Because I thought I knew how it would go after having two babies, and discovered I still had a lot to learn!
- Every delivery is different – and by that I mean different enough to leave even a third-time mom completely confused and unable to read the situation! Baby #1 I had no false labor but dilated to 3.5cm, was induced two weeks late, and had a c-section for failure to progress. Baby #2 I had some preliminary Braxton-Hicks but nothing painful or regular until the real thing, a slow and steady labor. With this one, I had several weeks of regular uncomfortable contractions with no dilation, then an incredibly rapid and intense labor that took me from 1cm to delivery in less than 24 hours. My mom and MIL both describe their deliveries as all being cut from rather similar cloth but that has not been my experience at all!
- Oxytocin is pretty powerful. I’ve not been very excited about this pregnancy, or about meeting the baby, and I hadn’t felt any sort of emotional attachment with her – but lying their in labor, I suddenly felt this wave of anticipatory love, thinking ahead to the moment when she would finally be snuggled up against my chest. So I’m grateful to the hormones for that one!
- Transition is miserable without drugs! I was comfortably attached to an epidural for my first VBAC by the time I hit transition, but this time (because of the labor’s fast progression) I got to experience a bit of it before the anesthesiologist could put the line in. Normal contractions are bad… transition contractions are worse. I would describe them by saying that the pain suddenly was all the way around all at once instead of focused in either my back or abdomen, and it was significantly harder to breathe through them because of that lack of focus. I am in awe of you ladies who can make it through labor drug-free.
- Epidurals can come out during labor. Not the most pleasant thing to happen at 9.5cm, but…
- Pain that isn’t relieved by your epidural can signify uterine rupture. Before the doctors realized that the epidural line had come out, they were starting to become seriously concerned about that possibility. So I suppose the bad news of hearing there was a technical difficulty was really good news compared to the alternative! I was lying there thinking, well, the worst that can happen is that I’ll have a hysterectomy and this will be our last baby. The epidural makes me rather blasé about disasters and fatalistic about outcomes, I think… if something had gone drastically wrong, I wouldn’t have felt the emotions for a day or so.
- That crazy feeling of a baby slipping out of your body is simply amazing. Not quite as good as the feeling of the sticky warm baby herself pressed up against you a moment later, but pretty close 🙂 I don’t think either of those feelings could ever lessen in their primal beauty and profundity.
- Finally, labor is more than just a physical process; it involves the whole emotional and spiritual aspect of a person as well. The contraction pain drove me to prayer, and prayer – while not necessarily relieving the pain – brought comfort and hope in the midst of it. It’s very much like squeezing my husband’s hand through a contraction: the knowledge of his presence in response to my need gives me strength to persevere through the pain. Labor prayers are not particularly eloquent but they are fully and authentically meant! There isn’t much room left for pretense or appearance at that point, after all. And one of the strongest feelings I can recall from my labor was that of being held, enveloped, by the love and strength of Mary and Jesus. She was another mother, my spiritual mother, holding me through the pain, giving me her comfort; He was love itself surrounding me, the One without whom nothing can be made or created, with me bringing this new life into the world. And when we thought that we’d have to have a c-section anyways, because Aubade wasn’t aligned right to make it past that last half centimeter, it was prayer that gave me peace regardless of the outcome and prayer that, I think, made the difference in straightening her out and letting the dilation finish during the 45 minutes of prep time for the section (after 5 hours of unsuccessful contractions).
What did you all discover after the birth of a subsequent child, that you didn’t know or fully realize after the first (or second, or third…)? It makes sense that every delivery would bring some new revelation, since the experience is bound to be different in some way or another 🙂 I just didn’t realize how different it could be the third time around!