Hugo is my second child, and being my second pregnancy I found myself thinking I was more prepared for his birth than I really was. For instance, I didn’t think to sign up for birthing classes until it was too close to my due date to join any of the group classes, so I ended up hiring a private instructor on Toni’s recommendation. We scheduled the classes for a month before the due date, but they kept getting pushed back due to family illnesses. We finally started the classes about two weeks before my due date, but I wasn’t feeling stressed about an imminent birth. My first son, Taro, had been born a few days after his due date, and two weeks before Hugo’s due date I figured I had plenty of time. I had just submitted my thesis the Friday before and had enjoyed a weekend of trick-or-treating with Taro and getting ready to enjoy what I anticipated would be at least a week of just relaxing and getting ready in slow time for the birth. I spent November, 2nd, my first weekday as “just a mom”, doing to normal mom stuff: laundry, grocery shopping, play date, and our first birthing class. It was a full day and I was exhausted at the end of it. I remember driving home and noticing the full moon coming up on the horizon. At home I made dinner, got Taro ready for bed, unloaded groceries and thought to myself, being a mom is hard work! That’s when our dishwasher started leaking all over the floor. My husband and I spent a stressful ten minutes trying to figure out how to stop it, and then I spent another ten minutes cleaning up the mess. I don’t know if it was the full moon, the sudden stress, or a combination of both, but right after I finished cleaning up the mess, I started leaking too!
I called Toni and explained what was happening. It was a trickle, not a flood, not what I imagined when I thought of my water breaking. But it just kept coming, like there was a little puncture in the amniotic sac and every time I moved a little bit of fluid would squeeze out. Toni said to get some rest and call her in the morning if nothing had happened. When it really hit me that this was it, one way or another I would be giving birth to my son in the next 24 hours, I burst into tears. I wasn’t ready! We hadn’t even finished our birthing classes, the kitchen was a mess and our dishwasher was broken, not to mention a hundred other little things I had wanted to get done before Hugo came. But my husband helped me to calm down and remember that the most important thing was to make sure Hugo had a safe birth.
My parents came over to get Taro and I spent the evening Googling “water break” just to make sure that was what was happening, quickly flipping through the birth chapters in my pregnancy books (isn’t it a bit late for that?, my dad asked when he came to get Taro) and downloading some yoga music to labor to. I was able to get some sleep, but some light contractions started in the middle of the night. I had had “false labor” contractions for nearly two days with Taro, so I didn’t get too excited about these. Nothing more was happening by the morning, so I called Toni again and she prescribed some castor oil and parsley tea to get things going. My husband ran off to the grocery store and came back with the required items, as well as four yellow roses, one for each of us. He’s such a sweetheart.
At 9:00 we went ahead and had our second birthing class as scheduled. I figured, might as well be as prepared as I can be. We watched a video of a woman having a water birth. The main thing I got out of the film was how much pain she seemed to be in, even though she was a midwife, this was her third child, and she was in the water. My illusions of having a pain-free second birth were starting to disintegrate and memories of my first labor began creeping back in with each new contraction. Oh yeah, this is what it feels like … For a split second I felt a futile urge to throw a fit, to tell my husband I didn’t want to do this anymore. But I didn’t. I stayed calm and steeled myself for the experience. The contractions were stronger, but irregular. I didn’t want to call Toni until I knew that labor had really begun, but our birth instructor warned me to be careful and not leave it until too late. Right as our class was ending, a huge amount of liquid flooded out of me, like what you see in the movies when a woman’s water breaks. Here we go, I thought. But the contractions didn’t get any more regular. Because I had had so many hours of pre-labor contractions with Taro I had it in my mind that labor hadn’t really begun until the contractions were regular. So I put off calling Toni. But about 20 minutes after our instructor left the contractions became very intense and I knew they were serious. It was just after 11:00. My husband called Toni immediately and let her know that the castor oil had worked its magic; I was definitely in labor.
