First of all, I’m writing this on his second birthday. His birth is rather fresh in my memory even though so much time has passed. At about six AM on New Year’s Day, 2014, I started having mild contractions five to ten minutes apart. He was due on December 31, so it was exciting to think this might be the day!
I got up without waking my husband and son, and started milling around doing last minute things and getting ready for the day. I had been having a lot of prodromal labor with this baby for weeks, just like I had with my first. My body likes to practice a lot before it does the real thing. I timed my contractions for an hour or so and they were steady and ‘laborish’ – tightening of my whole abdominal region instead of just a portion, spreading to my lower back, uncomfortable, and consistently stayed at about five to six minutes apart.
I called my midwife and told her everything, as well as my mother, husband, and son, who were now up and about. My labor with my first had only been five hours long, start to finish, but for some reason my spirit had been gearing up to spend more time than that in labor this second go around.
Turns out I was right. I had already had my midwife Katrina strip my membranes two different times in the last week, because we had time constraints concerning when my husband had to return to work in North Dakota. I desperately wanted him to be there for the birth of his second child, especially since he wasn’t able to be there for the first and missed out on having some immediate kangaroo care. I have no doubt in my mind that the membrane stripping sped up the start of my labor, but only by about 6 hours, and yet made my actual labor longer. My midwife warned us of this possibility and that’s exactly what happened to me.
The setting was pretty and calm with the Christmas tree still up, lights dim, and birthing pool being filled. I spent the first five to six hours progressing from one centimeter to only about 4 centimeters. I could talk between contractions and joke around a bit. It was so nice to labor at home. But, when Katrina checked me and told me I had only progressed to a four or five, my heart dropped. With Hudson, my first, I had progressed to eight centimeters within four hours, and had him out and in my arms after about three pushes at hour five. So, Katrina did another membrane sweep. This time it hurt and was very uncomfortable. Immediately afterwards, my labor became harder and quite intense. My contractions were now about two to three minutes apart, and I had to breathe and concentrate through them.
My mom was upstairs with Hudson the whole time, which was nice. My doula, Tessa, Katrina, and my husband, Beau, were all downstairs by my side. Hanging onto Beau’s neck and swinging my hips felt good. I was in and out of the birthing pool, trying to get things progressing, and going to the bathroom as well. Pool, bathroom break, kneeling beside the couch, then back to pool…
As I recall, it went on like this for three to four hours. At hour 11, I felt short of breath and panicky. My doula had been using essential oils on me the entire time, and it was helpful. She used some DoTerra ‘Breathe’ on me when I said, “I feel like I can’t catch my breath!” It helped immediately, though my confidence in myself was waning.
Wave after wave of overwhelming, squeezing sensations and deep pain came over me. It seemed like I had no break in-between, and I felt so tired. I was always thinking about how much the next contraction was going to hurt and overwhelm me. This was a mistake. I should have just been in the moment, taking the small breaks as they came, and riding along with the waves of intensity, instead of trying to escape them. I wanted to control my situation, and, as any woman who has been in natural labor knows, you cannot control labor. You must give into it and roll along with it. If you don’t, fear can take over and can cause it to feel more painful.
I got a bit nauseous at this point as well. Hot, cold, continual contractions, nausea…all good signs of transition, and yet, I still felt like I wasn’t going to be able to ‘do this’ – which actually is another sign of labor being almost over.
I felt like I wanted to sleep. I got back in the pool and laid my head down on the side, dreading each contraction. They had slowed down, just slightly, but we’re still very intense. I found myself falling asleep for the 30 to 60 seconds in-between them. Somehow, I felt like this wasn’t good, like it was a sign my labor was slowing and stalling. My body, though, obviously needed rest and I couldn’t help it. Beau had gone upstairs, because at this point I didn’t want him touching me, and my mom had come to relieve him. Her presence was sweet and reassuring, and much needed. Beau had a done a wonderful, superb job, but I was in another world and needed female presence and support.
