Just because you’ve experienced pregnancy and birth once doesn’t mean you know exactly what to expect the next time around! It’s true what they say about every pregnancy being different! I was due to deliver our second child on January 2, 2014. With my first delivery, I labored for 18 hours and progressed at about the normal rate and in the “typical” way. I learned how to recognize the “emotional signposts” of labor, and felt I was prepared to discern how my labor was progressing this second time around. Boy, was I wrong! After two rounds of false labor, the real deal finally occurred two days past my due date on January 4th.
I went to bed the evening before with no symptoms or signs that labor was near, and I was awakened at 5:30 that morning with low abdominal cramps. I laid in bed for another hour and then got up around 6:30 to use the bathroom. That’s when I noticed the blood, and knew that labor had officially commenced. My husband was starting to stir so I informed him that D-Day had arrived, and he got up to make sure the cars were packed with everything we needed to take to the birth center. I waited to call my midwife, Toni, until closer to 8:30am, because I didn’t know how early of a riser she was, and I knew I had a few hours before I would need her. Toni lived 45 minutes away from the birth center, so she said she would leisurely start getting herself together and would check back in with us in a little while.
I learned a few lessons with my first labor and delivery that were acutely on my mind this time around. First, I showered and shaved that morning, fixed a good, high-protein breakfast, and then immediately got started doing my hair and makeup. This might sound incredibly silly to some, but if you saw pictures from my first delivery, you’d understand why. There’s more than a little bit of truth in the saying, “if you look good, you feel good,” and I knew I’d need all the help I could get to feel good after what I was about to go through!
Around 11:00 Toni called to check on me (she spoke with my husband, as I was busy with my curling iron) and I had him tell her not to rush, that I didn’t feel miserable enough to go to the birthing center yet. She asked what my contractions were like and he told her they varied in length and spacing, but that I wasn’t getting more than a 5 minute break between them. That was enough to convince her she needed to start heading this way, and I’m so glad she had the wisdom to do so! My mother lived an hour and a half away from us and had a 1:00pm appointment which I had told her to keep when I spoke with her that morning, but by 11:30, I started feeling a sense of urgency and called her to say I thought she should probably skip her appointment and get on the road.
The contractions were definitely requiring more concentration at this point, and I started squatting through each one in hopes that it would help things continue to progress. My sweet 3-year old daughter was getting increasingly concerned over my growing discomfort, so we sent her next door to stay with our dear neighbor—Marsha “Granny” Smith—until my own grandmother could arrive to watch her. By 12:45, I realized how quickly things were progressing—much quicker than I anticipated—and I started feeling a bit anxious knowing what was just ahead. My mother and sister finally arrived around 1:15, and my sister went next door to Granny’s to help with my daughter. Thank goodness the birthing center was only 2 miles away and we arrived there by 1:20. Toni had arrived just 10 minutes ahead of us and was busy getting my room ready. I gave her a quick hug and then proceeded to the bedroom where she checked me and determined I was at 5cm. My husband was filling the birthing tub for me and I decided to labor in there for a while, which felt great on my aching stomach.
Over the past year I had started using essential oils and had read about their various uses during labor. Toni had a diffuser set up in the room for me and my mom filled it with a blend of Thieves, Peace and Calming, and Lavender. What an amazing atmosphere this created! The smell of the oils coupled with the dim lights and soft, instrumental music helped calm my nerves and prepare me for delivery. My husband filled a crockpot with water, wash clothes, and lavender oil to place on my abdomen during contractions (the warmth was incredibly soothing), and at one point rubbed peppermint oil on my lower back to help with the aching. A word of advice: if you ever decide to use pure peppermint oil anywhere on your body, make sure the person applying the oil knows to start with a drop or two, instead of the 10+ drops my husband used! The ultimate icy-hot experience! Thank goodness Toni had olive oil handy and used it to vigorously wash off my back.
My contractions were about 2 minutes apart and getting stronger and stronger, and at 2:20 Toni checked me again and I was at 7cm, to which my mother responded, “Alright! 8cm is transition!” I remembered how unpleasant transition was, but I also knew that meant I was getting close to the end. Emotionally, I was exhausted. Things had been progressing so quickly that I really just wanted a 10 minute break to prepare for the next phase. But a break never came, and I had a strong contraction at 2:44 and knew that with the next one I would get the urge to push. Two minutes later I had a contraction and, as I thought, felt a strong need to push. Toni told me to go for it and then checked me after that contraction had passed, confirmed I was at 10cm and that everything felt clear, and two minutes later I had another contraction and started pushing again. With my first baby I pushed for 45 minutes, so I was incredibly surprised when Toni exclaimed that the baby’s head was out and for Dean to get in position if he wanted to catch. I felt the contraction begin to subside, but knew that it was pretty much downhill after the head was out, so I bore down and pushed as hard as I could, and within a few seconds my husband was placing our first-born son on my chest.
The pain immediately subsided, and I was overwhelmed by the emotion that comes with holding a brand-new life in your arms. This precious little one who was entirely dependent on me for everything had me crying tears of joy over his safe arrival, and for finally being able to hold him in my arms. What a beautiful memory that I will cherish forever!
After moving to the bed to recover, I chowed down on some Chick-Fil-A my mom had grabbed for me, and drank some apple juice to help get my blood sugar back up. I learned something new that I didn’t experience with my first delivery, and didn’t know to anticipate this time around: afterbirth pains are about as miserable as advanced labor, and I dealt with them for a solid week every time Shane would nurse.
Four hours after delivering, we were back home to spend our first night together as a family of four. Shane’s great-grandmother, grandmother, and aunt were with us during his first 24 hours on the outside, and I was disappointed when my grandmother had to leave that next morning and head back home to Conroe. My and Dean’s last semesters of graduate school were to begin 10 days after Shane arrived, and those 10 days flew by way too quickly. We were grateful for the help of wonderful neighbors and friends from church who helped with meal preparation and baby holding, making our last couple of months in Texas and school much easier. And we are grateful for the wonderful pre and post-natal care provided by my midwife, Toni Kimpel, and Heather Hendrick, who assisted at Shane’s birth. Now if only I could convince them to come up to New York to deliver our third, very unexpected baby, who is due to arrive 25 January 2015!
Shane Christopher Mathis
7lbs 7oz, 20 and 3/4in long
Born at 2:50PM on January 4, 2014
Jubilee Birth Center, Bryan, TX.