Two weeks ago today we welcomed our second child into the world- a daughter! She was born into the water alert and calm, and weighed in at 8 lbs, 9 oz and 20.5″ long. Here she is on her first morning earthside:
Isn’t she lovely?
I am working on typing out her entire birth story, but in the meantime, I thought I would share some things I learned from experiencing labor and birth at home for the second time. These are in no particular order of importance. Here it goes!
1) It’s really important to trust your care provider!
This came out really strongly to me during this labor. As you’ll read once I publish the birth story, we made use of several herbal concoctions to kick start and strengthen this labor. I’ll be honest- as much as I’ve researched pitocin, epidurals, and c-sections, I really don’t know a whole lot about black and blue cohosh and other natural inducers/augmenters. But because I feel very comfortable with my midwife and because I know we are on the same page regarding birth philosophy, I felt comfortable saying yes to her suggestions without going and Googling it during labor.
(Remember, I never recommend blind trust without researching your options first. But there will always be times that your care provider knows more than you do. In this case, it’s better to know that you can trust that they will only suggest what is both comfortable for you and safe for your labor. If you don’t at least know whether or not you have a similar birth philosophy beforehand, you won’t be able to determine this in the midst of it!)
2) Birth works.
More than ever, I am convinced that in most cases, birth works. As Ina May Gaskin is famously quoted, “your body is not a lemon.” Yes, there are medical circumstances and health conditions that can change this. Yes, there can be true emergencies. Yes, sometimes you should make use of natural tricks or medical tools to help your labor in some way. Please don’t think I am ignoring these situations. But in the grand majority of cases, when birth and the laboring mother are left well enough alone and relieved of artificial restrictions, it is simple (albeit challenging at times). Your uterus will work, your cervix will open, and the baby will descend and be born.
3) Your mental attitude towards birth is just as important (or even more so!) than your physical preparation.
Deciding to surrender to the birth process and releasing your fears can be even more effective than training your body as a marathon runner through your pregnancy. Yes, physical preparation is important and can help you to deal with the rigors of birthing. However, if you are mentally resistant, you can actually make the process slower, more difficult, or more painful. Adrenaline can slow or stop contractions. Fear and tension can literally close the cervix and hold up the opening that needs to happen for the baby to be born. And fighting the contractions is fighting the work the uterus needs to do, making each one more painful and difficult.
I’ve found that in both my two labors, when I decide to welcome the contractions as a sign that I am getting closer to meeting my baby, they become easier. When I decide to joke about them, or fake smile, or be silly just to distract myself, I am able to relax more and deal with each wave as it comes. I truly believe that accepting the birth process- rather than resisting it with misery- is probably the most effective secret to getting through a natural labor.
4) As goes the mouth, so goes the cervix!
I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth for the first time this pregnancy. (What? I’ve been a birth junkie for this long and haven’t read it yet?!? I know, it’s weird, but at least I finally got to it.) While I don’t endorse everything she says, I felt like I learned a lot from reading it. She talks about law of the sphincter in her book- that sphincters don’t work on command, that they are tied into how a person is feeling, and that they work with each other. She mentioned how keeping your mouth and throat open and relaxed helps to open your cervix as well.
I took this to heart and tried singing through contractions this time- and it made SUCH a difference!!! I felt so much more relaxed than I did during my first labor, and it was much easier to deal with the intensity of each wave. I felt like I honestly could call contractions “pressure waves” for a lot of it. I also made use of low moaning vocalization during pushing, and it really helped me to get through it. I think it was much easier than when I was trying to hold my breath and push out my son.
5) Labors can be completely different.
I knew this beforehand, but wow, what a different experience this was for me compared to birthing my son! You’ll get to read all about it, but here’s a quick comparison:
- 14 hours total.
- No false starts. I woke up to a clear, established pattern of early labor.
- Slow, steady contractions that gradually increased in frequency, length, and intensity.
- 3.5 hours of pushing.
- Less than 8 hours total on the day of birth, and less than 2 hours with any pain.
- Lots of “false starts.” I got bouts of crampy contractions for an hour or two at a time over weeks. Turns out I dilated to 5 cm before I ever started “real labor,” so I guess they weren’t so false.
- Extremely mild contractions for a long time, then a precipitous, intense labor at the end. (Had my midwife not already been at my house for an appointment, we would’ve ended up with an accidentally unassisted birth. Had we been planning a hospital birth, I would’ve had my baby in the car en route.)
- 12 minutes of pushing.
What have you learned from your different labors? Can you relate? Looking forward to sharing more and hearing back from you!