Our Second Medication-Free Hospital Birth
Here’s how my husband, Ryan, summed up the birth of our second child.
“Wow. We made that look routine.”
My water broke on an evening where we were both well-rested and well-fed. We had no loose ends at work and it was perfect timing for my mother to watch our older son. We casually labored at home and then moseyed into the hospital right at transition. We got transferred to the delivery room shortly before the urge to push and then nine minutes later, we had our second son. It was a three hour labor. It was so fast, the frozen orange juice we packed to drink after birth was still frozen.
We had a very positive experience. Sickeningly positive? Perhaps. But since there are a lot of birth horror stories out there, I think it is important to share the good stories as well. : )
Possible Factor Genetics
My family has a history of fast labors and smaller babies. According to 23AndMe, Ryan and I both have genes for lower birth weight babies.
23AndMe Confirm We Both Have Tendencies Towards Smaller Birth-Weight Babies
BUT— also according to 23AndMe, I have Increased Sensitivity to Pain. Go figure. (This may support the claim that the pain from child-birth is a different kind of pain than an injury).
23AndMe Says I Have a Higher Sensitivity to Pain
Provider – Physicians and Midwives
With my pregnancy with my first child, our caretakers were the wonderful midwives at BirthCare. However, when my water broke at 35 Weeks 5 Days, we had to be transferred to the hospital. Fate brought us to a midwife and obstetrician from the Physicians and Midwives Collaborative Practice. We found them to be very supportive of our wishes for a natural, unmedicated birth. We had such a positive experience, we selected them for our care this time around. And bonus– there was an office within walking distance to my house. I was able to walk to all of my third trimester appointments with my regular doctors/midwives.
Hospital versus Home Birth
A factor in our decision to use Physician and Midwives came from our desire to have another hospital birth. With our first son, we were weary of hospital births and all the negative stories we had heard. But with this birth, we knew first hand that it was feasible to have an intervention-free, unmedicated birth in the hospital. Ryan liked the idea of hospital staff being around in case there were complications. I, on the other hand, coveted a hospital birth for one reason and one reason only– the bed. With our first labor, I found that maneuverable hospital bed to be oh-so-wonderful with changing positions and getting comfortable. “Wanna get into the sitting squat? Oh here, let me just push a few buttons. Done.”
No Birth Plan
We took Bradley Method classes during my first pregnancy. One evening we did an exercise where each husband shared an aspect about his wife that he felt would be beneficial during birth, stuff like “She wants the best for our baby” and “She doesn’t back down from a challenge.” One husband said, “She trusts me completely.” I remember thinking that was odd and thinking something along the lines of, “Isn’t that more about you than your wife?”
With two births behind me now, I have to say complete trust and confidence in your coach is absolutely a key component.
Although our preferences were the same as last time, we did not write up or distribute an official birth plan this time around. I had complete confidence in my husband, Ryan. We are both on the same page with preferences. I also knew Ryan was well educated on the birth process and the various interventions. I knew if there were complications, he was armed with the knowledge to make the best decisions for our family. And most importantly, I knew Ryan had seen me on hard hikes, he had seen me on tough workouts, and he saw me during my first birth. I knew that he would know the difference between me having self-doubt to me having maternal fatigue and needing an intervention. Because I had so much confidence in Ryan, I was able to defer decision-making to him. I didn’t have to waste energy on decisions and instead I was able to focus my mind where it is needed most — relaxing and letting my body do its work. In the weeks preceding birth, I told people I wasn’t particularly scared of labor, but I was terrified of the notion of labor without Ryan.
Prep – Exercise
Like with my first pregnancy, I remained active. However, I would classify the activity level as more moderate this time around. With my first pregnancy, I was getting to the gym five days a week. Now that I was a parent, my gym time was more limited, so my activity was supplemented by stuff I could do with my son such as walking or mowing our lawn with the manual push mower.
Last labor, I had said the most direct perk I had seen from exercise was with burping during swimming (it prepared me for burping during transition). This time around, I would say the most direct perk was the stationary bike. After the birth of my first son, I had found the pattern of working really hard followed by a “rest” period to be reminiscent of labor. As I approached the due date of my second son, I would emulate that on the stationary bike. I would do 0.75 miles on a base difficulty level and then for the last quarter mile, I would pump that level up really high. I would close my eyes, concentrate on breathing and relaxing the rest of my body as my poor legs burned and did their work. Then I would go back to the base level for another three quarters of mile before repeating. During this labor, as I was experiencing hard contractions, I thought about being on that bike and knowing the rest period was coming up.
