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The Birth of My Second Baby Felt Scary & Surreal

One of the hardest things about giving birth is never knowing how it will go. After a very long labor with irregular contractions and lots of back labor, I was very very anxious to see how things would go the second time around. It was a much faster, intense labor and birth with a very scary start that still feels a bit surreal.

The Labor

After pretty intense Braxton Hicks my entire pregnancy, it took me about a whole day of contractions for me to suspect these cramps were actually early labor. During the day on Sunday, October 16th I was feeling pretty intense cramping and after a few hours I realized they were coming about 15 minutes apart. But with my first labor lasting 38 hours, I knew early labor could last on and off for days and that things could still take awhile to progress. 

I tried to get a few last things on my baby prep list done just in case. And since my mother-in-law was over to help out with my daughter, I decided to take advantage and sneak in a good nap just in case this really was the start of labor.

I rested most of the afternoon and around 4 pm the contractions were intensifying and coming consistently every 10 minutes. After such a long first labor with contractions that never got into a pattern, my husband was skeptical that this was actually it. I think he was definitely in denial when I said I am 100% sure the baby will be here by Monday afternoon at the latest! 

The contractions were getting more intense by the hour but still manageable. I started to get a few last things together in our hospital bags, eat a big dinner and get my daughter to bed. After getting my daughter to sleep around 8 pm, my contractions slowed down a bit so I decided to take some Gravol and get some sleep while I still could. I slept on and off until around 1:30 am when the contractions became too intense to continue sleeping through them.

After about an hour of laboring in bed laying on my side, I was uncomfortable enough to decide I wanted to get into the tub around 2:30 am. Contractions were now coming 5 minutes apart and were much more intense. We were supposed to call the midwife once contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting one minute each and had been in this pattern for one hour. So I labored in the tub and told my husband we should probably call the midwife around 4 am.

Things were moving smoothly and I was content laboring in the warm water until around 3:30 am when my daughter woke up. I went into her room to try to get her back to sleep and this is when contractions really intensified. I struggled to keep still as I tried to cuddle with her until she could fall back to sleep. But after about 30 minutes of really intense contractions and no success getting her back to sleep, I rushed out of her bedroom and told my husband to call his parents and the midwife right now.

We spoke with the midwife and agreed we should meet at the hospital. As we waited for my in-laws to arrive, we got everything packed and rushed out of the house a little after 5 am. And this is when labor started to move VERY quickly with contractions coming every 3 minutes apart. After a few very painful contractions (some screaming by me!) and my husband driving insanely fast, we arrived at the hospital. 

The walk to the elevator was long and I couldn’t walk or talk through my contractions so we got a wheelchair to get up to labor and delivery where my midwife was waiting for me. After getting stuck in the elevator briefly, we finally got into a room with my midwife. She checked me and I was about 6 cm dilated.

The Birth

We got into our delivery room around 5:45 and things began moving even quicker. After sitting on the birthing ball for a little, I told her I think I wanted to get an epidural so we got started on the IV. Soon the contractions were coming almost every minute and I was in agony. I moved to the bed and after several contractions my water broke. After this, the contractions were too intense to remain still through them and the midwife told me there wasn’t going to be time for an epidural.

This is when I think labor moved from active labor to the transition period and this was definitely the most painful part of birthing unmedicated. It felt like a scene out of a movie with lots of screaming and crying that I couldn’t do it. The pain was too intense laying down so my midwife helped me get into a better position where I was kneeling/squatting on the hospital bed with my arms hanging over the back. At this point there was hardly a break between contractions.

My body had already started pushing and was doing it so well on it’s own, I had actually almost forgotten that I would need to focus on pushing! My midwife said to begin pushing with each contraction now and after pushing for just 10-15 minutes, I felt the ring of fire. It was so awful and I was so ready for the contractions to stop. I made sure the next few pushes were strong ones and then his head was out! I felt so relieved that the worst of the pain was over with. Then with one last push I could feel his shoulders and the rest of his body being born which was actually a pretty amazing thing to experience, especially knowing the hard part was done.

When the midwife and my husband excitedly said he was out, I glanced down between my legs and was just barely able to see the very top of his head. It was extremely dark purple and before I could see anything more, the midwives had already cut his cord and quickly moved him away. This is when I knew something wasn’t right.

After several minutes and no crying, they quickly told my husband to push the button and call code ‘222’. Within seconds the neonatal emergency team rushed in and out of my room – taking my husband and baby to the resuscitation room down the hall. 

It felt surreal to go from the intensity of a fast, unmedicated birth to a silent, empty room with just me and my primary midwife. As I birthed the placenta and got stitched up alone, my husband Facetimed me and I could tell he was nervous. The first time I saw my son was via Facetime video where I silently watched as fluid bubbled out of his mouth and the neonatal team pumped vials of fluid out of his lungs. Over the next two hours, they resuscitated him, pumped tons of fluid out of his tiny lungs and put him on oxygen. It was scary and felt completely surreal. But he was alive and getting the help he needed.

Eventually my husband came back into the birthing room and we began to piece together what had happened. Looking back, it’s crazy to me that I wasn’t crying throughout all of this but I think at that moment we were too in shock to even process what was happening. At this point it had been hours since he was born but we still hadn’t even told our families that the baby was here yet – we couldn’t bring ourselves to say something until we at least knew what had happened and that he would be okay.

