When it came to envisioning how a second labor and birth might go, one thing is for sure: I prayed it would be shorter, smoother & more efficient than Llewyn’s was. Granted, it wouldn’t have taken much to beat 8 days past the due date in painful prodromal labor (with terrible back labor), pushing for 4+ hours, needing an episiotomy, delivering a posterior baby and hemorrhaging. So even though I assumed it would be easier, it was hard to know what that would really look like. I also was slightly paranoid of it going SO much faster that I might not make it to the hospital. I’d heard those stories and really DIDN’T want that. So, the last couple of weeks leading up to her birth were a mental battle of how to feel prepared for any and every scenario, while simultaneously trying not to stress and choosing to believe that God would take care of every detail. And He really did!
On the evening of October 17, one night after her due date, and just hours before I went into labor, I finished hanging the collage wall in her nursery. At this point I was more than ready for her to come, but as we were already a day past her due date I was trying to mentally prepare to go another several days. However, I joked in a text with a friend that maybe she was just waiting for her nursery to be truly complete and she’d come now that the collage wall was finished. One could hope, right?
I went to bed around 10:30 that night, like usual, and wasn’t having any contractions or cramping to speak of – which kind of bummed me out. But just as I laid down, I remember feeling her move around like CRAZY. She usually was active at night as I was going to sleep, but this felt different than usual – not really sure how to explain it, but it just felt crazy active. But then she stopped and I went to sleep. At 1:30 I woke up to go to the bathroom and as soon as I stepped into the bathroom, a small gush of water came quite unexpectedly. I was a little confused, actually, because I wasn’t having any contractions that I’d known of, and my water had to be broken with Llewyn, so it wasn’t on my radar that it might actually just happen on its own. But I figured that’s what it had to be (as more started to gush out) and I got a little excited. I called the midwife just to let her know, and then went and told Aaron. The midwife said that if nothing started in the next few hours I’d have to go ahead and come in because of risk of infection, but that in the meantime I should get back in bed and rest if possible. “But”, she added, “since it’s your second it probably won’t be long before things pick up.” I was a little skeptical to believe that, even if hopeful, because of my prior labor experience. Nonetheless, I hopped back in bed and decided to try to rest after calling my doula just to inform her of where things are at. She told me to let her know whenever a pattern started to develop with contractions and meanwhile she would start to get her stuff together.
It was probably only about 10-15 minutes of laying in bed before I started having pretty serious cramping. At this point it just felt like bad period cramps, but a pattern developed pretty right off the bat and they were about 40 seconds long and around 6 minutes apart. So even though they weren’t intense yet, my doula, Jillian, decided to start heading our way since they were already close together and she was about an hour away. I felt good knowing she was on her way and that this was actually happening.
It wasn’t too long before laying in bed was uncomfortable as the contractions came, so I had Aaron get my yoga/birth ball and I sat on that which helped for a little while. But, when labor starts with your water breaking, it also continues with random gushes here and there….which was really annoying. After I changed clothes like 3 times, and because I was already chilly, I decided laboring in a warm shower sounded better. Contractions were definitely growing in intensity, but still pretty easy and all I had to do was a little breathing through them. Jillian arrived shortly after I hopped in the shower, around 3:30, and helped time contractions to see how things were progressing. It seemed like after every few contractions I would go “up” a level in pain/intensity. Still totally bearable, but I was having to breathe more intentionally and lean my hands against the wall in the shower or sway back and forth. Around 4:15/4:30, I’m guessing, I remember having a more intense one and then having a slight panic that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time (but I just thought it, I didn’t say anything). However, Jillian could tell things were getting more intense and she gently asked if I was ready to get out of the shower. So I took that to mean that everyone was in agreement we should start heading to the hospital so as not to risk being too late. During all of this time, by the way, Aaron was getting in touch with my brother who came out to sleep at our house and stay with Llewyn. And right at this same time my brother had gotten to our house, so I threw on some clothes (in the midst of what were now intense contractions) and we headed to the car. Right outside the house before getting in the car I had a contraction and this was when they were definitely intense enough to not be able to keep walking or functioning while I was having one. But as soon as it was over I hopped in the car and we made our way, with zero traffic (thanks to it being about almost 5:00 am) to the hospital which was about a 15 minute drive. The midwife knew we were on our way because I’d been texting a little bit with my sister in law Melissa when labor first started, and she’s a labor and delivery nurse who just happened to be working that night.
The ride was definitely uncomfortable, but I was also super annoyed with how chilly it was outside. So when we got to the hospital and I got out of the car, I was so cold and shivering that I walked through a contraction – which was super painful – just because I was so cold and wanted to get inside. As soon as we were in Melissa popped her head around the hallway corner and I was in between contractions so I smiled tiredly and thought she was just saying hi and welcoming us. But, turns out, she was legitimately the only available nurse and she hesitantly said, “I’m the only available nurse….but I don’t want to make you uncomfortable so if you’d rather have someone else…” and before she could even finish the sentence (or at least I don’t remember hearing the rest) I said, “No, I don’t care!” but truthfully I didn’t just not care, I actually was really excited to have her. But, of course, I was too tired and focused on labor to communicate that. Hah!