As far as Bradley Method exercises, I did a lot of tailor sitting. I did about 200 kegels a day. I got in 150 pelvic rocks roughly every 3 days.
Prep – Relaxation
Relaxation and breathing exercises I wasn’t as diligent about. I would say I got those in about twice a week. What I tend to do is with my eyes closed, I start by tailor sitting and run through a series of stretches while doing deep breathing. I usually end by getting in a side lie and just doing deep breathing. And with a toddler that tires you out, often I would accidently fall asleep. : )
Prep – Perineal Massage
I also wasn’t as diligent about perineal massage this time around. I only did it twice. However, that was apparently sufficient as I didn’t experience any tearing during labor.
Braxton Hicks and Blissful Ignorance
So anytime the doctors would ask me about Braxton Hicks during this or last pregnancy, I would shrug and tell them that I wasn’t aware of it. I was blissfully ignorant and that is a good place to be. At 36 weeks, I had an appointment at the High Risk Center and they put me on some monitors to do a non-stress test on the baby. They wanted to watch his heartbeat and see that it spiked up over the baseline a certain amount of times in 30 minutes. I didn’t realize it, but they also put a monitor to watch my contractions. So I was going about my business when a nurse came in and asked, “Are you feeling those contractions?” She held up the instrument readouts and started pointing, “You had one there. You had one there. You had one there…. you’re having one right now!”
And I hadn’t noticed…until she SAID something. For the next couple of days, I was quite unnervingly aware of all the contractions. Thanks, technology. Luckily, after a couple of days, my mind became bored at fixating on contractions and focused back over at work and other duties. Via selective attention, I found myself back where I wanted to be– blissfully ignorant.
Labor – Rupture of Membranes
Shortly before 11 PM on June 27th, I was laying on our futon mattress on the floor and felt a very strange and audible “pop” in my belly. It was very unlike a kick, but I didn’t think much of it. Shortly after that, I was aware of liquid, so I alerted Ryan and went into the bathroom and confirmed once again that it is pretty unambiguous when my water breaks.
And I immediately apologized to Ryan. That particular night I couldn’t find my sleeping shorts and I wasn’t very inclined to squat and rummage around for them…so it was a pair of Ryan’s boxers that was unambiguously doused with amniotic fluid. : )
At 11:06 PM, Ryan texted his mother to let her know that my water broke. He also took our sleeping first born son up to a cot in my mother’s room.
Labor – Laboring At Home
I laid down some towels on our futon mattress and we waited for contractions to start to time them. It didn’t take long for the contractions to begin. The fan was on and on my face. I remember it being peaceful, laying with Ryan and listening to the fan.
The early contractions really made me feel like I needed to urinate. I got up and went to the restroom several times. I’m not sure if any urine actually came out, but all the amniotic fluid at least made it SEEM like I was productive.
Sometimes it was unclear when a contraction was starting and Ryan and I noted some patterns– where I would have a longer contraction then a short, light one and then another hard one.
Here’s where trust in your partner came into play. I deferred the decision of when to go to the hospital to Ryan. I didn’t think about it. I just concentrated on relaxing and my body. Finally, Ryan decided it was time for us to go to the hospital. Unbeknownst to us, my mother was relieved, she was getting ready to come down and yell at us for not going to the hospital yet. My family has a history of fast labors and my mother barely made it to the hospital for her second child.
Labor – Trip to the Hospital
Ryan held my hand as we walked down the stairs. The moon was beautiful. We heard evening frogs in the distance.
Ryan calculated that we would only have 3 contractions in the car– it was more than that (I think 7ish). They were manageable, except when we hit a bump on I-95 (which it turns out there are a lot more bumps than you think) and there was twice where I was having a contraction and Ryan accelerated at a light. Bumps and acceleration aren’t pleasant during contractions. I even made use of that little handle on the car ceiling.
