It took me nearly a year and multiple drafts before I could confidently describe my second birth experience.  I think this is because it is difficult to contain such an expansive experience in words.  I do however need to share it.  I need to share it so others know what is possible and to help me relive one of the most empowering experiences of my life!  I am in such awe of the experience.  I am honored and humbled that I got to go through it.  I wish I could relive it over and over again.

The birth of my second daughter incorporated community, family, spirituality, emotional processing, education and physical preparation that far exceeded the preparation I had at my disposal or was open to for that of my first daughter.  As will continue to be true for my younger daughter, it was her elder sister who led the way for her.  If I had not had the experience I had with my first birth, I do not think I would have been open to the things I needed to prepare myself for my second birth.  While I cannot guarantee any cause and effects, I can tell you that I felt completely embodied during my second labor and birth.  The result left me yearning to have another child, where my first experience left me feeling traumatized.

She was born in the wee hours of the morning in the basement of my Seattle home.  My husband held me in his arms.  He pushed on my pelvic bones as I pushed on the baby.  I was giggling and singing operatic arpeggios.   In front of me was my fabulous midwife and her fabulous male midwife in training.  Their arms were completely submerged in the water to catch the baby as she came out.  Peering over them was my mother snapping photos in the dark, hoping to get something we could make sense out of later.  Moving quickly around the room like a little fairy, was the other midwife in training.  She was getting everything ready to greet the new life that would soon emerge.  Upstairs asleep were my young brother and my first daughter (who rarely slept without an adult at her side or slept through the night – but she did that night.)  Beyond my home were other family members and friends holding us in their thoughts and letting us know they were there if we needed anything.  It was all so divine!!

For this birth, I had a world of support that continued to blow my mind.  Mothers and neighbors offered to take care of my first born and brought us food.  Friends and healers coached me through hidden nooks and crannies of myself.  My ND/midwife visits were often emotional and poignant.  We dealt with much more than my blood pressure, weight and urine.  It was not uncommon for me to have an emotional release while meeting with her.  In our first meeting she asked if my 9/11 post traumatic stress had resurfaced during my first daughter’s birth.  Whoa!! How did she know that!?  I never told anyone about that!  I thought.  I was amazed that she had such clarity about something I had keep hidden in the recesses of myself until that point.  I knew this birth would be very different than my first but I did not know how different.

As I entered into my third trimester I could feel labor coming.  I could also feel panic surrounding me like a dust cloud.  I tried to stave it off.  I hoped it would just go away.  Then I realized there was probably some wisdom underlying the panic for me to harvest.  I decided to talk things out.  I spoke with my experienced doula, midwife and some amazing coworkers about what was going on.  None of them brushed me off.  None of them let me skip over my feelings.  Each of them supported me to look at what I was feeling straight on, to express and embrace all of it and all of me.  What an amazing experience!   Usually, I supply that kind of support to people.  It was amazing for me to be with so many people who could offer me the same.  They did not waiver, nor did they allow me to.  I found healing around my overwhelming need to be perfect, I found a context for all the anger I had felt in my first labor and more.

In my recovery from 9/11, I had been initiated into the need to feel and own my anger.  I learned that homicide was progress from suicide, that depression was often the result of unexpressed anger.   Until that recovery, I had spent most of my life (as many of us do) pushing my anger away.  I was afraid of it.  Sadly, I had done such a good job at this, I had even lost my ability to know when I was feeling angry.  As I processed in preparation for my second birth, it became clear that the 9/11 recovery was about to be dwarfed.  I had still only touched the tip of the anger iceberg.  My feelings about my first labor were not positive.  I felt so much anger about it.  I thought this was a problem.  But guess what!  My first labor handed me a gift when it caused me to be enraged!  WHOA!!! WHAT!!!???  You mean that was good??  You mean that was a healing experience??  You must be kidding me!   What I did not know until some weeks before my second daughter was born was rage had a hidden treasure in it.  In the center of all that anger was empowerment.  Anger protects me.  It is sign that I am not ok with something.  I need to feel it.  I need to know when I am feeling it and ultimately I need to learn how to harness its power so that I can protect myself….and my young.  WOW!  Of course, this was Mama Bear Power and it was time for me to embody it!  All of a sudden what I thought had been a shadow over my first daughter’s birth was reframed and I understood the bountiful gift it had indeed given me.  Processing of this sort is what prepared me to walk into my second labor excited for what was to come with her birth instead of terrified of being re-traumatized.

My contractions started midday on a lovely Seattle late Spring Sunday.  I had been out walking with a friend and sharing birth stories when I started feeling rumblings in my uterus.  I paid attention to the sensations.  I know they say you shouldn’t, but I find them kind of fun.  I like to follow sensations that run through my body and these particular sensations only happen so often.  As I focused on the movement, I could feel myself going deeper and expanding fuller.  I kept life activities going and would stop and pay attention to my body when the rumblings in my uterus called to me.  I spent that afternoon and evening with friends laughing, talking, walking, dancing and eating.  During the night I got up 3 times to relieve my bladder and each time I could feel the rumblings but was able to float back into a sort of sleep.

