The Unmedicated Hospital Birth of our Second Baby
Disclaimer: This post contains details that may be TMI. Also, this post is not intended for the promotion of or to advocate unmedicated births or hospital births or to say that such births are somehow better than other types of birth. I believe every birth story and the decisions made are unique to the individuals involved –thus I make no judgement. This was simply my personal experience.
My second child, our son, almost 2 years after my first.
Even though I had planned to have a similar unmedicated hospital birth, my son’s birth turned out very different from my daughters.
Here is his birth story.
First Signs of Labor
On a cool Autumn night, my Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions had become more frequent and gotten more strong. I’d been getting BH contractions for 7 weeks and they had strengthened in the week leading up to Baby’s due date.
Also, that night, I was filled with a sense of calm and serenity. It was almost euphoric. I wondered if I might go into labor that night, but nope, it didn’t happen.
The next morning, at about 10 am, I had a little bit of brown spotting. I assumed this was my bloody show. It continued throughout the day. Just brown spotting.
I laid down with my daughter for a nap but was awakened by contractions. It was 3:20 pm. The contractions seemed to be coming more frequently. I turned to my right side hoping that doing so would make them subside.
But the contractions continued.
My daughter had an appointment to get her flu shot around 5 pm, so we decided to pick up my husband, Paul, from work after the appointment.
Paul worked downtown and the drive in took about 30 minutes with traffic. I counted 3 contractions during the drive.
After picking Paul up, I downloaded a contraction timer app onto my phone. We stopped by McDonald’s for dinner. I’m embarrassed to admit that throughout this whole pregnancy, I craved McDonald’s cheeseburgers.
Following dinner, we went to the grocery store. It was about 7 pm by the time we were grocery shopping.
My contractions were getting intense enough that I had to stop walking and talking and just focus on getting through them. They felt like bad cramps centered on my pelvis and hips.
When I felt a contraction coming on, I would grab something off the shelf and pretend I was reading the ingredients so that I didn’t alarm anyone.
One time, Paul had gone to a different aisle and came back to find me mid-contraction, holding a cracker box. He called out to me, but I just ignored him as I was trying to breathe through the contraction. He came over, completely upset that I was ignoring him.
At this point, my contractions were 8 minutes apart and lasted between 30 seconds to 1 minute.
By the time we finished shopping and got home, my contractions were 6 minutes apart.
I decided to lay down and get some rest before my labor picked up even more. When I laid down, my contractions slowed down to 9 minutes apart.
After a couple hours, I realized that I wasn’t going to get any rest and I figured that I should get up and get things going. I didn’t want to have a long labor as I had with my daughter’s birth.
So, I got up and did stretches.
However, Paul wanted my daughter to get some rest before we took her over to his mom’s house. Consequently, we turned off all the lights and I went to back to bed again.
At 1 am, my contractions were too intense and frequent for laying down. They were coming every 3 – 5 minutes. But most of them were only 40 seconds long. The midwives at the hospital wanted them to be 4 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration, for at least 1 hour (4-1-1) before calling them.
At 1:40 am, I called the midwives anyway. Jessica was the midwife -on-call. She told me to wait a half hour to see how things progressed then head in if I wanted.
We dropped my daughter off at my mothers-in-law at 3 am and got to the hospital at 3:20 am.
It was freezing cold outside with blistering winds. On our walk from the parking lot to the hospital entrance, I had to stop to breathe through several contractions. It was miserable with the icy wind beating against my face and no way to escape the chill.
In the hospital, we were triaged and hung out in the triage room for 40 minutes or so. At this point I was 100% effaced, +2 position, and 6 cm dilated. Thus, I was approaching transition (7cm) but baby was still high in my pelvis.
We were moved into a labor room at 4:20 am.
Waiting for Transition
In our room, I mostly stood around on my feet. Paul turned on some music: Little Dragon, which put me in a good and festive mood.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself between contractions. Should I read something? Do stretches? Walk around?
Our nurse, Jen, offered up a number of laboring positions for me to try such as sitting on a birth ball and kneeling on the ground. The midwife brought me a yoga mat so I could do stretches. She also set up some aromatherapy with citrus oil.
My contractions started getting incredibly intense and I started to want an epidural.
Instead, I asked Paul to change the music to instrumental hymns and when a contraction came on, I would lose myself in the music to distract myself from the pain.
The Bath that Brought on Transition
Jen drew a warm bath for me and suggested I get in.
I was nervous about getting in, considering how miserable I felt when I tried to labor in the bath in my previous pregnancy. But, I didn’t really know what else to do with myself, so I decided to try it.
The bath was wonderful. It was incredibly soothing. I sat in the tub in a kneeling position with my head resting on my arms on top of a fluffy pillow.
My contractions had gone away for a long moment and I felt completely relaxed.
