The week before
The week before my second daughter was born, I started feeling like she was never going to come. My firstborn was born 8 days early, so I was expecting #2 to be an early baby, too. At my 39-week appointment, the midwife I saw said I may have to be induced if I went past my due date because of my gestational diabetes. This news discouraged me, as I hoped for a natural birth with minimal interventions. I knew an induction would most likely set me up for many.
But, on Tuesday, Oct. 19, I saw a different midwife, Beverly, who was extremely encouraging and told me that since my diabetes was well controlled, she saw no need to be induced until at least 41 weeks. An ultrasound that afternoon showed baby girl to be around 7 lbs., 4 oz., an average size, which further encouraged me that I would be able to carry her until I went into labor on my own.
The day before
For a couple of days leading up to baby’s birth, I had back pain. This was not out of the ordinary since I’ve had this same back pain since I was 15, but I asked Will if I could visit the chiropractor because I didn’t want to go into labor with this added ache. So, on the day before baby’s due date, I visited the chiropractor for two adjustments. He told me at least eight women he had adjusted in late pregnancy went into labor that night or the next day! On the way home from the first adjustment, Little Girl and I stopped at the Mt. Mourne Park for about 30 minutes. I wanted to take advantage of what I saw as one of the last times I’d be able to take Little Girl to the park just the two of us for a while.
The whole day people kept talking about the full moon and how babies are born on full moons. We ate Subway at my parents’ house that night, and they asked if Little Girl could spend the night. I kept looking at the moon as we drove home and wondered if the baby really would come soon! I knew my favorite midwife, Beverly, was on call, and I really wanted her to deliver! Will and I took a moonlit walk when we returned home, and I then took a lavender-scented bubble bath surrounded by pumpkin-scented candles before we both retired to bed around 11:30.
Around 2:30 a.m., I noticed the first sign of bloody show after using the bathroom. Knowing bloody show can happen days or even weeks before giving birth—and probably because I was half asleep—it didn’t really phase me, and I went back to bed. I had been experiencing painless contractions/Braxton Hicks throughout the day and especially at night pretty frequently for the last several weeks, and I didn’t notice anything different about them at that point.
I awoke to use the bathroom again at 3:28 a.m. and lost some more of the mucous plug—there were no doubts. I lay back in the bed for a few seconds before I felt my water break and soak my underwear. I wanted to be absolutely sure it was my water breaking and not more of my plug, so I got up and went to the bathroom (with Little Girl, my water broke in a gush while I was standing up). When the water continued to drip out onto the floor and soak the towels I sat on, I knew it had indeed broken.
I woke Will and told him what happened, called and informed my parents, and texted my doula (professional labor support person), Gayle. I was relieved to know baby was on her way, but I was concerned that, to my knowledge, my contractions had not yet started. My water broke prematurely with Little Girl and led to a pitocin-augmented, 16 1/2-hour labor that had me confined to the bed. I texted a few close friends to tell them my water had broken and asked them to pray contractions would start soon on their own. Beverly had told me I needed to get to the hospital within four hours of my water breaking to receive IV antibiotics since I was beta strep B positive.
I decided to try lying down and go back to sleep. However, almost as soon as I lay down I began to feel menstrual-like cramps that were too painful to allow me to sleep. “Are these contractions?” I wondered. My back labor was so intense with Little Girl that I hadn’t felt one “normal” contraction. I called Gayle to tell her what was happening and decided to take a shower while Will finished packing our hospital bags with last-minute items. I looked at the time before getting into the shower and counted how many times I felt the cramping. During my 15-20-minute shower, I experienced the cramping “sensations” 4-5 times. I started singing some hymns—“Jesus, Name Above All Names” and “He Lives”—while in the shower. It is just what came naturally.
When I got out of the shower, the cramping became more intense, and I noticed they started in my front and became stronger as they radiated down through my back, then stopped. It literally was like a wave that started slowly, crested, then waned. I told Will I was pretty sure I was having contractions and called Gayle back. I could still talk through the contractions, but even on the phone with Gayle they started getting stronger, so she decided to come on over.
While we waited for Gayle to arrive, Will continued to get things ready. I stayed upstairs in our room and yelled for him every time I felt a contraction coming. He brought my exercise ball upstairs, and I sat on it and rocked in between contractions but mostly got on all fours during them. I had read about the all fours position, and it just seemed to come the most naturally to relieve the pain. Will put counter pressure on my low back while I was having the contractions. I tried to take deep breaths like I learned in my prenatal workout dvd.
When Gayle arrived, she and Will both put counter pressure on my back while I was contracting, and she also suggested I lean on her through the contractions, rock, and moan. I told her I’d rather sing, so she told me to sing. I sang—very loudly—“Jesus, Name Above All Names” and “He Lives.” Will microwaved a heating pad belt, and I put this on. The heat felt good on the cramping. At some point my stomach became upset, and Will and Gayle gave me some privacy to use the bathroom. Gayle helped me through the contractions while Will packed the car.
We left for the hospital around 6:40. At this point, the contractions were getting stronger and probably were between 3-4 minutes apart. As we got in the car, I took one last look at the full moon and realized baby would indeed be born that day—on her due date!
