My first son was born after two days of labor, an epidural, an episiotomy, and some tearing as well. I was nervous this birth would be a repeat of that, but everyone always says your second birth is different than your first. Boy, were they right.
This pregnancy was also different than my first. With my first, I was one of those women who glowed. I hardly had any nausea, and I felt plump and beautiful throughout the entire pregnancy. This time, I was nauseous from the beginning, and it took a lot of trial and error to find something that helped curb it. I was emotional, stressed, and didn’t feel like myself. It got better in the second trimester, but by the end of third, I had pelvic pressure and braxton hicks constantly. I was uncomfortable all of the time, and I was counting down the weeks until I was full term and could go into labor. Starting at 37 weeks, I would have contractions -- which were just braxton hicks -- consecutively for hours at a time. Yet, each time I would go to sleep, the contractions would fade.
Because of these fake contractions, I spoke to my mother and my grandmother, both who went through many natural (read: no epidural or other medicinal help) births. They each taught me how to meditate and how to breath through a contraction. We tend to clench up when we feel pain, but with contractions, we actually need to relax in order for for our bodies to open. I practised these every night before I went to bed. And, they came in handy later on.
One night, at 39 weeks, I woke at up at 2 in the morning breathing through a contraction. I figured they would stop eventually, so I went back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, I was still having them every 10 minutes. (I even later recalled breathing through contractions in my dreams throughout the night.) I was already on maternity leave, so I stayed home and bounced on my exercise ball and breathed through the contractions. My husband was also home that day, so we went for a walk and tried a few other things to make the contractions closer. Some things got the contractions close to 6 minutes apart, but then I would rest and they would slow back down to 10. Finally, at about 4 p.m. I felt my contractions get closer together. It was also the time when my husband had to go somewhere, so I called my doula. She came over, and she helped me get into a position or two to help with the contractions. The ultrasound at 37 weeks showed that the baby was posterior, so I did hip swivels and an inversion every night to turn him around. I was nervous about a possible emergency cesarean, if the baby didn’t descend correctly. The moves that my doula showed me were also to help the baby turn around.
With my doula counting my contractions, we were able to see that I was having a big contraction every 8 minutes with a mini one in between. A little after 6 p.m, we walked to my doula’s house (she lives a block away from me) to get some stuff. As we walked back, I felt my contractions get closer and more intense. I had to stop walking, and my doula did a double hip squeeze to help relieve the pressure. The contractions were really strong. As I felt each one I would take a deep breath and exhale. I kept telling myself that my body was doing exactly what it needed to do, so try to stay relaxed. I called my husband to tell him to come home. By the time he arrived, at about 7, my contractions were less than three minutes apart. My doula ran home to get her car, and my husband quickly gathered everything we needed.
I was shaking in between contractions (later, I realized this was transition), and I was nervous about the daunting car ride to Shaarei Tzedek, but I knew I had to get in the car to go to the hospital.
My doula drove and I sat in the back with my husband. I leaned against the front seat, and my husband was giving me chills on my neck. (During my first birth, chills were the only thing that kept me calm.) He also had Friends playing on his iPad, which I used to distract me in between each contraction.
We had to get gas, and I remember having a big contraction while in the car and feeling overwhelmed. Halfway through the contraction I could feel myself losing control, and I was scared. But then the contraction piqued and started to fade. I told myself I could do this, and I psyched myself for the next contraction. When that came, I was in control and it wasn’t as intense.
I also remember feeling very tired in between contractions, and I was looking forward to resting after giving birth.
At one point I felt something wet, but I was so focused on contractions, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Turns out, it was my mucus plug.
Once we arrived at the hospital 45 minutes later, I was happy to get out and walk. I was having contractions every minute or so, and the movement felt good. During the contractions, I would stop and squeeze my husband’s hand. I don’t think I stopped squeezing it until the baby came out.
We got to the maternity ward, and I was grateful it wasn’t too crowded. It took a few minutes for a nurse to get to me, but I eventually laid down on a bed as they put a monitor on to check the baby and to see how dilated I was. I remember feeling like I was towards the end, but with my first birth I got to hospital and was only 3.5cm, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. To my surprise, the midwife announced that I was 9, maybe even 10cm! I was shocked! Then my doula asked where the baby was, since we were worried he wouldn’t descend because he was posterior. The midwife responded “he’s here, too. Let’s get you into a delivery room.”
Suddenly, I had a daunting, yet exciting task in front of me. I no longer had the option to get an epidural, like I did with my first; I was going to have to do this all natural.
I slowly walked to the delivery room, where I had to get on a bed and lie down again. They did one last check to make sure everything was good, and started to set up the bed for delivery. The midwife, Noa, asked me what I wanted -- to immediately lie the baby on me and wait to cut the umbilical cord. I added that I did not want an episiotomy, and I asked her to prevent tearing at all costs.
Noa broke my water, and then came time to push. I b
eared down with all of my strength and pushed. I was so focused on pushing the baby, I couldn’t pay attention to what was going on around me. At one point, Noa told me to stop pushing so she could massage and oil the area. It was a good 30 second break to gather my strength. Within less than five minutes, the baby was out. I was ecstatic to finally meet my son, a healthy baby boy.
My vagina certainly hurt afterwards, but nothing compared to the pressure of contractions. I was so proud of myself that I remained in control the entire labor, that I let my body do what it needed to do, and that I was physically and mentally capable of giving birth without an epidural. The joy of this birth only continued when my son immediately latched and I found out that I did not tear or need any stitches!
It was my husband who pointed out to me shortly after giving birth that this was my dream birth. I always wanted to go through labor at home, get to the hospital, and be ready to give birth. I think that because I had confidence in my body, and that I was excited to finally be in real labor, I was able to let go of tension and have a smooth a birth.