Madelief’s birth

When you've already given birth once, you should know exactly what to do, and when, the second time, right? Not so simple actually! As mum-of-two Elizabeth Boorman explains in this story of the birth of her second baby, Madelief.

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How do you know when you’re in labor?

Shouldn’t you know what to do the second time around?

I had the great luck of having a ‘simple’ first birth in the sense that I got to the hospital at 1:30 in the morning, wasn’t even really sure if I was in labor or if I would be sent home, and by 4:07 a.m. I had a baby in my arms.

Phew.

But then I was getting close to the 40-week mark during my second pregnancy and was beginning to get some anxiety. Namely, how do I actually know when I’m in labor?

“When I asked my doctor for the first pregnancy how I knew if I was having contractions, his response was that I would know. Well I didn’t know!”

The reason why I decided to go to the hospital with the first one was because my belly was tightening regularly, but not painfully, and I had ‘digestive issues’. However, I really wasn’t certain if the time was right and really thought I was going to be sent home.

When I asked my doctor for the first pregnancy how I knew if I was having contractions, his response was that I would know. Well I didn’t know! I didn’t even think I was having contractions until 20 minutes before the baby came out, and the feeling was the baby coming out.  

So there I was. About to do this for a second time and totally unsure about the whole thing.

The only thing that I didn’t want to happen was to go to the hospital and get sent home. I hated the idea of getting checked in, going through all the hoops, and then not having a baby. Plus, I felt it would be really embarrassing to go and not actually be in labor.

Leaving a shy toddler to go to the hospital

What also weighed heavily on my mind was that I would have to leave my toddler to go into the hospital. Having kids two years apart seemed like an ideal age. Until it came time to find someone to take care of the toddler leading up to the due date.

My family lives in the US and my husband’s lives on the other side of Belgium. And our shy toddler wasn’t comfortable around people other than Oma and Opa, and they were only available to help out plus/minus one week around the due date.

We had a backup in place in case the baby would come much earlier, which involved a friend coming and me telling the friend about the hidden stash of chocolate to use for bribery if necessary.

For those reasons I was happy our second didn’t come too far in advance. But after a rough pregnancy of 9 months of ‘morning sickness’ I was more than ready for her to come.

False alarm

At 40 weeks and 3 days I had to get over my fear of going to the hospital and getting sent home because that is exactly what happened. I had contractions regularly for a few hours, and since I wasn’t sure if they were fake or real, I thought that was labor.

But then I had a break – literally my water broke two nights later and so I could at least know that this was a good time to go to the hospital.

I did tell the staff when I got in that I didn’t feel any contractions and that I also didn’t feel them for my first one and she came super quick. They recognized my name from a couple of nights before and took note, but I think didn’t really take my comment too seriously.

We got to the hospital around 2 a.m. and my cervix was ONLY 3 cm dilated. I figured we would be there for a while. So my husband and I took the opportunity to rest and I told the midwife I would call her when I would need her.

“I think having a calm mindset (even though I did have anxiety the second time around) really helped us during the delivery.”

She ended up coming in once an hour to check, and good thing she did because at 4:45 it was clear the baby was coming.

A doctor-less delivery

The doctors on duty were all busy so she and another midwife were there during the delivery. A pleasant turn of events in my opinion as I think it made the room much calmer. I put in my birth file that I did not want the midwives or doctors to tell me to push.

And not only did they respect that but they made the delivery better than I expected by putting warm compresses on me to stretch the tissue and I ended up without a tear.

Then it was getting close and the intensity of a baby coming out hit. And it was intense. Luckily by 5:07 Madelief was out and then all of us could rest. My husband even went home after to bring our toddler to daycare.

Ready to go home

When Madelief was out I felt like a person again. Even though immediate post-partum comes with its own annoyances, I was happy to not feel sick to my stomach all the time.

I just wanted to get home, so I only stayed at the hospital one night, and two days after was at a café as a family and playing with oldest on the playground.

I tried to explain to Colette that she was going to have a sister and that there was going to be a baby in the family, but it was hard to tell how much a two-year-old really understood.

So when we came home from the hospital we really didn’t know what to expect. Luckily she welcomed the baby with open arms (and was happy to have someone to boss around!).

Closing thoughts

During my first pregnancy, both my husband and I both read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, watched prenantal classes on YouTube, a physio session to discuss birth positions and took Kate Ellwood’s Hypnobirthing class. I think all those helped and I felt prepared enough.

I would recommend Ina May’s book and Kate’s hypnobirthing class the most. I think putting us in a calm mindset (even though I did have anxiety the second time around) really helped us during the delivery.

Hypnobirthing 101

Elizabeth and her partner followed a hypnobirthing course with Kate Elwood of Simply Hypnobirth.

As Kate explains: Hypnobirthing is centred on releasing fear and building confidence in the natural process of birth through practising relaxation techniques and being well informed so you can make the best choices about your care. It’s suitable for everyone, whether it’s your first baby or your fourth! If you’re looking for an alternative to the ‘just give me the drugs’ approach then hypnobirthing is for you.”

Most couples start their hypnobirthing classes at between 25 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Kate offers both online classes and in-person hypnobirthing classes.

Find out more on the Simply Hypnobirth website.