My Second Birth

Here’s the account of my second daughter’s birth, written almost five years ago (and my present commentary in italics).It’s hard to say exactly when labor started with my second daughter’s birth. During the nights preceding her birth, I experienced an occasional painful contraction—usually around midnight or 1:00 in the morning. Sometimes I’d have a couple of contractions and wonder if labor was starting, but then I’d wake up several hours later (pain-free) and go through another day without any signs of labor.

It was early in the morning on October 16th that I guess I would say labor “started.” Around 12:30 in the morning I started having painful contractions about twenty minutes apart. Eventually the contractions started coming closer together, but they weren’t exactly regular. Sometimes they’d be twenty minutes apart, sometimes they’d be ten minutes apart. Occasionally they’d come only minutes apart. But they never got consistently closer together. It seemed that they were less painful when I was upright and moving around. And when I would lie down on my side they were much stronger.

I woke my husband up after I had felt enough contractions to convince me that something was really happening. We started getting things ready to go to the hospital because we assumed we’d be leaving soon. We both ate something so we’d have the energy we needed, and we took one last pregnancy photo (while I had a contraction, in fact). I had been sure that, once labor started, it was going to go very quickly. I had been terrified that we wouldn’t have enough time and we’d end up having the baby in the car. Well, it got to be about 3:45 in the morning and the contractions started coming further apart. Then around 4:00 they seemed to stop altogether. My husband and I had gotten back into bed, figuring we’d get some rest until things moved ahead. After a while I got back into my pajamas and fell asleep.

[If I could go back, I would have handled this early labor quite differently. First, I wouldn’t have turned all the lights on (so I could keep my melatonin levels up). Second, I would have immediately done some baby-spinning techniques. My doula trainer said it’s wise to just assume every baby starts out posterior and try to turn them. I even suspected, when my labor stalled, that she was posterior, but I didn’t have the knowledge I now have of the best techniques for turning her.]

I had an occasional contraction during the next several hours, but nothing consistent or too painful. Just enough to bring me to a state of semi-awareness, but I’d just slip right back into sleep. When we woke up at about 8:30 in the morning, we were really confused about what had happened and whether or not labor had actually “started.”

Since it was Sunday morning, we needed to decide whether we were going to church. I didn’t feel up to going–having had very little sleep and not knowing if or when labor would start again. So my husband called and let the Primary president know we wouldn’t be there to teach our Primary class. I also called my sister and stepmom to let them know that we might be having a baby that day. My sister had agreed to watch our 2-year-old during the birth. And we had invited my stepmom to be with us for the birth. So they brought their cell phones to church with them in case we called.

I was still having an occasional contraction, and throughout the morning they were coming between twenty and ten minutes apart for several hours. In the afternoon they had stopped again. So we decided to go for a walk. After we got back, we decided we’d call Grandma and see if we could come over–we were getting tired of sitting at home. On our way over to her house, I started having contractions again. Our 2-year-old had fallen asleep in the car, so the three of us took a nap on Grandma’s bed. After less than an hour, I was having contractions often enough and painful enough that I couldn’t sleep anymore, so I got up and sat talking with Grandma until my husband and toddler woke up. Over the next few hours I had contractions between twenty and ten minutes apart again. During dinner, I was quite uncomfortable, gripping the table through contractions every ten minutes or so.

After dinner, the contractions continued but still weren’t really coming closer together. I had a few that were especially painful. I told my husband if I had any more like that we’d be heading for the hospital. But then I’d have several mild ones, and so we kept waiting.

We headed over to my dad and stepmom’s to visit them around 7:30 or 8:00 pm. At this point the contractions had basically stopped again. We hung out with them, and decided we’d sleep at their house so we’d be that much closer to the hospital should something happen in the night. Plus we felt better knowing we wouldn’t be alone in the event that we had an unplanned home birth or roadside delivery.

Before everyone headed to bed, my dad and husband gave me a priesthood blessing. I don’t remember everything Dad said, but I do remember that he said that we would know the right time for each step in the process and that things would happen as they should. It was a comfort to me.

We went to bed around 9:30 or 10:00, but I never fell asleep. I was having contractions every ten to twenty minutes and using the bathroom almost as often. Sometime around 12:30 or 1:00, I was feeling so exhausted, confused, and discouraged that I woke my husband up. I needed to talk, and I didn’t want to be alone anymore. I cried a little as I told him how I was feeling… not knowing whether the contractions were “real” or causing any cervical dilation or whether labor was progressing, hating being in limbo, feeling fed up and just wanting to sleep, etc.

