To tell you about the birth of my second child, I have to tell you about the birth of my first child. With my first pregnancy I had Gestational Diabetes, and Gestational Hypertension and due to mounting concerns from my midwives from my rising blood pressure and heart rate, I was induced at 39 weeks. My cervix was dilated with a foley balloon, and then my water was broken. After 10 hours of intense labor, I was hooked up to pitocin which caused back to back, incredibly painful contractions with no break in between. I quickly became overwhelmed and frightened, and I gave up on my natural birth plan and got an epidural. Several hours later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy my husband Josh and I named Henry. Despite the fact that I had a beautiful and healthy baby, I had this irrational feeling that I had somehow failed at his birth.
Fast forward 4 years to my second pregnancy. This second time around I had several goals so that I would get the birth experience that I wanted. The first was to go into labor on my own. The second was to have a natural birth with no interventions (I wanted to stay as far away from pitocin as I could), and the third goal was to have a water birth.
So to prepare for the natural birth, I tried to cement into my head that I can do anything for one minute. Meaning, that when those contractions became difficult, painful and/or overwhelming, I could focus on the fact that it would be over in one minute, and then I’d get a break. I would meditate on that subject, and go to sleep at night thinking about it, building my foundation for this natural birth that I so wanted.
With both of my pregnancies I had Gestational Diabetes, but the second time around I did not have the hypertension that I had in the first; my blood pressure stayed beautiful the whole time. The main difference between my pregnancies were the false labor (practice labor) contractions that I had. For the last several weeks of my pregnancy (and by “several weeks” I mean at least 5 weeks) I would have timeable contractions that would start, increase in intensity and then all of a sudden stop. Starting at 36 weeks we had several false alarms. Some that even sent us to the Midwife’s office to be assessed, but each time, it turned out to be braxton hicks contractions. The longer I stayed pregnant the more I felt like a ticking time bomb. I was more than ready for my baby to decide on its birthday. Having to relinquish the control and let the baby decide when it wanted to be born was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy, and I struggled with that aspect almost every day.
When I hit 40 weeks, I was a bit shocked. I assumed that since this was a second kiddo that I wouldn’t make it to my due date, but June 12th came and went. I started to feel like I’d be pregnant forever, and that I’d be enrolling my gigantic belly into kindergarten. The longer I stayed pregnant the more my brain started to assess every cramp, twinge and pain that I felt, which at 40+ weeks is about every 4.3 seconds. I felt like I was slowly losing my sanity while waiting for my baby to decide what day it wanted to be born. This kid wanted to stay put despite all the red raspberry leaf tea I was drinking, all the evening primrose oil I was taking, all the squats that I did, and the daily walks I took.
On Friday the 17th, at 5 days past my due date, I broke down and called my midwife’s office and asked if I could come in and talk about options. I was starting to get a bit nervous about going over my due date because of the Gestational Diabetes, as well as just wanting to be done being pregnant. I’m one of those people who don’t love being pregnant. I love the end result, but the actual process of growing a human is extremely hard on me. I had horrible morning sickness the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, and then had two trips to the hospital in my third trimester because of gallbladder issues, and let’s be honest, GD, although manageable, doesn’t make things easy either.
Anyway, on June 17th, I was really hoping that I could get my membranes stripped, and that it might propel me into labor. However, at the appointment one of my midwives informed me that she couldn’t reach my membranes to strip them, so unless I wanted to schedule an induction, I was just to wait. Josh and I had talked about having an induction, and we were considering it as an option. However, when the midwife brought it up and described how she would induce me, I firmly decided against it. Hearing the process she would take for the induction brought back all of the memories of my first birth. So, we went home a bit sad and discouraged, and resigned ourselves to wait.
I had a few contractions on Friday night after the appointment, some even timeable, but I didn’t think anything of them. As always, I was disappointed that I was able to go to sleep and that they seemed to have stopped. On Saturday, the day before I hit 41 weeks, I had some projects to do around the house (making Josh’s Father’s Day gift with Henry), and as the day wore on, I noticed that I had been having contractions for most of the morning. At some point I texted Josh to tell him that I was having them, but I didn’t know if it would lead to anything, so not to get excited. He got similar texts to that one for about the last 5 weeks, so he didn’t think much of that text either. My contractions were irregular in length, and really far apart – 40 minutes or so, and very mild, I could ignore them easily. To me they still felt like braxton hicks.
In the afternoon Josh and I took a 2+ mile walk in our neighborhood. It was great time to spend just the two of us. We talked about how we wanted labor to go, when we thought the baby would come, and how our first son Henry would do as an older sibling. We were so excited for this baby to join us! I was contracting all through the walk, but didn’t think anything of it, those contractions had become so routine.
