Caoimhe was due on the 21st of January. Around New Years that year, we were already feeling like baby might be arriving soon, but by my birthday on January11th, I felt like baby was snug and probably in there for a bit longer... and yes she was, another three weeks. By the time her due date came, I had never been more prepared. My suitcase had been in the car since Friday before the due date, we had an overnight bag packed for Francesco, along with a Whatsapp group with possible caretakers, and a google doc with detailed instructions and contact numbers... seriously covering all 'what if' situations. We watched my due date come and go, and began the process of checking in at the hospital every few days to see how baby and my fluids were doing.
In the meantime, we spent the afternoons walking a good 40 minutes from home to pick up Francesco at kita, and had me booked in for acupuncture appointments every few days. We googled and tried every trick in the book- dates, tea, eggplant parmesan, pineapples, walking stairs (we were still 5 floors up anyway). By day 9, I was feeling nervous, mostly letting my mind wander to ridiculous scenarios and starting to feel the pressure from the hospital to be ready to induce. They did say that when I returned the following day, on day 10, they would like to induce, but I could also push that off until day 14 if I wished.
As luck would have it, we were in bed that night, finishing up an episode on Netflix and getting ready for some sleep, when the first contraction came. I remember Tommy immediately saying, should we call David? (who was on call that night to come watch Francesco), and I told him to at least wait until there was a second one. All this time I was wondering if I would know when labor was starting, and now that it was I needed to know for sure... but a couple minutes passed, and with the second contraction, I knew we were already going straight into full labor. Tommy made the call and God bless David, beckoned at 11:45 at night, he was over at ours in about 15 minutes. We showed him bedding, supplies for Francesco, and headed out the door.
In the car ride to the hospital, I remember struggling through the contractions, and praying out loud that we make it in time. I don't think I ever imagined that we wouldn't, but between the waves, I sure felt a sense of urgency.
We walked inside, the right door this time – and was swiftly accepted by a midwife. She asked how long I had been in labor, and I replied, "almost 30 minutes" – I think she wanted to laugh, but I made sure to add, “my last birth was fast.” She went to check my cervix between contractions, she nodded, and said in German, “not long now.” While I wasn't totally sure what she meant, I sensed we were moving directly into a delivery room - she was an older midwife, and spoke no English, or at least refused to in this moment. She did made me take my slippers out of my suitcase before she would let me move rooms, and I knew that I had a small window between contractions to make the move easily.
I asked her repeatedly if I could get into the birth pool, and she kept responding to me 'that it was being used, but as soon as it was cleaned, I could go.' In the meantime, we situated ourselves on a bed, just as we had before, facing the backboard, on my knees – and I began my pattern of howling through contractions. The midwife kept coming and going, and there wasn't much waiting by our side. All I wanted was a warm compress, especially if I couldn't get into the water, and to reach that idyllic place of inner power I had found while birthing Francesco.
At one point she was telling me off for something, and I just looked at Tommy, shouting - “I DONT UNDERSTAND HER!” and poor him, he just looked back at me and said, "neither do I." I think he was afraid to cross her path, or to be in her way when she ran in and out of the room, and finally he said, "I don't think she likes that you are yelling in contractions." I felt so confused, and wished so badly that we had the luck of our first birth with a supportive midwife that could talk us through what was happening.
Finally a doctor joined us, one I had seen on a previous visit that week, and I knew she spoke good English. She said to me very calmly –“On the next contraction, take a really deep breath in, and then breathe it all out.” So when the next contraction came, I tried, but overthought it and got it wrong. On the next one however, that deep breathe flowed in, and as I breathed out – there was the head. WOW! I didn't really feel Francesco's head, but I sure felt the pain of Caoimhe's. On the next contraction, the rest of her joined us as well.
I was still up on my knees, and trying to turn around safely to see the baby that had just been born beneath me. Tommy started shouting – "It's a vagina Meghan, it's a vagina! Caoimhe is here! Caoimhe is here!" Finally I managed to turn around, and have her there in my arms. Our little Caoimhe Jules, she took her time to come out, but once she decided it was time, she didn't want to wait long!
