Lessons I learned from labor and delivery the second time around: Women are warriors. Our intuition is magic. If we can learn to listen and trust ourselves, incredible things can happen.
People say that every pregnancy, labor and delivery is different and I wasn’t sure I believed them until I experienced it myself. With my first, I only had nausea and food aversions from weeks 7 to 9, an easy, breezy pregnancy overall and a long 30-hour labor that started spontaneously at 39 weeks and 3 days. With my second, I had nausea until 15 weeks, was in so much pain with symphysis pubis dysfunction (a common condition in subsequent pregnancies) that I had to go to a prenatal chiropractor twice a week starting at 20 weeks and physical therapy, and I made it to 40 weeks and 5 days gestation with no baby.
On Wednesday, December 4 at 9:30 a.m. (at 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant), I went to my weekly check up with my midwife. When my nurse took my blood pressure, like she does at every appointment, she discovered that it was high (146/102) and it wouldn’t go down even after rest. My nurse pointed out that my belly was very low, that the high blood pressure meant that my body was reaching the end of being able to carry the baby and that I would probably be delivering today. After that, I saw my midwife and we decided that she would do a cervical exam and, if I was dilated at all, she would perform a membrane sweep. When she did the cervical exam, she discovered I was already 3 cm dilated so she did the sweep to help move things along. At that point, it was 10:30 a.m. She said that cramping and bleeding is normal and, if my body and baby are ready, that labor would start within 48 hours. She also wanted me to go to the labor and delivery ward at the hospital to monitor my blood pressure in case I needed to be induced for preeclampsia.
I left the office, called my husband to come home from work and headed home to finish packing my hospital bag. Today was finally the day!
Just as my midwife had said, I started feeling cramps almost immediately. My husband got home around 11:30 a.m. and we ate lunch together before making our way to the hospital. By the time we got to the hospital and checked into triage, it was 12:30 p.m. They hooked me up to monitors to track contractions, my blood pressure and baby’s heartbeat. My contractions were coming at 3-4 minute intervals, but they were still pretty mild. They monitored me for 2 hours and in that time period, my contractions were steadily getting stronger and closer together.
At 2:30 p.m., the doctor performed another cervical exam and said I was 4 cm dilated and not in active labor even though my contractions were only 2 minutes apart. She said I was “still too happy and comfortable” to be in labor. According to the Kaiser website, women are supposed to get to the hospital when contractions are 8 minutes apart if it’s their second baby. The doctor told me to go home and that she wanted me to schedule a non-stress test for Friday and an induction for the following Wednesday. She also offered to give me Pitocin and/or break my water to speed labor along, but I always choose to go natural when possible, so I declined. Neither I nor my nurse thought that I should be going home with my contractions as close as they were, but we got discharged anyway.
On our way to the car, my contractions kept getting stronger. We got Homestate tacos for dinner and a pint of ice cream from Wanderlust Creamery and went home. It was 4 p.m. when we got home and my contractions were so strong that I was having trouble eating or talking through them. We tried watching an episode of Magic for Humans while I timed my contractions but had to stop with 10 minutes left because they were getting too strong. They felt like the ones I had shortly before I had Griffin.
We left the house at 5 p.m. and were checked into triage by 5:30 p.m. The same doctor gave me another exam, said I was 6.5 cm dilated and that she’ll check me again in a couple of hours. At 6:10 p.m., I felt the urge to push with my contractions but I doubted myself because I was just checked and not dilated enough. I mentioned it to my nurse who then rushed me into the labor and delivery room. There, I met my L&D nurse who was amazing and who, I later learned, also delivered all of her babies without pain medication.
I told her that I felt a lot of pressure and the urge to push with my contractions. She checked my cervix again and said that she didn’t feel it at all so I was 10 cm dilated already.
“Let’s try pushing with the next contraction and see what happens,” she said.
So I did and that’s when my water broke. The nurse could see the baby’s head and the room flooded with doctors and nurses.
Ten minutes and three pushes later, our daughter Emilia Alyse Herman was born!
She had swallowed and inhaled a lot of amniotic fluid and was having trouble breathing so after a couple seconds of me holding her, they rushed her away to suction and put her on the CPAP Machine for 30 minutes before I could hold her again.
The doctor who had questioned me and doubted me this entire day told me after all that that she was surprised by how quickly everything happened. And I know the only reason I felt confident enough to advocate for myself was because I had been through labor and delivery before and remembered all of the sensations (even though I was also shocked by how quickly it progressed).
There were two things I did differently this time around: one, I didn’t have a doula (a decision that I was nervous about because I loved having that extra support with my first baby) and, two, I went to a chiropractor specializing in prenatal care twice a week for the second half of my pregnancy. My decision to go to the chiropractor was initially due to having SPD but I believe it also contributed greatly to having a quick and relatively easy delivery. Because I was adjusted frequently throughout my pregnancy, my hips and pelvis were wide and flexible, providing adequate space for my baby to pass through. I would highly recommend going to a prenatal chiropractor if you’d like to have an unmedicated birth.
I never thought I would go past my due date because I felt so ready for so long to physically be done with this pregnancy. I remember saying at 20 weeks that I can’t imagine getting to my due date because of how uncomfortable I was. But, alas, my due date came and went. Every day that I didn’t have the baby made me more and more nervous because it was one day closer to having to be induced and maybe needing a C-section. But I feel so incredibly proud that I had the guts to listen to and follow my intuition, make the decisions that were right for me and ultimately, have the second natural labor and delivery experience I had hoped for. And if there's one thing I want my daughter to know, it's that we women are warriors and we can do anything.