Labor – Walking to the Hospital and Check-In
We parked at the closest entrance to Labor and Delivery and I got out of the car to walk. A security guard came up to “save us some steps” and warned us that our usual entrance was closed and that we should go to the emergency entrance. He seemed like he was offering us a ride, but I insisted on walking.
Walking really intensified and sped up the contractions. I had to keep stopping and let contractions pass, at times leaning on the cars of strangers. Midway through our walk, I could admit maybe it wasn’t the best idea, but I knew walking helps position the baby, so we kept going. Sometimes I would start walking as soon as a contraction peaked to get a head start before the next one began, so to an onlooker, it would appear like I was having really short contractions, when really I was just trying to get to my destination faster. The entrance I thought was our revised destination wasn’t… it was pretty much right smack next to the correct entrance but at that moment, it seemed like a great distance.
We made it to the lobby and a security guard offered me a wheelchair. I was hesitant because I couldn’t figure out if sitting or standing was going to be better with the contractions. Finally after the current contraction passed I sat down. As they wheeled me by some people waiting in the lobby, I remembered that I had my legs spread wide and no underwear on, so I pulled my skirt down a bit to shield. I still had some modesty! However, I had more of the onlookers comfort in mind than my own. : )
I experienced three or so contractions during the ride.
We had to sign some paperwork. Ryan did a lot of the answers, though he did not know what LMP meant (Answer: Last Menstrual Period).
At one point Ryan was looking for something in my wallet. I thought he was looking for my ID, so he handed it to me and I looked through it and couldn’t find it. I would find out a couple of days later that he was looking for my insurance card. He already had my ID out and gave it to the nurse (which explains why I couldn’t find it). I think this confusion was a sign that I was already hitting my “trance phase” of labor. I wasn’t paying full attention to what was going on outside my body.
Labor – The Skeptical Triage Nurse
After the paperwork was signed, they took me to a curtain area to put on a gown and answer questions for a triage nurse. This time, I did wait for the curtain to be closed before stripping off my maternity dress and putting on the hospital gown. So I still had more modesty than last time around! : ) I used the restroom before getting in bed. I did have some comfort problems with the fetal monitoring at first. They wanted me on my side and at the time, I wanted to be sitting up, but honestly once I got settled on my side, I was fine. I was just reluctant to move from a position where I knew everything was manageable (sitting upright) to a mystery position.
I’m not very vocal during contractions… and this was very misleading to the Triage Nurse. She seemed to be skeptical that my water even broke. She asked about how much liquid came out at home and kept commenting on how she wasn’t seeing any liquid here.
Dr. Bradley talks about the needs of a laboring woman and one of them is comfort. Well here’s an aspect of comfort. Don’t ask a laboring woman a bazillion #$(*&ing questions during a contraction! : ) This poor triage nurse was trying to fill out all her forms and when contractions came around, I really needed to focus on my body, so I ended up ignoring her. Ryan told me how you’d hear stuff like, “Ma’am, ma’am? Have you ever had herpes? Ma’am? Ma’am?” Ryan said after a while she just started to skip the questions I ignored.
I don’t think I helped with the triage nurse’s perception of how far along my labor was when she asked what my pain level is. “5 or 6″ I said.
Oh and when she asked about epidural, I gave the exact same answer I gave with my first son, “One contraction at a time.”
Enter the midwife from Physicians and Midwives. I had never met her before, but she definitely knows her stuff. She knew instantly that I was much further along than the triage nurse thought.
“She’s the silent strong type.” the midwife noted.
The midwife could see the baby’s heart rate on the monitor and told me “your baby is really responding to your contractions”. By watching the changes in the baby’s heart rate she knew I was contracting hard and often.
The midwife offered to check me and I was in the middle of a contraction, so I told her later. I was also reluctant to get checked because I was worried about getting discouraged if I was a 6 or something. The midwife had a very cheerful and friendly voice and she pointed out that she didn’t need to check me at all that the baby was going to come when it was ready regardless if she checked me or not.
The midwife lobbied for me to get transferred to the delivery room. The triage nurse, still fixated on procedure, asked the midwife, “Did you check her yet?” The midwife said she hadn’t but pointed out that I “was 3 centimeters last week.” Luckily, the midwife got her way and they transferred me and just 29 minutes later Dyson would be born.
