By the time I jumped out of bed with the first rush MAP was already sound asleep. I figured he would probably need at least a little rest with what was to come, so I let him be. I began tidying up bits and pieces throughout our apartment and finished packing last minute things. I had gotten an app for counting contractions and figured I should start using it. By midnight the intensity was increasing but they were still coming between five and seven minutes apart.
Around 1am the rushes were strong enough that I had to stop what I was doing and hold myself back from crying out. But at that point I still told my Mom not to come over, just to have a bag ready, and wipes because we were almost out. That was a big concern for about 45 seconds. Very quickly every movement I made would lead to a rush, sometimes two at a time with just seconds between them. What threw me off was how different these were to the contractions I had felt with Wry. When I was laboring the first time the rushes would take over my entire abdomen, often wrapping around my back. I always knew when I was about to have one because I would start to feel hot. This time they were localized to my lower belly, all the power felt between my hips. The most comfortable position for me to be in was an upright leaning stance that kept me running to the chair in our living room. It reclined just enough to stretch me a little bit as I leaned into the rush, and it wasn’t too difficult for me to stand again once it passed. It also used to be my Grandpa’s chair & that brought me comfort.
At 1:33am I sent my Mom another text that she needed to come over. I was on the living room floor by now trying so hard to breathe through the movements. I finally yelled for MAP to come help me. Nothing. Called again, still nothing. Tried literally calling his phone. Nope, still asleep. BLAST IT! I got up and woke the man from his sleep. “It’s time to go,” I told him calmly. I didn’t want him to sense that I’d been crying out for him & start a frenzy. He sat up and asked how long I’d been having contractions. About two hours, I said. MAP flew into action from that point and although I thought he seemed a bit panicked, he grabbed everything that I would have otherwise forgotten, called my midwives, my parents, and did exactly what he needed to do. Truth is I knew he was shocked that I had been in labor for two hours and he didn’t know about it. But it had been my time to work through this labor on my own, to welcome it after so much waiting and allow my mind to fall into place without anyone else there, even my husband. I needed and wanted to stay busy as my labor began. I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful that was for me. I was simply HAPPY to be in labor & to have done that first part solo.
My parents arrived at our home a little after 2am. (It is now 2:05am as I write this- so exactly a week ago!) I was working hard through the contractions, still bending forward over my Grandfather’s old chair, and pushing my parents away as they tried to help me breathe. They knew how badly I wanted to have this labor be quick and easy, but birth is something no one can make easier. It just is what it is- hard, painful work. Still, it was nice to know they were there and Wry was with his Mormor & Grandpa. I had tried to go into our room to kiss him goodnight, but ended up running out to avoid waking him with a muffled moan. It was the only time I cried during my whole labor.
It took me working through five or six rushes before walking out to the car with my Mom & Dad at my sides. The cool air felt so good against my skin. The car ride was quiet except for my deep groans. I don’t remember seeing any other cars on the road. It was nearly 3:00am by the time we made it to the birthing center at the hospital.
MAP went inside to get me a wheelchair, despite me wanting to walk at first. A huge contraction washed over me as he ran inside and I let out a roar inside the car. I wondered how many of the neighboring houses heard women in labor as they arrived to the hospital. Surely it would be an unnerving sound to hear in the dead of night! But I was still welcoming it all in, and upon admission when the nurse asked me what my plan was as far as pain management/epidural I said I didn’t know. My midwife met us in the birthing room and I told her that I guessed the strip worked. She just chuckled. She checked me and behold! I was at 6cm. A whole centimeter more than I was after laboring for over 30 hours with Wryter. The rushes kept coming stronger and M (my midwife) said the labor would go fast. I ran into the bathroom and asked MAP to go out. Things just didn’t flush my system the way they had the days leading up to labor with Wry, which is what I had expected. Though I share a great many things with my husband there are just a few small intimacies that I would like to keep private! More likely than not this was just a fantasized privacy since my hubby knew not to venture far from the bathroom door. It was sometime around 3:30am at this point.