The contractions had become painful enough that I knew for certain they couldn’t possibly be “false labor.” But they still weren’t coming closer together. Finally, I just decided that it was time to go to the hospital. Because of the intensity of my pain, I didn’t dare wait any longer. My husband and I got dressed and ready, and I woke my stepmom sometime around 1:30 am.

We headed to my sister’s (my stepmom said she’d meet us at the hospital). We expected our toddler to cry and cling to us when we dropped her off, but she went to my sister just fine and we kissed her good-bye. Once we left, my contractions started to get closer together. During the drive they were coming about five minutes apart. As we walked up to the door at the hospital, I had to stop and lean on my husband through a contraction. My stepmom was walking up behind us–she asked, “Was that a contraction or a prayer?” Afterward I thought a prayer would have been a good idea! It wasn’t long after 2:00 in the morning when we arrived.

They put us in a temporary room and gave me a hospital gown to change into. My husband came into the bathroom with me to help–thank goodness! I had two or three contractions just while I changed, and it was a relief to have him to lean on. The nurse hooked me up to the monitors and asked some questions. Meanwhile, I was having some increasingly intense contractions and also feeling really nervous… I was afraid she’d check my cervix and I’d only be one or two centimeters dilated. The nurse ventured a guess that I was five centimeters. She checked and said, “I’m good,” and then added, “Actually, you’re almost six.” I couldn’t have been more relieved. I said, “Hallelujah!” We moved to our actual room, and the nurse contacted the on-call midwife–Betty.

It wasn’t long until I started moaning. I remember the nurse asking more questions, checking my blood pressure, and a student nurse asking more questions while I was having a contraction (I put up my finger signaling that I’d answer when it was over!). The nurse also came in and used some strange device to make a loud noise on my belly–saying that they needed to “wake this baby up.” It was a little concerning to me because she never really explained what she meant by that. I guess they had to make sure the baby was “responsive” before I could get into the Jacuzzi tub (I had expressed interest in getting into the tub when the nurse mentioned it as an option earlier).

Meanwhile, the contractions were coming fast and hard. I remember closing my eyes and holding my husband’s hand through it all. And I remember stepmom’s reassuring voice in the background saying things I needed to hear. I remember hearing them turn the water on in the tub. I remember Betty arriving and saying she didn’t think it would be much longer till the baby came. And I remember her pushing on my hip through a contraction and asking me to tell her if it helped. I don’t think I ever said yes or no. Oops. Betty wanted to check my cervix before I got into the tub. I think she said I was seven-plus, or maybe it was eight?

I used the bathroom and got out of my gown. Once I was in the water, they needed to draw some blood and put in my “hep-lock” (an I.V. needle without the actual fluids). I guess Betty asked them if they could do it while I was in the tub, and my husband said our nurse pulled a face as though she was exceptionally bothered by the thought. In any case, it was a different nurse who actually did it. And I was glad because she was much more friendly, cheerful, and upbeat. She seemed excited to do her first tub-side I.V. Miraculously, I didn’t have any contractions while she inserted the needle and taped-up my arm.

All the while I was in the tub (which was nice… I’m glad I got to try that… wish I could have spent more of my labor in there!), my husband was holding my hand, and my stepmom was speaking soft soothing words. I’m sure they wondered if they were helping at all, but just knowing they were there made all the difference in the world. They were doing exactly what I needed. I remember my stepmom saying over and over that I was “doing great.” It seems like such a simple thing, but it was so encouraging to hear. The nurse who put in my hep-lock agreed and said that most people were “climbing the walls” when they were seven centimeters. I told my husband afterward that at no point did I feel like I couldn’t handle it anymore. The contractions never overwhelmed me to the point that I lost it. They hurt… a lot. But I savored the sensation when each contraction eased up and the (often very short) breaks between.

My moaning got louder and longer. I wouldn’t doubt other patients could hear me. But I had to make noise. That was my way of coping with the pain. As long as I could make noise, somehow it seemed like I could make it through. Betty and the nurses were in and out of the bathroom. It seems like they were doing things and saying things, but I wasn’t very aware of much beyond my own body. I only opened my eyes for brief moments. Betty said I was starting to sound “pushy.” She asked if I felt like I needed to push–she wanted to be sure I made it out of the tub before that point. I told her that I didn’t feel the urge yet. But it wasn’t much longer until I asked if I could get out because I was concerned that if we waited much longer I wouldn’t be able to move. So they wrapped some sheet-like thing around me and helped me back into bed.

