We welcomed our second daughter 12 days ago, and I wanted to get my thoughts down about our experience while they are still fresh. I share our story because I enjoy reading the stories of others, whether they are similar or very different than my own. I find birth stories of all kinds magical and fascinating. There is no right way to birth or to mother, each person's experience is unique, and we each have our own journey. Here is just a little snapshot of mine this time around.
I'm not going to beat around the bush: I was SO done being pregnant. Though I listened to positive pregnancy affirmations often, tried my best to reframe my attitude and to focus on being grateful for my body's ability to play a part in the miracle growing inside me-- I was a grumpy pregnant woman. Part of me felt like a fraud, as I am a birth doula and spend a lot of time talking about keeping a positive mindset while helping others through their pregnancies and births. I also knew it could be so much worse. Though I was incredibly grateful to skate by this time without the preeclampsia and severe swelling I suffered from during my first pregnancy, I was just TIRED. I was chasing around a toddler this time, and while I wanted to make the best of our time together before baby, I felt irritable, large and uncomfortable. To say I was ready to be done was an understatement.
Though I realize it sounds crazy to some, I was also pretty excited about the birth itself this time. Since I did not have the preeclampsia complication this pregnancy, I was hopeful that I would be able to go into labor naturally and have the unmedicated birth I had been picturing the first time around-- without any induction, NICU team involvement or postpartum hemorrhage. I was visualizing a smooth birthing time and delivery of a healthy baby, placed directly on my chest. A perfect (for me) happy ending to a challenging (for me) pregnancy, and a beautiful first chapter of our new story as a family of four.
In order to prepare, I did a much better job this pregnancy of taking the time to rehearse my childbirth hypnosis techniques, setting aside a half hour many evenings to take a warm bath with candles lit and my Hypnobabies tracks playing. I lined up my good friend to be my doula, and had a couple prenatal meetings with her and my husband to discuss all the particulars.
At 39 + 1, I finally convinced my husband to get the car seat into the car and check off a few other last minute to-dos. We had our prenatal visit with our doctor, Dr. Jill Mallory, an integrative family physician at Wildwood Clinic that morning, where I reported some sharp shooting sensations I'd started having that led me to believe the baby had dropped a bit. She used a portable ultrasound machine to confirm that the baby was indeed head down, and that she was nice and low. I knew enough as a birth doula, to know it was still anyone's guess when she would arrive, and I asked if I should line up 41 and 42 week appointments just in case.
Turns out those would not be needed. Later that evening, I started to feel like perhaps my birthing time was actually starting. I had been having practice waves all week off and on, and while we were at dinner for my Mother-in-law's birthday, I noticed the waves were back. I figured I would go home, lay down and drink some water and they would settle down again, as they had earlier in the week. But after getting home, with relatives over and kids running around, I put off resting in order to look after my daughter who was struggling to share with her cousins. I eventually told my husband I'd like to take a bath to see if my pressure waves would settle down. As soon as I got into the bath and got my hypnosis tracks going I started tracking. 3:09 minutes between, 58 seconds long. 3:32 minutes between, 56 seconds long. 3:00 minutes between, 59 seconds long. "Okay," I thought... "this could be it. But I should time for at least an hour, to make sure." The waves still felt so mild, I figured I had plenty of time. Plus, I wanted to be sure I was actually in labor, as I had had so many practice waves in the last week. "Wouldn't it be embarrassing," I thought, "if I showed up at the hospital and wasn't actually in labor... as a doula??"
After an hour of consistent pressure waves, I got out of the tub, told my husband to finish packing, and went to put my two and a half year old down. It struck me that this would be the last time I would put her down as my only baby. I wanted to savor the last time it would be just us, without a baby sister waiting in the other room for my attention. We sat down in her glider to rock and nurse, and I stopped timing. I tried to focus on my little angel's face, but with the nursing, and without my hypnosis recordings playing, my waves increased in intensity. I pulled out my phone to try and focus on something else. I started having to really breathe through the waves... and I knew. My new baby had already started calling for my attention. It was time to go.
