My now 4-year-old daughter had been born via unmedicated birth at a local hospital with an OB attending. The whole thing had gone off without a hitch; my only complaint was the setting. Although the hospital we used spends a good deal of money marketing itself as being friendly to us granola, Bradley method, here’s-my-birth-plan types, I had an awful post-birth experience. I spent the first forty-five minutes of my daughter’s life arguing with the doctor about wanting to deliver the placenta without any invasive measures, receiving stitches for a tear before I’d even had a chance to feed my baby, and missing out on so much initial bonding because of all the diagnostics and procedures they wanted to do with her within that first hour.
This time around, I understood what labor would be like, and now knew the only thing I really wanted, was to be left the hell alone as much as possible. After reviewing our options, we decided if I stayed low-risk, we would birth at home with a midwife. (Although I feel like homebirth was a good choice for me personally, I would STRONGLY encourage anyone considering it to thoroughly research all your options and the risks and benefits involved. There is a lot of misinformation and myths floating around out there, and it takes tenacity and critical thinking to wade through it all.)
My second pregnancy was similar to my first, in that it was relatively easy, with barely any morning sickness and no complications or risk factors. By the 38th week, though, I was WAY more impatient to deliver than I was with Eleanor. Mostly because of my due date coinciding with the first few weeks of the school year at my job – a very stressful time for a very pregnant me to tackle. During that week, I had two false alarms of early labor contractions that were mildly painful and regular for a few hours, then disappeared again. Somewhere between the two, I decided to start my maternity leave early, hoping the chill time at home would allow my body to relax enough to feel comfortable delivering.
As it turns out, Lucas is a very punctual guy—arriving exactly on his due date, August 18th. I was woken up by contractions early that morning, at 3 AM – pretty much exactly the same way my labor with Eleanor started. So I did the same thing as last time – went downstairs to watch TV, eat a snack, and wait for things to rev up. As I did, I realized what a crazy day this was going to be for Eleanor, because the 18th was also her first day of pre-k at a brand new school. I desperately wanted her to have a good experience amidst all the transition that was about to rock her world. So when my contractions were still easy enough to talk and walk through at 6 AM, I woke my husband Marc up and said, “We’re gonna play this shit cool, okay? Just get Eleanor ready, bring her to school so that she’s occupied for the next eight hours, and then we’ll have a baby.”
I called my midwife to let her know I was in labor, and after listening to me through a contraction (they were 3 mins apart, 30 secs – 1 min long by then), said I was likely still pretty early in labor and to give her a call in an hour or two to reassess. With Eleanor, I had been in labor a total of 13 hours. Even if this birth was shorter, that sounded about right to me. I told Marc the plan and kissed them both goodbye, feeling energized and ready to bust out my essential oil diffusers, light my salt rock candles, and get my birthing tub set up for this ethereal, Pinterest-worthy birth I was about to have.
Fast forward fifteen minutes, and things shifted. I couldn’t talk through my contractions anymore. I started needing to sway through them, as I felt myself entering the weird trance-state that happens during labor. I suddenly realized, perhaps I had done a very stupid thing sending my husband halfway across town. I was now hard laboring alone in my house. I managed to compose myself long enough to text him “Forget picking up Powerade. Come home now.”
By the time he made it back at 8:15, I was in the zone and could barely talk. I told him to tell the midwife to come now, and started inflating the birthing tub. At that point, I was getting a little concerned about how painful my contractions were, because in my mind I still had hours to go. Then my water broke. Since the tub was nowhere near ready and I felt super gross, I waddled into our actual bathtub to try to soak there; turned on the faucet, and promptly got sprayed in the face by freezing cold water in the middle of a contraction. I didn’t realize the showerhead setting was still on. Sitting in the bathtub turned out to be awful – it was too cramped to get comfortable—but I was now in transition and felt so tranced out and weak, I couldn’t summon the energy to yell out to Marc in the living room.
He kept running, diligently, between checking on me and trying to set up the tub, which I now realized was a fool’s errand. He would poke his head in to ask if I was okay, and I would hold up my hand, which he took to mean, “I got this shit, leave me alone,” but what actually meant, “Please wait until this contraction passes because I have VERY IMPORTANT THINGS TO SAY.” Finally, around the third time he did that, I managed to whisper, “I’m having the urge to push.”
Marc helped me out of the tub and back to the living room, where I flung myself face first into a stack of pillows on top of our guest mattress we had laid on the floor. Bent over on all fours, I thought, “Well, this is happening.” We had previously discussed the idea of Marc “catching” the baby, but it looked like he wasn’t going to have much choice in the matter after all. He put our midwife, who was about 5 minutes away in the car, on speakerphone and stayed calm and collected the entire time. Four or five pushes later, he was halfway out. Our midwife burst through the front door exactly as he was birthed all the way into his papa’s arms. It had been a grand total of 20 minutes between my water breaking and Lucas being born. The whole thing was very cinematic. Not Pinterest-worthy by a long shot, but high drama!
My post-birth experience was a zillion times better than my hospital birth. I got to bond with Lucas immediately and didn’t part from him for well past the first hour. That afternoon, Marc picked up Eleanor from her first day of school with the best surprise ever – she was officially a big sister.
So the lessons learned here are:
- Second births are often quicker than firsts. Sometimes they’re REALLY quick.
- Get someone else to bring your daughter to school if you’re in the middle of labor.
- Even when things don’t go as planned and your birth photos end up looking more like a post-apocalyptic horror show than a blissed-out mystical fairytale, bringing a human into the world is a pretty incredible experience.