After what felt like quite a while I said I wanted an epidural. Both MAP & M seemed entertained by the idea, but not convinced. I assured them that I did want it, with obvious doubt in my voice. M asked me if I wanted to try the tub (I’d been saying how much I looked forward to it for months!), but I was so hot that the idea of sitting in warm water was almost nauseating. I had so much heartburn that I literally felt on fire in my chest and I was sweating on the outside. I only wanted cold washcloths on my forehead and my neck. After getting me back on the bed & revealing I was at 9cm, M said I had just a tiny bit of cervix left and that an epidural wouldn’t be a bad idea for relaxing to a 10. By then I was crying out & all for the idea. If I’m honest I will tell you that I was screaming, but I feel a little embarrassed when I think back on it. The rushes had become harder and faster, my pain tolerance was slipping away. I don’t know how many came and went before I looked MAP square in the eyes and yelled, I NEED IT NOW. I told him to go find M & the nurse and tell them I couldn’t wait for the anesthesiologist any longer. I knew that my window of opportunity was slipping away quickly. M had told MAP earlier that I could have the epi up until I needed to push, and the way I was going it wouldn’t be long. M had been right. This really would be fast. It was all going very, very fast.
Now I’m not sure exactly the order of events from here, but I remember M coming back into the room and not leaving my side again. The anesthesiologist was tending to an emergency in the main building and the backup was called. He was “on his way”. What did that mean? Was he driving from somewhere? Was he walking down the hall? Where was he?
Not in my room, and not where I needed him. I was officially zoning in and out from the pain and strength of the rushes. M asked me if I felt like I needed to push. I didn’t, and I wish I knew how to put into words what the contractions felt like at this point. They were wicked, wicked twists and cuts. In a flash they went from sharp rolls to slicing, searing pain as my baby was pushed further into the birth canal by my body. I began having longer pauses between them, dozing off at each break for a few minutes. I would fall away into my unconscious only to be startled awake as another would thunder through me. I felt every single movement of the baby’s body and hardening of my muscles. I felt my water break and wanted to tell M, but I couldn’t speak to anyone. Quite abruptly the urge to push took over.
M checked me and called out to the tending nurse- call off the epidural, she’s at 10, we’re going to start pushing- this baby is coming! I looked at MAP. There was no way back. The promise of relief was no longer a stranger with a spinal block, but the end of my labor as it would be on its own, untouched. I felt fear but I also knew that there was an end. An end that was really the beginning of something greater than any of the pain I was experiencing… But it was still all-consuming, insane, terrible pain. Then I pushed for the first time.
Once a contraction ended with the urge to bear down, the pain subsided and I could concentrate on moving the baby down. That feeling was a strange combination of good and awful, and all I kept thinking was, I can’t keep having these contractions, I won’t make it. And just as I did with Wryter, within a matter of minutes I yelled that I couldn’t do it. But the soft voices of the nurses and my midwife guided me. They had seen hundreds if not thousands of births over the years, I could trust them. I looked at MAP again and never once felt alone, only alone with what I had to do. I imagined what it felt like when Wry was born. I would force myself to remember what it felt to experience the sort of magic that happens only through birth. As the pain washed in and out of me, I did all I could to take myself to a happier place, though never quite feeling I got there.
I kept pushing at the end of each contraction and it was unbelievable to feel the baby as she started to crown. This was not at all how I remembered the first time, the epidural surely numbing a great deal, if not the majority of the experience for me. There had been pressure, absolutely, but not this. This was fire. It was life. In all the pain and feeling like I could cease to exist at any moment, my body couldn’t have been more alive. Those few minutes may be the most alive that my body will ever be, hardly needing my mind to power through. I let go of my thoughts and allowed my body to overpower my mind. MAP said to me after the birth that I appeared to be in a very “zen” state and asked between pushing and contractions to have the baby put on my chest right away. I was happy to hear he thought I was in such a calm place. The surrender to my body must have been what came across as zen, though I had plenty of voices still throwing curse words only internally now. The encouragement around me kept me going, kept me focused. My baby was so close. I tried to reach down to feel her, but I can’t remember having her there. I knew I had one more push, one more and it would all be over. The pain would stop. She would be here.
