I first thought I was pregnant with our second child while looking out over the deepest lake in the U.S., Crater Lake. It was just a suspicion, but when we got confirmation a few days later, we were thrilled. We had a delightful 20-month-old, Graham, and though I was sobered remembering how hard it can be with a newborn, I also knew how joyful it is.
With our first son, I was hoping for a natural birth, but found that when labor was upon me I wasn’t quite prepared for all that labor entailed; I had certainly underestimated it! We took a hospital childbirth class before his birth that said it would cover natural birth on paper, but in reality, it was more about hospital policies and various interventions than natural birth. We learned about the stages of labor, but we didn’t really learn what to do in them. I ended up having a medicated birth with numerous interventions. While Graham’s birth was one of the most beautiful and transformative events of my life, I knew I wanted to try for something different the next time around. This time my husband, Jon, and I signed up for a natural childbirth series, and we loved every minute. We did our labor rehearsals at home, practiced massage for labor (not a bad perk) and read as much as we could. Even with all of the time and effort we invested, I was still nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do it, especially in a hospital, where I was worried I would be tempted by the epidural again. My husband reassured me that I could, and as I leaned into his confidence in my body, commitment and strength, my own confidence began to grow.
It was a long pregnancy, between morning sickness and 8 illnesses in 9 months. I guess that’s what you get when you have a toddler and work in an elementary school! By July, I was very ready to have my baby. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for at least a week. They were infrequent and irregular but getting slightly more intense. They always seemed to occur right when I was about to go to sleep. While they bothered me in the sense that I couldn’t fall asleep quickly at night, it was nice to have an opportunity to practice my breathing, relaxation and affirmations.
I knew that things were slowly starting three days before my due date. By bedtime the contractions were too frequent and uncomfortable to sleep. Jon and I were up most of the night. He rubbed my back, we used a hot pack, and I was able to watch Pride and Prejudice (yes, please!), though the contractions were pretty distracting. By the morning the contractions weren’t getting any longer, stronger or closer together. I had only slept a couple hours, and I was ready for active labor to begin. We took a walk, and I scheduled an induction acupuncture appointment for 11:30 a.m. During the acupuncture appointment, I could feel the contractions becoming stronger, and by the drive home, I was in active labor. We called our doula, Sarah, and our friend, Carly, and had our neighbors take our older son. Sarah did more acupressure and encouraged me to keep upright and moving, since the contractions spaced out when I sat down. I used the birth ball a bit, but mostly I leaned against Jon and swayed back and forth during contractions. One thing that I appreciated about Sarah is that she helped me to celebrate the contractions getting more intense. It made the pain seem like a milestone and indication of progress, rather than something to be avoided. She would say, “That seemed like a good one,” when a contraction was longer and stronger.
In between contractions, I reminded myself to stay relaxed; I was laughing and enjoying myself. I loved having Jon, Sarah and Carly there. It put me at ease to be surrounded by encouraging people who loved me. I labored a lot in the back yard. It was a lovely July day- in the high 70s, with the birds chirping. I never got mad at anyone or resented that I was in labor. I tried to take it one contraction at a time, saying to myself over and over, “I can do this,” “One at a time,” “Breathe for baby,” and “He’ll be here soon.”
In labor with my first son, I tensed up with the pain and started to panic. With this labor, I accepted the pain as normal, and even good, because it meant that labor was progressing and I was getting closer to holding my son. Usually pain is frightening for me, because it is an indication that something is wrong. I’m definitely a worrier, and I learned in our natural birth classes that worry, stress and fear actually accentuate and increase your experience of pain, which can make you more worried, stressed and afraid- a vicious cycle. Labor is one of the only times where pain (or some might call it intensity or pressure) is an indication that something is going right. Up until the very end, I never felt out of control. It was certainly painful for me and I wanted it to be over soon, but I never felt like I was suffering.
By the time we left for the hospital at about 5:45, the contractions were coming right on top of each other. We got to the hospital at about 6 p.m. I was at 8 cm, and it was basically one long contraction, with little to no breaks in between, from then on. The hospital staff began to prepare the water birth tub. I continued to stand and sway with Jon while they monitored my contractions. My water broke at about 6:45 p.m. By 7 p.m. I felt the urge to push, and I made my way to the water birth tub. The water was scalding hot. The staff tried to cool it down as fast as they could, but they couldn’t do it fast enough. I pushed for five desperate minutes, which was definitely the hardest part. I was leaning against my husband and standing at the edge of the tub, with my legs in the water, when Hudson Samuel was born at 7:10 p.m., two days before his due date.
The midwife caught him and held him for me to see. He opened his eyes, and mine met his. I will never forget that moment. His cord was pretty short, so I couldn’t lift him to my chest until Jon cut it. I was still standing, and needed to sit down because I was shaking. I walked to the bed, and they handed him to me, and I knew we belonged together. I had worried that I wouldn’t love a second child as much, but I was so wrong. I loved him with all my heart, and yet my love for him did not diminish my love for Graham. My love truly multiplied, rather than divided. I thanked the Lord for this precious boy, and also for helping me make it through labor. The relief I felt at being done was euphoric- almost as pronounced as the joy I felt holding Hudson! He weighed 7lbs., 4 oz. and was 19.5 inches long. That first night he slept for several hours on my chest, and he has been my sweet, social, affectionate little guy ever since.
My birth experience continues to empower me to this day. It brought us together as a couple, not just in hours of labor, but leading up to it as we communicated about our fears, hopes and shared vision. The natural birth education we received played a huge role in equipping us for the birth we wanted. I am now a Certified Childbirth Educator with Birth Boot Camp , and I teach natural birth and breastfeeding classes in Newberg, OR and the surrounding areas of Yamhill and Washington County. My goal is to provide couples with all the tools, information and resources they need to achieve the birth they desire. It is an honor to walk with couples as they prepare for the birth of their baby and the start of life’s most rewarding journey- parenthood.
Skin-to-skin with Hudson moments after birth