By Alex Birdsall
It's hard to tell the story of my second child's birth without telling the story of our first.
We hoped for a natural birth with our first son and got almost everything else. We knew not to be starry-eyed about the process of labor and delivery; that nothing is a given and everything can change in an instant. At nearly 42 weeks, we were induced and, with the help of midwives, nurses and a doula, over 48 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing, delivered a healthy baby boy.
As our second son’s birth approached we hoped again for a natural labor and delivery. As his due date came and went, we began making our peace with the prospect of another induction until contractions started one night. They were strong enough for us to get excited, but it took another day before early labor had begun in earnest.
Grandparents picked up our elder son and our doula came to our house. We turned lights down, built a fire in the woodstove and put James Taylor on the stereo. We walked and rocked and talked between contractions. It was just as we had imagined it. This early labor was unremarkable and we were grateful for it, even as my wife toiled through each contraction. When those contractions were about 5 minutes apart we made our way to the hospital to find our midwives.
The tub room where we had given birth to our first son was occupied by another birthing mother so we settled into an adjacent room. The midwife and nursing staff had their hands full next door, leaving the three of us to pick up where we left off: working together through each breath of each contraction, resting between and repeating the cycle again. In spite of the increasing intensity of the labor and the approaching transition to pushing and delivery, we recreated the peaceful calm of our living room at home there in the birthing room.
My wife delivered our son shortly after daybreak the next morning without the aid of medication or pain relief. He weighed more than 10 pounds, to the surprise of all present. Reflecting on that labor and birth over a year later, the magic we felt hasn’t faded at all. We attribute much of it to having had a doula. As the partner, I was able to rest when I needed it, to stay fed, focused and positive. It was a straightforward labor, but without our doula it would have been an entirely different, and less magical experience.