We got settled in the room (which had the lights down low and some Christmas lights on for ambience, which was nice and calming) and Melissa did all the necessary stuff to check me, the baby and get me set. Then Margie, the midwife, came in and checked me and I was 7 cm, 100% effaced. I was super relieved! Even though it also meant there was still some contracting to do, which was really intense by now, I also knew it shouldn’t be too much more. The main coping that helped was me standing up and throwing my entire weight onto someone (usually Aaron), while Jillian applied counter pressure to my back, and moaning deeply. I also sat on the couch and swayed back and forth for a few, but those were incredibly uncomfortable – they just happened so fast that it was easier than trying to stand up. While sitting on the couch my legs started to shake uncontrollably, in addition to the fact that I’d just been cold and shivering the whole labor, I knew this meant I was in transition. With Llewyn, I never hit a point where I remember being in transition, but this time I definitely did. I had mental moments of panic and really feeling like, “I can’t do this anymore.” The pain was really intense, and I was so exhausted which surprised me. But, thankfully, I was able to mentally remind myself as I labored that as soon as I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, it meant I was almost done. That’s the tricky part about transition, it’s the hardest and you want to give up, but it also means you’re near the end! So I pushed through. I knew I could do this, and furthermore, I was going to whether I liked it or not. It must have been around now that Margie checked me again and I was at 9 cm, so she said I could basically prepare to push whenever I started having the urge.
I hated the birth stool with Llewyn, so I didn’t even want to try it. I decided to climb in the bed and ended up draping my arms over the back of it and kind of squatting. Pushing is the most awkward part of labor for me. The first “urges” or pushing contractions aren’t instinctual to me, and still take a lot of effort to work with them. I felt like my first push attempt was more intentional effort than just an urge. But it didn’t take too long to get in a groove and while still difficult, was definitely better than with Llewyn….so I kept telling myself that. As much as I hated it, I was reminding myself that this was going better than last time, and I could do this. But it seemed like with each contraction I was always one push short of what everyone wanted from me. And I remember feeling that way with Llewyn, too. We were making pretty good progress, but we got to a point where it seemed like the position I was in wasn’t allowing her quite as much space to come fully out so they made me move down on the bed to lay on my side. I definitely complained about this because moving was incredibly uncomfortable and having my leg pulled up and to the side was also uncomfortable. Melissa was the one holding my leg and I said something along the lines of, “I don’t like my leg like that, it hurts!” and she said something like, “If you want Margot to come out I have to hold it back a little” in a “deal-with-it-Tori” kind of tone. ;) But she was right, and I think it was the next set of pushes that she came out! My eyes had been closed and I’d been clutching the side of the bed to make it through those last pushes and I remember hearing, “She’s here, Tori! Look!” so I opened my eyes, even as I was still grimacing, to see the most perfect baby girl with a full head of hair being laid right on my belly. Llewyn had been whisked away right after he came out to clean him up from meconium (even though they brought him right back) so it was special to get to have her laid on me right away. She was born at 6:57 am, at 8 lbs even and 20 inches long, just 30 minutes after starting to push. Her cord was cut by Aunt Melissa – the most perfect and amazing labor nurse I could have asked for.
I cried as I looked at her and felt so much relief, exhaustion, accomplishment, disbelief and love. It seemed incredibly surreal to me, and for some reason I feel like it took longer to really sink in that she was mine and part of me. When you have your second, I think you can’t help but compare things to your first. You only know what your first baby looked and felt like when you first met them, and here is another whole new person and new experience! So, in some ways it was more surreal than I expected. It’s not that I felt less bonded to her…but somehow she felt like more of a stranger that I needed to get to know. But that didn’t effect how amazing it was to finally see her and hold her.
Because I was much more “with it” during this labor, the post-delivery stuff felt much more uncomfortable. In reality it was probably all the same, but I was just more aware of what was going on. Delivering the placenta, having them push on me to check for hemorrhaging, and stitching the small tear just all were so unpleasant. But thankfully they were over relatively quickly, and my recovery was much faster. Turns out not hemorrhaging makes a world of difference in your energy and physical recovery! Hah.
I could not be more grateful for such a speedy and smooth labor and delivery. Just 5.5 hours total, completely natural, with only 30 minutes of pushing, only a small first degree tear, and no hemorrhaging! And we made it to the hospital in plenty of time. God was so kind and gracious to ease my stress leading up to labor, and to give me the experience I’d prayed for. I didn’t do anything to deserve it that way, but I’m humbled and blessed by the beautiful experience I got to have in bringing my sweet girl into the world.
I’m so grateful for Aaron, for being the chill, steady, non-stressed husband that he is. He was there as I needed him, but also eased my mind as I labored knowing he was getting everything squared away for Llewyn to be taken care of. Jillian was a wonderful, supportive, calming presence to have around during the contractions and so helpful with the physical support of finding comfortable positions for coping. Melissa & Margie made me feel like I was in the most capable hands, and that I could totally do this. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without each one of them, and it was such a special and successful experience because of their support and presence. I will forever cherish, especially, that my sister-in-law was with me for this experience. We couldn’t have planned it that way if we tried, but it just feels like an extra gift that God gave in His kindness.
And there you have it. Far more words than necessary, but a little picture of the early morning hours of October 18th, 2017. The day my sweet Margot Eisley was born.
Huge thanks to Jillian for snapping photos of this precious time.