We had a friend’s birthday party to attend that night, and I really wanted to go. So, Josh and I got ready and headed out of the house around 5:30. We dropped Henry off at the in-laws for him to spend the night (that turned out to be very serendipitous), and drove out to the party downtown.
All through the party I was having contractions, and after a while I was noticing that I needed to zone out while they were happening. They were still really far apart, and I could still talk through them if I needed to, but they were getting harder and harder to ignore. They still weren’t painful, but I was starting to have to focus on them and my breathing during them.
Josh and I had a really great time, and as we walked around downtown I had a lot of people comment on my belly. Around 9 pm, we stopped at a restaurant and got something to eat. While eating dinner, I noticed that my contractions were getting closer together, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable. At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and I had a strong contraction while in there. It’s at that point that I started to think these contractions might actually lead to something. A short time later I noticed another contraction that was strong as well. After 4 strong contractions (at 10:15ish) I told Josh that we probably needed to head home. So, we paid for our meal, packed up to-go boxes, and said goodbye to our friends. As we were walking to our car, I heard a guy yell out of his car window “Are you going to have that baby on Elm St?!” I yelled back “I wish!”
As we were walking to the car I told Josh about the contractions and that we should start timing them as we drive home. He seemed surprised at that statement, but pulled the app up on the phone to time them. As Josh had had a few beers that night, I ended up driving home while having contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. I supposed I should have mentioned the contractions earlier…It’s a good thing that my excitement trumped any kind of pain I was feeling. The first contraction we timed was at 10:45. As soon as we got home, we finished packing the go bag and got everything ready in case this was really it.
Once the bag was packed, everything seemed to get more intense fairly quickly. By midnight my contractions were about 5 minutes apart. They were starting to get strong, and to get through them, I was leaning over the yoga ball and having Josh do counter pressure on my lower back. It’s around this time that my back labor started. My pelvis and lower back were really starting to hurt, but leaning over the ball and firm pressure on my lower back really helped and kept them manageable.
We called our doula to let her know what was happening. She asked how I was handling everything, and I told her I was ok. She told us to keep her posted, but because I hadn’t had any bloody show, or lost my mucus plug she wasn’t convinced that this was it, especially with all of the false alarms we’d had. She told us to call her the moment I saw bloody show, or if I needed help and wanted her to come to the house. I was handling everything well at this point, so I just kept laboring.
Some more time passed and when my contractions hit around 4 minutes apart Josh and I called our midwife to let her know what was up, and she said to head to the hospital at any time. I wanted to wait as long as possible at home, so we just kept going. Me leaning over the yoga ball, breathing through contractions, Josh doing counter pressure on my back and The Office streaming from Netflix to distract us between contractions.
By 1:00, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, and I was really having to concentrate to get through them, and had started to vocalize during them. My mom joined us around this time and was helping to get things ready for us to head out. I kept waiting for my contractions to become as painful as what I remembered from my first pregnancy, but that never happened. And because I never reached that pain threshold, I was really unsure about when to head to the hospital. As long as I was in a position that took the pressure off of my lower back, I was good.
Still unsure that it was time, Josh, my mom and I left for the hospital at around 1:30. As we were getting ready to get in the car I just stood at the car door and had 2 contractions standing there because I didn’t want to sit down. I was having strong back pain, and I knew sitting would put an unwelcome amount of pressure on my pelvis and would be excruciating…I wasn’t wrong.
That 30-minute trip to the hospital was awful. I tried to lay on my sides as much as possible to take pressure off of my lower back and pelvis, but I could never find a comfortable position. I withered in pain during each contraction (2 minutes apart at this point) and the pain in my back was unbelievable. Josh was my rock though. He kept calling out landmarks as we were driving so that I’d know how close we were getting. As soon as we got to the hospital I was out of that car as fast as I could be.
While checking in I had several more contractions. I would sit in the chair to rest while talking and answering questions to the woman behind the counter, and during each contraction I would have to stand up and lean over the counter and moan, this didn’t seem to faze the woman at all. Once I had a bracelet on my wrist, I was in the waiting room and had to lean on chairs. My mom applied counter pressure on my back while Josh parked the car.
At this point in time my contractions were fierce and almost frightening in their intensity. I was finding it harder and harder to keep my composure. I kept thinking that I didn’t want to do this and that I wanted an epidural. I even voiced those thoughts to my mom who told me I could have whatever I wanted – sweet words that helped me calm down. Soon after those thoughts popped in my head, our doula arrived (Josh called her at some point to let her know we were going to the hospital) and was helping me with positions while we waited to be called back, and my thoughts of giving up on a natural birth went away.