After about 11 and half hours I called out in desperation to God. I cried aloud and unashamed, “Lord I need your help. I don’t feel like I can do this anymore and so, You are going to have to take over. You have to carry me now. I just don’t have it in me!” I had it set in my mind after calling out that I was going to need to endure at least three to four more hours of labor.
Katrina asked me if I wanted to walk up and down the stairs, or go to the bathroom. In my mind I said, Are you freaking kidding me!?! Heck no! I wasn’t about to walk any stairs. I could barely stay awake and standing up made my contractions unbearable. She then, intuitively, asked me to try to stay on my left knee, but lift up my right leg into a squatting position. I had forgotten that this was the same position in which I had pushed Hudson out.
Maybe she remembered. Maybe she just listened to the Lord, but immediately after I brought my leg up I had a very strong, yet relieving contraction. It made me want to push, and that feeling gave me hope! Pushing is the best part, in my opinion: a light at the end of the tunnel. I love my midwife; she’s an angel from God in so many ways.
The next contraction came quickly and I felt a pop and gush. My water broke and this baby was coming! I could feel him slipping quickly down with each moment and told Tessa to get Beau, and quickly. She headed upstairs and told Beau to come. I yelled after her, “Baby’s coming out now! Tell him to come down right now!”
Beau flew down the stairs and knelt down beside the pool. Seconds later, the head was out. I instinctively cradled it and felt a glorious crown of thick, long, soft baby hair. Katrina made sure the cord wasn’t wrapped around his neck and asked me if I was having another contraction. On the next one, the rest of his body slipped out into my arms and I laid back in the pool with him on my chest. Only three to four pushes, and he was here. I couldn’t believe it, as I had just been preparing myself for hours more of labor.
My first thought? He’s so tiny!
My first baby was 7lbs14oz, and this little guy was 6lbs14oz. He came to me at 6:14pm, as well. That made it easy to remember! His eyes were deep and dark and open, and he cried loud and true moments after I put him on my chest.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back on the birthing video I found that I kept saying, over and over, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”. Then, I told my wee one, again and again, “You did so good, baby. You did so good…” All of this was in a high-pitched, euphoric voice. This is just one of the plethora of reasons I love giving birth without drugs. You are totally aware of every emotion and every feeling, and your body produces such a high after the birth – a feeling of I could climb Mount Everest with my baby in hand!
We were going to name him either Noah, or Rueger. Noah just wasn’t right. It seemed to calm and laid-back. He was fiercely strong and his little spirit was a force, a firecracker of a baby. He rolled within the first hour of his life when the midwife was checking him over! Rueger it was! The name as a number of meanings, but one of them was peaceful warrior and we liked that.
After 10 to 15 minutes, I had another contraction and my placenta came easily. By the way, I had pooped a tiny bit in the water, which I didn’t with my first, but it wasn’t a big deal, and I didn’t even know it until later. I know it a common fear, especially when giving birth in the water, but 99% of the time it’s no big deal, and it didn’t phase my midwife one iota.
Rueger went into daddy’s bare arms and chest, and settled right away. My desire and hope was complete: seeing this wee babe in his daddy’s arms with that look on his face of complete awe and instant love. Skin to skin is so wonderful.
I got up out of the water and made my way, with mom and Katrina on each side, to the bathroom to take a shower. By then the adrenaline shakes had come, and the warm water was nice rolling over my body. I crawled into my own bed, warm and snug, and held my new little monkey. He looked like a little gnome, like a little old Inuit man with a thick, black head of inch-long hair. He was beautiful. He latched on right away and started to explore what would become his favorite comfort and pastime for the next 2 years…nursing!
It had been a harder labor than my first – longer, more intense, more soul searching, more relying on God for strength, wisdom, perseverance, and peace. It had made me an even stronger woman, a force to be reckoned with. And yet, it had humbled me. It had knocked me back into my Father’s arms to completely realize, in mind, body, and spirit, what my human limits were, and just how vast and never-ending His strength and love truly are.