Read Part 1 here.
We left the house into the quiet around 1am, and there was absolutely no traffic. Altogether the drive must have been only 7 minutes. At this point I was focusing solely on not tensing up and letting my body do its thing, and surprisingly contractions in the car were not so terrible at all. We pulled up to the ER because it was after hours and thankfully there was not a person in sight inside. After waiting only a couple of minutes and through one contraction, I was swiftly taken to labor and delivery, which was also very quiet. We later found out that there was only one other woman in labor there. This was such a welcome sight for Ross and I, since my last birth was in an absurdly busy downtown Houston hospital where I had to wait in triage twice for a total of about 10 hours.
We were given the one room that accommodates a labor tub, because my original plan was to try and labor in water. Mrs. Karen arrived just a few minutes after we did and started to set things up while a flurry of nurses attended to the usual procedures: questions, monitoring the baby, checking my vitals, inserting my IV lock. Throughout all of this I was sitting up in bed. Ross knew how much I hated contractions in the bed last time, and he kept telling me, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you out of bed soon.” However, they weren’t nearly so bad in bed this time, maybe because of the way Rainer was positioned or because the nurses had me very much upright and not laying down like before. Soon after, Dr. Hemphill arrived, another welcome sight! She checked me and I was already 8-9cm! I wasn’t so much surprised as delighted, but I knew there was still a while before it was time. (I now know that the nurses expected me to have the baby pretty soon, but my doula and doctor knew that I should just take my time). The labor tub ended up being a no go, there were problems with the hose not connecting or the air pump – I’m not too sure. However, I truly wasn’t disappointed in the least, as I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d prefer the tub to the shower anyway.
Soon I was out of bed. They told me that they would come to monitor the baby every 15 minutes, which ended up not being a nuisance or distracting in the least. For my previous labor, they monitored me every hour but for 15 minutes in length. I also had to get into bed each time. However this time around, though I was monitored every 15 minutes, I was free to be wherever I wanted and in whatever laboring position – plus they only monitored me through one contraction. Needless to say, I very much preferred this method!
During this time while the nurses cleared out until it was just Ross, Mrs. Karen, and I. Mrs. Karen got the room ready while Ross and I got back into labor mode. I started out leaning on Ross during surges while Mrs. Karen periodically put pressure on my back. Eventually I changed to leaning forward on the bed on my knees or whatever was in front of me at the time.At some point, Mrs. Karen put a heat pad on my back, which did wonders, and she and Ross took turns holding it there and applying pressure. Every now and then she gave me an essential oil to smell. I specifically remember peppermint being very helpful by helping me to refocus.
After laboring on my knees leaning over the bed for a while, I think I may have begun to get the chills, if I remember correctly. Ross continued to encourage me to relax my body during contractions as I moaned through them. Mrs. Karen after some time suggested that I move to the shower, which ended up being a tremendous relief. I remember the shower helped quite a bit when I was laboring with Lúthien, but this time around it was even better. The warm water was incredibly soothing, and I already am very much a shower person over a bath person. I love showers. In between contractions I would lean forward on my labor ball and during each contraction I instinctively stood straight up applying pressure on my own back. I could feel the baby working his way further down, and though I felt a huge amount of pressure during the surges, I maintained my composure knowing that my body was just opening up. Ross handed me my water bottle every now and then and he sweetly encouraged me throughout each surge. His presence alone was a spirit lifter and confidence builder.
Eventually we moved out of the shower, the steam began to be a little too much for me and I felt that it was time for a different position. As soon as I dried off and got a hospital gown on, I remember saying something about how tired I was. Mrs. Karen suggested that I lay down on my side with a peanut ball between my legs. While in that position I slowly began to enter into transition. I began shaking and asked for a blanket. As time went on, the contractions became more intense. Ross supported me from behind, while Mrs. Karen stood in front of me. Despite being in transition, the brief respites in between contractions were wonderful. I think that I even dozed off for a couple minutes. After laboring there for a while, I sensed that my body was opening up and soon enough I gradually felt the urge to push within a few contractions.
My doctor came into the room while they were monitoring the baby, at which point I had switched positions, leaning forward onto the bed on my knees. She checked me and announced that I was “complete,” fully dilated, and reassured me to start to go with my body. After one contraction (still facing the bed rail), I turned around kind of confused and was like, “Where should I go? What should I do?” Haha! This was completely new to me, having the freedom to be in whichever position I wanted to push. Mrs. Karen brought out an antique birthing stool borrowed from a friend and asked if I’d like to try it.
