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Second nature: The birth of Olivia Unmedicated

Second nature: The birth of Olivia

"My husband's cool hand stroked my forehead, and my midwife's sweet, low voice reminded me how to inhale and exhale."

My first labor and delivery went pretty much textbook, and I was proud of myself for being able to achieve my goal of doing it without an epidural. However, after delivery I hemorrhaged pretty badly and ended up needing an emergency surgery, a substantial transfusion and a night in the ICU. It was traumatic to say the least. The worst parts were the feelings of guilt and sadness after missing the first day of my son’s life. Thankfully and miraculously, I was still able to nurse him, and I believe that helped our bonding greatly. Still, that experience left a lasting fear of delivery.

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Fast forward two years, and my labor began with my second baby exactly at 39 weeks.  Everything started the exact same way. I had anxiety about this delivery as I wondered if I would go through the same thing as before. My very first contraction began at 4 a.m. I gently awoke to the feeling of it and wondered if it was a contraction. Did I need to use the bathroom like when things started the last time? Back to sleep I went. Only, 15 minutes later—another wake up. I got up and walked around. Soon after another one came. I decided this was probably it and snuck into my toddler’s room to get some last-minute cuddling in.

While lying with him, another one came, and it was so sharp that I had to get up. At this point it was around 6:30 a.m., and I woke up my husband. We decided to call my parents and let them know because they would have to drive 45 minutes to get here before we could leave. The contractions remained spaced out and weren’t too intense. However, I labored quickly with my first and didn’t want to wait too long. My parents arrived around 7:30 a.m., and I told my mom that I wasn’t sure if we should go yet because they were still not too bad. The very next contraction took my breath away, and I realized we needed to go. It was now around 8 a.m.

I had just one contraction during the 15-minute car ride to the hospital. When we arrived I stepped out of the car into a big pile of snow. I meandered my way around our car carefully—it was slippery. I leaned on the side of the car as another contraction came. We walked in, smiling and thinking, How on earth is this real labor?

They wheeled me to L&D, and I happily told the lady I thought I was in labor. She looked confused but assisted me into a room. My contractions were still sporadic and very short.  They insisted I had to lie down and receive fluids. I knew this would slow things down but given what happened before, I was fine getting that little boost of hydration and a port in case something went wrong at the end of labor.

Sure enough, things slowed dramatically. I was only 2 cm when we came in. After an hour or so they finally approved my consistent nagging to sit on a yoga ball. Thankfully, things picked up again. It was around 10:15 a.m. when I was checked again: 5 cm. My midwife asked if I wanted my water broken. I had that done last time and immediately went into transition. I was scared and decided to just wait.

At this point I had to use the restroom. When I came out my husband told me I didn’t exactly … ahem … clean myself fully. So he was gracious to help me while I was contracting. Oy.

I was still sitting on the yoga ball and working through contractions. At 11:30 a.m. my midwife came in again. I told her that I didn’t understand why my contractions were not that close together and didn’t last very long. Shouldn’t this labor be quicker than my first? At this rate, they would be about the same length. I remember saying, “See, I can talk to you right now, shouldn’t I NOT be able to do that?” She encouraged me and then left again.

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As soon as she left I had a few super intense contractions. All of a sudden I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. But, I was only 5 cm? This couldn’t be transition, could it? My water hadn’t even broken yet. I started getting panicky and told my husband I needed pain medicine. Not an epidural—but something. He went and told a nurse. Many minutes went by, and finally around noon the nurse walked in, carrying a needle in hand. I raised my head to look at her, and in that instant my water completely burst, while sitting on the ball. I yelled in excitement and terror. In that moment, I also felt my daughter’s head completely drop into the birth canal. It was the most incredible (and also the scariest) feeling I’ve ever felt.

I started to feel nauseated and dizzy, and I kept asking if I was going to die. “She’s coming!” I continued to yell. They helped me onto the bed. I started to hyperventilate and couldn’t remember how to breathe. My husband’s cool hand stroked my forehead, and my midwife’s sweet, low voice reminded me how to inhale and exhale. I can do this. I was fully dilated, and it was time to push. This was going to be a quicker labor than my first! It wasn’t as painful or as difficult as I remembered it being with my son.

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After a handful of good pushes, she told me that the baby had hair! How fun! She then said I had just one more push left. Before I knew it, that last push was over, and I heard the most wonderful sound as I saw this tiny, pink baby being put on my chest. I felt the most wonderful feeling, the feeling I longed to feel after I had my son, but struggled to because I was in and out of consciousness. This time, a miracle happened, and I was perfectly healthy. And so was she. It was—and still is—incredible to think about.

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!