I just met with my doula for my postpartum visit. It almost coincided exactly with Elizabeth turning six months. She suggested, and I had eventually been planning on, writing out Elizabeth's birth story. For me, I need to completely process through what happened, accept what happened, find the positives, and give myself closure on her birth so that if\when we have more children, I will not be suddenly barraged with suppressed feelings and fears.
A lot of Elizabeth's story will be compared to Eleanor's story because that's what I was doing in my head all throughout the last little bit of pregnancy and all of labor and delivery. Comparing is a big no no and ultimately lead to much frustration and prolonged labor.
Saturday night I texted my midwife that I was feeling uncomfortable, like possible contractions. All birth attendants were on high alert as Eleanor came so fast. I took an Epson salt bath, made sure to eat something, and went to bed. Thankfully, I was able to get a full night of sleep as I would need all that energy the next day.
We woke up and got ready for church despite feeling uncomfortable. The church is closer to the birth center than our house, so I figured we might as well just go up to church to keep my mind off of things. When we arrived at church, I was struggling with the decision of whether or not to call my midwife, Patty. I had texted Patty before, but I hadn't heard back, and I was afraid I was going to wake her up! I called and told her we were at church, but we would head to the birth center after the service for her to check me. After checking in Eleanor into childcare, we hung out on the couches in the lobby. I was already having to concentrate through the contraction, and Anthony was timing them. At some point, I called Patty and told her that we were going to go ahead and head to the birth center. She and Betty were already racing up there. (Eleanor came really fast!)
Anthony's parents actually beat everyone to the birth center. They were there to take Eleanor for us, but I wasn't really ready to give her up. For some reason, saying good bye to Eleanor was really hard. They took her to go grab breakfast. Patty checked me, and I was dilated 5 cm. I think I was a little bummed expecting to be farther along. (I was at almost a 9 when I arrived at the birth center for Eleanor.) I went and did my hiblicleanse as I had tested positive for Strep B. We choose this option because of my reaction to needles. My midwife did not think that I would handle an IV or a heplock well.
Eleanor came back for a little bit, and I had some breakfast sandwich. I was trying to stay upbeat, but the contractions were way more intense than Eleanors. I said goodbye to Eleanor. For the next several hours, I alternated between the peanut ball, birthing ball, bed, toilet, and tub. I was frustrated and crying. The contractions were intense and fast. Back labor had begun and despite efforts from my doula, I was in immense pain.
At some point, my midwife checked me again, and I was complete. My water had still not broken. I was trying really hard to visualize my water breaking, but to no avail. I got in the tub again and was pushing. I don't know if subconsciously I didn't want to birth in the water, or I knew that Anthony did not want me to birth in the water, but the tub just ended up being frustrating. I felt like every time I moved, I was hit with another contraction.
I got out of the tub, and Patty really wanted me to squat for a few more contractions. I was not having anymore of this talk. All of my birth affirmations at this point were invalid to me, as I felt like I wasn't getting a break between contractions, contractions were lasting longer than a minute or multiple ones within a minute. I had been at 10 cm for over an hour, and I was exhausted. All I could do was hold on to my doula and say that I was done. I really felt like I had reached my limit.
Patty proceeded to break my water. I was laying on my back in the bed, which I knew was not the ideal position for delivery, and something I wasn't familiar with as I had had Eleanor on my hands and knees. Lauren, the birth assistant who had I had requested (she attended Eleanor's birth and I saw her twice a month as she watched Eleanor for MOMS) had just arrived from returning from Colorado. We already had a birth assistant, so she wasn't actually needed, but she came anyway. I am so glad she did because she finally helped me to figure out what pushing actually meant. I hadn't really needed to push with Eleanor, so for Elizabeth I was just getting through the contractions at the end as opposed to active pushing. I felt Elizabeth's head in the ring of fire, and, oh my gosh, Patty had my wait and slowly ease her out. I was ready to blast her out of there. I remembering the scream that accompanied that wait. My throat was hoarse after birth because of that one scream. But, I am so thankful she had me do it that way because my recovery was amazing this time!
Out came the head, another push the shoulders, and I was able to reach down and pull my baby up to my chest, or rather stomach--she had a rather short umbilical cord. At some point Anthony checked the baby out and told us it was a girl. Honest to goodness, I could not have cared less, I was just so glad that labor was over!
I was shaking from muscle exhaustion and was super anxious about my placenta coming. (At one of prenatals with Eleanor, this poor mommy had to go to the hospital after delivery because she wasn't delivering the placenta, and in my hospital-phobia mind, I could not think of anything worse than getting the hard part done, and being sent to the hospital.) I got lots of skin-to-skin time with Elizabeth (although she was unnamed until the next day) before Patty checked her over.
We had gotten Olive Garden take out the night before, and Anthony's parents had brought it to us at some point. I got to eat and lounge around as people took care of me. Anthony's parents brought Eleanor up for a quick visit, but they took her back home with them for the night, which was a good call. Eventually my doula and midwife left, but Anthony and I were free to hang out as long as we wanted as Heidi, the birth assistant, cleaned up. We were taking it slow. With Eleanor's birth, we were rushing out of there for no reason. We left, called a few people, and went to bed.
Initially, I had a really negative perception of this birth because I didn't feel I was a "great birther"because it took so long. In reality, this birth was a pretty textbook birth. In time, I have come to realize that I should be proud of the strength it took to get through something that I really wanted to quit. (which, I understand, there is no real quitting when you are 10cm dilated, but you get the point.)
In hindsight, comparing this birth to Eleanor's birth was silly. And expecting the second birth to be easier was just plain naive. Each child is different; each birth is different.
I am thankful that I had an easy birth for my first child because the mentally recovery time was much shorter allowing us to want to have another child sooner. I am finally reconciling this birth at 6 months. (At this point after Eleanor's birth, I was already pregnant.)
I am thankful I had a really hard birth the second time. God definitely humbled me. Natural birth is hard. Birth is hard... But I did it.
I now know not to compare births or have an expectation of how it should go. I need to be able to roll with the punches.
The recovery for this birth was so much easier. I listened to my midwife during the last minutes of labor, so I didn't tear. I had created a list of ways people could support me with housework\meals and made it visible. And guess what? Things got done. I allowed people to spend the night and take my other child. I had earplugs, so I could nap while my child was screaming with someone else. (Which I also did with Eleanor, but is a major must!) Breastfeeding was so much easier. I knew what it was supposed to look like, and I knew where to get help when it wasn't going smoothly.
If\when we have another birth, I would like to be able to labor longer out and about or at home before going into the birth center. I would like to be able to get into a squatting position. (I am sure my water would have broken if I could have made myself go down to that position.) Ultimately, I would like to take the birth for what it is and not compare it to anyone else's birth.
We are thankful to God every day for our lovely girls and the safe delivery and strengththat He granted us for both girls.