Where the actual birth is concerned, Charlotte’s story is considerably shorter than Genevieve’s. I had heard that second babies came faster, but I had no idea what I was in for…
Regardless of actual temperatures, that summer will go on record as my hottest ever. I do not recommend spending a summer in DC at the end of your pregnancy if you can avoid it. I have no actual footage of myself when I was very pregnant with Charlie, for the simple fact that no one needs to see that spectacle. Here’s the last shot I allowed with belly showing (in May):
With Vivi, I was pregnant in the winter (aka. English spring, same diff’), when all you want to do is bundle up anyway, so you just find as many scarves and XXXL sweaters as you can and be done with it. See?
A few weeks away from my third trimester, a friend who was also pregnant asked me if I had discussed my birth plan with my doctor yet. I knew I should have, but the answer was unfortunately no. Maybe I hadn’t because in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t going to like how the conversation went; to be honest, I was afraid of all American OB/GYNs. I had such a great experience the first time around with the UK system, and I didn’t trust the US system to provide the same level of woman-focused care.
Incidentally, it is a very dumb reason, perhaps the dumbest, not to discuss birthing with your doctor because you don’t think you’ll like what he/she will say. For a while, I tried to talk myself into keeping him. So ok, I knew he was old fashioned and had long waiting room times. And ok, so one time he let a pretty pharm rep in before me even though he was running 30 minutes late. But hey, he had a sonogram machine and took pictures at every visit. That was kind of cool. And he was just down the street from my house in Falls Church. Plus, he was the only doctor I could find taking patients who had privileges at the hospital down the street from our house. Whatevs, most doctors are the same, right? False.
Anywho, so there I was sweating my ass brow off in my doctor’s office. I had just asked him what he thought of natural childbirth, and I was wringing my hands with anticipation. Knowing that I had given birth naturally the first time in 10 hours, I was expecting him to say something, anything, positive. But positivity was not in the cards. Instead, he said that just because I had a shorter-than-average labor the first time didn’t mean anything, and I shouldn’t go into my labor expecting it to be shorter or less painful. In fact, according to him there are lots of patients who experience more pain the second time around. So I shouldn’t rule out an epidural. OR A C-SECTION. Because his priority is, and I quote, “getting that baby out of there quickly and safely.” Yes, he did say quickly first. Oh, and yes, he wants a fetal monitor strapped to me the whole time, and yes, he plans to give me an IV right away. He actually called it a “spare tire.” To a public health professional! Ugh.
[Note: I don’t want to be sued, so I’m not going to list his name here. Email me if you live in Virginia and really want to know.]
You can probably imagine where this is going. I walked out of there and did not come back. I made an appointment at a practice in Alexandria called The Physician & Midwife Collaborative Practice. It was a much farther drive both to their office and the hospital, but oh so worth the traffic. Their standard of care included one visit with an OB/GYN and the rest with midwives; the labor itself would also be midwife-led unless you had condition requiring special care. Only occasional fetal monitoring as required by the hospital, and no IV. I was in love from my first visit. No long waits, frank conversations, and almost all women providers. Perfect!
I had lots more Braxton-Hicks contractions with Charlotte than with Vivi, which my midwife told me is common for second pregnancies. During my last week of pregnancy, in fact, I cancelled an all-day off-site work meeting because I woke at 3:30 that morning swearing I was in labor. I got up and read “The Help” for a hour with stop watch in hand. Nope, no labor.
My mom came in town the day before the due date picked by the sonogram, Saturday the 28th. But that day came and went with no signs of labor. I prepared myself for the possibility that I would be a week, or even more, late. As it turned out, I needn’t worry because my original DC doctor, the same guy who correctly predicted Vivi’s due date with a tattered paper wheel he kept in his pocket, was right again. So much for advanced science, amirightladies
August 31, 2010 (wheel-predicted due date)
On Tuesday, I woke early once again with the feeling that I might be having a contraction. Mom, Nate and I went for a walk. After another hour of only random, intermittent contractions varying widely in length and strength, Nate left for the office. Then the contractions stopped altogether. Mom and I did tons more walking in hopes of getting things going. We went to Home Depot for the thousandth time for supplies to get the house in for-sale shape. We had spicy lunch at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Four Sisters. Then we decided the best course of action in the afternoon was yoga and a nap.
