Almost always, second births are simpler than firsts. People put this down to the body having done it already…it having been tried and tested etc. But if that was the key, why is it so many women who've had previous caesareans, often involving a lot of trauma, also have a simple, wonderful time of it?
Something else comes into the mix, I’m sure – and that is that second time, women often take full and complete ownership of what is happening.
Now that they know, for themselves, that above all and everything it is they who have the deepest connection with the baby, a very whole understanding of what their body is doing, they let go to it in a way they may have not felt able to first time.
First time, the bleeping machines, the expert-plotted progress – they can lead you out and away from yourself. In a birth where there is significant medical concern, these measures are of course a help, not a hindrance. But in a low risk situation, where the pregnancy and labour have to that point displayed no complications, they are almost always a distraction – even a waft of which can shrink confidence and usher in doubt.
There is nothing quite so amazing to behold than a mother who discovers the train tracks of her own powerful body…smooth, well-worn, unveering. How secure they feel. How absolutely THERE they are. And how with that discovery of super-safety, how she can just let go.
Soonita explains how the difference felt for her:
‘In my first birth, I was on a bed. I don’t think anyone said I had to get on a bed, but you just do. It was an antenatal ward, I was in a curtained partition, and that was my allotted space, so I just got on it and sat back. There was a lot of coming and going, a lot of checking, and though I didn’t know it at the time, it was a bit like being an object. It wasn’t meant that way, that’s just how it is if you don’t know any different.
Boxes need ticking, and you very quickly fall in line with those boxes, as opposed to anything you might be feeling inside yourself. I’m sure that some of the midwives who looked after me on that long, first journey, thought I would do better to go against the tick boxes, the position I was in for example, the monitoring I was having, the vaginal examinations I was agreeing to. But no one risked advising me that. How can they? It’s just the way it works.
Probably there were other carers that day who had wished that I had been more informed too, about what I was going to go through, so that I was clearer on what to expect, more able to make decisions for myself. I’m sure some midwives are as frustrated about how complicated it all gets as the mothers.
In the end, my body couldn't keep up with the tick boxes, the pathway it was 'supposed' to follow, so I ended up having my waters broken and straps put round my tummy and finally, an internal clip inserted into my baby’s head.
And all these interventions caused me to become extremely tense. Frightened too. Really frightened. I certainly couldn’t concentrate on what I was feeling anymore, or trust it in any way and of course in the end, my baby responded accordingly: her beat dropped and this lead to an emergency caesarean section.
Preparing for birth the first time was difficult for me because I didn't know what I needed to know. The second time, it was easy because now I did. I knew what had been missing the first time which was actually very simple.
I needed to feel safe and relaxed. That was all...yet to create this, something so simple, actually takes a lot of work in this modern world.
But I did it. I made sure I got what I needed and that it was in place. Primarly, I made sure I had someone very informed and experienced to protect me from fear. To give me the confidence and allow me to feel without being disturbed. She helped me to find out for myself - that yes, I do have the ability to know what is happening inside of me. If something was going wrong I would feel it, like I did the first time. Like when you go for a poo, if you're ill, your stomach will feel it before you go to the toilet, or you will get warning signs. If you’re well you just feel and let the poo come out easily. Sorry for the description but I can't think of an easier way to put it.
Because I felt so safe, it didn’t matter to me where I gave birth. The plan was to go to hospital, but I started to feel the need to push in the basement garage of my flats, and if I’d given birth there, I honestly wouldn’t have minded.
In the end, we made it to hospital, and went to labour ward, just like before. Except, this time it was different. This time, I was in charge of my body and knew to trust it. I knew to trust it, because I could feel for myself how things were changing. My eyes were closed, all the time. I had almost no interaction with my surroundings, and that meant there was no distraction, I could feel my baby making her way down, bit by bit, all at her own pace. And it was wonderful. The most enriching experience of my entire life. It felt so good to be right inside like that, and feel it all so clearly. It felt safe.
I was deeply grateful that my first daughter was a healthy baby. At the same time I felt that my emotional being was sort of crushed, damaged really, through her delivery. 'Your baby is fine and that's all that matters' is what most people told me. As if feeling what I had gone through was selfish and ungrateful.
But now I know. My second birth showed me what I felt did matter. It’s wrong to dismiss the mother herself, to not see that she is the agent of her birth…...when a mother’s intuition, trust, limits, potential, life force, and intelligence are all given a chance to come forth, the baby feels it. When everything is allowed to flow, the baby feels the strength of that too. And then you can work together’