I texted my doctor on the way to the hospital. Luckily she was at the hospital just down the road and could meet us quickly. I started out the drive listening to my hypnosis tracks, then decided to check the radio to see what was playing. Strumbella's Spirits played as we made our way onto John Nolen from East Wash, almost there. I was happy and excited as I could tell we were getting closer to meeting our little girl. Between my intensifying pressure waves, my husband and I discussed the best way to the hospital, and argued over whether he would drop me at the door or we would park and walk in together. We parked, grabbed our stuff, and set off on the long walk to Labor and Delivery, stopping three times to breathe through the waves. "You're almost there!" A nurse said as we stopped just short of registration. I made a joke about how they make the walk so long.
I was checked in Triage and told I was a good 6.5-7 centimeters dilated. The nurse worked quickly to place my saline lock and we walked to the birthing suite, pausing once to breathe through a pressure wave. I asked if I could get right into the tub and was told I could. I could not wait to get back into warm water and get my hypnosis recordings going again.
I started to get into the tub, but realized the water was scalding hot. I used an expletive to share this information with my husband as I turned on the cold water. I couldn't hear the hypnosis track or my husband's questions over the loud sound of the faucet. My husband couldn't figure out how to use the essential oil diffuser. I impatiently directed him to just hand me the bottle of lavender so I could huff it right out of the bottle and rudely snapped at him that I couldn't hear anything he was saying. This is when I realized I was likely in transformation.
I started to shake and get really hot. I splashed cool water on my face and widened my hips as I sunk deeper into the kneeling position I had taken in the tub. I felt a popping sensation as my water broke and felt the baby move down. With this increased pressure and intensity, I narrowed my hips a little as my thoughts turned to whether they would be able to get nitrous oxide into the room in time if I asked for it. I realized that 1) they would not, and 2) the fact that I was even thinking about nitrous when I hadn't planned to use it likely meant I was getting close to being ready to push. I reminded myself that I was getting closer to the end, and that I could do it. I relaxed deeper into my kneeling position again and told myself to let go and surrender to the process.
I think it was the very next pressure wave that I felt my body begin to push involuntarily. I had never felt this sensation and it caught me by surprise. I told my husband, "get the nurse!"
Dr. Mallory came into the bathroom right then and her reassuring energy instantly calmed me. I told her I was pushing and she asked if I could get out of the tub. When I hesitated, she assured me that I could and took my hand, walking me to the bed where I got on hands and knees and continued to surrender to the pushing waves. I focused on my breath, and let my body do the work all on its own.
A couple of waves later I felt the "ring of power", and knew my baby girl was crowning. A couple more and her head was born, one more and her slippery body emerged. Everybody helped me onto my back, carefully, around my new baby girl and the umbilical cord that still connected us. She was placed right on my tummy as we waited to delay clamping of the somewhat short and still pulsating cord. A couple of minutes later my husband cut it, and she was placed gently on my chest, just as I'd envisioned. I couldn't believe any of it... that she was here, that I was no longer pregnant, that our birth had gone so quickly, easily and smoothly. We had checked into the hospital at 9:57 pm and our beautiful daughter, Raina Elaine entered the world at 10:45 pm on 7/7/17, the eve of the Thunder Moon. She was 7 lbs 2oz and 20.25 inches long.
Dare I say the transition to two children has been similarly easy and smooth thus far? Raina is a super easy, happy baby, just as her older sister Selah had been, and I wonder how I got so lucky. Selah adores her little sister, and somehow doesn't question or object to sharing her mom or her precious "num nums" (mama milk). Though I'd worried about it during pregnancy, as a friend said, "it's like you grow an entirely new heart, big enough to love them both." I agree, it's like my heart doubled in an instant, and I marvel at the previously inconceivable amount of perfect love I have for these two babies of mine. I don't know what's more amazing to me, that as women we grow and birth such perfect humans, or that we can possibly love them as much as we do.
Part of me feels a little sadness over the exclusive one-on-one mother/daughter relationship I had to say goodbye to with Selah as we entered this new chapter, and wishes I could still run to her every time she says "Mommy". But I hear her now, giggling and shrieking in excitement as she gets a bath from her Daddy, and I know their relationship is growing in new ways, helping to fill that gap. When Selah seeks my lap and finds it already occupied, I remind myself that it's a small price to pay for the best friend she now has alongside her in life, and the special gift Baby Raina is to all of us, now a family of four.