How to begin? I feel like a second birth must be informed by the first (like any series of experiences in life, I suppose). As I prepared myself for this second birth, I could not help but compare to my experience with Aidan’s birth two years ago.
I was blessed with a truly wonderful labour and birth experience with my first child. A gentle planned home birth assisted by an amazing and experienced midwife. Everything went according to plan, and the labour itself was smooth, strong and totally empowering. I was so proud and grateful to have had my dream birth, and with my second pregnancy I knew I wanted to have this experience again.
In a lot of ways, my second labor ended up being very similar to the birth of Aidan, and of course different in others. As with my first labour, I was in the early stages of labor for a loooong time. Like five days long. The Monday of the week our daughter was born, I had a crazy night with lots of light, erratic contractions and the hormonal rushes that accompany early labor contractions. It was fabulous. The chemicals released by the body during this stage make you feel warm and euphoric and full of love. I don’t remember having such a strong impression of these hormonal sensations with Aidan, and I felt really grateful for such a pleasant signal that my baby was coming this time around.
I was sure that baby would be making her appearance. And soon thereafter… Nothing. No progression. No strengthening of contractions. No increased speed. Ok. Let the waiting game truly begin. The last week of any pregnancy is hard, even in the best of situations, and this pregnancy was no exception.
With Aidan, the last week involved a lot of anxiety; over when the labour would begin, over what it would be like. Over whether or not I would be up to the task of a completely natural, drug-free labor and birth at home. In the end, I succeeded and was given the strength and self-confidence to do it again with my second birth.
All of this positivity aside, by day three or four of light, inconsistent contractions, I was beginning to enter “mind fuck” zone. I was SO ready not to be pregnant anymore and ready to welcome baby into the world.
Thursday came around and by evening contractions were getting noticeably stronger and (a bit) closer together. Yotam cancelled his evening class, I baked the baby’s birthday cake and Saba Danny came and took Aidan for an overnight as I was sure baby was really on her way. We inflated the birth tub, prepped towels and by 11pm I decided to go to bed and take a rest before the real work began. I woke up at 6am feeling well-rested and quite disappointed. No baby, and light irregular contractions.
By Friday, I had decided to try and put the birth on my mental back burner and focus on the family birthday party we were hosting for Aidan. I cooked a lovely dinner, baked another birthday cake, cleaned our house and hosted a beautiful, intimate celebration of Aidan’s second year. Again come sundown (how do they know?!) contractions picked up, but I didn’t want to get too excited as I thought perhaps it would be an anticlimactic replay of the previous night. Having been in touch with Rozie our midwife all week, I again gave her an update by phone that things seemed to be picking up. By 10pm I was having about 8 light contractions per hour. By 11pm we called Danny to come and pick up Aidan again, as it did seem that baby was getting her move on. At around midnight, Rozie arrived of her own accord, saying that even if it wasn’t in full swing yet, when active labour started it would all go down quickly. She wanted to be in our home and ready when it did.
Upon her arrival, after Yotam helped her bring in her numerous bags and gear, she checked the fetal heart rate, and she asked me if I wanted her to check my progress. A dilemma. As any birthing mama knows, being checked “too early” can dampen morale and increase frustration when real dilation progress isn’t reported. I stalled a bit, but then agreed – 3cm, head low, good effacement. Not terrible, but not very inspiring either. You can labour for days at 3cm.
Rozie recommended Yotam and I go take a walk, that maybe it would help to move baby down, and to take my mind off things. Yotam and I walked around the kibbutz for about an hour, pausing for contractions, which were about medium intensity at this point. I had to concentrate on them, but they weren’t painful.
Upon our return, about 1:30am, I was feeling tired as was Yotam and we decided to retreat to the bedroom and rest. Rozie told me not to worry, that it would start when it would start and best to rest up before hand. I laid down and closed my eyes to rest, feeling disappointed, anxious and worried that it was just going to be another false start.
I can honestly say that the mental stress of this birth was its most challenging aspect. I had experienced birth before, so I knew I could handle contractions, I knew how to breath and open myself to the waves, knew how to focus and free my mind of all other elements once the time came. But the time Just. Wouldn’t. Come. In these few hours of the deep night I felt truly alone and comforted myself by visualizing my baby and asking her to please come soon.
And then she came.