I think Betty checked my cervix again. But I can’t remember how far dilated I was just after getting out of the tub. I was lying on my side with my legs together, and she had me turn and open my legs out wide to open up more. I guess part of me didn’t want to because I was afraid of the added pain. It wasn’t long until she checked my cervix again, and she said all I had was just a lip of cervix left. So she decided to break my water. Within minutes I was completely dilated. They tried to get a gown back on me, but I guess they decided against it because all the maneuvering was too painful for me.

Betty told me I could start pushing if I wanted to. But I hadn’t really felt the urge yet. And I wanted to wait until I had felt the urge and just push with the urges (“spontaneous pushing”). After one or two contractions, Betty told me to go ahead and push with the next one. I wasn’t in a mood to refuse, so I started pushing. I also didn’t want to push very hard because I wanted to take it slow and easy so I wouldn’t tear. My husband and stepmom were at my sides, helping to support my legs. As the baby descended down the birth canal, I remember hearing Betty tell one of the nurses that the baby was posterior. It made sense to me because I was having a much harder and more painful time pushing than I did with my first baby. I was making all kinds of noise.

[I would have handled the delivery differently too. Again, I would have requested to try different positions for pushing (side-lying or supported squat, etc). Second, I would have given more time for my body to tell me to push. I think I started pushing before my body and baby were ready and made it more difficult for myself.]

I’m not sure exactly when, but sometime just before the birth I looked over at my husband and he looked like he might faint. He put his head down. I thought I heard him throwing up, but I think he was just coughing or something. He said he lost feeling in his hands and legs. The nurses helped him, and I got back to business pushing.

My stepmom and husband kept saying, “She’s almost here!” and “You’re doing great!” And I remember seeing and hearing my stepmom get choked-up. At the time I thought it was happy crying–seeing the miracle of birth. But afterward she told me she cried because it was so hard to watch me in so much pain.

I guess with all the noise I was making, the nurse thought I was losing control. Anyway, she said something like, “[Busca], look at me. You need to stop making noise and put all your energy into pushing.” I remember being mildly perturbed, but at the same time being essentially oblivious to anything but my own body. Somewhere inside I thought… who is she to tell me how to focus and channel my energy? Making noise was helpful for me. Anyway, I sort of toned it down for the next contraction or two–to humor her, I guess. But, I mean really, can you actually push out a posterior baby without making noise?!

Eventually I decided to really push because I just wanted it to be over. So I started to push hard, and the head was crowning in just a few contractions. I remember feeling Betty tucking her finger under the baby’s head and stretching my skin–I guess to prevent tearing. I think she applied warm compresses and counter pressure also, but I couldn’t really see what she was doing down there. It was only moments and my baby’s head was out followed by her slippery, wiggly body.

Betty placed her immediately up on my tummy. I was so glad to be able to see her instantly. She was kind of purple when she came out. I guess it freaked my husband out. But as soon as they suctioned out her mouth, she started breathing and pinked right up. I remember seeing her face for the first time and thinking… she looks different than my first baby. And I also remember thinking I’d never been so glad something was over and that I didn’t want to do it again for a really long time. For those first few moments of seeing her, it was almost like slow motion, at least in my memory. I loved getting to see and touch her immediately after her birth instead of having them hold her up briefly before taking her away like they did when my first was born.

They asked my husband if he wanted to cut the cord, but he said he didn’t think so (he still couldn’t move his hands). So my stepmom cut the cord. Then they wisked her away to poke her and weigh her and assess her and all of that, my stepmom helped my husband to the couch and covered him with a blanket, the nurses put a gown on me, and Betty started tugging on the umbilical cord to deliver the placenta (far more vigorously than I would have liked, in fact). Meanwhile, my stepmom was snapping pictures for us. It turns out that I did have a second-degree tear (through the skin and muscle). But not nearly as severe or painful as the tearing I sustained with my first birth.

Eventually things quieted down, we dimmed the bright lights, and took turns holding our new baby girl. It didn’t take long before I knew without a doubt that I would do anything for this little person, and my love for her grew a little each moment.

My second daughter--now almost five years old