Labor – Missed “Self Doubt” Emotional Sign Post
Ryan had been waiting for me to have my Self-Doubt Emotional Sign Post like last time, but it never came. Luckily, Ryan knows me very well and he recognized my trance-like state from last labor and he knew I was ready to go.
Labor – Visualizations
I did use the candle visualization a nurse gave me during my first son’s labor (imagine you are blowing on a candle and making it flicker but not blowing it out). I also found myself thinking about bicycle workouts at the gym during contractions.
Labor – Still Hate to Be Touched
Ryan learned that just like last labor, I didn’t like to be touched during contractions. Unfortunately I don’t think I used the word “Please” when I communicated that to him. I think I just said, “Don’t touch me.” (But hopefully not in a mean voice)
Labor – Coach’s Present Is Important
Knowing I was in my trance-like state like last time, Ryan was less vocal this time around, but I still fed on his mere presence. At one point, I opened my eyes in the triage area and I didn’t see him. I felt just the beginnings of being flustered when I heard his voice behind me. Even if he wasn’t talking, I just needed him there.
I do remember him reminding me this was like ab work at the gym (which is true– the alternation between work and rest on the Ab Bench reminds me very much of labor).
I did send Ryan away once between contractions. We had put watered down grape juice in my Camelbak Nalgene Bottle. I had tasted it before we left home and said, “Perfect!” But in the car ride to the hospital, the grape taste was bothering me. So in between contractions, I asked the midwife to show Ryan where he could dump the juice out and get plain water.
Labor – Transfer to Delivery Room
I was definitely in my trance mode during the transfer. At one point when they were wheeling me, I guess they hit a curtain or something. I heard someone say “Whoops” and then the midwife’s cheerful voice, “She didn’t even notice, she’s in her zone.”
Labor – Loss of Modesty
They got me to my delivery room and they wanted me to roll over to move beds. I opened my eyes and I believe I let out an audible sound of disappointment that I had to move, like an “oh no”, but I complied. As soon as I got in that bed, I immediately ripped off my hospital gown. It had been SOOO hot in that Triage area. Ryan said he knew that was coming. He also amusingly compared me to a scene in “An American Werewolf in London”. When the guy starts to turn into a werewolf, the very first thing he does is strip off all his clothes. That’s me in the delivery room.
Me In The Delivery Room
Labor – Transition
They asked me to lay on my left side, “for your baby” which I did.
Ryan asked if I wanted a wet wash cloth, I did and he said I kept it on for the rest of labor. He said when I got to pushing, when I dipped my head down the wash cloth would plop off on my belly and he would grab it and then put it back on my head when the contraction was done. After a few times of that, he started pulling it off when he saw my pre-push deep breaths coming along. I was actually unaware I still had that wash cloth on during pushing and I was definitely not aware of it falling off on my belly. : )
The midwife asked about checking me again and I said, “I dunno. If I’m not that far along, I’m going to get scared.” (Which is true. If you want to talk about a Self Doubt Emotional Sign Post, I could totally see myself going into full panic mode if I wasn’t that far dilated). But finally I let her check me and it turns out, “Just a tiny lip left. You’re complete.”
Second Stage Labor – Gotta Go Feeling and Pushing Contractions
Maybe 1-2 contractions after she checked me, the contraction ended with the urge to push. I told them I felt the urge and I followed it up with a “Yay.” Ryan confirmed my “Yay” was pretty monotone, but I was genuinely happy.
I wasn’t going to dilly dally this time with pushing. I asked them to put me in the sitting squat. Ryan had asked for a squat bar and they ran around and found it, set it up, but then I opened my eyes, saw it was in the way of me pulling my legs back, so after all that work to find it, I asked them to move it. The midwife had great spirits about this change. “I have a headrest” she said, gently bumping her head on the relocated squat bar.
There was a bit of time between that initial pushing contraction and the rest of them, I mentioned it and the midwife said that was good, “It gives you a little break.”
When it was show time, it was show time. Ryan reported being impressed with how I quickly pulled my legs back and started pushing. “You attacked it like a work out.” I attacked it so hard, in fact, my biceps were STILL sore two days later.
