Ever since I had Luna I was convinced I would make sure my next birth story would be different. While I was happy we were both healthy and had no real complications, there were so many things that I would have done differently had I known beforehand. Fast forward 7 months and I found out I was pregnant again. After pondering the idea of a birthing center (nixed because it was already full) and a homebirth (nixed because I couldn't find a midwife who would take my insurance AND be available at the time), I ended up just making an appointment at the Family Health Clinic in Flushing, affiliated with the New York Hospital Queens (now New York Presbyterian Queens) where Luna has her cardiology appointments. It’s funny because I remember saying to Cesar the first time we were there that I wished I had given birth to Luna there. There is just something very calming and peaceful about the hospital.
I never waited more than 10 minutes for a prenatal appointment at the clinic. Everyone was so kind and friendly, and made sure that we had all the sonograms and NSTs that we needed when we hit upon some complications. They were all aware of my wanting a med-free, natural birth, and immediate skin to skin and breastfeeding (which is hospital policy anyway), and reassured me that I didn’t have to worry. Even when the baby was in a little distress at 36 weeks and they tried a slow induction, my doctors ended up figuring out a better way to fix the issues so I could carry the baby a little longer and hopefully deliver at term.
Aurora Vivienne was born on August 29th at 8:06am, weighing 7lbs and 14oz and measuring 21.5 inches. Apart from being 3.5 inches taller at birth, she looks exactly like her older sister did, and has some of the same little mannerisms already. Her hair has streaks of blonde through it, but otherwise they could be twins! Aurora's birth was however the opposite of Luna's, and probably the most intense experience of my life.
While I had been having some very irregular contractions and cramps for a while, at my 40 week appointment I was still at 1cm and Aurora was so high she didn't seem to be anywhere near ready to arrive. Not only that, during her NST and BPP on Thursday (August 28th) her fluid had magically gone UP after weeks of being way too low. I was sure she was going to just hang in there until the last minute.
On Friday I felt the same as I had every other day: pregnant maybe for eternity. In the evening I had some strong Braxton Hicks and mentioned to Cesar that she was probably coming over the weekend. We went to bed at 11 as we were both exhausted (the first time I had gone to sleep before midnight in a while). I woke up at 1:30am with a real contraction and some spotting, but nothing too painful. I started timing them and they were only about 15/20 minutes apart and completely bearable. I knew that I was finally in labour, let my mum know it was time to purchase that ticket, let Henna know that we would possibly need her in the morning and decided to get some rest, preparing for a slow ramp up. At 3am the contractions were every 6/8 minutes, never lasting more than 40/50 seconds and still what I logged as "bearable". I was too antsy and uncomfortable to lie in bed though so I went to relax on the couch. I completely downplayed the contraction pain to Cesar too, deciding it was best to let him and Luna sleep, seeing as we obviously had hours to go. I got in the shower around 4am when the contractions started getting closer, around every 3/5 minutes, still no longer than 40/50 seconds and painful enough to make me cry. At this point I just thought I was being a wimp and that my tolerance to pain was not high enough and that I wouldn't be able to do it. It was at this point that I all of a sudden felt exhausted, as if I could fall asleep on my feet. I decided I needed to go to the hospital to get an epidural so that I could sleep for a few hours. If I had actually listened rationally to my thoughts I would have realised that I was actually pretty close to delivery, at that point when all your willpower goes up in the air... But no, I was just being a wimp and didn't care anymore. I was obviously not thinking straight and in transition, as it’s around this time that I kept wanting to vomit. I’m just glad that I didn’t put the hospital trip off any longer because I may have had that homebirth after all!
I got a cab just after 6am (poor cab driver he was probably glad to get this moaning British woman out of his car ASAP), and was admitted to Labour & Delivery triage just before 7am. My favorite doctor was on call (this was perfect timing on Aurora's part; I was hoping she would be the one to deliver her!). She checked me and announced that I was at 7cm which was practically too late for an epidural. At the rate I was going I would be fully dilated shortly. My nurse pretended that I could still get one, I think just to calm me down as at this point it was as if I had been taken over by a groaning monster. I'm usually quiet when in pain. Apparently not when in labour. It all gets a little hazy from then on. My body just took over. I didn’t care about what I was wearing, where my stuff was or what I was saying. The contractions were still coming every 3 or so minutes and not lasting longer than 50 seconds, but they just took over. When I look back now it was as if I had a real split personality – I would be chatting like a normal person about my nurse’s grandchild or my doctor’s triplets and then turn into the groaning monster, and then back again.
