I'm writing today with so much deep, sparkly, mama bear love in my heart as I glance over at my sleeping little son who joined my husband, Felix and me on Father's Day last week.
Meet Hendrix Rasmus Johan Zwickson. Born on June 18th, weighing 7lbs 14oz, he came into this beautiful world healthy, fast, and with a veracious appetite (see photos below).
Just like with Felix, the first week is so wonderful and so new and also a bit strange: you feel like you should know or recognize the person who has been in your belly the last 9+ months and yes, in some ways you do. And yet -at least in my experience- when I first looked at Felix and then last week, Hendrix, I realize that I actually don't know them yet, that they are not familiar to me yet, that I still very much need to get to know this new person.
And so, we have spent our time together as a family this past week exploring our newest addition, observing how his joining us is changing our family dynamic (& Felix sleep and behavior patterns in particular) as his dad and I are learning to care for two, and being curious as to how and who he is and what his particular needs and likings are.
In today's post, besides sharing the news about Hendrix's arrival, I also want to share with you how my first birth and second birth differed from each other. This is a question many of my mama friends who have one baby already have asked me in the last week and so I wanted to share this with you as well.
But first, some pictures of our sweet little man:) :
How my first birth and second birth differed
For reference, both my births were with midwives in a hospital setting (the first in NYC, the second in SF) and I prepared for them in similar ways:
Mentally, I prepared by listening to my hypnobirthing relaxation audios almost every night (Rasmus and I took an actual hypnobirthing class before Felix's birth and then reviewed things before Hendrix's birth), practicing deep breathing as well as affirmations to trust my body and my baby to be able to labor together in harmony.
Physically, I prepared my body with evening primrose oil starting in week 36 to soften the cervix, a little bit of perineal massage, lots of coconut oil on my belly and everywhere below my belly button ;), and red raspberry leaf tea, which is a uterine tonic.
I also crafted a birth plan -or, more so, a birth intention- for each of my births, which I love helping my pregnant clients prepare as well. I like to think of the birth plan more as a birth intention, because I know that most births go differently than expected and I don't think that being too focused on one way of birthing is helpful when you're in it.
And finally, it was really important to me during both of my pregnancies to create a birth team (including my husband) who I knew understood me and my preferences so that when I was actually in labor, I would feel safe and just let go and surrender to the process knowing that everyone around me was supporting me as best as possible.
My overall mental intention going into each labor was to start with as little intervention as possible and if an intervention was needed or if I felt like I needed the support of medicine, I would make that call then depending on how that specific birth was unfolding.
My first birth: Felix
My first birth lasted 16 hours. I was induced on our due date because of low amniotic fluid and our midwife suspected that my water had broken. I was given a cervical softener (most commonly women receive pitocin, which is synthetic oxytocin, as an induction drug) to start labor.
After a few hours, I made it to 6 cm dilation and got stuck there with pretty intense contractions and labor pains. I felt exhausted and asked (maybe demanded at that point;)) for the epidural which allowed me to sleep for 3-4 hours. I woke up being 10 cm dilated. My midwives guided me through 20 minutes of controlled pushing and pausing and I experienced no pain during that phase.
I gave birth to Felix lying on my side, a position that allows your pelvis to open up more than lying on your back, for example.
After the birth, I needed a few single stitches here and there, but still sitting, walking, and using the bathroom hurt for a week or so postpartum (maybe longer... I don't remember exactly).
My overall experience and memory of my first birth is a positive one. Even though contractions -or waves, how hypnobirthing likes to call them- aren't pleasant and I was grateful for the epidural, the actual birth was a true miracle and I felt very empowered and strong when my midwife told me to push. Felix was born in the morning hours the day after his due date.
My second birth: Hendrix
My second birth started with some sporadic cramping two days before our due date but I didn't think much of it. The following day I had sporadic cramps in the morning, but I was convinced they were just Braxton Hicks, or "practice contractions." We went to brunch with family and then had everyone over for afternoon Father's Day cake.
At 1:30pm I felt like I wanted to lie down and I started tracking "my cramps just for fun." To my surprise, they were about 5/6 minutes apart and the tracking app I was using sent a notification telling me to call my care provider.
My husband and I packed some final items into our bags and went to the hospital around 3pm where our midwife told us that I was 2-3cm dilated and could consider going back home. I knew from Felix's birth that my body tends to contract really fast once things get going and so both my husband and I didn't think going home felt right.
We were admitted into our room by 4:30pm. As I suspected, things got intense quite fast and when I asked for the epidural at around 6:30pm, our midwife checked my dilation status, looked at me and said:
"Well, it looks like you're not having the epidural... you're having a baby"
(I don't remember this, my husband told me later). Again, my midwife guided me through about 30 minutes of controlled pushing and pausing to allow my body to give birth as gently as possible to minimize any tissue damage. I gave birth kneeling on the floor with my arms on the bed, which is another birth position that allows you pelvis to open up better than lying on your back.
Hendrix was born at 7:08pm naturally, which was a much more primal experience than with Felix, but it was also a much faster one. After the birth, I didn't need stitches and so the recovery has been really quick and easy for this birth.
My overall experience and memory of my second birth is also a positive one. In a way, I really got to know how much strength the female body truly possesses when it has to. It was both humbling and empowering.
I hope that my two birth stories don't scare or intimidate you. In fact, I decided to share them with you, because I believe that it is important and helpful for women to hear birth stories that don't invoke fear but encourage trust.
Don't get me wrong, birth isn't easy and there are parts that are scary, painful and make you feel out of control, but that is different from entering labor driven by fear. Fear ultimately removes the trust that women need to have in their bodies and in their babies in order to birth with a sense of empowerment; no matter how the individual birth unfolds; naturally, with medication or via cesarean section.
Sending you lots of love & thank you for celebrating Hendrix's arrival with me and my family.