Don’t believe everything the books (and midwives and everyone else in the whole world) say about the speed of second-baby labor.
I’m still processing through Mark’s labor and delivery and I’m sure I’ll type out his complete birth story at some point. But here’s the basic sketch of the timing: I was woken up at 4:00 am on 1/3/13 by contractions. I timed them myself for about an hour and they were coming close enough together that at 5:00 I woke up Nik. By 5:30, I called the midwives and we called Nik’s mom to come over to be with Ellie; by 6:00 they were coming quickly and strongly enough (for a second labor) to be told to drive in.
Keep in mind that here’s what we were told all through this pregnancy: “Second babies come really quickly.” “The women who have babies in the car are the ones who ignore their contractions.” “Ellie came so fast, your second baby is likely to come even faster.” “Make sure you call us right away when you have contractions.” So, being paranoid about having a baby in the car, we did what they told us to do.
At 6:30 we left and got to the birth center around 7:30. I didn’t think I was super far along (the contractions being not that bad) but an internal exam showed that I was only one centimeter dilated. ONE! NOTHING! AT ALL! At 10:30, I was 2 centimeters dilated. By 1:00, I was having contractions every three minutes. At 4:00, I was finally 5 centimeters dilated (meaning I’d officially reached active labor, as if nothing had been happening before then!). At 8:30, I was 8 centimeters dilated. At 10:00 pm, Nik and I decided the baby probably wasn’t going to be born until 1/4/13 or maybe not ever. At 10:10, my water broke. At 10:11, I started pushing and at 10:23 he was born, all 9 pounds, 4 ounces of him. I delivered the placenta by 10:30 and it was officially over, 18 and a half hours later.
Yesterday, I was looking at the midwife’s report that we were given for our pediatrician and on it was marked that I had prodromal labor throughout the beginning of the day. I was pretty sure I knew what that was but looked it up just to make sure. Basically, prodromal labor is lots of serious, real contractions without any progression to show for it. It can be really difficult and some women have this for days before they actually get to active labor and a baby. Thankfully, mine only lasted a few hours and really, I don’t think I had true prodromal labor because I did slowly but surely progress throughout the day. While looking up prodromal labor , I found this statement:
Know that even if there is a physical reason [for prodromal labor], such as the size or position of the baby, this is all the more reason why the baby needs undisturbed time to negotiate its way. (emphasis mine, from here)
Here’s what happened with Baby Mark – he was fairly optimally positioned for the last several weeks of pregnancy. But for some reason, right before he was born, he flipped himself onto his back so that he was posterior (OP) rather than anterior (OA). Had he stayed this way until he was born, my life would have been a WHOLE LOT HARDER, in terms of pain of contractions as well as difficulty in pushing. Part of what our nurse and midwife had us do while we were working towards birth was a lot of movement. I did lots of walking, pushing through contractions when I didn’t want to keep walking. I did lots of bouncing on an exercise ball. I walked more. I floated in the pool for awhile, which wasn’t so bad! All of this was designed to keep my pelvic area open through the contractions so that he could move if he wanted to. And praise the Lord, he did. He flipped himself back so that he was anterior by the time I got to transition (we think) and he was definitely in the correct position (facing down) when he came out.
I am supremely grateful to our midwife that she allowed me to labor as slowly as I did. I’m sure that had we been at a hospital, I would have been given Pitocin (or something else) to speed up my labor. Instead of rushing things, they helped me work hard to bring Mark into this world but didn’t force any interventions on us that could have potentially made things more difficult in the end. He clearly needed “undisturbed time to negotiate his way” and he took plenty of it. Our midwife told us that she thinks his labor took so long both because he was so big and also because of the way he was positioned. Not only was he posterior, but he was fairly high, meaning he wasn’t putting optimal pressure on my cervix to encourage it to dilate.
Mark definitely didn’t come out in the blazing fast manner that I was assured all 2nd babies did. Rather, he came out more like a first baby typically does. Ellie, conversely, came out so quickly and easily that her birth probably should just be classified as our “second baby” labor. I guess Mark figured I just had it too easy the first time and I needed to earn my “natural childbirth badge” for real with him. Let me assure you, I think Nik and I both earned them for real this time around!