While I didn’t write many pregnancy posts (hello second child syndrome), it’s fair to say that my second pregnancy was a real challenge. Severe nausea in the early days, chronic pelvic pain, a baby’s head constantly pushing on my sciatic nerve and making my right leg give way, prenatal depression and being housebound for the last two and a half months… yes, these things definitely took their toll on me.
So, as my due date approached, I was DONE. I was so ready to have this baby on the outside that I tried every old wives tale in the book and can officially say that none of them work. Babies come when they’re ready to come, and there isn’t anything with real evidence behind it that you can do to speed things up.
Now, try telling that to a pregnant woman that is fed up and she’ll still keep the dream alive – I speak from experience.
Given how nothing had worked so far and I hadn’t been having any signs of contractions, when I went to bed on a Wednesday night, I had zero hope that this would be the night. In fact, I went so far as to make plans for the next day, something I’d been putting off for the past week.
And then, around 11:30 p.m., I woke with some significant contractions. As I’d been induced with my son, I was sceptical that I’d know what real contractions felt like, but as the midwife said, “you’ll know” and she was correct. The pain radiated around my belly and my low back, and then the rhythm began – every three minutes. This seemed a lot closer together than I expected, so I was both excited and a little petrified.
We went into business mode. We called my Mum to come pick up our son and take him to my brother’s house. We called the midwife who would meet us at the hospital. We did the logical things like bringing the car around the front of the house, making sure lights were switched off, cats were fed, etc. It all seemed very logical and unemotional, until it came time to wake our son. The poor kid has never been pulled from his bed in the middle of the night, so it was a bit of a shock for him, but it turns out he very much enjoyed the car ride through the city at night asking my Mum “Nannie, where are we going?” and pointing to things he saw along the way. Adventure for some!
Thankfully we live less than five minutes from the hospital, so we were there in no time. Well, enough time to have two painful contractions and hit some bumpy roads (summer construction…), but we survived. Our walk to labour and delivery also took longer than anticipated as I needed to stop and let a contraction or two run its course.
Arriving in L&D, a quick assessment showed that I was only four centimetres dilated. Really? This kid… And so we were sent to walk the halls and were advised to climb stairs. I can officially say that there is little less desirable than climbing stairs while contracting. Sure, you might dilate faster, but it’s no fun. You’re hot and sweaty and then the lack of air circulation in the stairwell started to make me feel queasy, so back to the halls we went.
Eventually we were far enough along to be moved to a delivery room and for the second time I changed into my pink and white polka dot gownie. Given that there is next to nothing you can really control about labour, the gownie was my little form of control, and everyone thought it was adorable.
I started to realize that my epidural both DID and DIDN’T work the first time with my son. It did work in active labour so that I didn’t really feel contractions up until it came close to pushing. That’s when I realized that the area that was meant to be numb was most certainly NOT numb. And so, it seems that the first time, while I did have to push for two hours, I had more of an energy reserve from a more relaxed active labour. This time… with no drugs… I was exhausted going through the contractions. They were so close together, every other minute. I’d barely catch my breath, and then they’d be back.
So why, you might ask, did this crazy person choose to try labour without drugs? Because when you have an epidural you’re stuck in the bed. You need a catheter (which I FELT the first time round – blech), and you aren’t really allowed to move. I wanted the option to move around, to crouch, to deliver in a squat if I could as that opens the labour canal more significantly.
I have to say, during the contractions, moving was exactly what I needed. I swayed between contractions, I hugged the giant peanut ball (think yoga ball shaped like a peanut), I sat in a chair, I leaned over the bed. I only really got into the bed closer to push time as I needed the support.
Then things got scary for me. The pain was absolutely brutal, and I wasn’t even pushing yet. “When will I need to push?” I felt like I yelled (I’m told that I didn’t). “You’ll know,” responded my midwife, and I wasn’t sure that I would.
