Becoming a Mother When You Are Already a Mother - Lindsay's comparison of her birth stories
Working in Silicon Valley we have the opportunity to support many engineers and science-minded clients. In this post our client, Lindsay, shares the story of both of her birthing experiences, which she aptly describes as “similar yet different.” Like Lindsay, we too value evidence and expertise. AND we also encourage our clients to go inward, discover their voice, and trust themselves. Because in birth (and parenting... and life) one size just doesn’t fit all. We are heartened to hear that after her second birth, this scientist believes she learned to trust her gut more and that she grew even more in her confidence as a mother. We can get behind those outcomes!
As I progressed through the nine months of my second pregnancy (which seemed to go so much faster than the first) it started to resonate with me that being pregnant with, and then giving birth to, a second child (like doing anything for only the second time) combines new and old experiences; things that are similar, yet different.
This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, really. The process of giving birth is ancient: older than humans, older than our ape and monkey cousins, older than mammals, as old as some of the first animals. Literally everyone has at least one personal experience with the birthing process.
As a second-time mom, I have been through the process of giving birth once - and while the first birth didn’t go exactly how I imagined, nothing went wrong, and I hoped that the second birth would go just as well - if not, hopefully, even better (similar, yet different). I knew that the giving birth for the second time would not be the same - this was a different baby, and I am not the same person I was two and a half years ago. So, as I am a scientist down to my bones, and it is in my nature to seek expert advice and help from someone who knows more than I do, just like with my first, we hired a doula. A different one this time - since we had moved in the intervening years - and with a different style than before that I hoped would be more suited to the experience I wanted this time around (similar, yet different). (A completely random similarity: both doulas had daughters who were pregnant and due shortly after me.)
Two days before my son was born, I had false labor starting in the morning, and made a trip to the hospital at the advice of the nurses on the phone, only to be told after a quick examination that today was not the baby day, and was sent home to rest. [Similar, yet different: with my daughter there was no false labor - I worked up until two days before I went into labor, and spent the day before I went into labor relaxing around the house and going out to dinner with some friends.]
The day before my son was born, we got up and went to a friend’s baby shower, and had a relaxing day. It wasn’t until the evening, after putting my daughter to bed, watching TV with my husband and my mom, that I started to feel contractions again. We called Wendy to talk about our hospital trip the day before, and how I was feeling some contractions now, but that I was wary of them stopping again. In the next hour or so, they persisted and I started to feel that I had to stand up and walk around while we watched TV. Around 10pm my husband and I lay down in bed and he began to time the contractions - for an hour they were consistent in duration and frequency. We called Wendy to tell her it looked like things were happening this time - and she came over. I got into the shower as my husband packed up the car. As soon as Wendy arrived, she set me up with a TENS machine, which would wind up as a wonderful thing that helps me through the rest of labor. [Similar, yet different: with my daughter, I went into labor in the very early morning - the contractions started around 4:30 in the morning after we were awakened in the middle of the night by a momma and baby raccoons. The first contractions came only every 30-45 minutes, I went back to sleep as best I could and didn’t let my husband know until 7:30. We labored at home for a while, and my husband kept the doula updated by text. When the contractions started getting closer together around mid-day, we asked her to come over, but we find that she is still at another birth and is going to send us a back up for the time being. The wonderful back-up doula arrived around 1:30pm, and we labor at home a bit longer until I have a few double contractions, and it seems like it is time to go to the hospital around 4pm.]
Our quick trip to the hospital in the middle of the night on Saturday night became extra complicated and frustrating when our first choice of Kaiser delivery rooms told us that they had no space - not even triage rooms - to check us into when we arrived, and our second choice refused to tell us over the phone whether they are full or have rooms for us to go into. So, we were off to our third choice. We were not uncomfortable with any of the options, it was just that the first two had the more midwife-based environment that we were hoping for. We arrived at the hospital at 2am, and a quick exam (which they didn’t let our doula join us for) shows that I was 4cm dilated. So, I was admitted and moved into a room right away. [Similar, yet different: with my daughter, after a nearly hour-long drive in Sunday evening LA traffic, real frustration came after arriving at the hospital. Despite laboring for close to 12 hours at that point, I was not even 3cm dilated, so they had me walk around for another hour or so - with strong contractions happening every 3 minutes. Our regular doula finally arrived around 7pm, and after the shift change she talked with the new nurse, who then, along with the doctor agreed to admit me at 9:15pm. As soon as we get to the delivery room, I agreed to some IV fluids and take a short shower.]
