I have been meaning to write this before I forgot any of it. May be too late for that! We'll see how this goes.
At 2:30 am on November 8, 2009 I woke to find that I was having some uncomfortable cramping. It wasn't unbearable so I decided to try to stay still as long as possible and just relax. I was able to relax enough to actually sleep in between the contractions, which only came every 30 minutes or so. I did wake up and look at the clock every time I felt them, just to be sure of the timing. Part of my reasoning to stay in bed was that my previous experience told me that if I moved about, it would only serve to speed up the labor. Usually that is the goal but Andrew and I had talked the week before about how nice it would be to have this baby during the day time so I wanted to try to wait as long as possible before waking Andrew up. These were definitely manageable on my own, so I just rested.
At 7:00 am, I was uncomfortable to get up and get into the bathtub. By this point the contractions were still light enough for me to move about on my own. I got out after a brief time and woke Andrew up to tell him that I might be in labor (he didn't believe me at first).
He got Abigail up and fed her breakfast and got her dressed. He then called his dad, who was at church (I think), to see if they could take Abigail. By this point I was laboring some downstairs. Abigail would get concerned when the contractions came and I wouldn't (couldn't) respond to her.
Around 9 am (again, I think) Andrew took Abigail over to his parents house. When I was having a contraction, the thought that kept going through my mind was "we need to get to the hospital . . . now!" and then when they would let up I would think "I wonder if I'm really actually in labor". Ha! So funny!
Andrew got home and started seriously timing contractions which were every 5 or 6 minutes apart. This wasn't serious so we labored at home for a while. The real telling thing was that they were getting much more intense than they had during the early morning hours.
After calling the birth center and midwives, we decided to head to Dayton to the birth center around 10 am. We also found out over the phone that they were all full. I wasn't really nervous about this since I would still have my midwife and Andrew with me, if I had to go to a regular L&D room.
The car ride was pretty uncomfortable. Andrew was trying to be gentle and drive carefully, so much so, that at one point he got honked at by some guy. It wasn't very nice! :) I think I had 6 or 7 contraction in the car.
We got to the hospital/birth center and parked in the garage. I decided to walk in with Andrew instead of being dropped off so that the walking could encourage labor and dilation. A nice lady (looked like a nurse) stopped us on the way in to ask if I was okay. I told her that I was in labor but that's why I was here! :) She said that I should have gotten a wheel chair to be more comfortable. I didn't really feel like explaining that I wanted to walk so I just said that it was okay and continued on inside.
(This was a prime example of how most of the public is uneducated about what activities truly help a mother in labor (walking, movement, focus, relaxation) and what activities slow down labor (laying in bed - especially on the back).
We got to the birth center and they were still in the process of getting the rooms cleared out and ready for me and another lady in labor. We were told that we could either go to triage (I'm not even sure what that means) in the regular L&D ward or labor in the waiting room of the birth center. We chose the birth center to be closer to the midwives and natural birth supportive nurses. I could tell the baby wasn't coming in the immediate future.
I know it sounds like laboring in the waiting room would be unpleasant. If this had been my first baby, I'm sure I would have been much more uptight about it. However, I knew what to expect and what I needed to do to get through each contraction. I labored in the waiting room, the L&D bathroom (just the general bathroom), and hallway for several hours, just taking it one contraction at a time and relaxing through those. Andrew was a big support and I leaned on him during most contractions which really helped me to relax.
During this labor I felt dizzy and weak after each contraction, which I didn't remember feeling with my first, so I liked to have Andrew close by. I never did pass out or anything. I just had that feeling quite often. The midwife told me later that this feeling is quite normal during an un-medicated birth.
Around 1:00 pm, I was able to get into a room. The nurse had a difficult time getting an IV in my hand. She eventually had a regular L&D nurse to do it. I had to have a hep locked IV because I tested positive for Group B Strep (again).
I got into the labor tub as soon as it was offered to me. It felt good, although I could have used hotter water (as always). After laboring in there for a bit, things started to get serious and I didn't even feel like responding to people in between contractions. The nurse picked up on this change of attitude (a very good sign that transition is happening) and called the midwife to check me. I was fully dilated!
I couldn't believe it. With Abigail my labor stalled out between 8 and 10 and took hours. With Elsie I went from an 8 to 10 in a matter of minutes. When the midwife told me that I was at an 8 and they started to get things prepared, I kept thinking that they didn't know it was still going to take hours. However, I was wrong.
