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March 18, 2015 / bethanyshondark

My Birth Story II 

Seventeen months later here I am – back writing a birth story from my phone at Princeton Plainsboro Hospital while nursing. When I took my first birth class (which I still so highly recommend, yay Manhattan Birth and the Bradley Method!) my teacher Tanya said over and over how different second babies were from first ones. And yet again she was so, so very right. 

My daughter was born on her due date. My water broke on Friday night, I was induced with Cervadil late Saturday night and she was born early Sunday morning. My midwives, along with Tanya, warned that my second birth would be half the time as my first, which they counted as eight hours start to finish once contractions actually started. Turns out, it was actually a forth, if that. 

A week past my due date and anxious about a possible induction (my midwives’ cutoff is 42 weeks but with close monitoring between 41 and 42) I was getting quite anxious. I woke up on the morning of my 41st week with a packed schedule. A trip to Walmart in the morning (we haven’t been shopping in a while anticipating a baby), an acupuncture appointment to put me into labor and a midwife appointment for fetal monitoring. I nursed my daughter upon waking up (as I always do) and felt uncomfortable so I ran to the bathroom to discover I was bleeding slightly. I called my midwife practice immediately, at around 6am, who told me to come into the hospital in the next hour. We puttered around, I did dishes and made all of us a big, elaborate breakfast. I wasn’t even contracting and figured “what’s the rush?” despite many warnings about fast labors with second babies. Not smart.  

As I was doing these last minute chores the abdominal cramping that I had noticed overnight seemed to be coming in waves, every nine minutes. It was uncomfortable, but just felt like I had to make an urgent bathroom trip, not like the contractions I felt with my daughter. We dropped her off with my sister in law and went to the hospital and by the time we arrived at 9:30am I wasn’t comfortable but also didn’t feel like I was really truly in labor. I was a bit afraid we were there for another false alarm (we had showed up two weeks prior just to be sent home immediately). 

The midwife on call, Yelena, greeted Seth and I and our doula Dorothy and after an exam said I was 3cm dilated. Within minutes the contractions went from uncomfortable to straight up painful. Our nurse was a bit old school and spent some time explaining how I could go about ordering pain medication, even though my birth plan said I had no plans to use it. She was very nice, but not quite as on board with natural and midwife-led childbirth as our nurse was with our daughter. 

During the exam our midwife said she didn’t feel the head down, nor did she feel the amniotic sac. She was afraid he was breech or crooked and that my water had been leaking for days without my realizing. An ultrasound confirmed he was slightly crooked, but head down, but couldn’t verify the integrity of the sac. I had called the office days prior worried my sac had been leaking but was told that based on my symptoms, it didn’t sound like it was. We were now afraid that I had been leaking for days, opening up the sterile environment to infection. I was panicked, but nobody else seemed to be, which I figured was just for my benefit. 

We arrived at the hospital by 930am and that exam was around 10am. Immediately my contractions got worse. With my daughter I had a chance to get a handle on them but this time every time I felt like I had control over a contraction’s intensity it got worse immediately with the next one. They went from 9 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart within half an hour of being at the hospital. My doula did a hip squeeze and put on a TENS unit, which was enormously helpful in managing the pain. I don’t know how I would have managed the intensity of those contractions without either, or without Dorothy’s gentle reminders to relax my muscles and try to calm down. 

At 1040am I had almost back-to-back contractions where I felt my water burst in two waves. With my daughter when it burst I didn’t even feel it, but this time, it felt like an explosion in my pelvis and especially the second time, was excruciating. When those bursts happened, we knew that the sac had probably been intact all along, which was a relief. We were hoping, due to the quick escalation of my labor, that he had shifted totally into the birth canal. 

At this point, at 11am, I requested to use the hospital’s birthing tub and Yelena offered to do one last cervical check before I hopped in. She did an exam at 11:08 and said my dilation was 9.5cm and then quickly changed her mind and said 5.5cm. When she said 9.5 I exclaimed “WHAT?” The second number made more sense. There was no way I was ready to have a baby that quickly. Or so I thought. 

As soon as I stood up after that exam I felt the urge to push. I didn’t say anything because I knew I was only 5.5cm dilated seconds prior, but soon Yelena and Dorothy asked “you’re pushing huh?” Even though the birthing pool was ready I wasn’t moving from next to the bed. I apologized and said that I knew that I wasn’t dilated enough but that I couldn’t stop pushing. I apologized for not being honest and not telling them but said I refused to stop pushing. They both, thankfully, told me to listen to my body. 

