At 41 weeks and a day with my second boy, I went in for a regular appointment and was told my amniotic fluid level had dropped drastically. My midwife advised going in for monitoring that night and inducing at six the next morning if I hadn't gone into labor. Just then, it suddenly started pouring outside and she expressed hope that the storm would help move things along.
In spite of my disappointment about the induction, I tried to stay as relaxed and calm as possible in preparation for birth. I sat in the lobby while I waited for my mom and son to return from a bookstore, watching the rain come down and processing the news. When we returned home, I spent the early afternoon resting, then Andy came home a little early from work and we spent the rest of the day packing and preparing. During that time, I lost a bit of blood, which gave me hope of avoiding the induction. We had dinner, put our toddler to bed, and left for the hospital around 9:30.
We got a fitful night of sleep at the hospital, tossing and turning in between monitor beeps and nurses visits. At 4 am, I noticed I was losing a significant amount of blood and the nurse asked if I had been having any contractions. I said no, but after she left I paid closer attention and discovered they were coming gently but clearly every three minutes. They continued at that pace but became stronger over the next hour or so. I was checked and seemed to be dilating, so I was told I would be able to avoid the induction. One of the nurses mentioned how common it was for labor to start right before a scheduled induction. I don’t know the science behind that, but I am grateful that I was able to go into labor without intervention.
After several attempts to get an IV in in case of emergency, we were left on our own to labor. We walked the halls, listened to ocean waves and birth tracks, and rotated around the room. For a while, the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart but manageable. With each one I told myself that I was not afraid and concentrated on relaxing my body.
Around mid-morning though, they became significantly stronger and it took all my attention and energy just to moan and sway through them. They began to seem stronger than any I had remembered experiencing with my first and I started to doubt whether I could continue unmedicated. I tried showering and other standing positions, but my legs were so weak and my body tired from lack of sleep, so I mostly sat in bed swaying. Soon, the contractions started coming back to back or double peaking, where one starts coming down only to rise back up again into another. This went on for some time, but I was only about 6 cm dilated. Finally, I said audibly to Andy, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
Around mid-day, my midwife checked in. She said I was 7-8 cm dilated and that my water could easily be broken if I wanted. I was worried that might make the contractions even stronger, but also knew that my endurance was fading and I could probably use some help speeding things up. I asked her what she would do and she said she would go ahead and break it, so I said okay. After that, she said it might be anywhere between 30 minutes to a couple of hours before I felt the urge to push, but on the very next contraction I said, “I feel it.” 15 minutes later he was head-shoulders-legs-out and on my chest.
The first thing I noticed was how tiny he was, 2 whole pounds tinier than his brother at birth, and how distinctly himself he looked, how completely a whole different person he was. Andy, who had been advocating like crazy for me all day in my exhaustion, reminded me that I wanted to breastfeed right away this time, and a nurse came in to help with that while I lay there catching my breath.
A couple hours later, when things had settled down and I finally started to get my energy back, my nurse came in and asked if I thought it was worth it, to have a natural birth. This birth was definitely more challenging than my first. I spent hours silently longing for an epidural. But I told her immediately that yes, it was definitely worth it. The amount of energy I felt in the hours and days following both births, the sense of accomplishment and strength, and the best part of it all, that world-shaking feeling of a human being sliding out of your body, isn’t something I would trade. It was one of the most difficult and physically exhausting days of my life, yes, but it was also one of the most personal and powerful. This time around was less purely empowering, but I felt grounded and rooted in my body and my life here on the earth in a way I can't really describe in words, and it all ended with a brand new life beating on my chest.