Second Time’s a Charm
This is the story of my second birth. My first birth was a typical hospital birth. Epidural, episiotomy, separation after birth, ya know… just an average day at L&D. I really wanted a natural birth, but didn’t have the confidence to actually stand up for myself to get it. My experience at Birthways was pretty much exactly what I wanted, and needed, this time around.
I guess it all started on Wednesday morning. I woke up and immediately starting cleaning and organizing random things in our house, doing ALL of the laundry (I mean everything!) and packing my bag for the birth center. There were still lots of things to get done, but I was only 37 weeks and a few days (baby #1 was 4 days late) so I had plenty of time to finish up the old to-do list. Wednesday night we went to the county fair and had a fun family time. We saw lots of people we knew and got lots of comments and questions about when baby was coming. I told everyone we had a few more weeks and I needed at least one more to get everything done… famous last words! It was so special to see our 2 year old daughter enjoy the fair so much this year- even more so since it was our last outing as a family of 3!
I went to bed on Wednesday feeling completely normal and even woke up a few times during the night and mentally noted that all the activity from the previous day didn’t seem to do anything. Around 6:30 I woke up to go to the bathroom. When I got out of bed I had a little leakage and I thought I had peed myself (really?!). After I actually went to the bathroom and continued to leak fluid I realized that my water may have broken! I decided to go lay down for a little longer and see if it happened again. I knew that if I lay down and then stood up that I would have another gush if my water had indeed broken. After about a minute I stood up and determined that my water was leaking! Wow, what a surprise! I texted my husband and let him know what was going on and that our info binder said labor should start in a few hours. As we were texting back and forth I noticed I was having a few cramps so I told him to go ahead and come home around 7.
I decided to get a shower and shave my legs while I was waiting for contractions to start. (Because that’s the obvious first thing to do when labor starts?) Hubby came home and finished cleaning and tidying before we left. I started timing contractions at around 7:45 and they were already 45 seconds to a minute long and 4-5 minutes apart, but not too intense. I was supposed to go the birth center when they were 5 minutes apart and a minute long for at least an hour. It was time! I called the midwife on call (It was Cheryl) around 8:45 and she said to go ahead and head in since it was baby #2 and we lived so far away. We got our daughter situated, loaded the car, and hit the road at around 9:30. By the time we made it to the birth center at 10:45 I wasn’t able to talk during the contractions anymore and I had to focus on breathing through them.
(Times were taken from our labor flow chart because being in labor does really funny things to your perception of time!)
We got everything unloaded and settled and Cheryl checked me at 11:15. I was only 3cm, 80% effaced and -1 station. I was disappointed and a little discouraged that I still had a long way to go as the contractions were starting to get much more uncomfortable. After that I tried the birth ball, got in the shower for a little while, lay on the bed and I finally ended up rocking in the rocking chair. At 1:00 they started filling up the tub and Cheryl and Christina switched out. I got in the tub at 1:15 and by that point the contractions were super intense and I couldn’t talk in between them. I alternated lying on my back and kneeling in the tub. I wasn’t sure what kind of laborer I would be, but I found that I needed to vocalize during the contractions. My husband and Deborah helped during the contractions by pouring hot water over my back and using a rolling massage ball. Deborah also helped me focus on my breathing when I started to feel too out of control and was generous in her encouragement and praises. At this point (which I think was transition) my logical self started arguing with my laboring self. The contractions were so hard and intense that I felt like there was no way I could keep it up for the hours of labor I knew were to come. (Remember I was only barely in active labor when I arrived) However, logic told me that those feelings were classic transition signs and that the end might be near. I also noticed that Deborah had changed clothes and that she and Christina were setting up all of their supplies. Maybe it wouldn’t be too much longer?!
As my contractions got closer and closer together, I realized my body was starting to push. I announced to the room “I think I’m pushing!” and Deborah and Christina said that it was ok. I thought that I might need to be checked again to confirm that it was time because it had only been a couple of hours since I arrived at the birth center. I didn’t feel “ready” to push yet (terrified might be a better word). Christina charted that I started pushing at 2:15, only 3 hours after I was checked and found to be 3cm. To begin with, I only pushed a little every few contractions. I just followed my body’s lead on when to push and when to let the contractions do their work. My birth team was very hands off and only occasionally asked to check his heart rate after a contraction had passed. At 2:40 Christina charted that his head was visible with the contractions and at 2:47 he was born. I delivered him on my knees, leaning over the side of the tub, so when he was born Christina helped me lean back and pull him to my chest. He cried immediately and was covered in a thick layer of vernix. He didn’t cry very long and he spent a lot of time quietly looking around. It was such a sweet and peaceful moment. I checked to make sure he was a boy and we all remarked about how big he was.
After a couple of minutes in the tub we got out and moved to the bed. We nursed a little and lounged on the bed for almost an hour waiting for the cord to stop pulsing. Once the cord was clamped, my husband cut the cord and I delivered the placenta and finally felt full relief. It was huge! After the cord was cut, they weighed and measured him. As Christina was weighing him, she lifted up the scale and said “Oh my gosh! He’s 9lbs 8oz!” We were totally shocked that he was so big that early. Christina assessed the damage to my nether regions and stitched me up. We apparently make big babies with big heads. After that we spent the next few minutes eating (sandwiches for us and milk for him) and marveling at our little boy. We wanted our daughter to be the first to meet him, so after she had seen him our families came in to meet him. He was so laid back and snuggly. He got to meet all of his family members and get lots of love. I got a shower and changed clothes, Deborah went over our “discharge” information and we left the birth center around 6:45… only 4 hours after he was born!
After having a hospital birth, my birth center experience was quite the contrast. The contractions were much more painful and intense (of course), but the recovery was a thousand times better. Just days after delivery, I felt like I hadn’t had a baby at all… more like I went and picked him up from Babies R Us. In a nutshell….#1: labored stuck in bed on my back, epidural, prolonged pushing, failed vacuum attempt, episiotomy, an hour separation after birth, exhaustion and no true rest thanks to a constant parade of nurses and doctors. #2: labored however I wanted, self-guided pushing, uninterrupted bonding, minimal tearing, healing, fulfilling, empowering, and peaceful. I felt such a sense of accomplishment. Over all it was a fantastic experience. I wish both of my births could have been that lovely, but I don’t regret my first birth because it was the catalyst for seeking change and having a better birth experience. I can appreciate my birth center experience so much more after birthing both ways. If I were to have another uncomplicated pregnancy, I would most certainly choose a natural water birth again.