Six years later, my wish for the birth of my 2nd daughter was to go into labor naturally, labor at home for a long time before I went to the hospital, and avoid all the interventions of my previous birth. I thought my opportunity might be slipping away when week 36 saw a similar slight rise in my bp readings. However, as the baby’s readings stayed great, and my lab tests remained normal, I was able to fend off suggestions of induction.
I fully expected to meet the 2nd baby myth of fast and early labor, and when my due date passed, I was surprised and a bit frustrated. The following 5 days showed increasingly strong contractions that came and went and refused to develop a pattern. My nights were increasingly sleepless, as I timed contractions and tried to sleep through their growing strength. I had sent my 6 year old to stay with her grandparents when contractions started to make me irritable and tempted to just stick her in front of the TV all day; and though she was having a blast and barely missing me at all, I missed her terribly in my quiet house after 3 days. I went into the clinic once to see if I was making any progress and was told that I was a disappointing 1.5 centimeters dilated, 50% effaced. I began to think there was a deep irony in my desire to labor at home being granted by days and days of early labor.
On the 6th day of this prodromal labor (I totally reject the term false labor), my contractions stayed at 8-10 minutes apart most of the day, but grew increasingly strong, so that I could no longer pretend to ignore them and had to stop and breathe through each one. In the late afternoon my sister arrived and my husband, she and I took my second long walk of the day during which I had several contractions closer together and had to stop and lean against them. I finally felt like this could be the day. Back at home the time between contractions was less, but still not a totally regular pattern. I remained a bit doubtful because of my days of starts and stops, but the intensity was undeniable, so we slowly got everything ready and called the doula to tell her we were going in. I absolutely dreaded being told I was 2 centimeters and all that work had not really getting me anywhere, but as I needed to get a IV of penicillin for Group B Strep, I did not want to stall too long. We arrived at labor and delivery a little before 10 pm and my contractions were becoming increasingly regular and close together. My sister and my doula applied counter pressure to my lower back and I continued to breath, rock, and hum through the waves. I was nearly exultant to hear I was 5 centimeters and well on my way. The midwife on call was one I had not met before. She was cute and very young looking, but warm and calm. The contractions when I had to be still for the setting of the IV, the cervical checks, and periodic monitoring of the baby were much worse than the ones I could move through, so I quickly got back up when the IV port was in to walk around, sit on the birth ball between contractions and manage the contractions with movement and breath. I found it nearly impossible to sit or lay down for any of them. My husband was an amazing advocate for this and informed the staff I did not want to be lying down strongly several times. My wonderful doula reminded me to not think about the next wave during my breaks, but to be in the moment of relaxation. I did this for an hour, moving the IV around with me while the penicillin did its thing, drinking coconut water and trying to talk to my 3 wonderful helpers.. As soon as I was off the IV, I was feeling more pressure with the contractions, so I was checked again to be told I was between 6 and 7. My doula suggested the shower. This was a wonderful idea. My contractions were right on top of each other and some of them reduced my hums and vocalizations to whimpering, but the warm water and squatting, swaying, and rocking my hips helped me manage. I moved to complete in the shower in 40 minutes. My water broke as I walked back to the bed and tried to find a position to push in. This stage was more difficult than I remember it being with my first daughter, but I was completely sunk into myself. I did not realize, as I was later told, that there were 8 people in the room. I could just hear my husband’s voice and his encouragement. I could feel my sister and my doula near me, although they said little. This stage of birth is the most transcendent for me. The thoughts recede and the focus becomes entirely primal- letting your body stretch and split and yell the new life into the world. It is at once the most foreign and the most natural experience I have ever had. My daughter emerged with one hand next to her cheek. Her little arm and elbow were the source of the extra difficulty I seemed to be having with the pushing. Immediately after her birth, I felt strong and clear. I held my slippery little girl and heard her cry, but her cord was cut and she was taken to be checked earlier than our initial request to allow the cord to stop pulsing because of light meconium in the water. I told my husband to stay near her and listened to him and the pediatric nurse coo over her and talk about how perfect she looked while I had two small stitches and delivered the placenta. I assented to the pitocin shot to help the uterus start to contract and nursed my perfect little daughter.
Juniper Lee came into the outside world at 1:01 am on the morning of the full moon in July. She weighed 7 lbs 10 ounces, nearly 2 pounds more than my first daughter. She has tons of dark hair and a wonderful alert personality. My birth made me feel capable and strong and able to both find the control and appreciate the uncontrollable in the birth experience. I could not have asked for a more perfect delivery.