written by mama, melissa
The thing about a second birth is that I had already experienced a birth before, so I somewhat knew what to expect. The other thing about a second birth is that you have expectations of what that birth will look like. But as we all know, no two births are alike, and the birth of a baby is a mysterious process, not to be interrupted with any of our own plans.
My daughter, Clementine, was born in October of 2014, with a natural, bump-free delivery. We found out we were expecting baby number two on a balmy, January, Miami morning. We were so excited. We had experienced our third miscarriage just a short month before, and so we were so thankful and relieved to find ourself pregnant once again, so soon. My projected due date was almost exactly the same as Clementine's birth date, just two years later.
My husband, Khanh, and I knew--beyond a shadow of a doubt-- that we wanted to be under the care of the same midwife, Mimi, as we'd had with Clementine. In my head, I wanted to replicate nearly everything from my first birth, and carry it over into the birth of my next baby. We found out in week 20, much to my shock, that we were going to have a BOY (YAY), and that everything about him looked healthy and normal.
I had gone into labor with Clementine, my first baby girl, sometime between week 39 and 40, and yet I had no real expectation of when I would go into labor with our baby boy. With both pregnancies, I wanted to carry these babies in my belly for as long as I could, because I truly treasure those long, but quick, 10 months of pregnancy.
Let me tell you, I really think one of the most difficult parts about this pregnancy was that I fully expected we were going to be having another baby girl--what in the world were we going to name a baby boy? We had a long list of baby girl names, and, you guessed it, ZERO baby boy names. We finally landed on the name Linus Minh, and it really helped me to mentally prepare to become the mom of a sweet boy.
My pregnancy was overall fantastic! I had the usual aches and pains, heartburn, some weight gain, but nothing out of the ordinary. I think the thing that truly surprised me the most about this pregnancy was that I felt a lot more pelvic pressure throughout the pregnancy--especially at the very end--than I had felt with Clementine's pregnancy. My midwife assured me that this was quite normal, that since I had already carried and birthed a baby, my body was a lot more prepped for another baby, and therefore was reaching into its memory to "remember" what to do when it came to pregnancy and birth.
So needless to say, toward the end of this pregnancy, I felt a lot more pelvic discomfort than I had even up to the day Clementine was born just two years prior. With my first, I did my usual morning run and workout up until the day I had gone into labor with her. With Linus' pregnancy, I had to alternate between running and elliptical, foregoing the running for the elliptical on days when Linus would settle low in my belly. I will say this, with fitness at the forefront of my daily life in my non-pregnant days, I knew that I wanted to continue to be active and continue my workouts as much as possible throughout pregnancy. And I'm happy to say that I did! I was able to keep up with my running and stretching, resistance training, and light weights throughout both pregnancies. I truly encourage this as much as possible in anyone's normal, healthy pregnancies!
Back to the birth. I tend to get sidetracked because there's just so much information and mystery surrounding pregnancy and birth. It's fascinating and MIRACULOUS! I reached week 39, and was starting to feel uncomfortable and just all of a sudden, different. Again, in no hurry for his birth because I just wanted to keep him in my belly as long as possible, but things were beginning to change with my body.
It was Monday evening, September 29, and Khanh, Clementine, and I were out to dinner with some friends. I believe I was somewhere around 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant. Things just didn't feel the same as they had felt even just the day prior. I was fidgety, slightly nauseous, tired, and feeling quite a bit of pelvic pressure. And those contractions--I was racking my brain to remember how intense they should be to consider myself to be "in labor". In my head, I wondered if I was close to giving birth--or really, how close I actually was? We went home and got everyone off to bed. I woke up in the dark of the night to more frequent contractions. I began timing them, as laboring women do, and realized that I was probably in early labor.
Excitement was thick in the air, though we knew it might be awhile before Linus made his grand entrance.
We contacted Mimi, our midwife, and waited for the contractions to become closer together. We thought, "This is it!". The contractions were down to about 6-7 minutes apart, and were becoming really intense. The sun rose high into the sky, morning came, and we loaded Clementine into her stroller and tried to keep things moving along with a nice, long walk.