I gave it my all, and in a moment she came out, face up, the warm gush of her world coming out with her, and she was here. Our Story was finally here! She was handed to me right away and I picked her up and placed her onto my chest. She grabbed my thumb and held on tight. It had been her journey, too. We did it together. It was a magical, beautiful meeting.
Story was born at 4:30AM, barely 90 minutes after we arrived to the hospital. I pushed for 20 minutes. It was a lightening fast labor, but the intensity and quickness of it was much more vigorous & painful than my first birth (despite it having been two days long). As my midwife explained, having a fast birth often puts more strain on the body with less time to adapt to what is happening. And because our little ladybug came out sunny-side up the pain was more than it would have been had she stayed face down. But I will never forget seeing her come out facing the world, and though it took me a while to be happy not having had the epidural (yes, even after wanting a natural birth so badly and for many years), I wouldn’t change a thing. Not the waiting nor the pain. It was phenomenal to envision a supernatural and fast labor for months, and then to feel it and experience it in all its glory. As with so much in life, everything was exactly as it should be.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD, STORY BLOOM! Our darling baby girl <3
*Thank you for reading about my second journey through childbirth. I plan on sharing what I had in my birthing bag, how I intended to use different methods of pain relief, and what exactly changed or veered from my original birth plan. If you have questions send them to me via the ASK tab, and I will include them in my “birth plan” followup post.
All my love and light to you all- happy birthing to every shining mommy-to-be. Remember, you are divine, you are sacred, and you’ve got it!
Thursday morning (4/10) I took Wry for a morning walk with Mormor to our favorite park. My stomach was a little bouncy, but nothing out of the ordinary. We talked a lot about pain management during labor, and why I didn’t want to have an epidural right away, if at all. After my painfully long labor with Wry I knew better than to say it wasn’t an option, but a natural birth was something I knew could be achieved with the right tools and mindset. I had read (not as diligently and self-disciplined as I would have liked) much more than I had during my first pregnancy, and I felt as prepared as I could be without going so far as attending classes (that stuff is expensive, Lordy!).
(Thursday morning, 40 weeks +4, getting good Tiger mojo)
I also shared my new theory as to why this little girl was
late for the party making her own plans. After spending the last couple years syncing my cycle with the calendar moon phases, I became very used to mapping my body that way. If I was correct as to when this little girl was conceived, it was under the same cycle and moon phase at Wryter, and so it would make sense that it would end under the same moon, too. I explained to my Mom that if my theory was indeed correct, it was likely baby bird would finally hatch that night, or at the very latest, Friday.
This was good news because Thursday afternoon rolled around and my last appointment with my midwives was up to bat. If this baby girl didn’t want to come on her own, Saturday, April 12th would be her eviction day (41 weeks and 6 days). The last thing I wanted was to have an induction, be it breaking my water and walking the halls (have you ever walked down a hospital corridor for fun? yeah, not so much) or starting labor with pitocin (hello painful induced contractions, I salute the women warriors who have had to go this route). So when my midwife told me I was close to 4cm and at 90% effacement I felt like the moon was on my side. Then in that moment she asked me if I wanted to strip my membranes. I felt in my heart that this baby was coming out before Saturday, but my heart had told me wrong before. My head on the other hand said why the hell not; It’s better than being induced and you have 48 hours. Had it been a day sooner I would have said no, but it was sinking in fast that I needed my baby girl to come out one way or another. So stripped they were and into my last non-stress test I went. I sat in the chair with my feet up, clicking the little button with each of her movements, imagining myself in 48 hours time… with a new baby. A baby!!! It felt real again.
