Ah labor. I don't know why I thought it would be remotely similar to the first time. I was anticipating some differences (and praying to God it would be shorter this time), but the ONLY similarities between my daughters births were that a baby exited my womb via my vagina.
My first born daughter was 10 days early and made me work hard for nearly 24 hours to get her out. My second daughter, much like her father was in utero, did not seem to be in a hurry to leave her cocoon of serenity. I was not prepared for this. Since I had the old adage "first babies are typically late, and second ones come a little sooner" floating in my head, and since my first baby was already early, I was ready for showtime at 38 weeks. Both my doctor and my doula booked their vacations for just a couple days before my due date because we were ALL expecting this wee gal to be early. We were wrong.
In addition to superstition, gut feelings, and anecdotal evidence fueling our confidence in an early delivery I was 3 cm at 38 weeks. Then 4 cm at 39. I kept having weak sporadic contractions. And this girl was LOW. My waddle turned into some strange combination of limping and a slow motion gallop. Someone at the grocery store told me I looked "like I had a hitch in my giddy up." Yes sir that would be the human inside me bruising my pubic bones. It makes you walk weird. At this point I'm kind of in a constant state of freaking out. Every tiny sensation in my midsection starts my heart racing in anticipation. I have cleaned and rearranged all that is possible in my house. And I'm also freaking out because I am literally days away from neither having my doctor nor my doula (who also happens to be my best friend) present for this birth. I didn't feel like I couldn't have the baby without them, but I really really really didn't want to. So we went into Let's Try To Start Meg's Labor mode. I did everything. I'm not even going to make a list for you. And I kept dialating. Almost to 5 cms with NO LABOR. Dirty tricks. Its also frustrating to be in a constant state of is my labor starting...now? Because people almost look disappointed to see you.
We get to the night before my doula bestie is leaving the country. She comes over and spends some time with us. She keeps telling me "you look labory". I felt labory. After several hours we have a good cry and say our goodbyes. I was devastated. Not just because I wanted her there holding my hand and telling me I'm awesome when my contractions are rocking my world, but because she was going to be gone a month and wouldn't get to meet this girl for a whole month. I go through the same process with my doctor. I see her the day before she leaves. She looks at me very intently and says "I just have this feeling I'm going to see you tonight!" Wrong again.
I sort of felt left out at sea. (ok thats a bit dramatic, but I have a flair for drama and I'm pregnant here so its dialed up a few notches.) I love and trust all the doctors in my practice to respect my wishes and get me and my baby through safely. I love and trust my amazing supportive husband who is a pro at this point helping me through the birth process. But when you spend 9 months preparing and dreaming with certain people only for them to not make it to show time, its discouraging.
then comes my due date. At this point I feel like a handicapped hippopotamus. I want my labor to start on its own. I'm willing to wait it out, but its hard to imagine functioning for another possible 2 weeks. If you've never had to take care of a rambunctious 2 yr old while you're 5 cms dialated let me assure you, it is not pleasant. I had been toying with the idea of having my water broken. I was nervous about it. I did not want to be put on the clock and start an intervention landslide that ends in an unnecessary c section just because I was impatient. I knew I could birth this baby without intervention, and that was my desire. I really wrestled with this decision. I talked with many midwife, OB and doula pals and verbally processed at my husband to the point of his utter insanity. In the end, we did decide to get my water broken.
It was surreal to walk into the hospital NOT already in active labor. And in the middle of the day. I begin to feel a little trapped thinking of being in a hospital room for hours upon hours. However the nurses taking care of us were super laid back and friendly so as long as I have this baby by shift change I wont be too annoyed. Checking in goes super fast. It was only minutes of waiting before the doctor came in to break my water.
And then, it began.
Like, instantly. Like the doctor closed the door, I got out of bed to look out the window and BOOM. A contraction. A legit stop me in my tracks contraction. My husband starts timing them. The next one in 3 mins later. Then 2 mins. And that's the longest breaks I got. I immediately have to mentally shift my focus. This race is going at a much different pace that anticipated. I hop in the shower and hold blasting hot water right over my belly. It is a relief and helps relax me but I'm super uncomfortable sitting on the hard shower seat and sorta feel like I need to grow a third arm to brace myself. After the fact a friend mentioned taking the yoga ball into the shower which I did not even think about. Learn from my mistakes: take the yoga ball in the shower. I decide to get out. Its too fatiguing to hold myself up with one arm and hold the shower head with the other and remember to breathe and junk. Like my first labor my contractions stay under my belly. So I decide the best plan of action is to lay on my side and stretch my body out as much as possible. This was a good decision and a comfortable labor position for me. I'm taking the time to say this because I feel like so many natural birthers are all like "stay out of the bed! The hospital bed is like giving in to The Man!" Listen, if you wanna lay in the hospital bed while you labor- Do It.
I feel like mere minutes pass and I start puking. I'm unable to hold my head up. I'm gripping the bed rail as my contractions double and triple upon each other and my body feels like its rising in the air with the pain. I have a thought: am I in transition? I just got started! I have a second thought: I'm not giving the birth photographer very good shots of how awesome I'm laboring right now. Yes, even in the midst of the hardest work I've ever done I managed to be vain.
Apparently thoughts are all I have in the form of communication. I am nearly silent this whole time. And yet my husband is responding to my needs as I think them. Because he is awesome and knows me so well. He picks up on the fact that I seem transitiony and we have a non verbal conversation where he asks if I want the nurse to check my progress and I say yes.
The nurse comes in. "You're almost at 8 centimeters! Great job!"
8?! I look at the clock, not much time has passed. Just over an hour. Hopefully that means I don't have 8 more hours of this cause SHIT this is hard. Soon after the nurse leaves I think "man I REALLY want to poop." This is not surprising. It had been a while since that blessed event had occurred. TMI? You are reading a birth story you know... My contractions are so close together I don't think I can manage walking to the bathroom. But I have GOT to poop. At this point whatever modesty and propriety I have left are out the window. Imma just poop right here in bed and the nurse can take care of it. Lord knows they've done it before. So I attempt. Upon attempting I realize- oh. That's a baby coming out.
Once again Justin reads my mind or hears me start pushing and gets the nurse again. It has been 20 mins since the last time she was in the room. She confirms it is indeed Go Time, which is good because I can not stop pushing. This is not like my last labor. I feel like my body is expelling this kid outside of my control. Thankfully the Doctor is right behind her and nearly as soon as everyone is suited up out comes Second Daughter. I think I pushed twice. Labor time: 2 hrs, 15 mins.
And the initial wave of emotion was actually laughter and disbelief. We just GOT here! I'm not exhausted! The sun in shining! Thank God that's over.
Everyone leaves. The room is peaceful. The light is beautiful. My daughter nurses. My husband calls family to report the good news. I feel wide awake and exhilarated. I know I my energy will tank and I will feel the pain soon but the first moments after labor are incredible. I may never jump out of a plane or scale a mountain but having babies fulfills my need for adrenaline. I'm so thankful for the Lord's goodness to grow and bring life through my body. It is a humbling miraculous thing. I'm thankful for the wonderful care I received from my husband and the nurses and doctor who gave me the supportive space I needed to give birth. I'm thankful for two healthy daughters. I'm thankful for how having children reminds me of my own smallness and dependence on my good God, the giver of life.
Photos by Ashley Revell