It was now Tuesday, and Khanh called in to work to tell them it was time for Linus to be born and that he wouldn't be at work that day. Come to find out, they had planned a surprise baby shower for that day that they now had to cancel. What are the chances?! We mentally and physically were preparing to have Linus that day, but my body had other plans. I continued to get the intense contractions, but their predictable pattern waned, as did my expectation of his delivery being that day.
As it turns out, we didn't meet him that day. We went to bed that evening, wondering once again if the night time hours would bring on the contractions that would finally bring our baby boy into the world. The contractions were intense, but there was absolutely no pattern anymore. I was disappointed because I knew we were so close, yet so far away.
My parents were driving in from New Mexico, and were supposed to be in by the end of the week on Friday. I had called my mom to tell her how things were going, and she began to wonder if she'd actually make the birth. She and my dad sped up their trip down to Florida where we live and were hoping to make it in time--and boy, so was I! I had my mom at Clementine's birth, and she was such an encouragement to have there. I know I said this in my last birth story, but my mom had SEVEN natural, unmedicated births! My mom is Superwoman!
Wednesday came, two days after early labor began, and still no baby. Inside, my spirits were somewhat low and I was a bit discouraged because this labor so far was nothing like Clementine's labor. When they say each birth is different, they are sure not kidding! My midwife encouraged me to do some exercises and stretching to encourage the baby to move around, in case that was what was holding up the labor process. Mind you, during those days of early labor, I was walking the dogs, cleaning, keeping busy so that I could help "walk" that baby out, as they say.
Wednesday night came, the night my parents were supposed to be arriving from New Mexico. I told them that nothing new was happening, just the same, un-patterned contractions. They told me they were tired from driving, and since the baby seemed to be taking at least another day, they would stop at a hotel about two hours away by car. I agreed that was a good idea.
Wednesday night bed time arrived and I'll always remember how special that evening was, because we let Clementine stay up with us for awhile and watch a movie on our bed--something we almost never do. I began to feel really uncomfortable, and after a few showers of hot water to ease the discomfort, I realized the contractions were coming closer and closer together. And boy, these contractions were STRONG! I would definitely say painful and intense, but I like to put a positive spin on it because they're so necessary to birth a baby! I texted my midwife that things seemed to be moving along, and told her to stand by.
Contractions during active labor are painfully intense and amazing. I remember fighting against my contractions in my first birth with Clementine, not wanting to feel the discomfort that they brought.
This time around, I relaxed into each and every contraction, making loud, primal noises to help myself breathe through each one.
And my patient, faithful husband let me squeeze (or should I say wring with every ounce of my strength and muscle) his hand for each and every wave that the contractions brought, reminding me to give in and welcome the pressure and pain, and breathe through it all.
We planned to have the baby at the same birth center that we birthed Clementine at, Hollywood Birth Center, and so we would needed to meet her there when the time was right. I think the beauty of a second birth is that I knew the process of birth better, and more of what to expect. It wouldn't necessarily be like in the movies with my water breaking at the supermarket, and then rushing to the hospital to barely make it in time to birth the baby. There are so many variables and no two births are alike!
I couldn't sleep. At ALL. I remember sitting in the bathroom, just trying to relax through the contractions. I couldn't talk through the pain, and I certainly couldn't walk through the pain. I remember calling out to Khanh from the shower--where I was attempting to find some relief from the discomfort--to call Mimi and let her know that we were very close to having this baby. And then I got stuck, I couldn't lift my leg to get out of the shower. That should've been my first clue that this was go-time! Even through the contractions getting to be less than five minutes apart, I still doubted whether or not we were actually in active labor.
By this point, it was around 2 am, and Mimi instructed us to meet her at the birth center. I remember Khanh bringing me some clothes to put on, and I told him I couldn't do it. We barely got a huge pair of his old, baggy sweatpants on, along with a big t-shirt (VERY glamorous, I know). I wear contacts every day, I can't see without them. But at night, I wear an old pair of my glasses, they're so old and worn, and they slide down and off my face all the time. I couldn't even get my contacts in my eyes, things were so intense.