4:35 PM. I wake from my nap with a start, knowing what I am feeling is for-real, ass-kicking labor. I wait for a few minutes, timing contractions and hearing my mom talking to her sister on the front porch. 5 minutes apart, almost a minute long, hella strong. I tell mom and immediately call Nate. I may or may not say something to the effect of “Come home now. This is serious. Thundercats are go!!!!” Nate calls David (our friend and labor babysitter) and goes to get Vivi.
5:10 PM. Nate arrives with Vivi in tow. I immediately run to the bedroom and shut the door, knowing I can’t be around her while I’m in such agony. I inflate my birthing ball. Mom starts my iPod labor music, and I soothe myself with the Beatles and wide hip circles.
5:35 PM. I ask Nate to get an ETA on David. Contractions are already almost to the 4-1-1 “come to the hospital” red flag, i.e. 4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour. David is stuck in DC traffic. This is not good. I ask Nate to call a back-up to come NOW. He calls our friend Alastair who lives in N. Virginia.
5:50 PM. Nate asks me if I want him or mom to come, if I have to choose only one. I shoo him away, unable to think of such a dire circumstance.
6:00 PM. I start moaning and ask Nate to call Alastair again. He is minutes away. I go wait by the front door. Nate calls our midwife to say we are on our way to the hospital.
6:10 PM. I see Alastair’s car and rush out of the house. I pass him on the front sidewalk. He asks “How’s it going?” All I can say is “Not good.” I hop in the back of the Honda and wait.
6:25 PM. We are stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital. I am rocking in the back of the car like I think it will make us go faster. Mom is lying to me about how far apart the contractions are. I say “What happens if I start giving birth in the car?” Nate starts jumping curbs and dodging cars.
6:50 PM. We finally arrive at the hospital. All I can say is I am lucky I married a helluva good driver.
7:00 PM. We are buzzed into the labor ward, and in a deja vu moment, no one takes us seriously. I try to talking to an eye-rolling nurse, and mid-convo I have to find a gurney to writhe around on during my contraction.
7:05 PM. The nurse asks Nate some questions, gives us a room, and tries to strap a fetal monitor to me while I have monster contractions and wish I could either rip her head off or curl up in a ball and disappear. She still isn’t getting it.
7:10 PM. My midwife enters our room to introduce herself and assess me. She apologizes for not wearing scrubs yet but says she wasn’t expecting to be needed so soon. She says something, somebody laughs, and I set the building on fire. But not really. She goes and changes into scrubs.
7:15 PM. My body starts involuntarily pushing while I am still standing, waiting to get in the bed. I scream some stuff, somebody yells back, and I am shoved onto a bed.
7:28 PM. Less than three hours and few pushes later, Charlotte is born! She is almost a full pound lighter than Vivi (7.15 instead of 8.9) and is just as perfect. She has the Pointer cheeks and my lips from the start. I am elated.
A few minutes later, I am chatting with the labor and delivery nurse about how wonderful my midwife Trish is. I happen to mention how I switched to the midwife-led practice from my previous doctor. When she hears the doctor’s name, her eyebrows go up, and she then proceeds to tell me she used to work at his hospital and that he has a 90% c-section rate. There’s even a running joke at the hospital when someone delivers naturally: “How’d one slip by him?,” they laugh.
Your lesson, boys and girls, is to ask questions. Stand up for yourself. If you don’t like what you hear, go somewhere else. My mom was very educated about natural childbirth, knew my wishes, and was willing to stand up for me, so in a way she was a lay-doula. But if you don’t have a mom like that, I definitely recommend hiring a doula