My first labor, I was worried about taking a bowel movement in front of my husband. This time, instead of finding fear or worry in something feeling like a bowel movement, I used that as a guide. “That feels like a dump, go for it!”
And Kudos to the male graphic novel author Brian K. Vaughan for nailing the sensation of Second Stage Labor in the very first frame of his Saga series.
When I became aware of them moving some tarp-like material under my rear end, I did ask, “Oh no, am I going to the bathroom?” The midwife laughed and said she was just getting ready for my baby.
Pushing contractions felt very different this time, I think because I was pushing with them from the get-go. I didn’t give my body a chance to do it for me (which I don’t advise). I don’t know how I knew they were coming, but I did and I was all over it.
The midwife was awesome about reminding me to breathe and catch my breath between the pushing contractions. Ryan was awesome about reminding me to keep my chin down.
I wasn’t sure I was making great progress, but Ryan and the midwife reported there was. They said there was not that much hair which was encouraging, at least the baby was close enough for them to see a lack of hair.
Second Stage Labor – Ring of Fire
Soon I felt the burning. They told me he was right there and I told them that I could feel the burning already and the midwife pointed out, “So you already know he’s there!” I opened my eyes and saw the top of his head. It looked like he had more to go to crown, so I thought, “Wow if it burns like this now, what is it going to feel like next contraction?” But then I didn’t even notice it the next contraction.
Second Stage Labor – Compound Presentation
The baby’s head got out and they asked me to breath. Then there was some commotion. I wasn’t sure if they wanted me to breathe or push, so I just breathed. They called some reinforcements. It turns out little Dyson had his little hand up by his head and shoulder and it was wrapped in the cord. The midwife cut the cord, untangled his hand and pulled him out. It felt quite nice when she pulled him out.
He was blue and there was stress in everyone’s voices. I didn’t outwardly panic, but I thought he was dead. Ryan reported I didn’t ask, “Is he dead?” (which is what I was thinking) and instead asked, “Is he okay?”
He turned out to be fine. He was just stunned. He had a heartbeat and soon started breathing and crying. His cry was much more vigorous than my first son’s. They were worried about his little right hand which he wasn’t moving at first. The pediatrician checked his clavicle and it wasn’t broken. And soon enough, Dyson started moving his hand around again. All was well. He was 6 pound 13.5 ounces, two pounds bigger than my first son. Even though he was bigger and had a compound presentation, labor was faster and I didn’t tear at all.
I have absolutely no concept of time with labor. With Sagan’s birth, I was surprised that I was pushing for two hours (it felt shorter). With Dyson’s birth, I was surprised that I only pushed for 9-10 minutes (it felt longer).
TMI – Second Stage Labor With Hemorrhoids
Two days before birth, I discovered I had a common pregnancy side-effect– hemorrhoids. It didn’t hurt, but it gave me mental discomfort to think something was there. My first labor during pushing, I held back because I was afraid of taking a bowel movement in front of my husband. I didn’t want any kind of mass in that area to mislead me and hold me back. But two health care professionals reassured me. Women with hemorrhoids push babies out all the time. And when it came down to it, there was so much sensation going on during second stage labor, I never once thought about those hemorrhoids. They did not hold me back or interfere with the process in anyway. After birth, they cleared up on their own (in about a week or so).
Ryan and I are amazed at what just a couple extra weeks in the womb does for a child. Dyson was much more aware and able than Sagan was at birth. Case in point, Dyson started rooting and nursing right there in the delivery room.
Possibly because this time we are nursing right off the breast (and not relying on the breast pump), I did find the uterus cramping during breastfeeding to be significantly more uncomfortable. It’s hilarious. I can get through labor contractions without a peep, but those cramps when the uterus contracts really got to me and had me moaning.
P.S. Circa Day 5, I went for a quick .9 mile walk. After that, the cramping didn’t disturb me anymore.
Coach Tip – Have a Thick Skin
Finally, in addition to my coach tip’s from my last Birth Story post, I have one more additional piece of advice. Coaches— make sure you have a thick skin and don’t take anything personally. Ryan got shot down three times during this labor (grape juice in my CamelBak, touching me during a contraction, and setting up the squat bar). So coaches, don’t let failed notions bother you, just move on to something else. : )