At about 3:15am the contractions started to get noticeably stronger. I could no longer lay down and breath through them comfortably. I got up and put my birthing ball on the bed to have something to lean against as contra during the contractions. I continued laboring alone (Rozie was catching a few winks in the living room and Yotam was also asleep) until about 3:45am when I was sure things were picking up.
I woke up Yotam and went into the living room. Rozie had already woken and was waiting for me. I told her I thought the labour was really starting and she checked the fetal heart beat again. All good.
I brought the ball out to work against again (I LOVE my birth ball!) and asked Yotam for a wet cloth to wipe my face with between contractions. Rozie smiled when I began wiping my brow “Here we go!”
All the while I had been listening to my shanti labour music, and at this point Rozie asked if I’d like to hear something a bit different. I agreed and she played this amazing Zulu music which totally provided the right rhythm for me, and gave a positive focal point. A word to the wise; nothing, and I mean nothing can replace the wisdom of a trained, experienced midwife during labour and birth. Nothing.
After about 20 minutes I was ready to get into the birthing tub. It had been filled by Rozie during our walk and kept warm from pots of boiling water on the stove. With the addition of a kilo of salt, the buoyancy of the water was simply blissful to my birthing body. Instantly upon entering the water I felt soothed, supported and strengthen as I continued to labor.
My heavy contractions continued and I could tell I was getting close to transition. (SO nice to be able to anticipate it this time around!) Although, I kept thinking that the contractions weren’t strong enough and kept waiting for the really heavy ones to start. They never did. Perhaps it was the water, perhaps it was my mothers body, perhaps my experience from Aidan’s birth, but I never got to the really heavy contractions I remember from my first birth.
During transition, things got real serious real fast. Having been on my knees, head against the tub until now, I suddenly felt horribly uncomfortable and that I HAD to change positions. I yelled to Rozie “can I change positions!??” “Of course!” She said, and I flipped over to sit with my back against the pools wall. This was the one and only point during the birth I experienced fear, and therefore, pain. The sensations changed so quickly with the head descending that I felt it didn’t have the opportunity to adapt. I could feel her head coming down fast and didn’t know how to work with it. I felt myself reacting by trying to push away from the sensations. Needless to say, that didn’t work. Rozie, checks me, feels the head but says it’s not visible yet. She told me to breath and not to push, to let her come but slowly, so I wouldn’t tear. End contraction. Rozie tells me with the next contraction to make the sound of the letter “J” to ease baby down and not have my body just shoot her out. Contraction starts and I jjjjjjjjjjjjj like my life depended on it! Having something to do, to focus on was really helpful. Head comes down. Next contraction more J’ing and the crown of the head emerges followed by forehead, eyes, nose, mouth and chin. Whew. Head rotates in preparation for expulsion. “On the next contraction,” Rozie says “you’re going to push.” Contraction begin, I bear down and for the first and final time all at once, I push. Push, push, PUSH and out into the water, as if she is flying, shoots baby into Rozie’s waiting hands. Up out of the water and into mama’s arms. Wheeeew. It’s 5:05am. An hour and fifteen minutes of active labour and baby is with us.
She coughs and cries a little. Silence. “Blow on her face” says Rozie. Yotam and I blow, eyes open and real bellowing begins. My heart explodes with relief, happiness, hormones and love and I say to Yotam “I did it, I did it!”
We hang in the tub for about 15 minutes before making our way to the bedroom (stepping out of tub and walking with a wet baby and with umbilical cord/placenta still intact is no mean feat, I assure you). I lay back in the bed and baby immediately starts rooting. She latches on like a pro and suckles for 20 minutes. A breastfeeding champ from the get-go!
An hour or so after baby was born, Yotam cuts the umbilical cord, and takes baby so I can deliver the afterbirth, which is intact. No tears, no heavy bleeding. Again, experienced midwife. Nothing like it!
Baby is weighed (3.45kg) some food is consumed, a few parental phone calls are made to share the good news, and the three of us are tucked into bed to rest. Pure bliss.
This birth was a blessing, like any birth I think. It showed my how vulnerable I am, how strong I am and that trust in ones self and in ones body can achieve greatness. I know home birth isn’t for everyone, but it is the best option for me. When left to my own timing, and intuition and provided with the right support, I can birth gently and free (almost!) of fear with beautiful and empowering results. For this I am truly and eternally grateful.
Three days after giving birth, it is time to register baby and get her first doctors check up. We name her Mikaela (Mika) Victoria Beery. A big name for such a little girl, but I think she’ll grow into it.