by Tamsin, USA
I had my first daughter, Eleu, just over 2 years before I had Aria and some things about that birth had me a little nervous. It wasn’t a terrible birth, by any means, but there were things which I would definitely have changed if possible. Some were within control, others not so much.
I experienced back labor and, although I had a midwife attending and hired a doula, I feel I was encouraged to push before my body was ready. Eleu had shoulder dystocia and birthing her shoulders was extremely difficult; I had to be manipulated by my midwife and ended up tearing in 4 places. I burst a lot of blood vessels in my face from the strain and as a result had red spots all over it and did not want to be photographed with my newborn.
My uterus wouldn’t contract and I lost a lot of blood, so I had to be given a shot to get contractions going. My midwife also gave me a very strong medication when she stitched me up and I was so out of it I don’t remember those first moments with Eleu, although those were delayed because she wasn’t breathing when she was born and had to be whisked off to be resuscitated. So, I got my main wishes of a natural birth in water, and it was a quick labor (12 hours after I realized my water had broken and 6 hours of contractions), but it wasn’t perfect by any means.
At some point after Eleu’s birth, the two midwives who were at my OB, Dr. G’s office left and he got a new one, Jolene. I met with her throughout my pregnancy and really bonded with her. She was great at soothing my anxiety over the possibility of a repeat performance. A couple of months before my due date, she told me that Dr. G (whom I also have a great deal of respect for) was on sick leave for 6 weeks and that she herself was leaving town the day before he was due back.
My due date was 7/7/10 and she was going to be gone from 6/25/10 thru 7/8/10. Eleu was 4 days early, so I fully expected to have Aria whilst Jolene was absent. This was disappointing, to say the least, but I hoped that Dr. G would be around at least. Just in case, we asked to meet with the doctor covering for him. We did and when I left his office, I burst in to tears! I knew that if that man attended my birth I would tense up the moment he entered the room. Throughout our meeting he kept focusing on the negative; saying that Aria was measuring big, that the chances of shoulder dystocia were pretty high and that he didn’t think that the water was a good place to handle shoulder dystocia. He didn’t seem very supportive of natural birth, which my reason for choosing Dr. G’s office and I was so upset at the thought of him being at Aria’s birth. I decided to talk to Jolene about my concerns.
Whilst remaining professional and not saying anything against the OB covering for Dr. G, Jolene totally understood my anxiety. She suggested she ask Laura, one of the midwives who formerly worked at Dr. G’s office, (but not the one who attended my previous birth) if she would be on call for me. I was happy with that idea and hoped she would agree. In the meantime, I consoled myself with the thought that if it came down to it, I would just take whichever OB was on call for the hospital. At least then I wouldn’t have a negative association with them. I also discovered that Dr. G wasn’t coming back on the 26th after all, so after the 24th no-one from his office would be available.
Jolene was going off the grid at 7am on the 25th of June, so I did lots of things to try and get Aria to come before then. After 36 weeks, I took evening primrose oil orally. After 37 weeks, my husband, James, and I had sex regularly, I took castor oil, I took evening primrose oil vaginally, I drank raspberry leaf tea. Nothing happened except 2 false alarms. I even thought my water had broken one day, but no. It became apparent that Aria was not going to be rushed and I needed to calm down and accept the fact that Jolene would not be there. The night of the 24th, I casually mentioned to my mother-in-law that I thought Aria would come the next day as it would be too late for Jolene to attend, but I also had a hair appointment on the Saturday which I would miss if she did!
At 6:35am on June 25th, as I rolled over in bed, my water broke with a big “pop!” I started laughing as it really felt like the strangest thing! I had a slow leak with Eleu but the sac didn’t really burst until they checked me at the hospital, so I hadn’t really experienced that before. James woke with a start wondering what the heck was going on and why I was laughing! We called James’ parents as they were taking Eleu whilst we were at the hospital and his mom headed right over. At 6:55am I called Jolene and we both laughed at the irony of Aria’s timing. She wished me well and said she would have words with Aria after she got back!
Knowing that things would probably happen faster than last time, we started preparations – packing Eleu’s bags, finishing packing my hospital bag, setting up auto-replies for our work e-mail, etc. I called a few people to let them know things were underway, including my friend, Erin, who was supposed to be at Eleu’s birth, but was out of town and was looking forward to being there for Aria’s. Erin’s husband had recently had knee surgery, so her attendance was going to depend on a few factors including child care for her son and daughter. The two people she had lined up to watch her children were both out of town, but she had someone else who could take them for a spell. She asked if I would contact her again when the contractions started.