Pretty quickly after that I felt the urge to push. This isn't just an urge to push, it is a feeling that can't be stopped. There is no way I could have stopped myself from pushing. The pain was very intense by this point so I had to really focus to make myself stop pushing in between contractions (because I wanted the baby out). I was able to rest between contractions this time. I wasn't with Abigail and just kept pushing even when there wasn't a contraction.
I guess at some point I said "I can't do this anymore" and "get her out" but I don't really remember that. I have heard that most women having a natural birth go through that breaking point where they just give up. It is usually soon after that the baby is born! :)
I was still in the tub at this point so the midwife and nurse began prepping for a water birth. It wasn't necessarily my plan going in to have a water birth but I'm so glad I was able to do so. Andrew sat on the edge of the tub and I leaned back against him for the pushing part.
The exit part of the birth is by far the most painful, at least in my experience. I had a "ring of fire" experience that definitely hit a 10 on the pain scale. I was making quite a bit of noise at this point, more growling (I'll explain more later) and could feel my throat getting scratched. It is so weird what you notice in moments like these. I could reach down and feel her head and then all of a sudden the head was out.
With Abigail, I pushed her out in one single motion. By that I mean her head came out and the rest of her slipped out too. With Elsie, I pushed her head out and then the midwife said, you need to push her shoulders out. It took two contractions (I think) to get her shoulders out and then she was laid up on my chest. Her head came out at 2:53 and so that's when the recorded her birth time as.
My first thought was what a big baby she was. I was a little astonished that I had just had a baby (see . . . weird thoughts). She got cleaned up a little while still in the tub and Andrew cut the cord after we allowed all of the blood to flow from the cord into Elsie (it was white and not pulsing anymore). The nurse took her away to get cleaned and checked. Andrew went with Elsie even though she was still in our room.
The midwife and nurse helped me out of the tub and I talked to the bed so I could deliver the placenta. I had much more significant pain (cramping mainly) after Elsie's birth than Abigail's so I didn't want to push the placenta out but it wasn't that bad. The midwife explained to me that the after pains are usually worse with 2nd births (and so on). I had a hard time concentrating on Elsie for a few minutes because of the pain. It eventually subsided with a little help from my friend, Motrin.
I had a 2nd degree tear with my birth with Abigail (who was 7 lbs 14 oz) and no tearing to speak of with my birth with Elsie (who was 9 lbs 2 oz). I contribute a lot of this to the fact that I knew what I was doing. I waited to push until I felt the urge (with Elsie) and that allowed my body to be prepared for the birth. I sort of forced Abigail out because I had been in labor so long.
Elsie was a great nurser from the very start. She started nursing just minutes after being cleaned up and getting to me on the bed (probably 15 minutes after the birth - maybe sooner). She didn't sleep very well the first night (and is still not a great sleeper) until I laid her on the bed beside me. I guess she just needed to be near her mama.
In the hospital, I also had an experience that I didn't have with Abigail. We ordered supper at the normal time and I ate every bite. I was ravenous. Then I woke up in the night (2 am maybe?) and was STARVING. It felt like an emergency. So Andrew got up and found the employee cafeteria and brought me food. I actually ate a plain hamburger (no condiments) in its entirety. If you know me, you know that's not my favorite food, so I was so hungry.
I then woke up and ate a huge breakfast. I guess my 9lb 2 oz baby was eating a lot from me and so I needed to eat a lot too. This evened out eventually. Our first few weeks home were challenging. They weren't challenging because of Elsie (because she's a terrific baby) but because Abigail was seriously ill right at first and then I got a breast infection (not mastitis) a few weeks later. Thankfully we came through it just fine with the support of our wonderful family!
This was a wonderful experience and felt so incredibly easy compared to my birth with Abigail. Almost makes me want to do it again (but then they turn into toddlers - ah!). :)
I do want to address one more thing that is difficult to explain unless you were there. My primary method of getting through each pain and the birth was to moan or make noise during each contraction. To write about it now and talk about it when I'm not in labor feels and sounds incredibly weird to me (probably as weird as it sounds to you). However, when you're in pain like that it is the most natural thing in the world! This pain technique is partly why I don't want to be around anyone but Andrew (and medical staff) during the birth.
I was tempted to video this birth (I'm probably WAY to modest to actually video the birthing part - but just have the camera in the room) because it would be nice to have that way to remember but we didn't. I'll have to have Andrew read this and see if he remembers anything differently than I do. I don't always remember clearly when in labor. :)
Questions and comments are welcome!