MAP & I went to run a couple errands since our Bubba was with Mormor and I started to feel a bit uneasy. We went into Trader Joe’s for some coconut water and I had a sudden feeling of panic. I had to get out of there and get home. Luckily for me I have two homes here in California- the one I live in with my hubby & cub(s) and the one I grew up in. For a long while I always imagined laboring at my childhood home, even birthing in the backyard in a warm tub… Under the light of the moon, no less! So I was happy to be there laying on the back porch swing, my baby boy playing with his Daddy on the lawn, the air that perfect temperature where it feels like a weightless silk against your skin. My Mom came outside and gave me a long foot massage, my Dad with us, too. It was a wonderfully peaceful late afternoon. I felt a couple stronger braxton hicks, and wanted to share every little inkling I had, but kept all my thoughts to myself. I barely wanted to share having had my membranes stripped with my Mom. I think a little part of me felt like I had cheated, and I was so beyond the point of talking about it all anymore.
When we got to our (other) home our parking was full, except for a few visitor spots which happen to be right out our backdoor. I was in no way going to chance not having our car close by (our other car close by was without a baby seat) so I wrote a rather blunt note to our resident parking patrol man. It read,
"Possibly in labor. Do not tow. If questions should arise call this number __. Do NOT come to door."
I include this because at the time it made me feel crazy protective and territorial over my home, my car, and my family. All this because the appointed parking guy came to our apartment one evening to tell my parents they needed to move their car from a no-parking space (the only place available where they wouldn’t have to walk in from the street with Wry). MAP told him they were there dropping off our son, to which he looked through the open kitchen window, saw we were eating dinner, and said, “Well they’re not dropping him off now.” Let me tell you, that sort of thing p’s me off so bad. Needless to say I wasn’t going to chance this a-hole bothering me if I was about to have a baby. As I ran around the apartment cleaning up while Wry ate his dinner, I saw the guy holding my note while walking his dog. He looked at me through the window and I called for MAP, already on edge. If I had had bear claws they would have swiped at the window, but instead I almost started crying. If this man had the audacity to comment on how I was not in labor, or whatever he was thinking, I’d lose it. Maybe that’s what I needed, I thought. Maybe I needed to go a little batshit to get my labor started. Instead the man yelled, GOOD LUCK!, through our open kitchen window. Crisis (and possible bear attack) averted.
After dinner we got Wry washed up and ready for bed. I snapped a quick picture of my belly, and crawled next to my loves. We read one of his favorite books about being a big brother and turned off the light. I decided to go to sleep with him, and suggested to MAP to come to bed after a load of laundry. I felt strong about this, but I knew he didn’t understand (or if he did, didn’t believe) why. I fell asleep around 9pm and awoke to some stomach pains around 9:30pm. MAP jumped up (he was watching a movie) and I assured him I was fine. This happened again at 10:30, same thing. At 11pm MAP crawled into bed with us and about twenty or so minutes later I was up and out of bed. I had felt the first real contraction.*part III (the final bit!) will be posted tomorrow morning!*
As I’m sitting here wondering where to begin, it is 8pm on a Thursday night. It’s been exactly a week since I was getting ready for bed, my labor just hours away. I was 41 weeks and 4 days pregnant with my second child, a daughter. The warmth of her tiny body now eases my empty belly, her little breaths felt on the outside of my womb where she lay nestled and cozy only seven days ago. At that point MAP & I had shared so many feelings about having gone through the daily emotions of waiting for my labor to begin. We had agreed that spending nearly two weeks in anticipation for our baby girl to be born was kind of like waiting for a well-planned party to begin… Like the day of the fete had come and gone, the guests slowly forgetting to show up, the decorations falling down. Yes, it was a bit like a deflated balloon. And how silly we both felt to feel that way! As if our baby’s big day would be any less special a day or fifty days after her due date. But it was was the truth, everything but my belly felt deflated and a strange state of limbo had come to pass.
38 weeks pregnant. Photo by Claire Brighten.
MAP had been working from home the entire week following my due date as not to get stuck in traffic should I suddenly need him. And after all, we had been nearly guaranteed by my midwives (and plenty of other well-meaning friends and family) that “the second time goes so much faster.” So prepared we were. However, the second week post due-date rolled around and though the chances of me going into labor were obviously higher, I encouraged MAP to go to the office. This was partially to help him feel reconnected to the “real world”, to get rid of his cabin fever, and to alleviate any thoughts he had about missing out on projects and things on his to-do list. I have to say though that having him work from home for a week was a huge blessing, especially for Wry, who got to really soak in some extra moments with his Dad and Mom in the same place. As I wrote in the past, my anxiety about going from a family of three to a family of four was high for nearly half of my pregnancy, and every “extra” day PDD felt like a little more treasured time together.
