I realized that I hadn’t written this story out yet, so I figured I should do so before the details become hazier. I’m doing better than with Lucy’s though, which I didn’t write until she was about publish until she was one, so I’m improving. If birth stories aren’t your thing, then you can leave now, no hard feelings!
Unlike Lucy’s birth, Magdalena was neither fast, nor early, nor surprising. Add to that the fact that we didn’t have a truly accurate due date, so by the time I hit 37 weeks (according to the sonogram), I thought we were closing in on go time. 37 weeks rolled by, 38, and then 39. I was incredulous. Aren’t all subsequent births supposed to be earlier and faster and easier? Wait, doesn’t the stork just drop them off at that point?
Anyway, I was a little peeved and had to assume that a) my due date was off and b) this baby was going to be full term plus some and/or c) I would be pregnant forever. I did all the things pregnant ladies are advised to when they want to bring on labor and…nothing. I did have lots of “false” labor, though. That was a lovely experience that entailed being awoken at 3 or 4 AM with contractions that felt more intense than Braxton-Hicks, and timing them up to 7 minutes apart for about 2 hours, only to have them die away the moment I bit into a cracker or sipped some water. So frustrating. So sleep depriving.
I had basically resigned myself when we hit 40 weeks. The midwives weren’t worried at all; everything was normal and great (except my attitude). I’d had two sonograms at 38ish weeks because I was still only measuring 34 weeks, but the baby was fine and the sonographer estimated she was a bit over 7 lbs.
On Sunday morning, July 13th, I woke up barely thinking, “Maybe today will be the day!” since I’d thought that too many mornings in a row to count. It was the World Cup final and we had plans to watch it at a friends’ house. Tom was also gearing up for his last week directing a computer summer camp at school. We went to 10:30 Mass as usual, and I was struck by the second reading:
“We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.” (Romans 8:22)
Oh! Labor pains. Groaning. I can take a hint. Sure enough, as Mass progressed, I made a mental note that I was having mild contractions every 12 minutes or so. Nothing crazy, but they were enough to notice, and they were definitely coming regularly. We took it easy throughout the afternoon, and gradually the contractions were about 9 or so minutes apart, but still just moderate at best, and short. We didn’t go to our friends’ since we weren’t really sure what would happen; for all I knew, I could suddenly go into hard labor and progress in the space of an hour (which was what I fully expected given my history). We watched the Cup from home, ate dinner, put Lucy to bed, and went on my last waddly walk around the neighborhood.
At this point, probably around 8:30 PM, the contractions were finally getting moderately intense and spaced more like 7 minutes apart, so we decided to relax for a bit and watch something. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was on, which was perfect. In the middle of watching, though, we suddenly remembered that we needed to clean and readjust the infant car seat, so we took a little break from HP and got that done. I ate almost an entire sleeve of Nutella filled cookies, milking every last minute out of the “pregnancy craving” excuse.
Finally around 11, we decided that things weren’t moving super quickly and we had better try to sleep. I was just flummoxed– why wasn’t this labor rushing at light-speed, as Lucy’s had? Why was it so normal? Should we call the midwives? Wait? What if it all the sudden speeded up? I tried to sleep, but kept getting up to go to the bathroom, check our birth center bags, work through a contraction, etc.. An hour later, I realized that the contractions were more intense, and about 4-5 minutes apart. I texted Kim, the midwife, and let her know what was happening. She said to try and sleep but keep her posted, since her drive to the birth center was an hour. Around 1:15 AM, I told her that they were continuing in intensity so she said she was leaving for the birth center, and we could leave within an hour or so, since my parents were only about 12-15 minutes away.
Poor Tom had just gotten into a deep sleep, and I had to rouse him and start getting our things in the car. We drove the blessedly empty and quiet streets and arrived at the birth center about 12 minutes later. It was so strange getting there in the middle of the night. It was also amazing to drive there while not in transition; I think I only had to breathe through a total of two or three contractions the whole ride. It was a million times better than the drive there for Lucy.
