Wouldn’t you know, I’m the exception to the rule. In my case, the adage would be, “Second time labors are FOUR TIMES AS LONG (literally) as first time labors.”
But the people who say, “No two labors are alike” are right on.
Tuesday afternoon I got home from grocery shopping at 4:30 and noticed I had a few contractions. They were easy, but seemed different from Braxton-Hicks contractions. I carried on with my day and put Hannah to bed at 7ish. About 7:30 I started working on a project for a client and it hit me that the contractions, while still easy, were a little harder and occurring in a pattern, about every 3-5 minutes. I continued with the project until 9:15, even though I found it hard to concentrate by the end. I went downstairs and started walking around the house to see if the contractions kept going. They got harder. I was psyched. Josh started following his “before we go to the hospital list.”
We assumed since my labor with Hannah had taken only 5.5 hours from first contraction to last push, we were looking at a 2.5-3 hour labor with Jack. But I never had “early labor” with Hannah and didn’t really know what that was supposed to be like. I called our doula, who was already doubling up births at the hospital, and she suggested lying down for a while to see if that would stop the contractions.
Lying down made them MUCH more intense and hard work. Finally around midnight we called the doctor and said we were going to the hospital. I was kind of discouraged because my water hadn’t broken, so maybe this wasn’t really labor? My labor with Hannah started with the water breaking and VERY difficult active labor contractions, and I wasn’t feeling that with Jack. But Josh insisted so we went.
Unlike with Hannah’s birth, I didn’t ride in a wheelchair from the valet parking desk to the maternity ward. Instead, we parked our own car and I walked by myself up to the ward. At the triage unit, they almost sent us home, but decided to admit us.
Since Sarah our doula was already working on a labor, she called in Carol who is the RN in charge of the doula program. Carol was AWESOME. She helped me immeasurably during contractions and was the perfect person to get me through it.
However, I was handicapped by having had only two hours of sleep Monday night, and barely much more any of the nights the previous two weeks. I went into it exhausted, and probably could have fought through a short labor, but as the hours edged by to 6am Wednesday morning, things had changed. My contractions were very intense (three minute peaks!) but they started becoming less frequent as my body just shut down from weariness. And I was reaching a point where I was tense and desperate mentally too from dealing with long hard hours of laboring with no rest. The last straw came when they checked me and I was only 5 cm dilated and 65% effaced after all that time. I was half crazy with exhaustion and feeling very defeated. None of the options seemed good without rest, and didn’t seem like they would be effectual without rest. Finally even the doula who is a very staunch natural childbirth advocate, was advising me to get an epidural so I could relax for a while. She said sometimes you just have to look at the labor you were given and make the best choice, and I would regret an epidural far less than a c-section, which was where I was probably headed if I kept on as I was.
So I got the epidural, even though I felt weak and like a quitter for doing it since I went natural with Hannah’s birth last year. Part of me really feels like a failure for not having it in me to carry on, but part of me knows I wasn’t really able to carry on considering the circumstances. I’m still not through digesting what I think about myself for having made this choice, but I also don’t want to spend a lot of time beating myself up for it, since it did save me from the c-section, which I would have hated more.
Anyway, they gave me the lightest possible amount in the epidural and I was still really numb. I rested for about two hours. The relaxation actually let me finish dilating and effacing because I wasn’t tense and fighting myself and my tiredness, which was good. By the time I pushed, I had feeling back in my legs and felt the pressure and pain of the pushing, but not as extremely as without meds. That turned out to be a good thing, because I was able to be very controlled in my pushing, so I got Jack’s FIFTEEEN inch head out without any tears or stitches or anything! Yay! (Apparently 13 inches is normal, 15 is super large.) I only pushed through four contractions total, so it was fast too. He was finally born at 11:58am May 30, after TWENTY HOURS of labor. Yes, that’s four times as long as my first labor lasted, and it was different in almost every way, but the end result is a cute and (so far) well-behaved baby who was well worth it!
Jack weighed 8 pounds 12 ounces and was 19.75 inches long. As mentioned above, his head circumference was 15 inches, and his Apgar scores were 9 and 9. He took to nursing right away and was very alert up until a few hours ago when he decided it was bedtime.
Welcome to our family, Baby Boy!