I figured I should probably write this post whilst it’s still fresh in my mind and before my body and mind does what it’s designed to do and forgets my second birth experience! It’s an epic read, so best to grab a cuppa (or a glass of wine!) before you settle in for the journey.
First things first, I’ve never been massively nervous about the labour and birth side of things, even after the first and knowing how hard and painful it is. I’ve always figured our bodies are designed to do it and it’s a means to an ends. All I could do was be as in control as possible, take it as it comes and hope for the best…
My second birth experience
I’d been filled with lots of positive stories from mums with more than one child, saying it’s quicker and easier the second time round and to get straight into hospital as labour often speeds up rapidly and if my first labour was okay, this one would be a breeze…well that was a load of rubbish! (for me anyway!).
With my first pregnancy, I went 10 days overdue but with my second, I was convinced I’d be on time, if not a little early. My bump was big, it felt all baby and in weeks 38 and 39, I just felt like baby was on its way. But nope, I went overdue again, this time just by 5 days. But because I was over and ready for baby to arrive, I wanted some help getting things moving along and enlisted the skills of my mother-in-law, who is trained in Reflexology and on the day I went into labour, she gave me a good hour session and within an hour or two afterwards, I experienced my first contraction.
Are they contractions?
It was about 7pm and I started getting waves of aching across my abdomen – I looked up at the clock and made a mental note of the time. Sure enough, 5 minutes later there was another one, then 5 minutes after that and 5 minutes after that. But they weren’t painful and they weren’t lasting long. Was this my labour contractions starting? Perhaps, as it was my second birth experience, contractions were less painful…perhaps this was going to be easy after all? I told the hubby that I was sure this was it and we put the toddler to bed, popped on an episode of Billions and kept an eye on my contractions for the next few hours.
My birth plan
I knew I wanted to labour at home for as long as possible – I’d feel more relaxed this way and more comfortable. As it was the evening, our toddler was in bed and my folks were with us to keep an eye on her, so this could all work out quite well. My “contractions” became more regular, but they weren’t too painful still. I popped my TENs machine on just in case they ramped-up quickly and set the stopwatch on my iphone, so I could start to measure the duration of the contractions, as well as the gap in between.
At about 11pm, they were about 3 minutes apart, and heeding the advice of other second-time mums, I thought I could start pushing at any point, so I’d better phone the midwife, which I did.
I felt a bit of a fraud, as I wasn’t even breathless, but they were definitely contractions!
She advised me to stay at home if I was happy (which I was) and wait for them to be 2-3 minutes apart, but also 1 minute long (which they weren’t yet), so that’s what I did…until about 3am.
Going into labour when you have a toddler
In honesty, I was quite happy and comfortable at home, the hubby was drifting in and out of short naps on the couch (poor thing had been at work all day!) and I was watching trashy telly and timing my contractions. The toddler was in bed but I kept thinking, “she’ll be awake in a few hours” …then what?
What I didn’t want was for her to wake up, see me in pain and then for us to have to leave for hospital and for her to get worried or wound up. So to be honest, our decision to go into hospital, was largely based on getting out of the house whilst the toddler was happily in bed and none the wiser.
Still in labour
The benefit of going into labour second time round is, you know what to expect…sort of! So once we’d called triage and agreed it was time for me to go in, I knew where we were going and what to expect. I was ushered through to an empty ward where the midwives could assess me and decide if I was in established labour (surely I must be!).
My contractions had ramped-up and were more painful, but still definitely manageable, the TENs was working just fine for pain relief, along with my hypno-breathing.
So when I was examined and told I was only 2cm dilated and that my cervix was still hard and the baby’s head still high, I was genuinely gutted.
It was nearly 4am and I honestly thought I’d be have the baby by 9am!
I was advised to walk around for a bit as I wasn’t in established labour and couldn’t be sent down to the birthing centre just yet. Grrrrr.
And still in labour
An hour passed, my contractions were getting more painful but they were pretty sporadic – sometimes 2.5 mins apart, sometimes 5 mins apart! WTF!? I was starting to feel like I wasn’t progressing and disappointed. But the hubby kept my spirits up and we headed back to the ward as the pain was getting a bit too much to display next to the vending machine in the hallway!
The midwives were fantastic and impressed with my breathing and handling of pain, but I just knew I wasn’t much further along.
The next time they checked me I was “3cm, maybe 4!” …I was praying for 4! But baby’s head was still bobbing-up so not exactly about to fly out any time soon.
I stayed on the empty ward, watched the sun come up, managed the pain with just the TENs and my breathing until I started to become pretty exhausted and felt like I couldn’t manage the pain much longer just like this. It was nearly 10am and I’d been in labour for about 15 hours from first contraction and I was starting to struggle (mentally more than anything as I really thought I’d have the baby in my arms by this point). The midwives were happy for me to have gas and air at this point, which felt like it was sent from the heavens and a call was made…they were happy for me to head down to the birthing centre. Finally, it felt like some progress, even if it was just changing venue!
As my contractions were pretty close together and I was now reliant on the gas and air, I didn’t want to risk having any contractions en route without my new best-friend (the gas!)…so in the words of my husband I “bolted down those stairs and moved quicker than [he’d] ever seen me move before!” to get to the room before my next contraction. I just about made it and was now in the room where I’d (hopefully) be delivering my baby.
You guessed it…still in labour!
My plan was to use the water bath if I could, at least for pain relief, if not to actually give birth in. But by the time we got down to the birthing centre, I’d got into a rhythm of standing and stomping-out my contractions with my legs. The combination of the TENs machine and the gas and air was working in that I could manage the pain and it made me nervous to give either one of these up. So we left the bath for now and I continued to labour, doubting that it was ever going to happen and questioning my sporadic contractions (sometimes they were 7 minutes apart!).
