet his sister in our bedroom, not a hospital room.
After months of anxiety, everything really worked out in the best imaginable way. This labor had its rocky parts, but it was nothing compared to the ordeal of the first. I did do a few things this time that I really think made a huge impact. I went to weekly chiropractic appointments, which helped with overall wellness and baby positioning. I also did acupuncture and herbs for labor readiness starting after 37 weeks. I think this helped me to gently start dilating for a few weeks before labor began.
Also, I hadn’t wanted my son to see me in a lot of pain or to be upset when we left. It turned out he was napping for most of my labor and when he woke up we had left and he played happily with my mom. He had a great reaction to meeting her the next morning.
It’s only been a week, but we are getting into a nice little routine as a family of four. My parents came to visit, so that has helped immensely during this transition. I don’t know what we would have done without them!
My daughter is a dream. So far, she’s very laid back and calm. She’s nursing well and she even sleeps without being held. I know babies are all born with their own personalities, but I believe their birth experience really shapes the way they behave—at least in the first few weeks.
I am so relieved. I feel as if I’ve been walking around in a daze since she was born. Like I forget for a minute that it all happened and it’s over and she’s here. She’s here and amazing!