Contractions started around 9/9:30am and James and I were pretty much done with our preparations by 10am, by which time the contractions were pretty intense, a few minutes apart, but only lasting around 30 seconds. I was relieved I was not experiencing back labor this time around! I sat down at the computer to do a couple of things and the contractions slowed, so I decided I needed to stay active. I thought about going for a walk, but it was already very hot outside, so James suggested we go and pick some blueberries from our garden. It was such a relaxing activity to be doing in the knowledge that before the day’s end we would be welcoming our second daughter in to the world!
We came in from blueberry picking at about 10:30am and my contractions were only 2 minutes apart, though still only approximately 30 seconds long. James called Laura to get a second opinion on whether we should go to the hospital yet. Whilst waiting for Laura to return our call we decided to leave anyway and I called Erin to let her know. As we said goodbye to Eleu, I shed a tear for the last moments when she would be our only child.
When we arrived at the hospital I was having a contraction and couldn’t get out of the car immediately, then I had nothing all the way up to the maternity ward. I got worried that I wasn’t as far along as I thought I might be but when the nurse checked me just after 11am, I was 100% effaced and at 5cm. I almost got put on antibiotics by accident because the nurse misread my file and thought I had tested positive for Strep B, but after she checked with Dr. G’s office she confirmed I was negative, which was a huge relief. They quickly filled the tub and just before 11:30am, I got in. Ahhh, bliss! I remembered the position that had worked so well for my labor in the tub last time and, sure enough, it worked this time too. Shortly after we sent Erin a text letting her know I was at 5cm and she replied that she would be there in about 45 minutes.
James and I were alone in the room and, once again, I felt he was so in tune with me. He truly was a fantastic support. After about 10 minutes in the tub the nurse checked me again and I was at 6cm. Just after 12pm I was at 7cm and James and I decided to make ETAs. I said 3:30pm because with Eleu’s birth I went from 5cm to 10cm in 20 minutes after getting in the tub, so I mentally prepared myself for a few hours more of laboring since I wasn’t dilating quite as fast in the tub this time. James was shocked I had said that late and said he had been thinking 12:45pm, but would change it to 1:45pm. Shortly afterwards I reached a point when my contractions really weren’t letting up and I was thinking, “I can’t do this, this is worse than I remember!”, but I didn’t let anyone know I just worked through it.
I was getting overheated, so Laura got some ice chips and cold compresses which James gave me periodically and they couldn’t have been more welcome. Pretty soon I started feeling a lot of pressure and the urge to push. I resisted, thinking that I couldn’t possibly be at 10cm already, but Laura could tell I wanted to by my body language and told me to listen to my body.
With Eleu’s birth I had been slightly reclined on the advice of my midwife, but I knew that this time I wanted to try being on all fours as I felt like my positioning had worked against me last time. I started pushing, just a little at first, and before I knew it Laura told me Aria was crowning. I swear at one point I felt Aria “kick off” of my abdomen like you do in a swimming pool!
I gave one big push and her head was half out. I told everyone I need to catch my breath, took a few seconds to relax and then pushed again. Two strong pushes without a break in between. Before I knew it Aria was out! At 12:43pm Aria Alex was born weighing 7lbs 7oz and measuring 19 inches. So, James was 2 minutes off with his original prediction!
Laura unwrapped the cord which was around Aria’s neck and passed her through my legs to me. I took her and brought her up out of the water and onto my stomach. The cord was a little short and kind of tugged, so the first sound Aria heard was probably me cursing in pain! I moved so I could be seated a little higher in the water and we sat there for 10 minutes until the cord stopped pulsing. At that point, James cut the cord and I moved Aria up towards the breast to see if she wanted to nurse. After I delivered the placenta, I got out of the tub and, although I was nervous my uterus may not start to contract, it did and I just had to massage it a little. I had a local anesthetic for two stitches as I had a very small tear, but I was alert and feeling great!
It was such a wonderful birth, the kind of birth I would wish on any expectant mother! And now James and I have two beautiful daughters whom we adore.
Oh, and Erin made it to the hospital just after 1pm, just 20 minutes too late!