In the morning, I was confused.  This was my second baby – things were “supposed to go quickly!”  I didn’t dwell on it.  Other than my husband staying home from work that day, we went about my normal routine.  I stepped into the shower and enjoyed the water falling over my body.  Soon it would be so much easier to clean my feet.  Then, I got out of the shower and was hit by 4 strong contractions in a row.  They were getting more intense and I classified them as being painful.  This was the first moment I got clear that this baby was working her way out.

Feelings of confusion and anxiety started to washing over me.  Then I would recall the emotional processing I had done the weeks prior to the birth.  I remembered that I could leave my perfectionist self at the door.  This birth would be whatever it was going to be.  I remembered the intense empowerment I felt when I accepted the anger from my first birth as a gift.  All this helped me leave the world of anxiety and enter one of curiosity and excitement.  “They say” you should distract yourself from early labor.  So, I starting sorting baby clothes and sent my husband and 3 year old to the grocery store.  We had no food in the house!   There I was, alone sorting clothes in the middle of my dining room floor.  Again, I could feel some panic arise.  I was never alone during my first labor.  I could feel my doubt and fear creeping in, “Can I do this!?”  I decided to get my body moving and to start celebrating.

I put on a bathrobe and went downstairs into the beautiful birthing room my husband had built and my friends helped me decorate.  I turned on Indian chanting music that reminded me of my childhood and I began dancing around the room.  I was trying to get things moving.  As with my first labor, my contractions were very close together.  This time I was not fooled however, I knew I was still in early labor.  Throughout the day, neighbors and friends would show up and take my 3 year old for periods of time so I could stay focused on the work at hand.  I even had a friend come to take her for the night, but at the last minute she didn’t want to go.   I had other friends holding space for me outside my house.  I could feel my community like I never had before.  It was an amazing gift.

That afternoon, we thought things were intensifying so we called my doula.  She came right away and turned her focus on me.  This was a great relief for me since my husband had to spend much of his energy shuttling my 3 year old around and tying up work obligations.  When the doula arrived I was in my bathtub.  I had discovered that I could suspend myself in my bathtub and delve deeper into the contractions.  I did seem to have back labor for the second time.  My doula watched me for a while and eventually thought we should have the midwife come.  It was her impression that I was fairly far along.  The contractions were close together, long and intense.  The midwife and her assistants showed up ready to get to work.  They watched me for a bit and came to the same conclusion my doula had; I must be far along.  It had been over 24hrs.  It was my second child, sure my water had not broken, but things must be far along.  Guess what…I was 3-4cm!  I could tell everyone was confused.  While I was disappointed, I was so immersed in what was happening in my body, I couldn’t hold the disappointment for very long.  I couldn’t hold very many things in my psyche for very long.  Although I was doing a fair deal of worrying about my 3 year old and missing my husband…. (I am thinking this is part of the wisdom I can harvest from this labor – but I will not get into that here.)

The midwifery team left, my husband took care of the nighttime routine with my daughter and my doula and I focused on the labor.  Honestly, I can’t remember all that happened at that point.  What I remember next was suggesting to my doula that she get some rest.  My daughter was asleep and my husband could be with me while she slept.  That night was long and felt unproductive (more wisdom to harvest here too, I am sure.  I mean, of course it was productive!)  My husband was having a very hard time staying awake.  I remember watching him fall asleep on and off as I went from the birth pool to the birth ball and back again.

The doula got up in the early am and my husband went to get some official sleep.  I said to her that the night felt useless.  I couldn’t connect with the baby.  I didn’t know what to do.  She had a brilliant idea.  She suggested that we try and figure out the position of the baby inside of me and then use her Rebozo to massage the baby into a better position.  The idea was that she was not in an ideal position to slip down and put enough pressure on my cervix to open it up.  This exercise was superb.  I really connected with my baby and felt how I could move with my contractions to help her line up.  It was also decided that an acupuncturist should be called.  She came by later that morning.  She was very cool.

Midday the midwife team showed up.  They would not even tell me my dilation.  I knew this meant very little had changed.  The head midwife just kept saying, you are getting riper and flatter.  Then she told me I needed to walk around the block something like 12 times and walk up and down my stairs.  I thought she was crazy!  We did make it around the block once though.

