My daughter was born eight days early so we weren’t taking any chances with my son. Since Thanksgiving was eight days before my due date, we were ready two weeks early. Thanksgiving came and went, a week passed, my due date passed – I was so ready to meet my son! I tried pumping, copious amounts of pineapple, bouncing on the yoga ball and everything else I could try to kick start labor but for days nothing worked.
When I finally got into labor the numbers were the same as with my daughter: 18 hours after the water broke before I stayed in active labor, three hours of active labor, then super fast pushing. With her I pushed for 20 minutes and with him they said it was barely 5!!! But that’s about all that was the same between my two births.
That and the fact that I had an amazing group of people present to help me. In addition to my husband, my daughter, and my mother, I had the support of an amazing midwife named Mary, a calming force in my doula Megan, a birth assistant named Cassie who was on top of everything the entire time, and my dear friend Jen to capture the memories for us to print.
The 18 hours that I labored with my son were much harder then those I labored with my daughter. With her it was a lot of waiting for something to happen but with him contractions would come on fast and then disappear entirely. It was very frustrating. Suddenly I was once again pumping, bouncing on the yoga ball, trying anything I could to make progress. Since babies are far more efficient then pumps, I even nursed my daughter on and off throughout the evening.
I labored from afternoon throughout the night and into the morning and laboring through the night is no picnic. When I labored all day long with my daughter, time passed at a normal pace. This time I could swear time was standing still. After 12 hours of working and trying so hard to get into active labor I was exhausted, my husband was exhausted, and my birth team was exhausted. We all decided to rest for a few hours.
The biggest difference between the two experiences was the feel of the contractions. With my daughter I felt the early contractions across my midsection and the active contractions across my whole body. With my son I felt the early contractions low down at the bottom of my belly and they stayed there even as they grew in intensity. At the time I didn’t realize that contractions can present so differently. I thought the contractions needed to progress to the point that I would feel them across my entire body. As the hours passed and that feeling never came, a little part of me started to have concerns.
At 2am the night of my first labor I was pushing, moments away from meeting my daughter. At 2am the night of my second labor I was nodding off between sporadic contractions, waking each time to my quiet, peaceful house where my loved ones and supportive crew were spread across the floor in front of me. It was serene yet surreal. And then finally the contractions were regular, I was dilated, I was in active labor! and it was time to move to the birthing tub.
I can’t believe I spent three hours in active labor. Of course it was painful and I wanted it to be over and yet it didn’t feel like three whole hours. I remember the sense of panic when I was approaching transition with my daughter. The contractions were so close together that I didn’t have time together strength enough to speak before the next one came. This time I could talk. And whereas last time my inner monologue was a panic that I couldn’t do it, they had to do something, I wasn’t strong enough, this time I was able to speak between contractions and share my panic.
The pain in the pit of my midsection became harder and harder to bear but it never engulfed my midsection. I thought the contractions had to change, that I had to loose the ability to speak between contractions, before I would even be close to the end of my labor. I was getting exhausted. I was having trouble holding myself above the water and just wanted to sink down and rest. I kept asking them to take out a little more water, and a little more, and a little more until I was able to come as close to laying down as possible in that space. I started to wonder how much worse the pain was going to get before the contractions changed. I thought that I was facing hours and hours of pain and work still to be done.
I started to tear up. Then I started to cry. I mean ugly cry. Megan, my doula, said this was good. She and my midwife, Mary, said that when it feels like you can’t go on, that means you are just minutes away. With nearly all of my remaining energy I cried “But you can’t know that!” because I truly believed I still had hours to go and I was running out of steam.
Thank goodness they were right and I was wrong.
Just a few minutes later it was time to push. When I realized that I was almost there, well I suppose you could say that I got a rush of energy and raced to the finish line (apparently that’s what it seemed like to everyone else) but really I just felt like I needed to hurry up and push him out before I passed out.
My births started with similarities and ended with them as well. When my daughter emerged we found that she had her hand against her head and her umbilical cord wrapped four times around, holding her arm to her neck. The midwife spun my daughter round, still under water, and then everything was fine. My son’s umbilical cord was also wrapped around his neck but only once which is lucky since his hand was not in place to prevent the cord from pulling too tight against his neck. He had a little trouble acclimating to the outside. He was breathing but only making small little noises instead of crying, as if he just wanted to go back to sleep. Mary aspirated him and used a small bag to force air in for him and after a few seconds he finally started crying like a baby, as they say.
It was a long night. An exhausting, exhilarating, emotional, long night and I wouldn’t change one minute.
Photo credit: Jen Pritchett Photography