Submitted by Michelle, New York State
Michelle’s First Birth…
I was prepared for the worst… hoping for the best… and expected the average. The labor I got, was remarkable. My husband and I expected the average 16 hour first birth. We’d heard all the stories, watched all the movies and TV shows and knew what birth was “supposed” to be like. We were better educated than most. We hired a doula, so obviously, we were ahead of the curve! We attended the classes, we read the books, the car was packed with snacks, the Pilates ball, various back massagers, etc. We were ready. Or so we thought. I woke up in the morning two days before my due date with “cramps.” My Husband: “Honey, you okay?” Me: “Yeah, just feeling a little crampy.” My Husband (anxiously): “When did your “cramps” start? How far apart are your “cramps”? Have you thought about timing your “cramps”?” Me: “Come on, I’m not in labor, I feel fine.” He wisely suggested that we call Debbie our doula.
Doula Debbie and I spoke on the phone for a bit and she told me that she thought I was in labor. I thought she was nuts and that it was Braxton Hicks, or indigestion. These weren’t contractions… they were no big deal. We took our time, we both took long showers, we relaxed, I ate some breakfast, he slowly packed the last few things into the car. Eventually we decided to head towards Peekskill. We live in White Plains and our birth plan involved laboring at my parent’s house (only a five minute drive to our hospital of choice – Hospital Valley Hospital Center HVHC) with our doula for as long as possible before heading to the hospital. My water broke on the car ride (we greatly appreciated the tip to put a plastic bag and towel on the seat if you’re driving to the hospital and your water hasn’t yet broken). And that was the moment that I first believed that I might actually be in labor. Even though my water broke on the ride up, when we arrived at my parent’s house I insisted on going inside. After all, we expected at least another 15 or so hours of labor. I wasn’t going to the hospital until it was absolutely necessary!
So, in to my parent’s house we went, I headed to the bathroom and plopped myself onto the toilet (a position that was fairly comfortable for the “cramps”). After a few minutes my husband asked how I was doing and I reported that I “felt like I had to take a giant poop.” John called Doula Debbie and casually relayed this information: John: “She’s doing fine, she’s on the toilet.” Debbie: “Okay, good. I’ll be there in 10 minutes, I’m on my way.” John: “She says she feels like she needs to take a giant poop.” Debbie (excitedly): “Ooooh no. NO! You need to get her to the hospital! NOW! I’ll meet you there!”
When we arrived at HVHC I was checked by the labor nurse and was told that I was 10 centimeters and “locked and loaded.” I was in shock. The medical staff yelled “don’t push, don’t push!” and begged me to wait for the doctor to arrive. Once the doctor made it to the hospital parking lot I was given the green light and moments after the doctor made it into the hospital room our daughter made her entrance.
The entire labor and delivery took less than forty minutes from the time we pulled into the hospital parking lot to delivery, and less than three hours from my first “cramp” at home. No drugs, no time in the tub, no Pilates ball, no massagers, no hours and hour of labor. I try not to tell my daughter’s birth story to women who’ve already given birth. Most end up glaring at me. But, I love to tell my story to women who are pregnant with their first. I love to tell them that it is possible to labor for less than the average (it is after all, an average!).
I thank god that we had our doula on speed-dial. Were it not for Doula Debbie I would have had my baby on the highway (or worse!). Even though it was a remarkably short delivery I was so thankful to have our doula there ensure me that yes, this too was normal and that everything was going to be fine. Pretty much everything is – but you won’t believe it unless you hear it from the expert!
So, my humble advice to those who are pregnant with their first… do yourself a favor… be prepared, get educated, hire a doula, but don’t believe all the hype – it might not be horrible, it might just be remarkable!
