I opted for natural childbirth with my first-born. I never really questioned if I would be able to do it – that’s the stubborn in me, I guess. We took the Lamaze classes and I read all the books. Without really knowing what to expect, I was “prepared.” I just kept telling myself it was like running a race, mostly all mental. And it certainly was a mental game of focus. But it was obviously very physical, too. Nearly a week late, the little man wasn’t leaving his cozy home without a fight. Or at least a hand on top of his head to get him stuck a few times on the way out. It was nine hours of pain and required every trick in the book to help welcome him to the world. I was more exhausted than I ever could have imagined. But I did it.
Fast forward three years later with baby number two on the way. I had done natural childbirth once, so surely I could do it again. There were no Lamaze classes this time, and I barely picked up any books the whole pregnancy. Everyone says the second time around is easier, and I was counting on their statements being true. I knew what to expect this time, but that proved to be a blessing and a curse.
My water broke and the contractions became dramatically more intense. The breathing techniques kicked in without even having to think about it. As I progressed, I remembered last time, needing every ounce of my being to focus on breathing and moving past each contraction. People spoke to me, and in my head I responded. But there was no multi-tasking at that point. Speaking would have to wait. I knew that last time, when I hit that point, I still had hours to go. I had been so exhausted I could no longer tell when it was time to push, or even how to muster the strength to do so.
So when I hit that same point only two hours in, I was scared. I was 7-8 centimeters and my energy was draining. Fear crept in that it would be the same as last time; that I still had hours to go. Suddenly I was doubting myself, even though I knew I had done it before. The nurse must have seen it in my eyes because she assured me it would be much faster than last time – we didn’t have too much longer. She told me I could do this. I didn’t believe her. She single-handedly prepped the room for delivery, as if baby was coming any minute. I wondered why she was in such a rush. She said I would just know when it was time to push. But I was too exhausted to know last time – how would I know this time?
Another position change, a couple more contractions and suddenly I heard myself uttering the words: It’s time. I was still in disbelief. It couldn’t actually be happening yet. When the doctor confirmed that yes, in fact, it’s time to push I don’t think I have ever been so relieved in my life. A few good pushes and it was all over. I did it, again.
The second time around, in many ways, certainly was easier. But natural labor, or labor in general, is no easy feat, especially when doubt sneaks in. So a big thanks goes out to all the nurses and cheerleaders in the delivery room, getting us mommas through it. Sometimes a stern look in the eyes telling someone they can do it is all they need.