This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a commission, but it has no additional cost to you. This truly helps support this blog and the work I do for it, so thank you in advance! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see the disclosure policy.
My wife, Jillian, and I were blessed with the pregnancy of our second son two and a half years after our first was born. (At the time, we didn’t know the gender as we waited with both of our kids.) A common discussion topic we had throughout this second pregnancy was Jillian’s hope for a more “typical” birth experience. My use of “typical” is for our own relative comparison and is not meant to imply negative connotations to births that differ from this. You can read the full story of our son’s first birth here: A DAD’S DOULA STORY AND WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER ONE, but below is a brief summary.
We are forever grateful that both Jillian and our son ended up healthy. However, the labor was quite long, 27 hours, and our son needed to be in NICU for a few days. Jillian also had a piece of retained placenta and needed a blood transfusion shortly after delivery.
I stumbled across an NPR article, U.S. Has The Worst Rate Of Maternal Deaths In The Developed World, while looking up some info for this post. I was genuinely surprised. It definitely made me even more grateful that Jillian ended up healthy after our first son’s birth.
It is because of the complications mentioned above that Jillian really wished for this second labor and delivery to be a more typical experience.
Why a Doula for a Second Time?
First off, Jillian’s birth plan was to have a natural birth again as she did with our first son. Having a doula certainly would assist with this. If you’re seriously interested in a natural birth, but a doula is not possible for cost or other reasons, consider looking into Kopa Birth’s excellent classes for natural birth.
Of course, Jillian also wanted a shorter and smoother labor for herself for baby #2, but honestly, this was secondary. What was most important for her was to be able to have the bonding opportunity with our baby. Even though our first son’s need to be in NICU was mainly precautionary and relatively tame for only a few days, no mother wants to have her baby taken away from her right after birth. It was tough enough as a father, but when you’ve been carrying the baby inside of you for close to a year, it is understandably much more difficult.
Additionally, since Jillian had her own health complications after our first son’s birth, she was also limited initially in being able to visit him in NICU. She’s expressed many times a feeling of regret, even though she knows it was not within her control, on missing out on those bonding moments after birth. She’s said it still hurts her now, even 4 years later, and it probably always will.
We decided early on that we would use a doula again for the birth of our second child. We loved our doula from the first pregnancy, Rachel, so naturally, we hired her again. I wasn’t able to find statistics on repeat use of doulas, but it would not surprise me if many use doulas again for subsequent pregnancies. When we hired Rachel for our first pregnancy, the biggest reason was definitely for the support during labor and delivery. Of course, this was a huge reason for this pregnancy too, and perhaps, still the biggest reason. However, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that maybe the before labor part was actually the more significant reason for this pregnancy. It all goes back to those first pregnancy complications. We understood that Rachel could not directly prevent complications from developing. But, we did feel that she could help in communicating and reminding the medical staff of the prior complications during and after labor and delivery. Sometimes, just being more aware of an issue can help prevent its occurrence.
To put it very simply, having Rachel brought Jillian “peace of mind” as she would say. Having a support person who knows you, your tendencies during labor, and the background of your previous birth is unquestionably a tremendous asset. This is even more the case when you consider that the nurses, doctor/midwife, and overall medical staff will most likely be different. This extra support person helps reduce stress, and I strongly believe that reducing stress can help with a smoother labor and delivery.
Jillian’s contractions started around 10:30 pm. From the experience of her first labor, Jillian was determined to labor at home longer. With our first son, we arrived at the hospital with Jillian thinking she was around 7 cm when she was only maybe 4 cm. Jillian’s often said that she believes being at the hospital too early contributed to a longer labor because she was too stationary. Even though she moved around some, it wasn’t as much as she originally planned. The hospital setting with things like an IV simply lend themselves to being more stationary. Jillian remembers Rachel encouraging her to get up and move around with our first son, so we knew we could count on Rachel again to help us with this.
The contractions were not too intense at first, so Jillian and I both tried to get some rest. By 2:00 am, they began getting more intense. We came downstairs to our living room where there was more space as well as the exercise ball.
Let me go slightly off topic here and talk about the awesomeness of an exercise ball. Jillian used it a ton for the pregnancy of both our sons. You can read about a Birthing Ball and Its Magic to learn more about its benefits during pregnancy and labor. Notice I said “pregnancy and labor” because it’s something great to use throughout pregnancy. You can order one easily (Trideer Exercise Ball is a popular one) or find one at a local store. There are also lots of videos you can find online that demonstrate exercises to do. In her prenatal visits, Rachel showed us and had Jillian practice several exercises. I highly recommend having an exercise ball on your labor packing list, but you should check with your hospital too as many will have them. Most birth centers will have them.
