I sum up my second childbirth with a short version of the story. “I woke up one morning, got in the bathtub, gave one big push, and my son was born.” The story is true and remarkably complete, though more details can be shared.
All through my pregnancy I had to believe that my labor would be easier, or at least shorter, than my first. My daughter had been born just two years before and with her I had a very healthy and active pregnancy, but really paid my dues during labor. This pregnancy had felt more typical in that I spent a lot of time feeling uncomfortable and sick. Despite warnings that it wouldn’t be helpful, and training to avoid such thoughts, I was downright scared of labor this time around. With my daughter, I hadn’t known what to expect and could make up whatever expectations I desired and therefore decided I would deal with labor well. Now I know the truth—I’m not the kind of person that finds labor “beautiful” or painless. It hurts and, for me, there are parts that are simply ugly. With my son, this was no different. I screamed. I felt pain. It hurt. But this time it lasted about 2 minutes as opposed to 2 days.
I started labor 5 days before my son was born. While I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions since week 20, I started to feel painful contractions on Friday. I know what a labor contraction feels like and this was it. Some call this “false labor” or even just more intense Braxton Hicks, but after some research and first-hand experience, I maintain that prodromal labor is the real thing. It’s just very slow and manifests itself in a start/stop manner. I’d have contractions for an hour and then nothing for 6 hours to a day before it would come back again. I believe this is our bodies’ way of slowly moving through labor. Abby helped me through this time, always available, listening and offering advice when needed.
So by Wednesday morning I was used to this start/stop and didn’t think that my latest was any different. I was up from 2- 3:30am with the pains and had gone back to sleep to wake up at 6:30. The odd thing about these contractions was that, this time, they didn’t stop. There was little to no break in between which made it hard for me to “time” them. They just got more and less intense. My husband sensed something was happening, took our daughter to daycare and called the midwife. Our support team was Jackie, my midwife of two years, Abby, her apprentice, and Molly, a student at the midwifery school.
At Abby’s suggestion, I drew myself a bath and got in. I still didn’t think I was in labor, so being alone while Jeff drove into town, was not upsetting to me. In retrospect, this was the heart of my labor and I did it all by myself which is out of character for a self-described extreme extrovert. I had no concern about who was coming or when they would come. At some point, I must have known I was in labor, but I was preparing myself for the long haul, the many hours of contractions and pushing. I felt I would be doing this all day (and perhaps it would even stop, like it had over the past several days). Jeff came home at 8:30 and soon after Abby showed up. That’s when I had my first bloody show and I knew for certain that this was happening! Excited, and in pain, I got back in the bathtub and went through the raw “beauty” of transition. Meanwhile, Abby managed to prepare everything on top of offering me support and encouragement, all the while remaining completely calm and keeping the atmosphere peaceful—no small task! Suddenly, without much warning, and with absolute certainty, my body (or my son?) said, “PUSH!!” and somewhere in my head I knew that I’d never have more energy than I did right then, and with the memory of 5-6 hours of pushing during my last delivery, I didn’t waste a second of time or an ounce of energy. I pushed with everything I had and out popped a head. On the second push, I had a baby in my arms and at 9:30am, I was wondering what I’d do with the rest of the day which I had already planned would be spent in labor.
Abby, Jackie and Molly spent the day with our family taking care of us and our newborn son. The homecare we experienced that day was beyond anything we had expected. It feels right to have support and to be surrounded by caring, wise women during this special and vulnerable time, yet it also feels rare in our society that so much attention is focused in such a compassionate manner. Abby applied a generous amount of tender loving care mixed in with technical expertise and attention necessary for a smooth transition into the world. My son and I were blessed to have the care of such talented and experienced midwifes.