I would describe the birth of my second son as very different from my first! The first one was quite a challenge, and while the second one was no picnic, it was much better than the first. As with my first labor, this time I created a birth plan and had an idea of how the process would go. That was basically a waste of time. We also decided to hire a doula to assist with the process. After our second son was born, I told my husband that although nearly nothing went according to plan, I was very pleased with how it went! I’ll share with you some of the similarities and differences.
I shared my pregnancy journey, as well as my first birth story and decision to use a doula over the last few months. Find those posts below, in case you missed them or just want to catch up:
Feel free to ask my husband, I spent plenty of time learning about labor over my 40 week gestation period. I watched “The Business of Being Born“, all four parts of “More Business of Being Born“, binge watched “Call the Midwife” on Netflix, and “My Pregnancy: A Woman’s Story” on Hulu. I also followed the “What to Expect” and “The Bump” apps, and perused Pinterest for blog posts and personal anecdotes among plenty of other things. Seriously, I couldn’t read or watch enough!
I was optimistic about achieving the medicine-free birth I achieved last time. But I knew that even without pain relief, that birth experience was traumatic for me. Even though I didn’t get an epidural, it was not the “ideal” birth I’d envisioned. I knew if I got to a point where I felt mentally stuck again I may turn to medical intervention to help me through. During our birth prep meeting, my doula asked me on a scale from 1-10 how strongly I felt about having a natural birth. My response was a 7/10.
If you’ve been keeping up with my pregnancy, you know that I started dilating and was basically ready to go into labor at any moment by 37 weeks. I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy – no medical issues for myself or baby to note. After my experience with my first birth (read about it here) I decided I wanted a doula this time around (read about my search here).
The main event!
With my first son, my membranes were stripped (I do not recommend this procedure!) on a Friday afternoon, contractions started within hours, and he was born on Saturday evening. I had every reason to expect I would labor in a similar fashion, with contractions beginning on their own, laboring at home for as long as I could, and heading to the hospital for the finale.
However, that’s not how things got started this time. When I awoke the morning of my due date, I realized I had been bleeding. Enough to soak through my shorts. It was a startling sight, as I hadn’t had so much as spotting the previous nine months. I wanted to check with my doula, Liz Griffin, – make sure I wasn’t making a mountain out of a molehill – and after clarifying that it wasn’t just spotting and wasn’t mixed with mucus, she suggested I call my OB/GYN. She asked that I come into the labor and delivery unit of the hospital to be checked right away.
After a nerve-wracking call to my husband, and a quick stop to drop off our 3-year-old son with his grandma, we made the trek over to the hospital. When I arrived, I was taken into the triage room – where they check on your contractions and cervix to see how labor is progressing. I still wasn’t having contractions and my water hadn’t broken; while I was concerned about the bleeding, didn’t feel like it was “time”. I didn’t even bring a bag with me when we went to the L&D unit!
Once in triage, they hooked some monitors up to my belly, checked my cervix and walked out of the room. Shortly after they left, about a half-dozen people suddenly rushed in all at once loudly demanding things like “Get her on oxygen!”, “Flip her on her side!”, “Get an IV started now!”, “It’s not working! Get her on all fours!”… Nurses and doctors were scrambling around the room to adjust my position, obtain medical equipment, and get a read on the baby. Needless to say, all this hubbub was quite concerning for my husband and I. I wasn’t sure what to think but I wanted to comply with their requests. While I was on hands and knees and nurse was attempting to insert my IV, though for her it was upside down, and she, understandably, had some trouble. Sorry for the squeamish, but there was blood everywhere. After a few very frightening minutes things calmed down.
Apparently, baby’s heart rate had dropped substantially and they were trying to get it back up. Luckily, they succeeded. The midwife made no qualms about it though – they were not letting me leave and I was having the baby THAT day! Even though I wasn’t having contractions, she noted she wouldn’t feel comfortable letting me leave based on baby’s reactions. She told me if his heart dropped again, they would immediately wheel me away for an emergency C-section, where I would be put totally out, under general anesthesia, and my husband would not be allowed to join us. I wholeheartedly appreciated the warning, it would have been difficult to have this happen without knowing what was happening and why. She said in the event it were to happen, it would happen very quickly and there wouldn’t be time to explain – it was heartbreaking to imagine.
Note: I later learned it was likely I had a placental abruption, which would have caused my bleeding and his heart rate drop. The doctors, nurses, and midwives didn’t mention this to me at the time, though. I’m glad I stayed at the hospital, as it can be fatal for mom and baby. So, if you’re bleeding while pregnant, call your care provider right away!