Between contractions I told Yelena that I couldn’t manage anymore and she kept assuring me that I was in transition, that I would soon be done. In no way did I believe her that he would be out so soon. I just thought I was going to die. As with my daughter, the thought of medication never crossed my mind. I don’t think I remembered it existed. I asked her if she was going to leave and she said no. I asked in a childlike voice “is that because you think my baby is coming?” And she nodded and smiled. Through the whole time we were there Yelena was totally calm, totally and completely in control. After the birth Seth said “I would never want to play poker with that woman. She never showed her hand. She knew what was going on and never gave an indication, just calm and reassurance.”

At 11:08am I was 5.5cm dilated and by 11:15 I felt him crowning. I yelled out in surprise when I felt his head and the nurse asked me to get back into bed. I refused. I was afraid to lay back down. I couldn’t handle the contractions standing and laying down only would have made them worse. Yelena, unflappable Yelena, shrugged and said “okay! you can stand.” I heard the nurse say to her “what if the baby comes out? we don’t do that.” To which Yelena replied “I do. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. It’s fine.” In my mind I silently cheered “Yay midwives!!” 

With my daughter the pushing stage wasn’t that hard, wasn’t that painful (well, considering). The transition stage, on the other hand, was mind-bogglingly difficult. With him it was the total opposite. I was able to talk during transition (which convinced me it wasn’t actually transition) but the pushing stage was unimaginably painful and primal. With every push I felt like my insides were on fire, like I was being torn open. With my daughter during pushing it was a gentle slide out as I breathed deeply, made jokes and deeply focused. With him I screamed like an animal, leaning forward on Seth, who was crouched down in front of me. When my daughter was born the only hard part was the head, she was a straight shot out after that emerged. With him I felt the head emerge after an epic struggle to get it out and yet he was still totally lodged in, despite the fact that I was standing and thus had the benefit of gravity on my side. At this point we heard Dorothy exclaim “Wow I’ve never seen that before!” As a doula Dorothy has attended hundreds of births, so hearing that exclaimed was worrisome to Seth and I, who weren’t looking down below at what was happening. Dorothy quickly followed up with “Not bad! Just different!” With a few pushes his shoulders were out one by one, and each was a struggle. I heard the nurse worriedly exclaim “do you have him?” To which Yelena calmly replied “yes, I’ve got him, he’s fine. And peeing.” She passed him through my legs to me and I sat down on the bed and held him as nurses and Dorothy rushed over with blankets. As they did I felt my hand fill with sludge; he was already pooping on me. 

We learned a minute or so later, when I asked why he wasn’t crying yet, what Dorothy meant when he was coming out. He had been totally entangled in the cord in three different ways; around his arm, neck and torso. There had been a slight delay unwrapping him before he was passed through to me, though I hadn’t noticed it at the time, just in retrospect. 

Unlike my daughter’s birth I felt the placenta and desperately wanted it out. I pushed once and Yelena gave a tug, at my request, for it to come out completely. 

Despite the intensity of pushing, I again didn’t need any stitches, which was shocking. He was a bigger baby, which I noticed the second he was handed to me. Our daughter was 7lbs14oz, he clocked in at 8lbs11oz. The way he was wrapped in the cord also made delivery more difficult. 

I took a shower a few hours later and generally felt as good, if not better, the second time around. Because I’m still nursing my daughter nursing this time around has been quite easy so far also. My son isn’t as calm as his sister was, but is overall still a pretty chill baby, born with long and light hair. Everyone who has seen him who knows my daughter has remarked that we’re going to have another ginger haired baby on our hands. His eyes, like his sister, are a beautiful deep blue, which she was born with and retained.

Start to finish from the arrival of real contractions to arrival of baby the labor was about 90 minutes in duration. It was easily the most difficult hour and a half of my life, but how many people can say they pushed out a baby standing up? For bragging rights alone, let alone having a beautiful new son to show for it, it was an intensely awesome birth made awesome in large part due to Seth, Dorothy and Yelena. I wholeheartedly recommend the ladies, but I won’t be sharing my husband any time soon. Though he does make beautiful babies.

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One Comment

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  1. Peggy / Mar 19 2015 12:10 am

    So Happy for you Bethany and Seth…. I really wanted to be with you because I knew it would be awesome…. but … That is a selfish wish…. all my midwife sisters/partners are awesome!!! Love Yelena!!! So happy reading your birth story…. love you Bethany…..

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