When the due date for your second child lands on the birthday of your first, you can be forgiven for expecting the two experiences to be the same, right?
They could not have been more different.
My eldest was born in a birthing center in Littleton by a quiet mannered midwife and a nurse with tattooed sleeves going up each arm. I had chosen a birthing room with a big wooden bed-frame and a soft blue comforter, but what I remember most is the hallways where I labored, my body seeking the dark, and the echoing staircases where I lunged up and down stairs through contractions, getting the baby to move into position. After many hours, my daughter finally arrived—sunny-side up, as they say—staring at the midwife. She came in her own way, which was a little foretaste of the BIG personality we have experienced as she’s grown.
Three years later, just like the first birth, my water broke and we went to the same birthing center. This time, however, we found ourselves discharged at 2 AM with instructions to head for a hospital. Contractions had not started and there was risk of infection; there was nothing more the midwives could do.
As the nurse at Denver Health attached the monitor to my belly and started an IV for Pitocin, I began to cry. The nurse looked at me sternly. “We know you’re disappointed,” she said. “This isn’t turning out how you imagined.” She didn’t understand. I was not disappointed. I was terrified.
All I knew of labor was lunges on stairs or being on hands and knees with low, throaty moans, surrendering my body to the rhythms of intense pain—pain with such a specific and wondrous purpose. I did not know how to labor on my back, under florescent lights, tied to a bed with monitors and tubes. All I knew about the Pitocin the doctor had recommended was that it caused double peak contractions that couldn’t be survived without anesthesia. I feared one intervention would lead to another until I found myself with a C-section delivery.
And here is where my wonderful husband stepped in. A man who gets queasy at the word “uterus” and lightheaded if we even walk near a hospital, he found his purpose and strength that morning and advocated for a mobile monitor and even found a sleeping pad for the floor so I could labor on hands and knees.
Then the nurse who started her shift a few hours into my stay was the kindest, most caring person I have ever known and served me in ways that morning no other person ever has. With the help of the Pitocin (and because this was birth #2), my son was born after only a few hours of labor and a handful of pushes. I cried when they passed his slippery body into my hands—not for the miracle of bringing a new being into the world—but for the relief that it was over so quickly and we’d survived a second birth.
If you yourself are expecting, I hope you’re reading lots of different viewpoints and that you’re open to many different ideas, even perhaps to a few lessons from my story:
Trust your body and your practitioner I believed wholeheartedly that women’s bodies were made to give birth. I also trusted my midwife when she said it was time to leave for the hospital because I needed the help of traditional medicine.
Have an advocate It's good to have a philosophy about birth, a plan for your approach and then have someone ready to fight for you so that you can focus on labor, not on getting your needs met.
Have a plan and hold it lightly Birth plans are a great, but we have to recognize that birth is this awesome journey. We can do our part to make it what we want, but we are also at nature’s mercy (reminds me a bit of parenting).
Birth stories are beautiful and all so unique. Whatever your story is or turns out to be, I challenge you to write it down, document the experience. Our memories are so fickle (even when we think we could never forget). Take pictures, have pictures taken. Everyone says it—newborns and kids change so fast—AND THEY DO. Don’t let this story slip away because the best birth story is your birth story.
Have a story you'd love to share? Post a little something in the comments below.