Not even 10 minutes later I stood up to get in the wheelchair and announced that I needed to push. Right then. There is no real explaining the feeling apart from an intense pressure pushing your insides down. It’s not painful, just strange! Within seconds I was whisked into my L&D room, doctors and nurses were putting gowns on and prepping tables and beds while I was already on the bed pushing, going between breathing through each push and moaning that I was never going to be able to do it, and chatting about the weather. My doctor broke my waters and it was a short feeling of relief followed by an intense need to get this baby out RIGHT NOW. I heard them mention "meconium" through the haze in my brain (part focus part not believing what was happening) and this made me determined to have this baby as soon as possible. I didn't want the risk of her aspirating her own poop.
It's amazing how you know exactly where the baby is and how many more pushes you are going to need. It's also amazing how your body just takes over, no need for anyone to tell you when to push, your body just does it naturally. There is no stopping it. In any case, I pushed Aurora out in less than 6 minutes. There was literally no time for me to even mess my hair up, for the nurses to place monitors or get an IV in properly. It was all over and done within the space of minutes! I was able to hold her immediately but they did have to take her to one side to make sure she hadn't aspirated the meconium and check her breathing. 5 minutes later she was on my chest and latched on immediately. This was about the same time that Cesar made it to the hospital - 20 minutes after the birth! As he walked (ran) into the hospital he received my text with Aurora’s photo.
Henna was ready to come over at 4am when she finished work but I told her to go home and sleep for a few hours... She was jolted awake at 7am, saw our calls and made it to our home at 7:35, but even then it was too late for Cesar to make it. For some reason I was convinced that I would end up giving birth alone, and I did. And I did it. I wish he had been able to be there, but it literally all happened so fast!! It makes me a little angry how the doctors made me wait an hour to push with Luna when I was fully dilated – I now know that if I hadn’t had an epidural my body would have dictated her birth, not them. I think I would have been a lot calmer and less frantic if Cesar had been there, but it's my own fault for convincing myself and everybody I had hours to go!
Aurora was taken off to the nursery to be washed and checked over and my nurse was finally able to admit me and then took us to my room in the maternity ward. Less than an hour later Aurora joined us and from then onwards we spent the time breastfeeding constantly and cuddling.
I was able to shower, walk around, eat, communicate and still feel good, although tired, pretty much right after birth. My main issue with Luna's birth was how long it took me to recover, and this is the why I wanted a med-free birth. And it's true, I felt like I could walk home quite happily 24 hours after birth. Not shaky, alert, a little sore but not anything crazy. I suppose my pain threshold is a lot higher than I thought it was... My doctor told me that if we ever have another kid I had to come in at the first contraction as I would never make it to the hospital in time otherwise!
I did everything I wanted to: I laboured at home, went to the hospital and had the birth I wanted to. I just didn't expect it to be THAT fast or that intense! When you hear those stories of women giving birth on sidewalks and in cabs you just assume they waited too long... Not anymore! I see exactly how it can happen! This also might sound a little silly, but it helped me feel more at peace with myself. I doubt we will have any more children, and this was the perfect way to end a long and somewhat interesting pregnancy. And it taught me that there really was no need for pain relief. The idea is nice but the reality is a little different. For me anyway. I'm so happy I had a doctor who knew how I wanted an unmedicated birth, and even if there had been time for an epidural, would have reminded me of why I didn't want one.
It was a very emotional moment when the little sisters finally met each other. I still don’t think Luna completely understands what this little being is doing in her house, taking up her mummy’s time, but every day is getting a little easier. I am still nursing both of them, so that takes a little juggling and patience, but we are working it out pretty well!
In any case, we are so happy to welcome our little Aurora Vivienne into our lives, another special little being who already makes our hearts sing and pound with happiness!!
Super moon baby!