I was the only one in the waiting room, and was taken to be assessed fairly quickly. They checked my blood pressure (which was up) and temp (which was normal). They then took me straight back to a room – although I hadn’t been admitted yet. It took some time to get to the room. I didn’t want to sit in a wheelchair, so I walked. And, during each contraction I would stop and lean on Josh in the hallway.
I had three nurses that seemed to be moving and buzzing all around me. Soon after getting into the room a nurse asked me to undress from the waist down so that she could check me. I dreaded getting on my back, but I managed it. I was so worried that they were going to tell me that I was only 3 cm and that I needed to go back home. However, I was relieved to find out that I was at 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced! No wonder I’d been having thoughts on giving up – I was in transition!! I remember looking at Josh and smiling, at that point we knew it wouldn’t be long before we got to meet our baby!
For the next little while, I was standing next to the bed, with my head on Josh’s chest, eyes closed, belly hanging down between us and moaning through contractions while a nurse hooked up the belts to my belly. I had another that was putting an IV in my arm for my GBS, and another that was entering information into the computer. All through this, my midwife still wasn’t at the hospital, and was on her way. In all of our haste, we forgot to call her. The nurses were texting her telling her to hurry.
I remember a nurse saying that my IV was placed at 2:45. We had planned all along for this to be a water birth, and I was excited for it! I was more than ready to get in that warm water. However, I was told that I couldn’t get in the birthing pool until my midwife got there because of paperwork. And, because my midwife wasn’t there, my doula couldn’t even fill up the tub! To cut the tension that information caused, Josh tried to distract everyone by taking a poll about the baby’s gender. Apparently, there had been a streak of girls born at the hospital and all the nurses thought the baby would be a girl.
All this time going by, I was still standing next to the bed with my head on Josh’s chest and eyes closed. Being in labor is the wildest feeling. I was conscious, and aware of everything that was going on, but I was also totally in my own head, my brain thinking and whirring the whole time but unable or unwilling to voice most of it. I was just concentrating on the contractions, trying to remain relaxed and loose, and to rest as much as possible between them.
The nurses must have pushed my IV fairly quickly, almost as soon as it was placed it was taken out. They left a heparin lock in, and taped a rubber glove over my arm so that I could get in the tub when the time came.
I’m fuzzy on the times, but I was told that my midwife got to the hospital around 3:10, and it’s at that point that I was finally admitted to the hospital. I found out later that she had her shirt on inside out because she was in such a hurry to get there. As soon as she came in she got the paperwork going for the birthing tub to be set up, and then she turned to me and wanted to check me. I was so over being checked, and I didn’t want to get on my back because of the back labor I was having. I didn’t want to move, I just wanted to stay exactly as I was, but I finally consented.
I waited until I had just finished a contraction, and got on the bed. She checked me fairly quickly and told me that I was now at 9 cm! But, she then kept me on my back to break my water. I was irritated at this, because she never asked if she could break it, and I didn’t know it was happening until it was too late to do anything about it. As my doula was setting up the tub, she didn’t know it was happening until after. And, then of course I had another contraction while on my back, which caused me to whither and cry out in pain, derailing me from my focus. Back labor is just awful….
In retrospect, I wish I had declined that final check, but labor is a funky thing. With both of my births I have found that when someone tells me to do something, I’ve found that I generally just do it without thinking, despite all the plans I had made previously.
I remember looking at the bed after my water had been broken and saw my mucus plug and bloody show on the pad. Who would have thought that at 9 cm dilated that those two things would still be firmly in place? My water was clear, so thankfully I’d be allowed to get in the pool. I was told that if my water had meconium in it I wouldn’t be allowed to labor or deliver in the pool. I had one contraction after my water was broken, and man they don’t lie when they say that contractions are more intense after your water breaks.
After all of that, the pool was finally ready and I was chomping at the bit to get in it. The warm water felt amazing, and really helped to take the edge off the contractions. Almost as soon as I was in the water, my body started to push on its own. I was kneeling in the pool, hanging over the edge and pushing, and pushing and pushing…..and getting nowhere. After a while, my midwife checked me while I was in the pool and discovered that I had an anterior lip of cervix caught between my pubic bone and the baby’s head which was now swollen. So, my midwife had me flip over on my back to push for a few contractions while she tried to move the lip of my cervix out of the way. #1. it hurt like hell to be on my back again, #2. it hurt even more when she was messing with my cervix. I believe I was screaming in pain.
