Birthing The Second Time Around by Prue Henschke

The contrast between my labours with my first and second children could not have been greater.

My first labour was a 26 hour struggle with every intervention. The second was an 8 hour entirely natural birth.

I’ve reflected on both births and asked myself whether the difference was simply down to experience – mental and physical. My conclusion… maybe, but not entirely. The single biggest difference in my mind was having the support of a private midwife, second time around.

I chose to have both babies in the public system. The hospital was geographically close, small, well regarded and maternity was midwife lead.

I had gestational diabetes during both pregnancies. With my first I required insulin. With my second pregnancy I also had placenta previa.

My first labour was pretty harrowing. With gestational diabetes my management was slightly different during the pregnancy, labour and after the birth and I was more closely monitored than I would have been with a routine pregnancy.

In preparation for my first labour I had read extensively, delved into hypnobirthing and been a regular at prenatal yoga learning about poses and breathing exercises to assist my labour. I had a simple birth plan which involved dim lights, aromatherapy and a water birth. The dim lights was the only part that happened! All my preparations went out the window when the contractions started. I was so focused on the contractions and more specifically the timing of the contractions before I knew it the pain overwhelmed me. In hindsight I also went into the hospital far too early and although I was only a few centimeters dilated because of my gestational diabetes I was kept in.

I had never been a patient in a hospital before and as we learnt in birth classes labour often slows in response to the stress of the hospital environment. This was certainly my experience.

During the labour I was attached to a monitor (because of my gestational diabetes) which made movement limited. Before I knew it I was asking for one intervention after another. As my labour was long there were a number of shift changes and different midwives responsible for my care.  Given the hospital midwives were working on a busy maternity ward they could only be with me intermittently so most of the time I was alone with my amazingly supportive husband (but who’s birthing experience waslimited to the basic class we had taken at the hospital). The labour was slow and I was eventually taken to theatre for an emergency caesarean section. My son was delivered with forceps (to everyone’s surprise) in theatre. I had stitches from an episiotomy and was thoroughly exhausted after the birth.

I hadn’t given much thought to my second birth until late into the pregnancy as all indications were that I would require a Caesarean section due to having placenta previa. When I was given the go-ahead for a natural birth, although I had been pushing for the opportunity to have a natural birth, anxiety started to set in about how it would be. I did not want to repeat my first experience.

A local mum had shared with me her experience using a private midwife, which gave her the confidence to labour at home until the last minute, when she transferred to hospital (by choice). With only a few weeks until my due date (which was close to the Christmas/ New Year period) I wasted no time getting recommendations from other mums of local doulas and midwives. In the end I found a private midwife. She came to my home for the first visit to see if we would work together well. I learnt more about labour and birth in that first meeting than I had learnt through all my reading and prenatal classes. We had a number of further meetings at my home to discuss among other things a very detailed birth plan. I felt confident about the birth and although apprehensive I felt as prepared as I could be.

My second labor was entirely different from the outset. My waters broke while I was sitting at a play table feeding my then 2 year old son dinner.  Once he was in bed (I managed to make it through a few bedtime stories with lots of toilet breaks!) I went to the bedroom to rest and conserve my strength. I was in communication with my midwife during this period. As my contractions increased in strength and frequency I text her to come over. When she arrived she made herself comfortable on a makeshift bed in the lounge and said to call her in when I felt I needed her.

When I called her in she lay with me on the bed and the sound of her slow relaxed breathing helped relax me. I focused only on a few things during each contraction – moving and breathing and telling myself it was healthy pain.

Having someone experienced with me who I trusted to support and care for me gave me huge comfort and confidence. There was no monitoring, timing of contractions, interference or questioning. I was free to do what felt right for me.

The most difficult part was getting in the car to go to the hospital, when the time came. My midwife drove me and my husband followed (once our nanny arrived to watch my eldest – all our family are based interstate). Once I was taken to the birthing suite (the same suite I had with birth number one!) I was ready to start pushing. Within 40 minutes of arriving at the hospital I was holding my new baby.  I didn’t require any stitches and not having had any interventions I felt tired but incredibly good in myself.

My son did have some respiratory distress following his birth which required some additional testing and an extension to our hospital stay, so for me birthing in the hospital was the right option. That said, I can now see why women opt for a home birth, as moving to the hospital was one of the more challenging parts of the labour.

The decision to have the help of a private midwife had a huge impact on my birth experience second time around and that made for a quicker recovery both physically and emotionally. I’d unreservedly recommend having a doula or midwife to support you at home, even if your plan is for a hospital birth.


Prue Henschke, mama of two boys, aged 5 months and 2 and a half years, yogi, meditator, beach lover, traveller, newbie blogger, lawyer. Based in Melbourne, originally from Teresa’s home town of Adelaide.

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