The birth of our second daughter was a lesson in patience, teaching me the lesson that all things in life happen in their in their own good time. And that we, for the most part, have little control over many facets in our lives. Waiting, relaxing, and letting things happen naturally are not things I am generally very good at.
You see, Elly was late. True to form of what would be her later personality, Elly just wasn’t ready to come into the world yet. And when I explain that she was one week late, people react that it was only one week. Even my midwife told me to relax and enjoy the last of my pregnancy.
But that was impossible. I was in labor for a week solid. Now don’t go calling it false labor, because if you would have said that during this time your life would have been in severe danger. There was nothing false about this labor.
I woke up exactly one week before Elly was born at 2 am with intense contractions. And I knew what they felt like; I had already had a baby. We got up, turned on music, lit candles, and got ready for the journey with anticipation and excitement. I labored all night. We called my mother in law to come down and take care of our oldest daughter. She came, as well as my mother, and at about daybreak my contractions eased a bit. Then in and out of days, nights, meals and appointments, my contractions came and went, some strong enough to send me doubling over rocking, and some making me breathe deeply at the dinner table, excusing myself to labor in the bathroom. And every night she didn’t come, every morning I woke up, I cried. You see, late pregnancy is not very comfortable (many reading this already know this, so I will spare you the details). And overdue pregnancy with latent labor is utterly exhausting, mentally and physically.
One of the many things that was so mentally trying about this time was the mindset that for my second baby, the birth should be faster and be easier. I clung to this notion like a buoy in churning water and when it turned out not be true, I was devastated.
I know many folks in my family just wanted me to be induced and end the misery I was in. And I too thought seriously about it, and had I been working with a physician, I bet I would have been induced or had some intervention. But my midwife encouraged me to stay with it, and I did, day in and day out, with my mother and husband watching and waiting.
Exactly one week later, to the hour, my water broke in bed. I remember being giddy with laughter and relief that it was finally happening. And boy, did it happen. True to form of her personality now, when she decided to come, look out, she was coming. Elly was born less than four hours later, with no interventions or medication. Relief, utter joy and quiet bliss finally came, and we settled into rest, recovery and loving our new little baby.
I know I am lucky, that if one small variable had changed, I could have had a series of interventions in both of my girls’ births. I do think working with a midwife, but in a hospital that supported natural child birth and caring, respectful nurses made it more possible and likely that I had positive and minimally invasive birth experiences. It truly could have gone either way. I went into both experiences with an open mind as to what might happen, hoping for a natural child birth, but knowing that the only outcome that mattered was a healthy baby.
There were many factors that made a midwife supported hospital birth right for us. Late winter in Vermont, for example. Both of my girls were born in or around massive snow storms (and frozen car locks, but that is another story–). Our nearest natural birthing center was an hour a way.
Every woman needs room, respect and attention to birth in the way she knows how. I needed to use sound to help me through contractions, a low chanting, soul clattering sound that left me hoarse for days. I also used the tub during my first birth which helped with intense back labor. I didn’t want anyone else around except my husband, I wanted my music or quiet.
I have nothing but respect for every woman as they birth, and I know I was truly blessed with both of my birthing experiences, even though my second one was long and trying. Life has a way of teaching us what we need to know, and I certainly needed the lesson.