We began to get a few answers about what had happened. Our son was born with the cord wrapped around his neck twice which looked really scary to my husband but the midwives reassured us this wasn’t the issue and is actually pretty common. Instead he was born with his lungs completely full of fluid blocked by a large chunk of mucus – it was a total flux and there was no way to know this would happen. And it could have partially been due to how fast the birth was. He was stable now but couldn’t breathe on his own yet so he was set up on a CPAP machine and we were told he would be okay but would need to be in NICU for a bit.

The First Days

Our first few days weren’t exactly what I had pictured and were filled with a lot of small moments that made me feel grateful and sad at the same time. I didn’t get to have that golden hour with my son. The first time I was actually in the same room as my baby was when the neonatal emergency team wheeled his massive incubator into my delivery room after two hours of working on him in the resuscitation room down the hall.

The first time I got to touch my son wasn’t the special skin to skin time I pictured. Once I was able to walk down to the NICU, I got to stick my hands into his incubator. After most of the day of a machine breathing for him, non-stop needles, blood draws, testing and monitoring, we began getting some good news that he was doing well and his NICU stay would luckily be much shorter than originally anticipated. 

And then more than 7 hours after giving birth, I finally got to hold my baby – very carefully in order not to disturb all of the IV’s and wires he was hooked up to. And as amazing as it felt to finally hold him and study all of his little features, I felt both grateful and guilty seeing the other families in there visiting their babies and knowing our NICU stay would be ending sooner than theirs. And after each visit to the NICU, it was torture to leave and go back to our room without him. And it was even harder pumping with my baby down the hall as I could hear the sweet sounds of a newborn suckling as the family behind the curtain in our room breastfeed their baby. 

Even though it was already after 9 pm, we were ecstatic to go home! My mom kept my daughter up and we nearly ran out of the hospital to get home to see her. Watching her meet her baby brother after such a scary birth felt even sweeter. And taking a shower and sleeping in our own bed had never felt so good! Unfortunately, when the midwife arrived that next morning his bilirubin levels had spiked and we needed to rush back to the hospital. It was nice to be able to re-pack our bags with a few essentials that we hadn’t brought last time but it was really difficult to rush back and leave our daughter behind again. 

Once we got back into a room, there were even more heel pricks before beginning his jaundice treatment. Knowing that the treatment wasn’t super uncommon and wasn’t painful was comforting but I struggled with this a lot more than I was expecting to. The nurses wanted him under it as much as possible so we were only allowed to take him out every two hours for a quick feed and diaper change. After not getting to hold him or even see him right after such an eventful birth, I really struggled with having to rush his feeds in order to put him back under the light. Even though he was right next to me, I was really weepy about not being able to hold him again.

This first day was the longest day of my life and I just wished it would end already. It was painful listening to the other family get the all clear and happily pack up their healthy baby to go home. But we thought at least we would have the room to ourselves to try to sleep. Then in true hospital fashion, just as we were just getting ready to try to sleep, a nurse came in and asked us to switch rooms in order to give a family who had just lost their baby the room to themselves. We of course immediately agreed and began packing our things. And I think this was actually the moment that everything that had happened that day actually hit us – our traumatic birth experience was awful… but we were one of the lucky ones. And we just couldn’t sleep thinking about how this family must be feeling right now. 

That first night we didn’t get much sleep between processing the birth, pumping and walking down the hall to visit our son in the NICU. I think it was around 1 am that we got the news that he was now doing well off of the CPAP machine and he could come join us in our room! Having him wheeled into our room and being able to simply hold him whenever we wanted was the best feeling in the world. 

We spent the entire next day in our hospital room just cuddling, nursing, taking tons of baby photos and Facetiming family and friends. Our poor little guy still had a lot of bloodwork taken that day and had quite a few heel prick blood draws to monitor his bilirubin levels. They were slightly elevated and they wanted us to stay another night. At this point my hormones were definitely all over the place and I was really missing my daughter. And I was very weepy at the idea of going another night without seeing her. Finally after a little bit of back and forth with the doctor and my midwife, everyone decided that they would be okay with sending us home that night but under the condition that my midwife would do a home visit first thing in the morning to check his bilirubin levels again. And if they were more elevated we would be readmitted. 

That day was such a blur and was really grueling for both my husband and I. I think everything from the last two days really started to hit us (along with the sleep deprivation!). It was actually very stressful to keep up with the new feeding schedule the nurses set for him and keep track of all his intake and outake, all of which were extremely important to know as a jaundice baby. Every two hours I would nurse him and try to remember exactly how long he nursed on each. Then I would hand him off to my husband who would feed him a bottle of formula. Then as my husband gave him the bottle and changed his diaper, I would get all hooked up to pump. Then we would have to force the little eye protectors back onto our little guy and get him back under the lights. (And we were supposed to try and do this all within 20 minutes!)

None of this is how we had pictured the birth of our second baby to go but at the same time we felt extremely grateful that we were one of “the lucky” ones whose baby survived and only needed minimal care compared to many of his NICU crib-mates. I’m very glad that I began writing out all of this a few weeks after giving birth because now just a few months later, this all feels hard to remember. Life those first few months were so hectic and I’m not sure if I fully had the time to try to understand what happened but feel very thankful (and tired) to be busy in the chaos of “normal life” with two healthy children.

shared by guest author Carli Evilsizer