Michelle’s Second Birth…
When I got pregnant again, I was terrified that my 2nd birth would be faster than my 1st (as most 2nd births are). For me, faster meant nearly instantaneous and my biggest fear was that I’d end up giving birth alone on my living room floor with my 3 year old watching. So, I did oodles of research and after months of discussion on the topic, my husband and I decided to try for a home birth. We found an amazing mid-wife, Vicky Hedley, and made plans for a water birth in our home. I was due in mid-February and my new biggest fear was that a snow storm would prevent my mid-wife and/or my husband from getting to me in time.
9 days before my due date on a Tuesday night… A huge snow storm was predicted – the largest of the year by far. My mom was scheduled to help take care of my 3-year-old the following day and was worried about getting to my house the next morning because of the predicted snow. She didn’t want me to be stuck home with my daughter alone since I was uncomfortably pregnant and having a very hard time keeping up with her. So, my mom decided to come early and sleep over on Tuesday night – she got more than she bargained for!
My husband and I put our daughter to bed at 8pm and sat down to dinner with my mom at around 8:30. My first contraction came at about 8:40. I turned to my husband and mom and said, I think I just had a contraction. They both begged me not to give birth that night (as if I had any control). We were all worried about the weather and concerned that my support staff would have a tough time getting to me (or later getting back to their own homes) and that if we needed emergency help we’d have a very hard time getting to the hospital.
I called our mid-wife, who said to see how things progressed and to check back with her in an hour. I called our doula, who had the same plan.
At 10pm I was having contractions every 30 mins or so and things seemed to be progressing slowly. I called our doula who, having been to my first birth, decided to come immediately. I was a little worried that she’d come, labor would slow or stop and she’d be stuck spending the night at my house because of the snow. She didn’t care and decided to come anyway. I also checked back in with my mid-wife who suggested that we wait a while longer before she came and asked that I check back in with her when my contractions were closer together and lasting a bit longer.
By 11pm my doula was at our house and I labored with her – just breathing through the contractions and making small talk between them until around 2am. My labor was progressing along in pretty text book fashion, the contractions slowly got closer together, longer and stronger. I was very “present” and stayed in the moment. I was focused on relaxing into the contractions, feeling my body transition and open and allowing the physical changes to happen without letting the emotional fears control me.
By 2am, my contractions were less than 10 mins. apart and were lasting a good 30 seconds. We called the mid-wife and asked her to come. By now the snow was really coming down. I was increasingly worried that she wouldn’t get to me in time (or at all).
By 3am, my mid-wife (along with her assistant and a student training to be a mid-wife) had arrived. Shortly thereafter, my water broke and my doula suggested that I get into the tub. I did, and was amazed by the pain relief! I hardly felt my first contraction in the tub. I couldn’t believe the difference the water made.
By 4:30am the contractions were coming very quickly and were strong and long-lasting. My team asked if I wanted to get out of the tub (my original plan was to labor in the tub, but to deliver out of tub – I was kinda grossed out by the yuck factor of everything happening and oozing around me in the tub). I told them that they’d have to kill me to get me out of the tub, as far as I was concerned I was NEVER leaving the tub.
Before I knew it I was ready to push, and with two quick pushes, my son was born just after 5am. It was an absolutely beautiful water birth of a very healthy baby boy.
By 7:00am, the baby and I were checked out and cleaned up. My husband had shoveled out the mid-wife and doula’s cars and we were left alone to bask in the joy of our new little one. At 7:30am my daughter woke up and got to meet her new baby brother.
One of our favorite parts of my son’s birth is that my daughter went to sleep (shortly before my labor started) as an only child, and woke up (shortly after my labor ended) as a big sister! She never stirred and had no idea that I was giving birth two rooms away. It was a comfort to know that my mom was on-hand in the event that she did wake up, but luckily she didn’t.
We were incredibly grateful to have such wonderful support staff with us for the birth of our son. Our doula was amazing – I don’t know how anyone gives birth without a doula. Our mid-wife team was also exceptional, they were very hands-off and just allowed the birth to happen naturally (while keeping an unobtrusive eye on things). I feel incredibly lucky to have had two exceptional births. One especially fast one that was amazing in its own right. And a second home water birth that I felt truly present for and empowered by.
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