The birth center was dark and quiet when we arrived around 2:20 AM, but smelled like some lovely essential oil they had going in the waiting room. The birth assistant was in the office waiting for us, and she brought us back to our room since Kim was sleeping. Kim came out a few minutes later and asked if I wanted to be checked. I did, and she asked me to guess how dilated I was. I said 6, based on how long I’d been having contractions and all the millions of Braxtons I’d had. Shockingly, I was only a 3! She asked if I wanted my membranes stripped (which sounds really horrid, but honestly feels like nothing when you’re already contracting). Then everyone left us to rest in the large bed. Tom immediately fell asleep, and I was able to get a few 10 minute stretches in, working through the contractions every 3 minutes or so.
They came in and checked on me a few times, and by 3:45 AM, I really needed a change of pace. The bed was not working anymore. I asked to get into the tub, so they filled it up and I got in. Tom was sitting on the ball by the tub to try and help, but the poor guy kept nodding off so I made him get more sleep, since he really didn’t need to do much at that point. I was just sort of floating, half-sleeping/half-resting, between the every-intensifying contractions. I could tell at this point that things were moving right along, because a) I was wondering why on earth I needed to be going through this and b) was vocalizing pretty loudly during contractions. For some reason, that seems to be the best way for me to deal with the pain– it obviously doesn’t numb or lessen it like meds, but it definitely gives some release. Tom had come back to help me at this point, since he probably couldn’t sleep through my noisy coping mechanisms, and I told him he needed to get the midwives in because I wanted to push. My back was killing, so I figured it was time.
So I started pushing at 4:40 AM, staying on my hands and knees in the tub. I practically pulled Tom’s arm out of the socket as I was using his hand for support/leverage. But it was effective! The baby came out at 5:01 exactly, after about 20 minutes of pushing. Tom thought the pushing was harder or more painful for me than with Lucy, but I don’t really think so, and I was definitely more efficient the second time around. Being on hands and knees was also far easier for me. They helped me sit up, and handed up the baby, who wasn’t crying or anything, just kind of blinking in utter confusion. She was fat and squishy and had no vernix at all, since she was so well cooked. Tom finally got to cut the cord, since everything with this birth was so much slower and calmer.
We got out of the tub and dried off little Magdalena, who had finally squawked a few times. We took guesses on her weight, and I think I guessed something like 7 lb. 6 oz, but she was a whopping 7-14! I could not believe I’d pushed out a baby who was an entire pound heavier than her sister and yet it felt so much easier, and I didn’t tear at all (my biggest fear going into the second birth). Based on her size and the placenta, the midwives estimated that she was actually probably exactly 40 weeks, not the almost-41 weeks were given based on our first sono.
The baby kinda sorta nursed a little, but essentially passed out, and then so did Tom and I for about 3 hours straight (though we had thought to text/email family to let them know and Tom sent a few emails to his camp counselors to run things in his absence). We were pretty exhausted since we hadn’t really slept in 48 hours, and we couldn’t wait to get home. Magdalena got all her vitals/measurements, we got zero pictures except that grainy one below (bad second-timers!), she tried to nurse again, and then we packed up and went home around 11.
Lucy had just woken up from her morning nap when we got home, and was really confused about the baby in the car seat. We tried to get her to look at her and say something but she mostly stared blankly and stood still until we kind of pushed her forward to inspect the baby. She warmed up a few hours later, and of course by the next day, “BAY-by!” had been in her life forever and she showered her with “mahs,” by lovingly head-banging her every time she saw her.
And that was that. A textbook labor and birth that was actually more like a first than a second, which just went to show me that I should have no expectations, ever. I definitely have more compassion for women that go post-term and have long, drawn-out labors. And once again, I was so, so grateful for my midwives and our birth center. It was an ideal birth, so calm and quiet and dark in the room, and everyone’s presence was peaceful and non-intrusive. Tom was a real hero, helping and encouraging me even though we would both rather be sleeping.
Happy Birthday, Magdalena Clare! Can’t believe this was almost SEVEN months ago!!