The birth of my two children could not be more different experiences. From pregnancy to the moment I met them, very little was the same.
For the birth of my first child, I was blessed with a great support team and medical staff. I was able to give birth at a beautiful birthing center where I could dictate how I wanted things to go.
Part of this journey included the following influential people:
- Mike – husband, father and partner in labor
- Dr. Chung – OB-GYN and director of the birthing center
- Joy – assigned midwife
- Sarah – doula
- LeAnn – photographer and friend
- Hillary – friend
On the day I went into labor I had a very normal day. Being past due everyone was wondering when things would get going, but I was content and going about life as normal. That morning I went to the post office and even hung out at a play group at the BX. That afternoon Hillary and Courtney came over. We sat on the porch in rocking chairs enjoying the sun and chatting.
About 10:00 pm I noticed my contractions had gotten consistent. Mike called before flying and I told him we would be going to Mediflower that night (there is a slight debate on the time ;)) Nonetheless, he flew, came home and went to bed. Around midnight Hillary called to check on me and she noticed I was not talking when a contraction took place. A clear sign labor was progressing.
Since Mediflower was an hour away we decided to leave around 5:00am to avoid traffic. Upon arrival my cervix was checked which broke my water. The day progressed slowly. Looking back on things there isn’t much I remember. I got into this zone that couldn’t be broken. As contractions came I would stand in a doorway and do squats to manage my pain.
I was able to have a successful, natural water birth.
I was allowed to get in and out of the tub as I pleased. The water provided immense relief so I would rest there. Unfortunately, it also slowed down labor. I remember someone looking me in the eye and saying, “If you’re ready to have this baby you HAVE to get out of the water.”
I did not want to be touched, but when I needed physical support Mike was there. Around 8:00 pm contractions intensified. At one point I said, “it burns” and everyone in the room got really excited. Shortly after they allowed me to get back in the tub.
Here, Mike held me up as most of my strength had been exhausted in labor. After pushing for 2+ hours, Avera was born.
Once Avera was born, Mike was able to cut the cord and they placed her on my chest. After what seemed like an eternity she had still not cried and began turning blue. They rushed her away and Mike went with her.
I was helped out of the tub and placed on a bed. It was expected that my placenta would come out within 30 minutes. Again, my body was so drained that my body would physically not contract. I was encouraged to rest in hopes my body would find the strength to birth the placenta.
I was given IV fluids and an iron drip. Every couple of hours, the doctor and my midwife would come back and try to make my body contract. Nine and a half hours later I was finally able to birth the placenta. During those 9.5 hours, I barely remember anything. They brought Avera and put her on my chest, they kept her beside me as much as possible as she was on oxygen with her breath sounds being counted.
I was able to rest for a few hours and feeling more like myself. They were worried about Avera aspirating so they did not want me to nurse. Instead they were giving her my milk through a medical dropper. Around hour 12 I was tired of my baby not eating and believed nursing would make her feel better. I waited for the nurses to leave the room, picked up my little girl and nursed for the first time. She did everything perfectly. Her breath sounds even began to normalize. The power of breastfeeding is amazing!!
For the birth of my second child things were very different. We had moved back to the states and I was restricted to the limitations of the hospital and what they were willing to agree to. Knowing this was going to be the case led to a great deal of anxiety during my pregnancy.
This time, it was Mike and I only and whatever doctor and nurses happened to be on call that night.
Things were different. I didn’t get a tub. I had to worry about my 22 month old back at home. These were things that had me scared and filled with anxiety. Then February 5 arrived. The day was a relatively normal day. Mike had been off the schedule as I was 5 days overdue. I had an appointment where I was afraid they would want to discuss induction. To my surprise, they were incredibly supportive of my plan and suggested we wait a few more days for that discussion. At the time of the appointment I was 4 cm dilated and told they expected labor to occur naturally with the next couple of days anyway.
I went home, Mike went to work, and things proceeded as normal. That afternoon my “Braxton Hicks” became slightly painful. There was nothing consistent so I still didn’t think much of it. By 5:30 they were undeniably painful but still not consistent which is what they tell you to look for. Due to the pain, I decided for Avera’s nightly bath she could bathe with me. This is something I want to note because it became a special time for me. It was our last night together just the two of us and I didn’t know it. We had fun. We played with bubble and washed each others backs. It was perfect.
Avera went to sleep and about 15 minutes later around 6:45 pm contraction started to get consistent at 7 minutes apart. After 3 occurred, I called my parents and asked them to start driving. I still was not convinced it wasn’t a false alarm, but I decided to be safe. It would take them about 5-6 hours to get here.
Next, I called the on call number for my OB-GYN’s office. The doctor on call told me based on my appointment that morning she thought I should go to the hospital immediately. Fortunately, our neighbors daughter was available to come sit at the house until my parents arrival. It took some time to get things ready, but we arrived at the hospital just before 9:00 pm.
To my surprise, the doctor had called and made sure the nurses knew I was allowed to walk around as much as I wanted. She had explained as much of my birth plan as she could and ensured they honored it. I was relieved and happy. Once she got there to check and meet with me she showed her support in my wishes. It was a huge blessing.
The contractions continued to become stronger and get closer together. My emotions were running high. I could not stop shaking and I began crying. I was under the impression it was a combination of hormones, fear and I still wasn’t ready. That didn’t slow things down though as the pain was increasing. I was discouraged that I was only 6 cm at 11:30 and agreed for the doctor to break my water.
The 25 minutes following my water breaking felt more like seconds. Contractions became nearly unbearable as I yelled to Mike that I needed him. He once again physically held me upright. This time my legs were strong, but I needed my partner still: physically, emotionally and mentally. The doctor and nurses started running in and I told them it was time. I was going to start pushing. She told me to wait as she rapidly put gloves on but I said no. They asked me to move to the bed but I said no.
Within 5 minutes and about 2 really good pushes, Abraham was here. Mike again was able to cut the cord. They helped me onto the bed and placed him on my chest. He was round and squishy and perfect.
I used clary sage to rub on my belly in hopes it would encourage the birth of the placenta. I also agreed to a little pitocin to avoid the same experience as before. The next 15 minute timeframe, the placenta had passed, I received a stitch and Abraham had latched. I could not have asked for things to go more smoothly.
The Same Plan, Different Results
Both labors were completely natural. Something I am very appreciative I was able to do. I had a great support team from the beginning the first time. The second, I did not have a peace about the situation until the final couple weeks of my pregnancy. In the end, the doctor provided the support and understanding I needed both times.
The biggest difference in my labors was my physical and mental state. I believe that there were several things I did that helped with the progression of the second experience: essential oils, red raspberry leaf tea, how active Avera kept me. I also think I embodied a strength in delivery #2 from the lessons I learned from deliver #1. The second time I felt strong when it came time to push. I felt in control. It was like I was telling my body when and how to birth this baby and my body was listening.
I do not know that there is anything I could have done to change the first experience. I was told that I had a text book first labor. In the end, I am grateful that I had such a supportive team to help me during that time. I am even more grateful I have a healthy and precious daughter that came from it.
I do not know that there is anything I did do to change the second experience. It is pretty common for the second time to happen faster and even easier. In the end, I am grateful Dr. Alan is who was on call that night. I am grateful my husband remembered, honored and reminded me of my wishes. And I am most grateful for the beautiful and healthy boy that was placed in my arms.
Let’s be honest, I’m also grateful it took 5 minutes!!