I will start off this post (my first post in two years!) by saying this is just a reflection of my experience and there’s no right or wrong way to birth. The most important thing is healthy baby and healthy mama, and it doesn’t matter how you get there. C-section births and epidural births are just as beautiful as natural births. My first birth felt rather traumatic and it took me a long time to talk about it openly without crying. My goal for this birth was simply to feel empowered. I didn’t write a birth plan and was not totally held to the idea that “I had to have a natural birth”. I knew my options, felt very confident and aware (much more so than last time) and filled myself up with positive affirmations. Every night before bed for the final month of pregnancy, I read a positive birth story. I think that really helped. Anyway, I just wanted to preface this post with that because I am in no way trying to say that my way was the best way. All births are beautiful.
So, I was heading to bed on July 21st just like I do every other night. I was two days overdue at that point and all day long had felt increasingly uncomfortable and hadn’t left the couch much. My dad had surprised me a few days before by flying across the country to visit us for (what we thought) would be birth week. I had had Grayson on his due date and we all just “figured” this second one would either do the same or come early. I don’t know why it never dawned on me that he could actually be late. Hah. Anyway, I was feeling incredibly bummed because my dad was set to fly home at 8:30 the next morning and he wouldn’t get to meet Luke like I was desperately hoping. We named him after my dad (middle name of MacLachlan) and it just seemed like the stars were aligning when he came to visit. Since we live so far, we only get to see each other two or three times a year.
Just after I turned off my light at 10pm, I started feeling “off”. I felt a little clammy and like something I ate hadn’t agreed with me. I started having light contractions every ten minutes and they felt different than the Braxton hicks I had been feeling for weeks. They felt painful! Right then and there I knew this was different and that our baby was indeed on the way. I texted my doula, Mollee, and told that I thought I could be in early labor and just wanted to give her a heads up. She suggested I take a warm tub and try to relax so I did. It felt nice but I started getting anxious about getting to the hospital and giving my mom enough time to get from her hotel to our house to watch Grayson (it was now 11:30pm). I told Adam he could start packing the car and I called my mom to let her know he would be over in 20 minutes to pick her up.
We headed to the hospital when my contractions were still 5 minutes apart. When we got to triage, I specified that I wanted only intermittent monitoring, no saline port and that we had a tub with us and were planning a natural delivery. They were amazing and told me that was totally fine by them and they would support me in whatever way I chose and wanted. Thank goodness! The midwife on call checked me then and we found out I was four cm. I called Mollee, told her to head over, and we headed to the labor room. While Adam set up the tub (quite a process!) and plugged in all the twinkly lights we had bought for the occasion, I plugged in my headphones and breathed through contractions to the labor playlist I had just made the night before. Walking and helped SO much and I was constantly on the move that first hour in the hospital.
When Mollee arrived, I was more than ready to get in the shower for a bit. In there, contractions started picking up and either her or Adam were in there with me, constantly holding the hot water on my back while I pressed my forehead to the wall and tried to remain calm and breathe.
After about 45 minutes, Mollee recommended we try the tub, which was now full and hot. The room was dark, the twinkly lights were on and my labor playlist was playing from a portable speaker we brought from home. The whole scene was incredibly calming and as much like a home birth as possible while being at the hospital. I felt so grateful.
As great as the tub sounded though, I was nervous it would slow down my progress. Mollee told me it was fine and I was far enough along now that it would help a lot. I remember also telling her I was nervous to get out of the shower “because I would be too cold”. Haha. She wrapped me in warm towels and I made my way to the tub. The tub felt AMAZING. Better than amazing. It was absolutely delicious. I was able to find peace between contractions and at times, even fall asleep between then. I don’t think I could have accomplished a natural birth without the tub. It was just fantastic. I tried different positions out and spent the good part of an hour and a half in there before asking Mollee to find Suzette, the midwife.
My pain was really picking up and I wanted to be checked. I started feeling like I was reaching a breaking point and didn’t know if I could go on. I started crying and asked for an epidural, to which Adam told me no way- we were doing this. He started to read out loud the affirmation cards I had made.