Something funny happened to me between labour one and labour two. In my first labour, I knew when it was time to push and I wanted to push. This time, the pressure was building so significantly, and I thought I could push, but I didn’t want to. I was actually holding my legs together, because I knew that as soon as I started pushing it would be the most incredible pain of my life. Logically, I should have known that there is no stopping this train, but emotionally I couldn’t handle it.
And then I felt like I was going to faint, which is a little terrifying in delivery. They strapped an oxygen mask to my face and I did my best to focus on the fabulous coaching words from David and my Mum. They kept telling me I was doing great, no matter how much I felt like I was panicking. I remember moments of burying my head into my pillow in complete fear, wondering how I could possibly survive this kind of pain. I tried to push as strong and hard as I could, the faster to get her out, but it felt like it was taking forever, and I didn’t know how my body or my mind could possible hold out.
And then they said the head was coming. The ring of fire pain was my body’s verification, and I pushed with all my might to be done, for it to be over. It’s such a funny feeling, as soon as the shoulders give and this baby just ‘slips’ right out of you. Hard to believe how much pain you need to go through for that head and shoulders.
They brought Baby A to my chest and the relief surged through me. Never again, I thought. I never have to go through this again.
“We have a flat baby,” said the midwife, and suddenly the vibe in the room changed. My baby was being vigorously rubbed on the back, and when nothing happened they took her from my chest and carried her to the warming bed. The panic was back and I kept asking, “is she okay?” to no response. A team of nurses were in the room in seconds and they were all working on her, suctioning mucous out of her mouth and finally, FINALLY, the cry came, and my tears burst with it. She was okay.
And it was at that moment that I realized that on the way out, my darling baby girl had shit all over me.
You have to laugh. My legs, the bed, everything was covered in her poop. And I must have touched it at some point, as my Mum gently wiped my daughter’s poop from my face… as you do.
But it wasn’t quite over, not yet. While Baby A was fine, and time seemed to move so quickly, I was told that my placenta was not moving. I could feel it, the pressure that felt like another little baby inside, and this is when they brought in the OB/GYN. After delivering a baby with no drugs, this is when I was politely told that I would absolutely want a painkiller for the next step, and they loaded me up with fentanyl.
Soon I was in my happy place, but only temporarily, as they enlisted the student doctor to fish out the placenta. God love student nurses and doctors, and I know that they have to learn somehow, but I truly wasn’t in the mood for an inexperienced hand to be fishing around inside me to retrieve my lazy placenta.
Thankfully the doctor stepped in and in an incredibly painful flash she pulled out the squatter.
And there you have it. In the space of nearly eight hours, I’d experienced the most painful thing I’ll ever have to go through (we hope!). I never, EVER, want to go through labour again (apologies if I’m scaring off those who are planning to have babies in the future), but I guess my babies just don’t come easily.
It’s taken me a while to write this, because every time I think back to A’s birth, I well up with tears. I think the trauma of birth flies under the radar. Now, depending on how much you feel, how much pain you experience, perhaps it isn’t traumatic for people, but I can’t say I’ve loved giving birth.
What I do love is that this time around, I’m far more relaxed as a new parent. I know what to expect with a newborn. I know what to expect of myself. I know how to give myself leeway and be gentle, and not set my ambitions too high for what I can achieve in the early days.
At the end of the day, this is our last baby, and I plan to enjoy every moment with her. And one day, if she chooses to have her own baby, I hope to be there for her the way my Mum was there for me in labour. Partners are fantastic, and in no way do I want to underplay the role that my husband served in delivering our baby. He was an epic coach and I love him to the core.
There is something about sharing the moment with your Mom, though (provided you and your Mom have a good relationship!). Having someone in the room that I knew, who had experienced labour themselves, that was important to me, as she knew viscerally what I was feeling.
And so, Baby Girl, this took much longer to write and post than your brother’s birth story, but I experienced a very different kind of labour. You are the last child. And in the way that your brother is special for being the first, you are special for closing the chapter.
All my love.