With Luna it was slow (read Luna’s birth story here). Contractions started after dinner and I was up all night dancing in the moonlight, too excited to sleep. I shared the sunrise with a hummingbird looking out over the lake, spent the day getting in and out and in and out of the tub, but my cervix just didn’t want to open. Ultimately, I ended up pushing her out partially anesthetized on my back on a hospital bed, 30 something hours after contractions began. It wasn’t the gentle home birth I had imagined, and I really hoped the second would go better.
He was 11 days late and I was so ready! Everyone said the second baby would arrive faster, but even so, when mild contractions were coming five minutes apart starting at 8pm, I messaged the midwife to let her know that I was going to bed. After my first experience I assumed I had plenty of time, and wanted to try to get some rest. I laid down with my 2 year old to help her drift off to sleep, planning to try to sleep myself and wake up in the morning to get down to business.
Not long after laying down I felt a sharp snap, like a giant rubber band had been stretched too far inside me, then broken. The accompanying contraction was so strong that it jolted me out of bed. My water had broken and this contraction was the real deal. I quietly informed my husband (not wanting to wake Luna) and messaged the midwife – the baby was not going to wait ’til morning. I was excited and felt ready!
The midwife arrived about 30 min later, told me I was already at 8+ cm, and feeling incredibly relieved to have made so much progress in such a short amount of time, I got into the shower. I had planned to spend time in the birth pool. The camera was charged up and ready to capture all the beautiful labor images I had been imaging over the past months of scrolling birth posts on Instagram, but there was no time for either. This was not the gentle beautiful birth of my fantasies either. It was lightning fast, raw, and intense.
After some time on hands and knees in the shower, the warm water and doula’s hands working their magic on my lower back, I started involuntarily pushing. I was gripping my husband’s hand as hard as I could, resting my chin and chest on a birthing ball, and moaning through the contractions. I kept reminding myself through it all to embrace the pain, rather than try to run away from it, and that each contraction brought the baby closer. I couldn’t believe how fast it was happening although I also wanted it to just hurry up. It hurt like hell and I had to keep reminding myself that I am strong. I can do anything.
When the midwife realized I was pushing, she said I had to get out of the shower – something I did not want to do. The water felt so soothing. But she warned that the baby was close and she could not catch him in the position I was in. Reluctantly, I moved to the bedroom, but got into the same position: on my knees leaning over the birthing ball. Then quickly moved again to a supported squat between my husband’s knees – his hands under my armpits, holding me up, my fingers digging into his thighs. In that position it was only a few more pushes to get the head out.
And then there were minutes – I don’t know how many – just hanging like that. Feeling stretched to the breaking point where time seemed to stand still and nothing happened. I begged the midwife – “pull him out! can’t you just pull him out?” Luna woke up from where she had been sleeping in the other room and started calling for “Mama!” Bad timing! There I was just hanging with a baby half-way out. She was on her own for a few minutes – something she’s not used to.
The midwife told me to relax, and I did, and eventually he started sliding further down and then dropped with a huge gush of fluid into the midwife’s hands and onto my husbands feet. There is no greater feeling of relief than leaning back onto the bed with a slimy baby on your chest and seeing his face for the first time! I was so thankful that he was out, healthy, and the whole birth process was over!
But for me, it wasn’t totally over. My husband went in to get Luna back to sleep and the midwife and doula started cleaning up while I just lay with my baby, stroking his face and head, smelling him, letting him smell me, coaxing him to the breast. It was such a great feeling.
The placenta came out a few minutes later and with it a lot of blood. The midwife remarked on how big the baby was (9lb 3oz), how big and healthy the placenta was (one of the biggest she’d ever seen), and how much blood was still flowing. I was in blissed-out endorphin-flooded new baby land and not really paying too much attention, but I noticed that she seemed a little concerned by the amount of blood I was still losing. She gave me a pitocin injection and some other drug that I don’t remember that would also help the uterus close up and stop the bleeding.
An hour or so later I started feeling really dizzy (even while laying down), nauseous and as if I could faint. She checked the diaper I’d been wearing and became concerned at the amount of blood it held. She got out the IV equipment but my veins were so collapsed from blood loss that she couldn’t get the needle in. The midwife and doula took turns trying to get a needle into a vein, trying each elbow, the tops of both hands, but it wasn’t working. They called an ambulance, saying I needed a transfusion since my blood pressure had dropped so low. My husband started packing for the hospital.
We were staying in a rented house in the mountains of San Jose, Costa Rica. No street names or house numbers. The ambulance wasn’t sure exactly where we were and the doula wasn’t confident the paramedics would be able to find us. The driveway was steep and wet from rain, and the midwife didn’t think they could get me into our van safely. It was a tricky situation and I definitely didn’t want to go anywhere, but trusted that if the midwife said we needed to go, then we needed to go.
I was drinking electrolytes non-stop, until my bladder felt like it would burst. My feet were elevated. Then, she tried one more time to get an IV into me, and this time it worked! I started feeling a bit better, my blood pressure improved. The ambulance called back asking for more directions, but we decided I didn’t need to go and cancelled it. As the saline solution worked it’s magic, I felt a lot better and once again very relieved.
I had lost a lot of blood and was incredibly weak. I couldn’t get up without feeling like I might faint. The midwife and doula held me up to walk to the toilet and each time I made that journey I woke up on the floor wondering where I was and what I was doing. Luckily I had one of them on each side of me, keeping me safe. By the next day I could get to the toilet and back without passing out. With the help of my husband keeping me well hydrated and fed, in a couple of days I had regained most of my strength, but it would be several weeks before I fully started feeling like myself again.
The midwife believes that the blood loss was due to a very big baby (over 9lbs), a very big placenta, and a very fast birth. From the start of regular contractions to holding my baby in my arms, it was only 3 hours, and just two hours of active labor.
We are now settling into life as a family of 4. Luckily, Luna loves her baby brother and while she does sometimes wish she could have all of her mama’s attention, she does not show any signs of jealousy. Hopefully that continues!