The story of my second son’s birth has to begin with the story of my pregnancy with him, which when I compare it to my pregnancy with my first son, was confusing and frustrating. In my first pregnancy I felt luminous and energetic – with my second I felt exhausted and weighted down almost all the time. I was more sick, more hungry, more tired, and more emotional. I chalked it up to the demands of caring for a toddler, undertaking a move, and being frustrated by my insurance’s lack of coverage for suitable delivery options. At 32 weeks I suffered severe muscle spasms and was hospitalized for 8 days. It scared me and my whole family, and I spent the rest of my pregnancy concentrating on being well.
I was nervous about my planned home birth and worried the muscle spasms would return during labor. My backup physician recommended I continue to take the strong muscle relaxants for the rest of my pregnancy, but they made me groggy and lethargic, and I just didn’t feel well on them. I decided to just concentrate on being well, and it seemed to work. My midwife, Justine, and I discussed different options, including her potentially acting as a doula for a hospital birth, but we ultimately decided that if I got healthy and felt well, a home birth was still a safe and viable option, and would be the best choice if that’s what I wanted. She supported my decision to stop taking the medication and worked closely with me to make sure I was taking the best care of my body.
The decision to go with a home birth was easy in some ways but difficult in others. My first son was delivered naturally in the water at a birth center, and my husband and I were really pleased with the midwife care we received there. I started my prenatal care with my second pregnancy at the same center in San Diego, and was disappointed there wasn’t a similar facility near Ridgecrest. A home birth was our next preference, but our insurance wouldn’t cover the only midwife available in Ridgecrest for home births. We considered a hospital birth, but the local hospital has a very high C-section rate, and after interviewing the two available OBs and speaking with the nurses in the labor & delivery ward, I knew I wouldn’t be happy with the mandatory interventions and procedures the hospital followed. We decided to just pay out of pocket for prenatal care with a midwife and a home birth. Without a doubt, it was the best decision. My midwife, Justine, is now like a part of the family, and the eighty-mile trips to Tehachapi for prenatal visits were absolutely worth it.
Because my first son was born at 37 weeks, I had in my mind that my second pregnancy would be as short. Beginning at 36 weeks, I had long episodes of strong contractions, and Justine received a couple of late-night calls when I thought labor was starting . . . and then turned out to be wrong. By 39 weeks, I was very big, very cranky, and starting to feel like I would be pregnant forever. My parents were flying into town on my due date, and I worried they would spend their two weeks vacation without a new baby to help take care of. I had two rounds of acupuncture to stimulate labor, felt nothing, and continued to worry. I should have known that everything would work out perfectly and make me feel silly for all the anxiety I had.
I woke up early on May 2nd, my due date, with contractions – the normal pattern for me of the last few weeks. This time though, I felt a little pop and gush, and my water broke. I got out of bed and waited a bit to make sure this was really what had happened, and finally called Justine around 5:30AM to figure out what to do. Although I was still feeling contractions and lots of pressure in my lower back, the contractions hadn’t become stronger or regular. Justine said we should go ahead and set up the birthing tub and fill it with water, and then just let her know when the contractions became regular.
I waited a bit longer and called my parents, who had flown into Los Angeles the night before and were preparing to rent a car to drive out to Ridgecrest. I let them know my water had broken and the baby would be born that day. They were happy to hear the news and said they would be on their way. Sean and Lukas woke up soon after, and Sean didn’t believe my water had actually broken. We had been waiting for so long and feeling so anxious it just didn’t seem like it could really be happening. We made breakfast and continued to wait.
By mid-morning the pressure in my back was uncomfortable, and I was having strong, painful contractions. Even though they still weren’t regular, I called Justine, and we agreed she should come out. It would take her about an hour and a half to drive, and we didn’t want to get into a situation where she would miss anything. While we waited for her, Sean set up the birthing tub and filled it with water.
Justine arrived, checked me out (blood pressure, temperature, and my progress), and decided it would be a little while before active labor set in. She went out to get something to eat and study, and we were back to waiting. Sean took Lukas to the park, my parents arrived, and my contractions finally were getting regular. Around 2:30PM Justine came back, and just in time, because I was pretty uncomfortable and was ready to get in the tub. She checked me again and I was at 5cm and 80% effaced, and she said I could go ahead and get in the water. It was immediate relief!
My dad took care of my toddler upstairs, playing with him and keeping him entertained, and my mom came in and out, prepping soup for me after the baby was born, and helping out with my older son as well. My husband rubbed my back and talked me through the contractions, and soon enough Justine felt I was ready to push. Once again, I was not the woman in the birth videos I wanted to be, quiet and dignified in my discomfort. I’m pretty sure I was disturbing the neighborhood, but oh well. Labor wasn’t any easier the second time around.
There were times when I really wondered why I wanted a natural birth, and times when I just wanted the pain to just stop, and times when I was scared. The most discouraged I got was when I was in the transition phase, where it’s common to get feel like moving forward is an impossible feat, and I heard my husband on the phone with someone saying it would be another eight hours before the baby arrived. Even though I knew he was joking, that next contraction was the most painful I felt, and he got an earful about NEVER saying something like that again. Thankfully, he was very wrong about the timeline. Justine continued to reassure me that I was very close, and I could feel the baby descending, although it seemed slower and more painful than I’d remembered with my labor with Lukas.
Finally the baby was crowning. We called my mom to come downstairs for the birth, and she was there with Justine and my husband to give me support for the last pushes. Justine said that the amniotic sac hadn’t broken that morning, that it must have just been the chorion, because she could see the cawl around the baby’s head. When that broke, I knew we were very close to meeting our baby, but it also increased the pain, and the last few pushes were extremely uncomfortable. It also took more pushes than I expected for him to fully be born, and when he was pulled out of the water by my husband and put on my chest, we all understood why. He was a much bigger baby than any of us expected. We waited for the placenta, and my husband teared up when we realized we had another son (we were surprised – I was sure it was going to be a girl!). We brought our toddler downstairs and took pictures. After the placenta was birthed, we moved everyone to the couch and Justine went about checking everyone out. Like with my first son’s birth, we were able to be close as a family, and the baby only left my arms to be held skin-to-skin with my husband and briefly be weighed by Justine.
When he came in at 9lbs, 10oz, we were shocked. He was almost 3lbs bigger than Lukas – and suddenly the difficulty and discomfort I’d had with this pregnancy and labor made sense. Although Justine often sees babies about this size because she doesn’t induce, she did say he was a very big baby for a woman my size (5’3”, and normally 115lbs), and that labor difficulty was compounded because his elbow was up by his head. In spite of everything, though, my labor and delivery only lasted about 3 hours, and went smoothly without complications or even tearing.
In the hours after my son was born, it was hard not to compare him to his big brother. Aside from being dark and big where his brother was small and fair, it was obvious that being born on his due date instead of 3 weeks early like my first son had matured many of his systems, and he was immediately a good nurser and clearly alert and interested in what was happening around him. My toddler is a proud and sweet big brother, giving the baby kisses, and being extremely gentle most of the time.
We are so thankful to Justine for facilitating the birth we wanted, and are thrilled at the new addition to our family.
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