But then, suddenly, I felt a contraction coming on and I knew it was going to be a big one with how the muscles in my back were to starting to tighten.
I got nervous and scared as it continued to build and once it got to peak intensity, my water broke with a big “POP!” and I felt a powerful force of fluid shoot out of me and into the bath water.
Immediately after my water broke I had an incredible urge to push. I think it was the kneeling position that I was in that made it just natural for my body to want to start pushing. I felt the need to bear down against the intensity.
Panic and Pushing
Once the contraction was over, I was in a panic.
I stood up and said “I can’t be in here! Get me out!”
Jen, the nurse, called the midwife and told her that there was involuntary pushing happening.
I desperately wanted to get out of the tub, but my contractions were coming one after the other so that I could barely make a few movements.
Slowly, Jen and Paul helped me get from the tub to the bed as I groaned and whined.
Jessica arrived as I was climbing into the bed. She suggested that I labor on all fours, but I just wanted to lay down.
I felt like I needed a break. Everything was suddenly moving so fast.
I asked if I could lay down and have a mirror brought in so I could see how the birthing was going.
They agreed and I laid down on my back.
When I started pushing again, there was no sign of baby’s head, so I figured that baby must still be high in my birth canal.
Jen and Jessica encouraged me, telling me “Good job”, but I felt that I must still have a long way to go since I couldn’t see the baby’s head.
My contractions were so powerful that pushing against them was fierce.
I felt like I was pushing so hard. Much, much harder than I had with my previous baby.
I felt pain all over even between contractions and I kept saying “Why does it still hurt?”
Finally, after a few contractions, we started to see a little peak of Baby’s head. Jessica remarked that Baby had a lot of hair.
Time to Get It Done
Jessica wiped at the fluid coming out of me and asked Jen to contact the pediactric team, so I asked, “Is it meconium?”
And she said, “Yes, but it’s okay.”
She was very reassuring and told me that everything that was happening was normal. She also told me several times, “You can do this!”
But, once I realized that there was meconium in my fluid, I wanted to get baby out as quickly as possible.
I said to myself and Baby, “OK, let’s do this. Let’s get you out safely.”
On the next contraction, I pushed so that Baby’s head stayed in position and didn’t slip back in.
I wanted to push baby to crowning position, but as baby was approaching crowning, the burning was so painful that I stopped to give myself a moment.
When my next contraction came, I pushed and pushed and Baby’s head came out a little more, then he crowned.
How I longed for the warm washcloths that were placed on me at this point in my first labor, but none were prepared this time around.
Jessica told me to do small pushes as I grunted through the next contraction. I followed her instructions and gently pushed Baby’s head out. Nevertheless, my perineum tore in the same spot as in my first labor.
Once baby’s head was out, there was a sort of celebration or sigh of relief amongst everyone.
Jessica reached inside me to unwrap the umbilical cord around Baby’s body, but I couldn’t tell what she was doing. I thought, perhaps, she was trying to pull Baby out, so I went ahead and gave another push to get the rest of Baby out.
And there he was.
It was 6 am. I had been in labor for 15 hours and pushed for 20 minutes.
They put him on top of me right away. I wasn’t quite ready for him to be on top of me. I was uncomfortable after laying on my back through all the pushing and he felt heavy.
I wanted him to be bathed and held up for me to take a good look. I also felt the urge to have him baptized immediately. Nevertheless, I had to stay on my back to birth the placenta and get sewn up.
So I held him on my chest, skin-to-skin.
He didn’t cry out right away. He just laid on top of me. Jen wiped him off with a towel and gently shook him to stimulate him and then he let out a loud cry.
He continued to cry loud and fierce. It was amazing.
Differences in Labor Between Baby #1 and Baby #2
My labor experiences between my first baby and second were completely different from each other. Here are some of the differences:
- I labored longer with my first
- 44 hours of labor with Baby #1
- 15 hours of labor with Baby #2
- I pushed longer with my first
- 4.5 hours of pushing with Baby #1
- 20 minutes of pushing with Baby #2
- My contractions, although intense, seemed more gentle with my first whereas my contractions with Baby #2 were extremely powerful. I could see my muscles rolling across my abdomen as I pushed Baby #2.
- My water broke with a gentle pop with Baby #1 while with Baby #2, my water broke with a powerful force.
- After labor pains were more painful with Baby #2. But they were manageable with Tylenol in the first 12 hours.
Overall, I would describe my first birth experience as being long and calm whereas my second was fast and fierce.
Recovery was much faster with Baby #2. I didn’t have the post-partum psychosis, insomnia, or weakness as I did the first time around. I felt much more normal and back to myself within just hours.
Although both labors were very different, they were both still very hard. They were the most difficult things that I’ve ever done in my life. And as I mentioned in the birth story of my firstborn, they required all that I had physically, mentally, and spiritually.