The contractions continued to get stronger over the next hour. Jillian worked through each contraction and I helped with counter pressure techniques. I also reminded Jillian to change positions as this was something Rachel emphasized to us during her prenatal visit. As it got closer to 4 am, Jillian was fully in active labor, and she decided it was time to contact Rachel. Here was one of our text exchanges:
Rachel: On my way down. How’s momma doing?
Me: She’s managing. Seems to be doing okay. She said to tell you she has the shivers.
Rachel: Hormones are strong! That’s very normal. Just let go of all tension. We call those labor shakes. A good sign. Remind her to looooow moan through those surges.
Having been through the labor experience of our first son, I was definitely less stressed this time. Nevertheless, it was still so helpful to have that support from Rachel. Rachel arrived at our house a little before 5 am. Just as she did with our first son, she jumped right in supporting Jillian with counter pressure and other techniques through each contraction.
My parents arrived soon after around 5:00 am as we needed them to watch our first son. I had called them around the same time I contacted Rachel as they live an hour and a half away. At this point, the contractions were very intense. Rachel was fully devoted to Jillian and I was making sure my parents gave Jillian her space 🙂
Transitional Labor and Delivery
At 6:00 am, Jillian very directly stated that it was time to go to the hospital. The certainty with which she said it made for little questioning or discussion. Jillian and I headed out with Rachel following behind us. During the less than 15 minute drive, Jillian was having some STRONG contractions in the car. Rachel had always encouraged walking and moving, so we parked and planned to walk the short distance to the maternity entrance. However, we probably only got 10 yards before Jillian said she couldn’t do it. One of the hospital workers saw us and brought over a wheelchair.
By the time we got to the check in desk, Jillian was really struggling. We hastily answered the pertinent questions and they brought us into triage. Everything was moving so fast and the next thing I knew, the staff checked Jillian and said that she was 8 cm! It was relieving and stressful at the same time. It was relieving that, unlike last time, Jillian was really far along. Yet, it was stressful because she was so far along. I remember the staff saying, “Let’s get ready to have this baby.” Jillian didn’t even have an IV put in due to the immediateness. The staff did a great job getting all the logistics squared away so that we were able to be quickly admitted and taken up to labor and delivery.
It was close to 7:00 am when we got up to labor and delivery, and it was go time. Everything was moving along rapidly and smoothly until the dreaded cervical lip came up again! Again, you can check out Part 1 under the Transitional Labor and Delivery Section to read about the nightmare of the cervical lip with our first son. When we recounted the awfulness of the cervical lip after our first son was born, it was often said to us that it would not happen the next time. We heard this from hospital staff and Rachel as well. I supposed the idea is that a woman’s body adapts from the first time, which is why you often hear that second labors are faster. So, I can’t imagine the horror Jillian must have felt when she heard our midwife say that she needed to hold off pushing because of the cervical lip.
I distinctly remember Jillian saying, “You said this wouldn’t happen again!” and how this was the same as last time. I was at a loss too and feeling totally helpless. How in the world can this be and how do we get through it again? Thank goodness Rachel was there as she very confidently said that it’s not the same as last time. I honestly don’t know if she was just saying that or in fact knew it was different, but it helped calm me a bit at least. I’m not sure how much it impacted Jillian. But one aspect that Rachel was always great at was being understanding yet stern when needed. Here was an example of that. Even though she reassured us that it wasn’t going to be like last time, the reality was still that Jillian had to deal with this. So, Rachel directed Jillian to do little blows over and over like she’s trying to keep a feather in the air just like last time. The three of us joined in a chorus of feather blowing each time Jillian got that contraction and urge to push.
Rachel’s statement that it wasn’t the same as last time proved accurate as after about 10 minutes of this, Jillian was given the go ahead to push. With our first son, the cervical lip was a far more arduous ordeal of about 30 minutes. It only took a few pushes for our baby #2 to come out at 7:22 am! I was able to announce to Jillian that we now had two boys :-). Rachel was then very valuable in the last stage of childbirth of delivering the placenta as well. We specifically talked through this during our prenatal visit in assisting us with this step and she was right on top of it. She reminded our midwife and the staff of the previous retained placenta complication. They all did a great job and Jillian delivered the placenta this time without any issues.
We are incredibly thankful that Jillian got the “typical” birth experience she wanted. Our second son was perfectly healthy so we got to have that experience of having our baby in the room with us. We know that each labor is different, but it’s so interesting how different ours were. I highlighted some of the differences in the chart below.
Rachel came over a few days later for her postpartum visit. We all had a good time chatting and reminiscing on the two labors. Jillian and I both feel very grateful for having been able to share the birth of our sons with a doula. Beyond all the direct support Rachel provided during the actual labors, I think on a larger scale, having a doula really empowered Jillian to have the births she wanted.
Share Your Thoughts
What was your experience with a doula? Was the first labor experience very different from future ones? What, if anything, surprised you about subsequent labors? Feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comment section below.