I called my midwife’s after-hours line right after we got in the car, and Beverly quickly called me back. I told her about my water breaking and contractions and said we were on our way. I deliberated for quite some time on hospital choice early in my pregnancy, but when contractions were coming stronger and closer together, I was so glad the hospital was a short drive from our house! I did OK until a big contraction hit right as we were pulling onto the street where the hospital is. I started screaming for Will to pull over at the gas station. He refused to do so since we were literally seconds away from the hospital. He later asked what I would have done if he had pulled over. “Get out in the parking lot on all fours!” I said. But, it probably is really better that he didn’t pull over!
We arrived at the hospital about 6:50 and checked in through the emergency room. I slumped over the check-in table as another contraction came on. Will waited with me until Gayle got there and then went out and parked the van, as Gayle accompanied me and the nurses—who transported me in a wheelchair—to the labor and delivery unit.
I had requested to only have intermittent fetal monitoring, and my nurse, Kim, and Beverly wanted to monitor me and check my dilation soon after reaching the labor room. Kim installed a hep lock (so I could freely move around but get an IV if I needed one) and administered a dose of antibiotics. I had to have the antibiotics in my system for four hours before delivery since I was strep B positive. Beverly checked me, and I was 4 cm dilated. I was really happy at this as my water had broken before any dilation with Little Girl.
As I was monitored through several contractions, Kim and Beverly instructed me to lie on my side and hold onto the bed rail, rocking back and forth. These contractions were much more intense, and Beverly told me that they would be stronger in this position but that the rocking would help me progress. She also said I would have a longer rest period between these contractions, which I did. Will said at times it looked like I was having a seizure as I rocked back and forth as hard as I could and tried to breathe through the contractions. I would also start shivering and shaking all over before each contraction.
I spent most of the rest of the labor back and forth between the shower and side-lying on the bed for the intermittent monitoring. There were also a few times I got on all fours in the bathroom floor if the shower wasn’t started yet and I was on my way back from the bed when a contraction hit. The shower was my favorite place to be while in labor. The hot, hot water really did help me get through each wave. In the shower, I sat and rocked back and forth on my exercise ball and leaned over a chair. Gayle and Will took turns spraying me down. My good friend Leanna, who is also a certified massage therapist, arrived sometime around 8:00 a.m. She offered me water while I was in the shower, and she, Will, and Gayle all massaged me and put hot rice packs and the heated wrap on me while I was in the bed. They also took turns giving me sips of water (which Gayle had added Vitamin C powder to), popsicles, and jello.
Each time Beverly checked me, I had progressed a little more. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but Leanna, who has studied birth extensively and hopes to be a doula herself one day, told me she thinks I hit transition when I began to moan as I rocked back and forth on the bed. Gayle had told me deep moans would help, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it until this point on the bed when the contractions were so strong that I just involuntarily started moaning through them. It didn’t last very long, but then—and really throughout most of the laboring at the hospital—there were times when I just wanted to give up. I thought, “What am I doing? I want to give up. This hurts too bad. I don’t know if I can ever have more kids after all this!” But, I never voiced it, and I was determined to persevere.
There were times when the pain was so intense that I envisioned Jesus on the cross and called out His name. This pain was nothing compared to what He endured! I also envisioned my body opening up like a flower. This is what God had designed my body to do. Surprisingly to me—retrospectively—with all the many emotions I felt throughout the whole labor and delivery, one thing I did not feel once was fear. God gave me a supernatural peace through it all.
After Beverly heard me moaning in the hallway, she came back into the delivery room to check me. I was at 8 cm, and she instructed me that, if I felt the urge, to start gently pushing. She said pushing like this should quickly get me to a 10. I asked her if I had hit transition yet, and she said, “Oh, yes!” I started pushing, and it seemed I was at a 10 in no time. However, it still took an hour and a half before I delivered baby!
The contractions during the pushing stage were not nearly as painful as labor. Really, only my back hurt, and I found it true that once I got through transition the pain was less, but the pressure was still intense. Many women say they prefer the pushing stage, but I found it the hardest and most strength zapping. I had read that second babies are usually much easier to push out, but Beverly even commented during pushing that baby needed a spanking because she was acting like a first born! My face swelled up because of all the pushing, and afterward I felt extremely sore in my arms, legs, neck, and jaw. It was like the marathon of my life!
Once baby crowned, Beverly had me reach down and touch her head. She did this at least one other time to encourage me that baby and I were making progress. When baby finally came out (sunny-side up, hence, the back pain), Beverly stopped short of pulling her body out and told me to reach down and put my arms around her torso. With Beverly’s help, I literally pulled baby out of me! I thought this was strange when she asked me to do this, but it is now one of my favorite memories of the whole birthing experience! I don’t think baby looks a thing like me, but I know she’s mine…because I pulled her out!
The nurses and Beverly were extremely respectful during the whole experience, and I felt the birth was everything I wanted. They let baby rest on my chest for what seemed like quite some time before weighing her or anything. I started crying and saying, “Mama is here, baby! I love you!” Will cut the cord. I nursed her very soon after delivery. At Gayle’s suggestion, I let baby try out the “breast crawl.” Without even guiding her, she lifted her little head and scooted to where she found her “food,” latched on, and began nursing. It was really so natural…the way God made it to be!
Beginning with my water breaking, the whole labor lasted around 8 hours—less than half the time of my first labor.
I praise God for a wonderful birthing experience and for providing a great support team to make it possible: Will, Beverly, Gayle, Leanna, and Kim!
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