I almost feel like the eleven days I went over my due date was a trimester in and of itself. The range of physical and emotional shifts I felt was huge, from chiropractor appointments to help my sore ligaments, to bi-weekly appointments with my midwives where I would leave feeling either elated or completely broken down. In fact the first post-term appointment I had I was asked if I felt anything was holding me back from having baby girl. It took about 3 seconds of thinking about it before my chest tightened and my eyes welled up with tears. Try I did to keep my voice from cracking, but the answer streamed down my face. My Wryter. My little boy. What would change between us? Would he notice a difference? Would he act out and become a different child? I realized what I was feeling was more than worry but a genuine fear about the next chapter of our lives. It was the same fear I felt the night I took the pregnancy test that told us of our impending baby. The same guilt, the same hurt.
There was also the amazing visit that gave us the first look into our baby girl’s world since she was 17 weeks along. Her chubby cheeks and tiny lips flashed on the ultrasound, the first of four scans we would have to ensure that she was healthy and happy in her little cocoon. So after much deliberation from my inner thoughts, I woke up one day (the Saturday before she was born, to be specific) ready to have my baby. We suited up for a long walk on our local park trail and I welcomed every single ache and pain I felt. I was so ready and excited to have our baby. I chugged along pushing Wry in his stroller, talking to MAP about how amazing and beautiful it is to give birth, and how amazing it felt to know I was about to experience it again. I recalled as much as I could from my birthing books (my favorite being Birthing from Within and anything Ina May Gaskin has shared in her books), imagining my hips getting wider as I walked and my baby moving down into my pelvis. Finally after an hour and a half of walking I had to stop. I was positive I was making progress in early labor and considering at that point I was 2cm and 70% effaced, I knew my body was already on its way to labor-day. But no sooner did I sit down that all contractions stopped, so we headed to lunch. We ordered Kung Pao tofu and confirmed later that night (when yet another day had come and gone) that the bulk amounts of spicy food I’d eaten only made her want to stay in her nest longer… After all why would anyone want to miss out on that kind of room service?
40 weeks +2
By the following week I had “given up”. I was feeling better physically than I did the week prior, and I started to wonder if she was ever going to come out or if my body was adapting to a permanent state. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go past 42 weeks, so technically the end of my term was in sight, but I had spent so much time thinking, “Today has to be the day!” I really in my heart thought that I would have my baby five days past my due date, just as I had done with Wryter. But now I was on day eight PDD and it was eye opening to feel how wearing each passing hour was. I had never felt anything like it. With Mitch back at work I continued to busy myself with plans and little tasks. It was great to actually have everything done that I’d wanted to accomplish before going into labor, and I even felt I was teetering on compulsively organizing our home. Secretly I was starting to like it. Wryter and I went for walks in the morning, I ran errands (a solo trip to Sephora felt like heaven), and I tried with all my might to enjoy the last glances and looks I got as a VPL (very pregnant lady). If ever there was a time to feel special and sacred, now was it. How fun it was beginning to be when I responded to the question, “When are you due?” The best may have been the day of my due date, when I was donating clothes to a Goodwill truck. It was raining and my big belly caught every drop and drip around me. There were three older gentlemen who were working, and one asked me calmly when I was due. I later told MAP that I was pretty sure they all leapt back like the baby was going to pop out of me right then and there. If only they knew!
*Just as I wrote nearly two and a half years ago in Wryter’s birth story, each woman’s journey of childbirth is unique, like a finger print. My story is not meant to be read as a how-to, a say-all, or even reflect my feelings about birth as a whole. It is simply my experience. I have a deep respect for the choices we have to make as mothers, starting from what we hope for and carry out during our births, following through to the decisions we make as we raise our babies. If you have any questions about my birth stories, please feel free to ask. The more we share from the heart the closer we become.