Since Tommy had cut the umbillical cord the first time, they had me cut it this time, then got us sorted and left us alone for skin to skin time. I remember I was trying to guess how long the labor was, and I was convinced she had been born after 1 in the morning. Tommy said it was otherwise, and she defintely made it before ... and indeed she was. The whole labor and birth had been just an hour and 10 minutes. We both thought she seemed smaller than Francesco had been, we were sure of it. Turns out she was just 4.23 kilo (9 pounds 5 ounces), rather than the 4.3 that her brother was. Ha! I guess we made big babies.
It wasn't much longer before they wanted to take me to the maternity ward. They sent us down the hall, had me get showered off and then sent me upstairs. Tommy's worry before the birth was if he drove us to the hospital, where would he park, since their parking outfront was for only three hours. They had told us, when we arrive, just park and we can sort it later. Little did we know that he would indeed leave before the 3 hours mark anyways - home to David and Francesco who had a very sweet breakfast together the following morning.
As for me - I called me parents from the little sitting room next to my hospital room upstairs to share the news and then headed to bed with my baby girl. I woke maybe an hour or two later to use the toilet (for the 3rd time since birth) and nearly passed out. I remember the nurse saying that I needed to call them - my body had gone through a lot in the past hours and was depleted and tired. I think it was only then that I realized just how fast it all was.
The following morning we shared our news with loved ones, and welcomed our girl with endless cuddles. We are so in love with you Caoimhe Jules! What a perfect addition to our family you have been.
For a very fast birth, this took me a very long time to write. While Caoimhe's birth was uncomplicated and quick, there was a lot for me to break down and process - going over each part in my head, talking it through with the midwife, sharing it with friends and family.
In the weeks after, I remember telling my midwife that my birth must not compare to others who labor for hours and hours, and thankfully she didn't discount my experience at all. She said just because mine was short makes it all the more intense. I also had said, upon reflection, I have realized I was holding her in during contractions, and this annoyed me. My midwife nodded and said that maybe I wasn't ready just yet. I remember I started to doubt myself, as if it had been something I had done wrong, but I know now this was not what she meant. The circumstances, whether it be the setting, or emotionally, just werent right.
I often felt like I had missed out on something that night. Did I miss out on a calm arrival to hospital, a calm labor? Was I missing the euphoric pain/strength I felt like I found in my first birth? Did I just miss realizing when baby was ready to come? Maybe I was missing the supportive care of a midwife (or at least not in the way I wanted). When the midwife had said 'not long now,' I wish so badly I would have asked her what she meant... not long until the cervix was dilated? Not long until baby? I guess this could have made it more clear. Or again when I asked repeatedly for the birthing pool, I wish she would have said to me plainly, 'there isn't time for that' rather than saying I could get in when it was cleaned... making me think there might be a chance after awhile. Mostly I wanted someone there with me with warm rags, with water, coaching me calmly though my contractions, rather than seeming annoyed with me. Regardless of her lack of English, she was generally abrupt and short tempered with me in our short time together, both during and after labor.
I'm pretty sure it was a combination of all those factors. I began learning more about birth trauma, and felt unsure if I could use the term 'traumatic' to describe my very uncomplicated, fast birth, but yes I could. I learned that very fast births can leave the mother feeling a bit shocked, or that not getting the support you want can be traumatic as well. It has helped me greatly to read, learn and talk through my birth time and time again. What I kick myself for the most, and what I hope to do differently this time, is that I lost the line of communication with Caoimhe in the chaos.
Rest assured, I am no less in awe of birth than the first time. Rather, amazed at our bodies even more, that they can do the work for us, that baby knows exactly how to find the exit without me having to muster up all my animal roars.
It was a whole two years later that I read this quote by Dr. Sarah Buckly for the first time off the @shebirths instagram account, as I was mentally preparing for my upcoming third birth. It completely sums up my experience - and the lesson I have taken away from it. With my first birth, I had surrendered to the waves, and roars, followed the direction of my midwife, and birthed my baby. Was such an amazing experience, and I was excited to relive it - but somehow I thought to cope with the pain, I had to roar, that the roaring would bring me to a place that I could successfully birth... but I missed that part of listening to my body, of communicating with my baby and sensing the right moment to push... Next time I hope keep some control by surrendering to baby...