Suzette checked me and I was a 7. Thank God. I had my hardest contraction right after and things started moving really fast from there.
I labored on the bed for awhile, on my side, while Mollee and Adam dug their hands in my low back. I started asking if this was transition and when was transition. I had read so much about that stage and was really scared to reach it since I had heard how intense it was. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I really didn’t want to throw up. I had heard that happened often during transition and it only added to my anxiety (side note: I never threw up!). Mollee and Suzette told me I had come so far and I was getting so close. There was no turning back now. They both suggested that I take a few contractions on the toilet, which intensified things SO MUCH. Then I made my way back to the bed, climbed on all fours and buried my face in the pillows. This was transition and I was doing it. It was incredibly intense. Like woah. I was sweating a lot and screamed through each contraction as it came. I kept imagining a car going up a tall mountain, pausing at the top and then slowly coming back down the track. I also started saying in my mind during each surge “this isn’t SO bad. This isn’t SO bad” over and over and over. That manta actually really helped me deal. Somehow I still was able to find peace between each surge and rested silently. The breaks between contractions were amazing. I had had an epidural during my first labor so I knew nothing about intense contractions and the glorious breaks in between. Mollee helped me breathe away each surge after it was over and I gulped down apple juice after every single one.
After what seemed like hours (but was probably only 20-30 minutes), Suzette suggested that we break my bag of water to push things forward. I happily obliged. The release felt amazing for a minute and then BAM. Things got real and the pressure started to increase. Everyone suggested I move back to the toilet and take the next three contractions there. Somehow I got myself up and walked over to the bathroom. As soon as I sat down, I felt burning, burning, burning with each surge. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I heard Mollee call out to Suzette, asking if she wanted me to have the baby on the toilet. I had no idea things had progressed so fast and that we were already at that point. The burning and pressure were unbelievable but I felt incredibly aware the entire time.
Mollee told me I needed to move back to the bed and that it was time to have my baby. I couldn’t believe it. We had been at the hospital for five hours at this point. Suzette checked me once more and found I was 10 cm. At that point it was go time. During contractions I was starting to make a deep, weird noise in my throat and my whole body started doubling over and crunching up. I was pushing without even realizing it. Suddenly my entire being depended on one thing: get this baby out. I started bearing down and pushing with all my might. Luke was born just about three or four contractions later (less than 10 minutes of pushing!) and Adam got to deliver him. When he was almost all out, Suzette told me reach down and grab my baby. I did and pulled him up on my chest. It was over and I had done it. I honestly couldn’t even believe it. We had gotten to the hospital exactly five hours before. It was over and he was finally here. He weighed 8lbs 13oz and was 21 inches long. Another big baby for us!
I had no tearing, which felt unbelievable to me considering I had a vacuum extraction and second degree tears with Grayson. Luke latched on and nursed immediately. And, to top it all off, my dad was able to swing by the hospital on his way to the airport and meet his new grandson. It was all out of a dream.
I felt incredible right after Luke was born. A bit shaky, but incredible. The natural high was absolutely amazing. I feel like I was able to bond with Luke faster than I did with Grayson, and we only had to spend one night in the hospital before heading home (versus three nights last time).
Luke’s birth was everything I dreamed and more. It hurt (a lot!) but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I expected. I loved being so aware and in control of my body the entire time. I never felt “out of it” at all, despite being exhausted. I remember thinking right after Grayson was born that I never wanted to go through labor again. Right after Luke was born, I thought “gosh, I would totally do that again”. Again, this isn’t to say that my way was the right way, but it was absolutely perfect for us and such a redemption song.
Natural birth taught me a lot about myself. Most of all, it taught me that I can do hard, scary things. I can trust myself and my breath, and get through anything. I can stand up to fear. Our bodies are capable of so much more than we think. I’ve never been more proud of myself for anything that I’ve ever done, and I’m just so thankful for the way it all turned out. It truly was one of the most profound experiences of my entire life.
Thanks for reading, everyone!