I became pregnant with my first baby in 2016. I was unbelievably excited to become a mother but also nervous for all the unknowns that came along with that title. I remember vividly saying to my husband at some point in my second trimester that I was so happy to have our baby, but I was scared that now I had to get him out. I continued on with that pregnancy trying to empower myself with knowledge on breastfeeding, newborn care, and so many other things, just trying to pass the time and ease my anxiety over what I couldn’t predict or control. As I approached week 36 I started having daily intermittent contractions that felt a lot more intense than my typical Braxton Hicks and this continued on for a couple of weeks. The day I turned 38 weeks I remember it was mid-afternoon and I was having some pretty painful contractions about every 5-7 minutes or so that would last around 45-50 seconds, so I figured this must be it, the start of my labor, and while I was right, little did I know that my labor would go on for another two days full of emotional ups and downs and frustration that things weren’t progressing ideally. I found out that I was experiencing something called “prodromal labor”, a frustrating, but normal phenomenon where labor starts and stops over and over before full blown active labor begins. By the end of day 2, I now had not slept the night before, mostly because It was a mental game that these contractions were playing on me, but also because I was having all back labor which was very painful. That night I went to an appointment and my midwife swept my membranes which really intensified the pain and things became much more intense over the next 7 hours. At 1:30am we were finally heading to the hospital, both assuming I absolutely must be in full blown labor and far along, but unfortunately my cervix said otherwise, and we spent the next few hours in triage because they would not admit me until I was 4cm. I remember crying so much in triage as Bonnie tried to get me into a better headspace, I just couldn’t believe level of pain I was in with so little cervical progression and was so scared I would be sent home. Luckily, they admitted me at around 4am. By about 8:00am on the 3rd day (38+2), I had not slept in over 50 hours, I was emotionally and physically drained, and after talking with my midwife I made the decision to get an epidural and try to move things along so that I could have to strength to push my baby out. About 2 hours after receiving my epidural I was ready to push. I spent an hour pushing and ended up with some tears and a painful hemorrhoid. Overall, I felt this birth experience was a painful back labor, prodromal labor nightmare, and I was so beyond happy it was over, and my baby was here!
Flash forward 2 years later, I became pregnant with my second son. I was so happy that God blessed our little family once again, but I couldn’t help but have some nerves and fears about my upcoming labor and delivery. So, I prayed and talked through these fears with my doula Bonnie Kelly. We decided about ½ way through the pregnancy that I should start writing out birth affirmations, posting them on my bathroom mirror, and reading them to myself daily. Some of these affirmations included: “You can do ANYTHING for one minute”, “This birth WILL be different”, and “This experience will be beautiful”. Looking back, as I read these affirmations to myself the next 20 weeks or so, although at times my mind wanted to go to a place of fear, it was truly preparing my mind to trust my body and what it was capable of. At 38 weeks I was still very much pregnant and feeling frustrated and almost annoyed that this baby was staying in longer than last time, but I just tried to keep myself busy with my toddler, trust God, trust my body, and trust that my baby knew when it was the best time for him to come into this world.
39+3 was a typical work day for me, I was having tons of uncomfortable contractions sporadically throughout the day, but this was nothing new at this time, so I didn’t think much about it. 9:45 rolled around, I was brushing my teeth for bed and I had a contraction that sent me leaning over my sink and I just KNEW this was it. I told my husband and my doula that I was pretty positive I was in labor but was worried that it might just be prodromal labor like last time so wasn’t sure how to feel.
Bonnie encouraged me to get as much rest as possible, even if my contractions started to get closer together, because every little bit of rest would help me, so that’s exactly what I did. For the next few hours I slept soundly and was awoken about every 15-20 minutes with a back contraction lasting 60-90 seconds. I remembered Bonnie telling me that productive contractions are different than those in prodromal labor because they usually last at least 60 seconds, so I was feeling encouraged by the already subtle differences in my labors which helped my mind to stay in a good place. I took a warm bath, listened to relaxing music, and tried to get some more sleep. My contractions over the next few hours became more and more intense and closer and closer together, but I told my husband to keep sleeping and just tried to manage them with my breathing and rested in between.
At about 4:30am I woke my husband because at this point I felt so shaky and nauseas which I knew was very common in late active labor, and I needed him to time my contractions so that I could tell Bonnie. It was at this point that things progressed very quickly, and my contractions went from 5 minutes apart, to 4, to 3, and BOOM my water broke and my mucous plug followed that! My contractions at this point became unbearable, about 90 seconds apart, and I knew we should head to the hospital to meet Bonnie and my doctor because I was pretty certain I was in transition.
Once I was brought into the labor and delivery room I was checked, found out I was 8+ cm, and I instantly felt this feeling of accomplishment. After my very next contraction I told Bonnie that something was “different,” I was feeling like I had this uncontrollable urge to push while I was contracting and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I remember she whispered something to me like “Amber, just trust your body, allow it to do what it needs to do, breathe, you are doing beautifully”, kind of hard to remember her exact words but they were exactly what I needed to hear.
The doctor came in pretty quickly, checked me, and I was already 10+ and ready to push. Funny how your body totally just knows when it’s time and sends this overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to push before being told. This was the only time in my labor that I was scared, because let’s be honest its painful and I hadn’t pushed a baby out unmedicated in my last birth, but I knew that my body was meant to do this, I was a Rockstar at this point, and I was going to meet my baby soon. I just kept listening to my doula, my doctor, my husband, and more importantly my body and 26 minutes later my beautiful baby boy was on my chest and instantly it was like nothing happened. All the pain melted away and I was on a birth high like I could never imagine.
See, the difference in this birth is that I trusted my body during my entire labor, I could have let the fear of back labor and a horrible long drawn out first labor completely control my mind and create a similar experience, but I made the decision to trust and believe in my body and told myself that all birth is not the same. Honestly, when it was all over I just couldn’t even believe what I had done, I did it, I achieved the birth I always wanted.
I share these two stories to encourage pregnant mamas who may have had a traumatic or difficult first birth, that every single birth is so unbelievably different and if you trust your body and allow your mind to get into that positive headspace, your birth can be so beautiful and so different than the first time.