My midwife couldn’t get my cervix to move out of the way while I was in the pool, so she then wanted me to get out of the pool and onto the bed. The move out of the pool took an immense amount of strength for me. I did not want to move. I was in pain, out of focus and just wanted to be left alone. I remember that I was thinking that I just wanted this to be over, and I wanted a break. I even had thoughts of wanting a C-section so I could be done. I never voiced those thoughts, and eventually I did make it onto the bed. I believe Josh and the nurses had to almost physically haul me out of the tub.
And, once again I was put on my back while my midwife tried to move my cervix out of the way. It was more painful than it sounds. I remember yelling quite fiercely while she was moving it, and begging for her to stop. She kept telling me that I wouldn’t like her during this, but I would like her afterward, and she was right. Eventually she got the lip out of the way. She had me then get on my knees and push on the bed for two contractions, to get the baby’s head below the lip. That time it worked, and I could get back in the pool. However, I didn’t want to move. I remember telling everyone to leave me alone, that I just wanted to relax and have some downtime. My contractions had spaced out and weren’t as hard as the transition contractions, and I just breathed through them without bearing down, giving myself a little rest. I was tired, and my energy was draining, and I really just wanted a nap. My doula was strongly encouraging me to get back in the water before I had the baby on the bed, and eventually I summoned the strength to move again.
As soon as I started pushing in the pool, I could feel the baby moving down. And, fairly soon the head was right there, ready to come out. That feeling, freaked me the hell out. It burned oh so badly. I felt like I was stretched to the max and was about to tear from stem to stern. But, Josh, my mom, my midwife and doula helped me get refocused. Seriously, Josh was amazing the whole time. He really was my rock and kept me focused and determined. He was repeating the mantra I’d been saying to myself my whole pregnancy: I can do anything for one minute. That helped snap me out of my freakout. I also remember my midwife telling me that I was fine, and that I wasn’t going to tear apart, which was reassuring. They then helped me widen my knees and when I was pushing I would sit back, almost in a child’s pose, or as close to child’s pose as a pregnant, laboring woman can get. Seriously, my face was in the water as I was pushing. After a few more times pushing like that, and out the baby came. I believe the baby came out in one push. One of the nurses later told me that the baby ended up doing a flip in the water as he came out.
The next thing I heard was Josh announcing that the baby was a boy! It took some fancy maneuvering since he came out so fast behind me, but I was able to stand up, step over the cord, sit back down in the water and then he was handed to me. For the next while I was holding our son to my belly (the cord was too short to reach to my chest) skin to skin in the water and just marveling him. I just kept thinking how beautiful he was. He was squishy and plump and perfect in every way. He cried a few times, and then was just alert and calm, snuggling with me. Josh was leaning over the pool and I could hear in his voice that he was tearing up. It was a very beautiful moment.
Soon enough the cord stopped pulsating and Josh cut the cord. Not long after, I handed Josh the baby to do skin to skin with while I got out of the tub. I got up on the bed and I was covered with warm blankets, and then the baby was handed back to me. He nestled right on my chest, and was just beautiful. It’s at that point that we decided to name him Benjamin.
I definitely remember still having contractions after Ben was born, which I still had to breathe through, but I didn’t care about them. Instead, I was irritated at the umbilical cord, because it just kept seeming to get in the way and rub places that it did not feel good to rub against. Thankfully, not long after getting up on the bed I delivered the placenta, which didn’t hurt at all. I had a tear (no idea on the degree, I never asked), which required stitches (I have no idea how many). My midwife gave me a few shots to numb the area, which stung, and then I could feel her stitching me up, feel the thread pulling through skin, but oddly it didn’t hurt. All while that was happening the nurses were assessing Ben on my chest. Ben’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9.
We got over an hour of skin to skin time before Ben was taken to be weighed. It seemed no one in the room could agree on how much they thought he’d weigh. The nurses all suspected that he’d be around 7 lbs, but we were all surprised when he was 8 lbs, 6 oz. He was 20.5 inches long, with a head circumference of 14 inches.
After everything was all said and done, and we had been moved from Labor and Delivery to the Mother/Baby suite, things settled down and I was finally able to really connect with my son. I’ve read account after account of women getting that natural oxytocin rush immediately after delivery, but that overwhelming feeling of love, comfort and peace didn’t come to me until about 3+ hours after Ben was born. I believe because those first two hours are so busy, with so many people working on you and assessing the baby, even while you’re holding him, that it’s hard to just sit and relax and bond. But, once it was just me and my husband alone with Benjamin, that overwhelming feeling of love started to flow. Even now, over 6 months later, I still get that feeling whenever I look at my boys.
Benjamin was born at 4:23 in the morning on June 19, 2016 – Father’s Day. I think that he was the best Father’s Day gift that we could have asked for!
Story and photographs submitted by Amanda C.