If you're on your way to being a mom of two, like myself, or you're a mom of one and can't help thinking how labor could ever be easy, don't stop reading. Over the months and years your memories of your first labor and birth experience become hazy and a bit rose colored.
Time has a funny way of dulling things like that, but as you approach the birth of your second, it's as if the flood gates have opened. All the minute details of it are coming back to you in a wash. Don't panic!
Sure the first time might have been a long and arduous nineteen and a half hours of labor, your husband might have lovingly been trying to coach you in your breathing only to succeed in getting on your last nerve, and then the doctor comes in and says they have to "help" the baby out come out. Stop! Take a breath and relax, just as every pregnancy is different, so is every birth experience.
They say your first time with labor will always be the hardest, luckily for you that part is done and over with. You are a true veteran of labor and childbirth, so is your body.
By now I am sure you're curious on the how. How will labor be easier? Technically speaking, you still have to try and push a small human out of your body through a small opening. Luckily for you, you have previous knowledge to draw on to help gain confidence. Don't focus on what didn't work or how things may have gone wrong, you wont be able to control everything this time around either.
Instead, remember what worked to keep you calm and what you would have changed if you could, go in with a specific birth plan to cover contingencies you might not have covered the first time around. Confidence is key, as someone once said, and is no less true in your second round of labor. As far as easier goes, well maybe that isn't the right word, because child birth isn't easy though it will seem more familiar and therefore something you feel more comfortable in what you're doing.
The best way to prepare yourself for anything is to be as knowledgeable about it as possible, right? Labor and childbirth are no different in this; again you have previous experience on your side. With your first labor you were able to delude yourself that it will go smoothly and your birth plan will guide everyone. Now you know better and this time you're able to be more realistic about what is to come and to expect the unexpected.
Being your second pregnancy certain things may have happened sooner than the first time around, such as feeling the baby kick and move sooner. Having gone through all this once you may be more in tune with your body and are better able to read the signals it's sending. Things like when it's just Braxton Hicks versus real labor, and when to push. I can't say it enough that knowing what you're in for and facing the reality head on will dispel many fears you may have now or had during your first time around.
Time is a big factor in the ease of your labor. Labor during the birth of your first child is anywhere from 12 to 14 hours or longer. You'll be happy to know that labor the second time around is about half as long with the average being 6 hours. That seems like a huge difference when you think about it. So what makes labor so different the second time from the first time?
During your first labor all the muscles involved are still quite tight and take more time to give way to baby. It takes the body a long time to loosen those muscles. Remember all those Braxton Hicks, and even some of the early signs of labor where it would start and stop? Since those muscles are now stretched your body is able to respond more quickly to the hormones produced during labor.
Your cervix will dilate more rapidly during labor the second time around, shortening your labor time. When it comes time to push, those loose muscles will be your friend. It will take less pushing since your vaginal muscles have already stretched once to accommodate a baby passing through them.
Was your first birth complicated, or did you have interventions to help baby along the way? I know I did, and the knowledge I have now gives me some relief. My little girl was almost there, her head was crowning and I was pushing with everything I had when the nurse instructed me to.
Suddenly the doctor looks up and says calmly "She seems to be having trouble getting her head out and her heart rate is starting to drop, I am going to have to help her out.". My heart dropped as I knew without seeing what he was doing that he was cutting my perineum. It only took a few seconds, he had done it and she was out.
Good news for any of you who had a similar or worse experience, as long as you have a healthy second pregnancy the likelihood of needing any form of intervention drops significantly. If you're wondering what I mean by intervention, I mean if the doctor has to use forceps, vacuum extraction, stitches in the perineum due to tearing or cutting, and a cesarean.
Now for those of you who had cesareans don't get too excited, if you had the cesarean planned or early enough on in labor there is a good chance that, should you delivery your second child naturally, you will be in the same boat as moms who deliver for the first time. This is because you never actually got to stretch those important muscles out that help ease labor the second time around.
Disclaimer, your baby's position, while less significant the second time around, can still bring about complications if he or she is breech. Unfortunately while this second labor usually goes quicker and things could be more sunshine and rainbows than they were the first time around, things could still happen. Don't get discouraged if it doesn't go exactly to plan.
Remember you went through this already, you know it probably won't be so cut and dry. So use your previous experience and current knowledge to arm yourself, you'll wind up better off and it may help make the whole thing that much better. Especially when you're proudly holding your new little one, knowing it was all so worth it.
In the end, the way your second labor goes is, in part, how you handle it. Being that you are a rock-star seasoned veteran of labor, you are probably sitting there knowing you got this in the bag. You go girl! That confidence looks great on you, I mean, who even needs a doctor around to help with this whole birth thing. You do, you still totally do. But I mean, metaphorically, you don't need anybody cause you so got this.
Now, go worry about something else, like, is your mother-in-law going to insist on staying with you for a week after the baby is born to "help." Or perhaps that nursery that is seriously unfinished; there are probably way bigger worries on your mind now than your second labor.