So Khanh grabbed Clementine, who was half-asleep and very confused, and all of our bags for birth and for baby Linus, and we headed into the hall of our fourth-floor apartment. I remember Khanh pointing out that I had no shoes on, and I told him flat out that I didn't care. So I--holding up my huge sweatpants with one hand, glasses falling off my face, barefoot, one hand on the wall to help me walk through the contractions--headed down the hall to the elevator to go. I remember I had to stop every few feet or so to lean against the wall to make it through the intense contractions.
In the car, Khanh called my parents and told them that we were going to be having this baby, and soon! I think I gave them a heart attack, because they did not want to miss this birth! And I certainly didn't want them to miss it, either. They loaded up their car, and headed out to try to make it in time to witness the birth.
We made it to the birth center with no traffic, thank God, as it was so early in the morning. It was now 3am, and I went inside to get checked by the midwife to see how far along I was in the labor process. She checked me, and told me I was at 8 centimeters dilated and would be giving birth so soon. Let me tell you, when I heard that "8", I heard a chorus of angels singing and I felt so much relief. I was about to give birth! Well, I didn't literally hear it, but you get my point. When I went to the birth center for Clementine's birth, I was only 3 centimeters, so this was incredibly encouraging to hear! Mimi filled the birth tub, and I readied to give birth to Linus.
I remember by this point in my labor with Clementine, that I was exhausted, bleary-eyed, and just out of it. Mimi commented on how alert and calm I was this time around, and it's so true, I felt so alive and ready to do this birth! I climbed into the tub, and we waited out some contractions. I knew it wasn't going to be long. Miracle of all miracles, I heard some quiet voices in the hall, and my parents walked into the room! My dad grabbed Clementine to bring her into the other room to sleep, and my mom came to help Khanh and I labor and birth this baby.
I absolutely love to labor in the tub, the water truly brings relaxation and natural pain relief.
With the lights low, quiet whispers from the midwives, I labored there, wondering how much longer it might be. I was on my knees, arms and head resting on the edge of the birthing pool, somewhat in an upright position. I remember this next part vividly--mostly because I did not feel this sensation during my labor with Clementine. I felt Linus literally slide down my belly and right between my legs. I yelled out, confused by the sensation, "I can feel something sliding down!". Mimi told me that was the baby. At almost the same moment that I felt the slide, I felt the gentle "pop" of my water breaking. So like I said, it wasn't a movie-worthy, water-breaking moment for me, but a calm and swift part of my natural birth.
He was right there! We were going to meet little Linus at any moment now. I reached down and felt his head and hair. I pushed a few times, with the contractions, and--realizing that I was about to catch the baby myself--Khanh jumped in, wanting to be the one to catch Linus. It was now 5 am, not even two short hours after we had gotten to the birth center, and the baby was coming now! A few more strong contractions, and he was out! The whole process of working with my body to push Linus out took less than two minutes. Khanh grabbed our sweet baby, and handed him to me to hold against my skin.
The first thing I do when I have my babies is I check their gender-- because nothing is for sure until that baby is in your arms! Ultrasounds are wonderful, but not 100% by any means. And he was definitely a boy! I pointed this out to everyone in the room. I looked behind me and realized that Clementine was there also, and our little family of four was finally all together!
We bonded for awhile in the tub, I nursed him for the first time, and then we climbed out. No stitches were needed for me, and I was over the moon about this! They weighed Linus and checked him out. He was completely perfect and healthy, weighing in at a whopping 9 lbs. 4 oz, and 21.5 inches long. Our big, sweet baby boy!
We were all given a clean bill of health, Mimi gave Khanh the "Doula of the Year" award, and were sent on our way home. It was now 8 am, just 3 short hours after giving birth. It's amazing how quickly our bodies can recover, begin to heal, and bounce back, after going through such a "labor"-intensive thing as birth (see what I did there?).
When people ask how my birth with Linus went, I like to call it my dream birth. It wasn't a breeze, it took some good, hard work. But I trusted my body, and it did not fail me! I was and am meant to carry and birth babies, and that fact fills me with so much pride and awe at how women were created to do this.
Our sweet Linus Minh, you are forever ours, and we cannot imagine our lives without you in it.