I won’t deny it, it was hard to keep my chin-up at this point.
I was knackered and felt like this baby was never going to come out. But the support from the midwives (Cathy and Bethany), my hubby and photographer/birthing-partner number two, Anna, kept me going! Cathy was one of the head midwives, with over 30 years experience and she was happy that I was labouring perfectly normally and checking the baby every 15 minutes showed he was happy too, so they left me to get on with it without interference.
As I said, I was mainly standing, but when it got to nearly 2pm and my waters still hadn’t broken (that’s right – nothing like in the bloody movies!), I asked to be checked and for them to be broken for me and therefore moved over to the bed and beanbag in the corner of the room. My waters were broken (such a strange feeling!) and I was checked – 7cm dilated, soft cervix and head further down…okay we were getting there, but it was still only 7 cm!
The final stages
I was told that things could rapidly advance from 7cm with a second labour and the pain was getting pretty intense. I’d taken my TENs off and was now purely on gas and air, but thinking about other pain relief options (it was too late for any of that really!). I had started to wonder whether this birth would end up in surgery as it just seemed that baby didn’t want to play ball, but Cathy kept reassuring me I could do it and my baby was not far away from greeting us!
I switched between being knelt over the beanbag and lying back against the beanbag. I wanted an active birth, but after nearly 18 hours on my feet, my back was hurting and actually leaning back against the beanbag was the most comfortable option. It actually felt easier for me to think about pushing in this position too.
It was getting to the point where I was talking about giving-up (usually a good indication that you’re about to enter the pushing-stage!) and although I wanted to push, my body didn’t feel quite there yet. But I started to give-it-a-go, to see how it felt, bearing down and whether I could encourage this baby to make his way down and out.
I’m not sure if this was my body telling me to do this or my mind taking-over, but either way, it started to have an effect.
I gave a couple of pushes with my contractions and although the midwives couldn’t seen any sign of baby, it felt like it was the right way to go. I did this for what felt like forever and again, wanted to give up, this baby was firmly stuck (and happy!) inside me!
Then I started to get a real overwhelming urge to push and I did, but it was such a confusing feeling. Part relief, incredible agony but some sort of movement. I found it hard to get into a good position to really go for it and push – I needed something to push against. So my poor hubby bared the brunt of it all as I grabbed his arm with both of my hands and used him as leverage (nearly dislocating his shoulder and slamming him into the wall in the process…oops!). But my legs were flailing around and I needed something to push them against too and there weren’t any stirrups as this was the birthing centre. Luckily Cathy came to the rescue, sitting down on the bed and letting me push against her thigh…it felt brilliant being able to do this and really helped me push!
I heard Cathy ask Bethany to get the delivery pack ready and I have to say, this was the first time I’d felt positive in almost 12 hours!
Then the pain ramped up significantly and I was told to really push, which I did. I could feel the head down there and I wanted to push through the pain, but luckily Cathy guided me, telling me to stop and slow down (which felt near impossible) and push gently for a little while. This was so intense and difficult, but I zoned-into what she was saying and I could hear everyone saying the head was there and I knew this was the last few minutes of my labour. With more guidance I pushed our baby’s head out, followed by his body and that part happened so quickly and within seconds, our beautiful baby boy was being passed over to me and rested on my chest.
The moments after
Wow, the utter relief and happiness, shock and delight was immense. Anna was crying, the hubby was crying, I was dazed! As I hadn’t had any pain relief through the pushing, I was aware of everything happening (I was a bit more out-of-it with my first) and it just felt so overwhelming, but amazing too. We smiled, we kissed, we had our baby boy. The hubby cut the cord and announced the sex of our baby and before I knew it, I was cuddling him and encouraging him to breastfeed. So at approx 4.20pm our second child was born…approx 20 hours after my first contraction.
So much for the baby flying out second time round!
I escaped with some minor tearing and one stitch (thanks to midwife Cathy and her expertise!) and felt surprisingly ok and even energetic (I guess this was the adrenaline). I nursed our baby, who luckily latched-on well and within the hour my parents arrived with Flo, who ran in laughing and excited to see us and meet her baby brother. This was one of the most magical experiences for me – seeing her happy face, hugging her and watching her kiss her brother on the head. I’ll always remember that.
Time to head home
Despite the length of my labour, it was fairly straight forward medically and as it was my second, we were told that after our 4-hour check at 8.15pm, if all was ok with me and our baby, we’d be able to go home that evening!
So our visitors were sent home, I was guided to the shower (always the weirdest thing – standing up after giving birth…feels like your insides have dropped out and you have no ribcage!) and we were brought plates of hot food…hospital food…but food nonetheless!
I felt more human after a shower and the adrenaline was wearing off and we both just wanted to sleep. The 4-hour check was done on baby and everything looked normal and well, so after our discharge conversation with the midwife, we were sent home. I couldn’t believe it, after everything, we were walking out of the birthing centre with our little baby bundled-up in his car seat and heading home, our lives changed forever!
A special thank you to the wonderful Anna Hardy, who captured the moments during my labour and the birth of our baby boy beautifully and perfectly. Anna is a good friend of ours and became an unexpected second birthing-partner for both of us – keeping me going, saying the right thing always, hugging me when all I could do was cry and joking with the hubby when he needed entertaining. She was part of one of the most special moments of our lives and I’m so glad she was. So thank you Anna, we love you and we love these photos!