Giving birth is an overwhelming experience for anyone, giving birth twice in two years is a little insane. That being said, I am going to do my best to describe it here and tell you all about our newest family member’s arrival.
Before I get into the details, I can sum up the experience in one word: humbling. Almost every assumption I made regarding this pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience turned out to be wrong and it has been a good reminder that each birth and each child is truly unique.
Our little boy’s birth story really begins in the week leading up to his actual arrival. As with my last pregnancy, I experienced Symphasis Pubic Dysfuction (SPD) from about 28 weeks on. However, after this baby engaged at 36 weeks it became increasingly painful and harder to manage and by the time I reached my due date I was in so much pain that I was having trouble caring for my daughter, who was just 15 months old at the time. So, my mom decided to come down ahead of the birth to stay. In that next week I experienced almost non-stop prodromal labor. Each night around 4am I would wake up having contractions, they would be consistent, time-able and fairly strong, but they wouldn’t progress and eventually, after many hours, they would stop. Over the course of the week I did everything I could to try and encourage the contractions to either progress or stop; walking, positioning exercises, relaxation, baths, chiropractic… you name it.
Around 4am on Friday March 9th I woke up with contractions, as I had so many times before. However, these felt a little more painful and “real” than the others I had been having. That being said, I was not about to get my hopes up. They were about 15 minutes apart so I just stayed in bed and tried to sleep in between them. Around 6am my daughter woke up and wanted to nurse and as soon as she did the contractions got significantly closer together and stronger, requiring breathing and focus. We had planned a homebirth, so I texted the midwife to let her know what was going on and she said she would come over around 9am to check on me before going to do her other prenatal appointments. I got up and went downstairs to do our normal morning routine, stopping every 4-5 minutes to have a contraction but still somewhat in denial that I was actually in labor. Around 8am I started feeling agitated by the noise and conversation around me so I went back up to my bedroom to be alone. I listened to music, paced and sat on my exercise ball. A little after 9 the midwife arrived to check me. I was still feeling fairly jovial and relaxed in between contractions, I was fully effaced and the baby was engaged at a 0 station but I was only about 3cm dilated. Knowing my body and how my last birth went, I knew that this was a good sign… it took my daughter a long time to engage, but once she did things moved quickly. However, the midwife told us to expect things to slow down a little during the day, to try to go about our normal routine, maybe go out and get lunch and expect to have a baby later that night. I knew that that was sound advice, but I reminded her of my history and she agreed that she would stay nearby and check in again throughout the day. She left just before 10am and my husband and I decided to get ready for the day and go out for some lunch. I brushed my teeth and put on some makeup, but that was all I managed to get done before I felt the contractions shift. All of a sudden that relaxed, jovial feeling left me and I just had the overwhelming need to rest in between the contractions which had become much stronger and more painful. There was no way I was making it out of the house for lunch. I texted the midwife around 11 to tell her that my last few contractions were much stronger and closer together. She tried to encourage me to go for a walk, to which I responded “i haven’t even been able to make it downstairs yet, so I’m not sure how I’m going to go for a walk”. She said, to try just walking up and down the driveway but I was still just wearing my bra and was not about to go outside. I told my husband that he needed to call her and make her come back, I was done texting and was going to get in the shower. In the meantime, we sent my mom and my daughter to go pick up my lunch. I enjoyed being in the shower, I listened to my birth playlist and worked through the contractions but then I started feeling shaky and nauseous and I began to panic. I knew that those were potential signs of transition and I was alone in the house with my husband, the birth tub wasn’t filled and I did not feel ready. My husband encouraged me to come downstairs so that he could start filling up the tub while helping me work through the contractions as we waited for the midwife. The next hour and a half were a bit of a chaotic blur, the midwife arrived around noon and checked again and I was already at 6cm. She got to work helping my husband with the tub. Unfortunately, this left me working through contractions on the couch by myself until the midwifery assistants arrived. At one point, I told my mom that if my doula didn’t make it in time I would need her to try and take some pictures. My mom knew how important having pictures was to me and when my doula arrived around 1pm (she was coming in from out of town) my mom literally started to cry out of relief. Finally, around 1:30pm everyone had arrived, the tub was filled up and I was able to get in. The birth pool was so comforting when I was in labor with my daughter, I was looking forward to that relief again. There was about 30 mins to an hour where I enjoyed being in the tub, I was happy to be surrounded by my birth team and I felt ready to have this baby! However, when I really fully hit transition all of that changed.
The contractions were painful and overwhelming, I had a lot of trouble relaxing, I didn’t feel like I had a good coping routine to fall back on and negative thoughts started to creep in. I desperately wanted to escape the contractions, I wanted to be done, but I was afraid of still having to push because, with my daughter’s birth, pushing was fast and overwhelming and led to a tear. I also was not really trying to cope the way I needed to because I thought that it would all be over soon since transition went very quickly with my first birth.
However, with my mind actively fighting my body I stayed stuck at 8cm for quite a while. Adding to my discomfort was the fact that I felt like I needed to push even though my body wasn’t ready. After trying many positions, fighting through nausea and vomiting and giving into the pity party going on in my mind something in my brain clicked and I knew that I needed to stop giving in to the pain and the fear and work to get this baby born.
With that, I stood up out of the tub, got on the ground and assumed an exaggerated knee-chest position with my head on the floor and my butt in the air. This helped get some of the pressure off my cervix and reduced my urge to push. We happened to have an air mattress blown up downstairs that my husband had moved to during my nightly 4am contractions and my team got me onto that and comfortable with pillows and blankets. Then, one of the midwifery assistants, who I am sure is an actual angel, but who is also a massage therapist, started massaging my back and doing sacral release work on my muscles and I just went into the zone. I was finally able to let go and relax. My husband says that it was surreal because I went from being very vocal to being completely silent and focused.
After a while of this I suddenly just felt the baby move down and I said, “he’s coming”. I pushed maybe twice and he was born. It was 4:30 pm, my mom and my daughter had just come in from playing outside, and it was a beautiful, albeit chilly, sunny day. He was born alert and healthy and after a few moments let out a great little cry.
One of my main motivations for having a home birth was to have an improved postpartum experience. Our birth team was wonderful in allowing me time to hold our son for as long as I wanted after he was born, they didn’t rush us to cut the cord, and I was able to eat and drink and recover from the post-birth adrenaline shakes before they evaluated my need for stitches. I only ended up needing about two stitches and it was a much quicker and more comfortable experience than the repair following my first delivery.
By 9pm everyone had headed home and I was resting comfortably on the couch with my new son in my arms, talking and laughing with my husband and mother as my daughter slept upstairs in her crib. It was surreal how normal it all felt.
In the days following the birth I felt badly that I had let myself get overwhelmed by negative thoughts during that particularly hard portion of the labor. I felt like I should have coped better, done better, or prepared better but after working through those feelings I realized that birth is hard… it is probably the hardest physical experience many people will ever go through, and it isn’t a lack of fear or fatigue or frustration that defines strength or success at a time like that it is the ability to work through it, overcome it, and see the task through with determination.
Giving birth relatively quickly, in the middle of the day, on an air mattress, in my kitchen was certainly in stark contrast to the peaceful, 27 hr long, middle of the night, hospital water birth that I had had just 15 months earlier, but it was the experience I needed. It allowed me to stay with my daughter and make her transition more gentle, it allowed me to have the more peaceful early postpartum experience I was hoping for, and it allowed our son to come into the world surrounded by family and love in the home he will grow up in and for that I am thankful.