For the next few hours I labored in the room, using different sounds, colored balls and other distraction techniques, and my sister arrived sometime during this time. Around 4:30am I took a good long shower, moving around, sitting down and enjoying the comfort of the warm water. Wendy really helped throughout this whole time by keeping me moving into different positions, including lunges, sitting on the ball, standing up and squatting. As labor continues I found that the positions where I can actually rest between contractions are most painful during contractions, and the positions that are most comfortable during contractions are the ones that I can’t rest between contractions; lying down the contractions were very difficult, but standing up was much more comfortable. Wendy kept me going with little snacks, peppermints and applesauce, as well as a lot of water. By 6:45am I had a bloody show, and I had started to labor pretty much exclusively on my hands and knees so that I could lean forward and rest on the pillows at the head of the bed between contractions – I still had the TENS machine on, but I hadn’t asked for any pain medication. [Similar, yet different: with my daughter, from the time I get out of the shower, contractions were coming fast and regular and I had trouble moving between positions without having a contraction midway through. At 1:45am, I was examined again and was still only 5-6cm dilated. By 2:30am, I was exhausted and decided to ask for an epidural – it was put in at 3am and at that moment it was the most amazing thing ever. I fell asleep then for about three glorious hours.]
At 7:45am, before the doctors changed over, I had only my second exam after coming to the hospital and I was at 9.5 cm with just a bit of anterior lip. I labored while standing for a bit, but by 8am, I was back on my hands and knees. At 8:21 during a pretty strong contraction, my water broke, but I stayed on hands and knees. [Similar, yet different with my daughter, at 7am I was examined and was almost the same as I was around 2am, so they started Pitocin. At 9am, the nurse noticed that my water had broken! At 11am, I was examined again and I was fully dilated, and baby is at 0 station. At 12:45pm, after a few more hours of labor - on my back, since I had the epidural, but almost no pain - the residents started encouraging me to push, but I wanted a bit more time. They brought in the attending, who examined me (the fifth exam since arriving at the hospital) and says baby hadn’t moved down, but gave us another hour. Another exam at 2:30pm, showed that baby STILL hasn’t moved, but we tried a few test pushes and she came all the way down to +3 – here we go!! ]
A few minutes after my water broke with my son, I had a VERY strong urge to push, and after one good push the baby is crowning! There was no doctor in the room at this point, (so I am told) the nurse signaled more people to come, but they were slow to arrive. From my hands and knees position, I could hear a bunch of people rush into the room behind me, someone yelling “don’t push yet!” and all I could think was “nope, I can’t do that, this baby is coming NOW!” I pushed one more time and I could feel the baby come most of the way out, and sure enough I could hear him start to cry immediately. He was officially born at 8:30am (after just about 12 hours of labor), delivered by a doctor who I didn’t officially meet until after the birth. It took the nurses a few minutes to clean us both up, but then they gave him to me and I finally got off my knees, and turn around to lie down with him on my chest. The endorphins at this point were running so high, and I was feeling great. He nursed right away, and then they took him to get weighed and measured – he was a BIG BABY: 9lb 7oz and 20.5 inches long. [Similar, yet different: with my daughter, after about 45 minutes of pushing, the nurse asked me to push only every other contraction so baby can rest. I started crowning just after 4pm, but still could only feel pressure (thanks again to the amazing epidural!) and my daughter was born at 4:26pm, delivered by a first year resident. She had some respiratory difficulty, and after being initially put on my chest, was taken to put in the warmer. Pediatricians and a respiratory tech were called in to examine her, but all was determined to be OK, and she was put back on my chest. She weighed 7lbs 9oz and as 19.5 inches long.]
For both babies, we finalized their names after spending some time with them over the next day or so. And though the intent was to nurse both kids, we were set up for success much better the second time around.
Looking back at these two different births, I am confident that I made the right choices for myself and the baby, from the perspective that I had, every step of the way. Ultimately giving birth a second time gave me more confidence in myself as a mother - it reminded me that things that I am unsure about I can follow my gut (to know when to say “no, we need a little more time here” or “yes, that will be uncomfortable in the moment, but will help me move towards my goal”), but also that if I need support that there is a network of people that I can reach out to for help, who know more than me and can help guide me.
Ultimately when giving birth for the second time you aren’t becoming a mother, you are becoming a mother again.