During my first labor, which was also at home, I had felt completely overwhelmed by the contractions and had felt powerless to control them in any way. I was determined this time to remain calm and to focus on breathing. This time round I discovered a new trick that helped when the contractions were almost unbearable: pulling my hair. Our birthing instructor had taught us that our brains can only take in a certain amount of stimulus and that by adding more sensations during the contractions you can help to override the pain. Toni’s assistant, Andrea arrived quickly, within half an hour of us calling, but in that short amount of time I had already progressed to the point of being unable to talk and I was barely able to muster a smile for her. I only had energy for the contractions. I thought to myself, now I remember why I said I was never going to do this again… and once this is over I am definitely NOT going to do this again!!!
We had purchased a birthing pool that had been inflated in our bathroom for the last month and I was looking forward to getting into it as soon as Toni said I could. Once Toni arrived she checked me out and said that if I wanted to give birth in the pool I had better hurry! I heard my husband turn on the sink and imaged the pool filling with hot water. Suddenly, I heard the water turn off and my husband came out of the bathroom and went downstairs. He seemed distracted and mumbled something about needing to get something. I had another contraction so didn’t have time to press him for details. By the time it was over he was back in the bathroom and I could hear that the water running again. I went in to check on the progress and to my dismay saw the empty pool and my husband bent over the sink with a screwdriver. He was having some technical difficulties with the connection between the hose and the sink. Even though the thought of getting into the birthing pool had been getting me through the contractions, I found that I didn’t feel anything, not anger, disappointment or despair, it was like I didn’t have the energy to feel emotion. I just said “fill up the bathtub”.
I was expecting the water to significantly ease the pain of the contractions. I hadn’t been able to have a water birth for Taro (also due to technical difficulties) and I had created a beautiful fantasy in my mind of how wonderful the labor would have been if I could have been immersed in warm water. When I got in the tub with during my second labor, it did feel good, but much to my disappointment I found that the contractions were still quite painful. But fortunately they didn’t last much longer. I was probably in the tub for less than ten minutes when I felt the urge to push. Toni asked me if I wanted give birth to Hugo in the tub, with a hint of suggestion in her voice that it might not be the best place. But I wasn’t moving. I had waited all this time to get in the water and I wasn’t about to get out. So, everyone came into the bathroom and knelt around the tub. My husband Christian at my head, ready to pull my hair, Toni in the middle ready to catch Hugo, and Andrea was given the task of holding up my leg. It was not at all how I imagined giving birth, but that’s how it happened. I worked on pushing Hugo out, and that wasn’t any less painful than the first time either. I just kept remembering how Taro had finally slipped out with one final push and then it was all over. So, when I gave a hard push and Hugo’s head popped out I was relieved. But nothing else came out and the contraction was over. “Can’t you pull him out”? I pleaded to Toni, but she said “No, you have to push him out”. So we waited for one more contraction, all of us looking at Hugo’s little head looking around, probably wondering what was going on. Finally another contraction came and I pushed as hard as I could and out he slipped.
It was amazing. Two seconds before I had felt such pain, such stress, such intense physical sensations, but as soon as he was out it all stopped. I felt so calm, like I had just crossed the finish line after a hard race. Now was just the cool down, this was the easy part. It was a huge relief. I held Hugo to me. He was covered in vernix and looked like a little white elf made of cream cheese. He was so calm. He didn’t cry, didn’t want to feed, just looked around with his big eyes at the lights and faces. It was 1:19pm. The real labor part of the birth had lasted just over two hours, and now it was all over.
We lay in the tub for a good while, until the placenta had come out and Hugo and I had been cleaned up. We got all cozy and cuddled in bed. He was so tiny and light and quiet, it was hard to believe that he was in my arms, that he had been born so quickly and now we could just enjoy relaxing together.
That was four months ago, and he is still a calm, peaceful little guy, though not so light, he chuncked up pretty quickly. Taro adores him. He told me the other day, “Hugo is my favorite baby in the world!”