I pushed maybe only 3 times on that stool. Mrs. Karen later told me that within those first few pushes on the stool, she could actually see the baby move down. I did not like the stool though, but after those first real pushes I was suddenly all in. Don’t let that picture fool you. I ripped off my hospital gown, something that I never ever thought that I would do, and I leaned on Ross for a few pushes.
Pushing, and of course the delivery, were the most powerful and incredible moments of this labor. Throughout my pregnancy with Rainer, the thought of pushing was honestly quite frightening to me. I had no idea what to expect, except for the notorious “ring of fire.” With Lúthien I had labored naturally all the way up to transition, but I pushed her out with an epidural while on a bed in stirrups.
When the above picture was taken, I was frightened for sure. Pushing felt completely new to me, and I was intimidated, believing that I wasn’t pushing “hard” enough and that this would take a long time. Yet, my doula and doctor were perfectly calm and encouraging. I remember asking them with a concerned voice, “how does everything look?” After a few minutes, I turned around deciding that I needed to be leaning on the bed on my knees. (Again, I also never thought that I’d give birth on hands and knees). At that point I had already begun screaming after each push. I could feel the baby go forward and back, which I knew to be normal. Mrs. Karen and my doctor continued to encourage me, suggesting that I was very close. In a weak moment, I looked up at Ross needing to see his face, and I asked him, “Can I really do this?”, knowing what he would say. Soon after with another push, I could feel baby descending and Ross and I prayed together (rather franctically). With the next push, came the ring of fire, but I could feel my baby’s head with my hand too! And then after a few seconds of waiting for the next contraction, I pushed the baby out.
It was absolutely incredible being able to feel Rainer with my hand on him as he came out. With my doctor’s help, Ross caught our child and handed him to me, at which point we learned that we had a son! I can barely begin to describe the beauty of that moment: holding him up to my chest for the first time. I pray that that memory remains with me for the rest of my life as fresh as it is now. He was perfect.
After about a minute, the nursery nurses took him, concerned about his breathing, and unfortunately they had to cut his cord before it stopped pulsing. They put Rainer onto the warmer and helped get some fluid out of his airway, while I got onto the bed next to him. I ended up being on that bed for quite some time. After the placenta was delivered and my second degree tear was stitched up, the nurses needed to continually massage my uterus in order to encourage it to start clamping down (which was rather unpleasant). I had lost a lot of blood, much more than my doctor was comfortable with, so I had an IV going with pitocin and later my doctor suggested giving me a dosage of cytotec. Ross and I knew about the dangers of using that during labor, but after consulting my doula and doctor we agreed that it would be best that I take it.
During all of this, Rainer was in the nursery while they tried to get fluid out of his lungs. Thankfully, my doctor was very proactive in working to make sure that he was back with me soon, and she reassured us that she believed him to be just fine. After maybe a couple of hours, I finally had Rainer in my arms skin to skin and he nursed so naturally (and hungrily) as I leaned back.
Rainer Louis was born at 5:47am after 33 hours of active labor. His birth weight and length was the exact same as his sister’s, 8lbs and 5 oz and 20 in. He was exactly 41 weeks at birth, also like his sister; and my labor with him was only 3 hours less than my labor with Lúthien. It is almost eerie how similar they match up in numbers, however it also makes sense. At the beginning of Part 1, I mentioned how this labor and birth was a healing experience from the complications of my precious birth. And truly it was. Regarding my labor with Lu, I know that I should count my blessings. I still had a vaginal birth, laboring naturally right up until it was time to push. And although she ended up in the NICU and we didn’t breastfeed until her second day of life or exclusively breastfeed until her 4th day of life, she still ended up being extremely healthy despite the meconium incident and we nursed well (and still are!) with no big problems.
Mainly, I am tremendously grateful for this labor merely by the beauty of it all. I was able to labor in the comfort of my home with my daughter. I was much more informed and prepared this time around, so I knew what my body was doing and I worked with contractions rather than just trying to cope with the pain. My doula was a wonderful source of guidance and wisdom, and I was working with a doctor that I have great trust and respect for. Through each trial of Rainer’s delivery, I was able to work through my fears by the grace of God and my husband’s support. I have learned more about the value of patience, trust, and the strength of my own body. And in the end, we have the most precious gift of all, our son.