Not only was I admitted to the hospital, I was not allowed to move from my side-lying position. I was totally bummed! We let our doula know what was happening and she started her journey to the hospital to be with us. My birth plan included quite a bit of moving around to keep labor progressing quickly. After waiting for a while, no contractions started, so they broke my water. I was happy to hear there was no meconium, but I was secretly wishing for an en caul baby (born still in the amniotic sac – they’re very cool to see and pretty rare) so I was a bit disappointed. Still, no contractions begun. I took advantage of the TV (we don’t have cable at home) and flipped over to HGTV.
Stuck in bed, not allowed to eat or move, and baby nowhere in sight, I was none too pleased. They didn’t even let me go to the bathroom, guys! So I had to use a bedpan, where this time, they did see meconium. I was thankful that the nurse took the time to explain to me that this meant he would need to be taken away right after he was born to have his lungs checked for signs of aspiration. This happened after my first son was born, but I didn’t know why they were taking him away. No one had explained to me what having meconium in my waters meant – he may have breathed it in. While, I was upset at the thought of not being able to see him after birth, I was relieved to know what to expect. Another nurse told me that if he cried right away they would let me hold him for a minute before checking him.
After an extremely eventful start to the day, it surely had slowed down! At this point I still hadn’t been feeling any contractions, so they told me I needed Pitocin to kick-start my uterus. I was very hesitant to accept this treatment, as I did not have a good experience with Pitocin during my first labor. Thankfully, the nurse stopped to talk to me about my previous experience and agreed to give me a very low dose of the medicine. For a short while I felt fine. But pretty suddenly I was struggling to talk through contractions. My midwife checked my cervix and I was at 6cm, almost 7. I was breathing through contractions pretty well at this point.
I still hadn’t been able to move out of bed, and we’d asked if I would be able to. The staff told me if things were progressing well, they would let me get up. After putting me off a few times, they finally brought in a rocking chair and allowed me to sit right next to the bed. The contractions were very hard at this point and I was brought to tears. The monitors wrapped tightly around my belly needed to be adjusted what felt like constantly to keep track of baby’s heartbeat; it seemed to lose track every time I so much as moved a muscle. I was not a big fan of those things! It really threw off my concentration when they came to adjust them, and made my contractions harder to handle.
After a number of monitor adjustments, I was so distracted and out of the “zone” I asked for an epidural. Things had progressed so quickly, but they were very intense and I didn’t feel that I would be able to take much more. They said they would need to check my cervix before they could administer one. The nurse gave me the choice of staying in the chair or lying back down in bed while she checked. I was in no rush to move anywhere so I chose to stay in the chair. She said my cervix was still at 6cm! I was so frustrated. In that moment I felt like if I had reached 8 or 9 and was almost ready to push, I could possibly be persuaded to power through. But hearing that, after all those difficult contractions, I hadn’t progressed at all, I felt totally defeated. “Bring on the drugs”, I thought, “I can’t take this any longer”. The anesthesiologist came to administer the loading dose, which begins to numb you before they hook up the IV. It numbed me for one contraction when the nurse told me the next step was to check my cervix again so they could put in a catheter and hook up the epidural to the IV.
The midwife checked my cervix, and said instead of catheterizing, I was going to start pushing! Looking back, staying in the chair was likely a mistake. I believe I was further dilated than she anticipated – I think I hit transition stage, but the positioning did not allow her to get a good read of my cervix. But that one numb contraction was apparently all my body (and mind) needed to be ready for baby. I was confused when she suggested it was time to push, I didn’t think she meant to actually push the baby out. For some reason I cannot logically understand now, I thought she wanted the baby to just move a little bit in my womb, not actually be born yet. I felt ready and empowered to push. I had this sudden sense of strength and capability. “I can do this!” I thought to myself, which was a BIG change from the almost 2 hours of repeating “I can’t do this!” during my first labor!
After only 3 pushes, he arrived into the world! It happened so quickly – there was only about 30 minutes between being told I was 6 cm and having him in my arms! He cried right after being born, so even though they saw meconium, they allowed him to be placed on my chest immediately, which I missed out on with baby #1. It was the most surreal, amazing experience to immediately hold the life I’d helped create. My husband was able to cut the cord, something he missed out on with baby #1.
This time I felt more empowered, especially because the nurses took the time to ask questions, listen to my responses, and adjust my care accordingly. The biggest difference was having a doula. She helped me in many ways including feeling more confident, read more about my experience with my doula here. While my birth plan indicated I wanted no pain medication, intermittent monitoring, natural water rupturing, no Pitocin, and free movement, none of those things went the way I was hoping. Despite all of that, I couldn’t be happier with how the process went. I needed less pain medicine afterwards, felt better, and was overall pleased with the experience.
I am thankful to have had this experience, it turned my perspective on childbirth into something extremely positive from something unbearably negative. I’m very grateful my son and I are healthy and happy!
Thank you for sharing this special journey with me!