Early evening was when things started to change for me.  Since we had mapped the position of the baby in my uterus early that morning I had been working with a sort of spiral motion to help get her spine from the side to front of me.  I had been doing this all day and around dinner time, I felt a sensation in my hips I remembered from my first labor.  This got me very excited!  I knew what to do.  I would go to the birth ball as I had in my first labor and fall into the pain.  I was convinced this is what I needed to do.   What I can tell you is I was alone while I did this.  I believe my husband was with my daughter.  My doula had decided to go have dinner with her family and the midwives had left.  I do remember telling my husband right before he left what I was up to.  I also remember that the male midwife student came back because he had forgotten something and I looked at him and said, “Can you tell something is changing?”  I was clear the baby was coming. BUT…somehow the doula and the midwife got different ideas in their heads.  They thought I should try and rest.  It was their suggestion that I take Mg+ horse pills, Tylenol PM and a Valerian tincture to try and get as much rest as I could that night.  I was so confused.  I thought the baby was coming, but I also knew they had more experience than me so maybe fatigue was a concern.  I really did think the whole idea of “resting” was hilarious.  I could not see how my uterus was going to rest.  It was in high gear.  My doula and I sort of laughed as I dosed up on everything and nothing really changed.  I do remember getting a bit drowsy but that also meant the contractions were extra disruptive.  At this point I had different stations in my birthing room.  I would go from the pool to the bed to the birth ball.  I remember my knees were killing me from all the hands and knees I had done the day before thinking that would help get the baby into position.

At 11pm, a fresh face arrived!!  My mother who had joked on Sunday that the baby had better wait for her to get there (ha ha), walked into my house.  My husband took her bags and sent her downstairs.  I had a new awesome and experienced doula in my house.  My husband got the kids to sleep while the doula filled my mom in on all the logistics.  At some point I was in the pool and looked up and my mom.  I whined to my mother, “They want me to rest.”  She paused and then responded, “What do you want to do?”  I said in a much stronger voice, “I want to have this baby!”  And she said, “Well then, let’s have this baby.”  She moaned with me and pressed on pressure points that eased up the contraction while I was in the water.  My mom’s magic hands could not have arrived at a better time!  Finally, my doula decided to go home and get some sleep in her own bed.  My husband also asked to get some rest.  I asked the doula if she wanted us to call her.  She said if we needed her to call.  I joked with my husband that my mom and I may have the baby alone.  He made it clear that was not ok with him.  So we knew, we needed to get him up if things started cooking.

It was 1am and it was me my mom, this wonderful baby and I in the room.  Now that I write, I remember this feeling from my first labor too.  In both there was a moment when it felt like the doors to the outside world closed, my team was established and it was time to get to the business at hand.  This was that moment.  At 1:15 I got out of the tub to switch to the birth ball and a gush of water came down my legs.  While my mom knew my water had broken, I was not so sure.  But as I sat on the ball more and more water kept coming out.  I texted the doula and got no response.  We called the midwife and she said to call back if it seemed like things really got cooking.  My mom and I stayed focus.  We moaned some more and she kept those magic hands going.  She watched me as I stayed in my body and kept the spiral motion going to help ease the baby down.  At 3am we got Dad up.  My mom’s arms were getting tired from all the counter pressure on my back and pelvis.

Mom got my husband into the pool with me pretty quick.  This worked out great because he could use both of his hands to press against my back.  This was suuuuch relief!  Around 4:15am my mom could tell my noises were changing and she called the midwife.  I think the team showed up about 30mins later.  This is what I remember.  I was focusing on the spiraling in my uterus.  I would push against the tub when a contraction would come and my husband would push against my back.  The spiral motion I had been using all day had a bit of a bearing down quality to it.  That bearing down seemed to be getting more productive and stronger.  All of a sudden, the pain in my back really lessened and my contractions seemed shorter.  I remember telling my husband that with his counter pressure I would sometimes not feel any pain at all during a contraction.  I remember seeing the midwives enter the room and it felt like within minutes of them entering I felt the baby’s head fill my birth canal.  Immediately I yelled, I don’t want to tear!  What should I do!?  It felt like she could have shot right out, but it was my understanding that I should let some stretching occur first.  In fact she had crowned seconds from when she passed my cervix.  The midwife suggested I stretch a bit.  I was trying to figure out how to keep the baby’s head crowning but not push her out and I remembered my NYC OB mentioning that only Opera singers could usually do what I had done with my first daughter (not push her out even though every muscle in me was trying to).  So on the next contraction, I sang an opera arpeggio and it seemed the perfect amount of pressure.  Sometimes the baby’s head would slip back in and that felt really funny.  It actually tickled.  Both my husband and I would take turns feeling the bay’s head.  It was thrilling!!

Things went like this for 20 mins or so until the midwife said I was good to go.  On the next contraction, push, out came the head.  Ha!  There was a head.  Now I needed to get the body out.  Somehow with the head out of me I could not find the same pressure I was using to spiral her out before.  We tried a few things and then I thought of gravity.  Can I just stand up? I asked.  Of course!  I heard back.  Up I went and out she came.  Then I collapsed in my husband’s arms as we held our baby in a pool of red water.  I reached down to my baby and sucked on her nose and mouth and she started to breath but she did not really scream.  Things were so peaceful.  What a miracle.

In the end, I gave birth to a 9lb 8oz baby and what everyone said was the largest placenta they had ever seen.  No wonder it took so long to twist her around in there.

Ahhhhhh birth….Simply Awesome!

About the author

Community.Relationship.Intimacy.Sex.Birth and so much more. Do you know how to find yourself and the space between you and another? Nekole can help you find your way. One small warning....Nekole has been known to change lives!