I kept postponing writing this post and now so much time has passed that I don’t think I have enough space to write everything. Lol. So I’m just going to do it interview-style. If there are any questions you have that I don’t answer, you can type them in the comments’ section 🙂
What was your first reaction to finding out?
It started with “malaria-like” symptoms. And then I march to the doctor’s office for tests because I hardly ever have malaria. And she confirms it. Yup, pregnant. I won’t lie, I was stunned. And it was hard because I didn’t quite feel ready to be a mother of two. I had to remind myself often that it was God’s will. And then I started to look on the bright side of things.
What was the hardest part about being pregnant?
I found out in February that I was due in October. I’d have to take maternity leave in September and so it meant that I had to finish my work for the year in 9 months instead of 12. I definitely had to push myself to get more achieved at work. I honestly don’t remember much of this pregnancy unlike my first. It was mostly uneventful except for a backache that appeared like clockwork in the 3rd trimester.
How was this different from your first pregnancy?
My bump showed up much later! When I was in my 6th month, to be precise. Most people say bumps show earlier in second pregnancies but this little fella hid himself. True story. One of my colleagues found out I was pregnant when I was already 7 months down. He nearly fell off his chair when he realized that I had a bump! And apparently, the guys at work placed bets on whether I was pregnant or not around the time I was 6 months down. Lol.
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What was your pre-labor experience?
So I wanted my baby to come as early as his big brother who arrived at 37 weeks on the dot. 37 weeks is considered early-term. At 36 weeks, my ob-gyn pointed out that with my petite frame she didn’t want me to have a big baby so she was hoping I’d go into labor around my 38th week. She advocated a lot of walking and dancing. I’d read somewhere that eating dates would help shorten labor so I bought 2 kg of pitted dates! I brought out my trusty exercise ball and bounced on that thing all day. I went salsa dancing. I took my toddler to a baby gym. I walked to the point of discomfort. I ate dates. One day before I turned 37 weeks, I had 3 hours of contractions that seemed like the real deal but they faded. And then 3 days after the 37-week mark, my contractions started.
They began at midnight. My hospital was a 20-minute drive away and I didn’t want to call a cab at midnight and arrive the hospital only to be sent back because the contractions were fake. So I waited. I had told my ob-gyn that taking an epidural for my first son had been an uncomfortable experience because of the heartbeat scare, and the shivering. She recommended that I could get a lower dose of the epidural this time and that I should try laboring at home for as long as I could.
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And so I labored at home. I timed the contractions with this handy app. I knelt over my exercise ball and rolled with each contraction. It was such a useful pain reliever. One thing I remembered from giving birth to my first was that I was very tired by the time I arrived the hospital in the morning. So this time, I tried to sleep a bit, and actually succeeded for a couple of hours. By 7 am, I didn’t feel like I’d been in labor for 7 hours. But I figured I should get to the hospital just in case.
I didn’t reckon with the fact that 7 am is when most people are trying to get to work on a weekday. My husband had flown back to Lagos and UBER drivers were at least 15 minutes away. When I eventually got one that was 9 minutes away, he called to say he was stuck in traffic that wasn’t moving! I prayed that I wouldn’t have to give birth at home with only my mother-in-law and toddler son to assist! Eventually, I got a Lyft driver. Thankfully, I’d packed my hospital bag early enough this time 🙂
The drive to the hospital was free but men, I felt every single pothole on that road.
They usually tell you to labour at home till your water breaks or till the pain is so bad, you can’t talk. I could talk and my water hadn’t broken so I was a bit scared I’d be sent back home. The nurses seemed to think they’d be sending me home, too. When I arrived, they were chatty and didn’t act in a particularly urgent manner. I answered their questions clearly enough. And so they were shocked when they checked and I was 7cm dilated already! (Thank you, dates!) I was already in the transition phase of 1st stage labour.
They placed me on a bed and hooked me up to the monitors real quick. That meant that I couldn’t use my exercise ball 🙁 Predictably, the contractions started to hurt.
“Do you want an epidural?”, the nurse asked.
“No.” I figured that if I’d made it to 7cm without pain relief, I could go the whole hog of 10cm without.
They asked me two more times. I refused both times.
And then the contractions came hard.
I wasn’t fully mentally prepared for labour without pain relief and so I think I handled it worse than I could’ve. It also didn’t help that I was alone. I wanted to cry but what I was feeling was beyond tears so I just dry-sobbed and pulled at the bed railings. The nurses asked me to call them when I felt the urge to push and left the room. These ones were not as friendly as the nurses who helped with my first birth, I thought. But one of them came in and tried to make jokes. Lol. So inappropriate.
I called them in at some point and they all rushed in but I was only 8 cm dilated so they rushed back out. And then at some point, the contractions changed. It’s hard to explain. But they became longer and at the end of each one, the only thing that seemed to give some relief was bearing down. I started pushing without knowing I was pushing. The nurses rushed back in and sure enough, I was fully dilated. They called my doctor and asked me if I could hold off pushing till the doctor arrived. Really? Hold labour?
When it became apparent that I would not be holding anything, they gave me instructions. Hold your knees and resist the urge to close your legs. Push when you feel like. And so I did. Next push and I felt my water break, a nice warm flush(imagine if I had followed the common advice and waited for it to break at home before coming to the hospital!). And with 2/3 pushes, my little boy was out. It was almost 2 and a half hours since I arrived at the hospital. My doctor arrived ten minutes later to sheepishly deliver the placenta and insert a small stitch.
What were your first thoughts on seeing your baby?
I was so tired. They gave him to me and he was so warm but all I could think of was my exhaustion. I was glad when they took him away for checks. I messaged my husband and then put off my phone for a one-hour nap. (Remember I’d been in labour since midnight). When I woke up, I felt much better. I’ve never been one to be overwhelmed with “gushing feelings of maternal love” at the sight of my new babies. There’s curiosity, there’s a sense of responsibility and there’s amusement, maybe. Love comes later. 🙂
Post Labour Recovery
With my first son, I was up and about in a few hours. Apart from an understandable soreness, I was pretty much good to go. This time, though, I took much longer. I don’t know if it was because I didn’t take an epidural but it felt like my body had been through much more stress. My stitches healed faster, though. But I still felt pain in my hips for a longer time. It was easier to breastfeed this time around so that was good. It’s taking longer to lose the weight partly because of Christmas and partly because my maternity leave is so long. Lol. Excuses, excuses.
What do you recommend for labour?
Walk often. It’s an easy, stress-free exercise and it’ll help you when it’s time for labour. Buy an exercise ball and use it. Eat dates, especially in the last trimester (6 per day should be fine). Read books to prepare you for labour so you know what to expect. I recommend Childbirth Without Fear and The Big Book of Birth. Pack your bags early. I took along a change of clothes, one outfit for the baby, my ID, my phone, my bathrobe, a set of toiletries and my charger. I was in the hospital for one night only so I didn’t need much else.
So that’s it! Are there any other details you’d like to know?
How was your birth experience?