I gave birth after a 6 hour labor, for the second time, 21 years ago, today. James Joseph Schwartz was born in our bed, in Coconut Creek, FL, January 15 1997. He was ready to greet the world before I was ready. I’ll explain, as I share the story of his birth.
Because my first labor 7 years prior was a long one, I kept comparing what would happen this time, to what happened the first time. I figured it would be about half as much time, so roughly 18 hours.
I would be quite surprised and delighted that this second labor was much shorter, easier, and all around amazingly powerful.
When my labor began it was actually early in the day. I was having minor contractions that I was ignoring. I remember cleaning the office shelves, and thinking, “I am nesting.” I went about my usual day, as a doula business owner. There were phone calls, and there was paperwork.
My older son, Matthew, was 7 at the time, so there was homework and dinner, and I don’t remember exactly what else. Just to say that nothing extraordinary was happening.
Fast forward to around 9:00 p.m. I felt a pop, and thought, okay, there goes my water. There was a trickle, not a gush like my first labor. I beeped (no smart phones in those days) Steve, who was at a community board meeting. He called and I told him it was beginning, and no rush to get home.
When Steve came home, after 10:00 p.m., contractions began to intensify. I remember Steve running around setting up the homebirth supplies. The video is quite funny, as Steve had on a t-shirt and underwear and was moving around the room busily, while I was laboring by myself. I called my midwife, Sharon, who told me to check back when things began to progress. And, progress they did.
Sometime after midnight, I had to put Steve on the phone with Sharon, as I was having one contraction on top of the other. I instructed Steve to tell Sharon to come. It was about a 45 minute drive for her from Hollywood to Coconut Creek.
I can’t say exactly what time I told Steve I was ready to push. I had a strong urge. Steve said, “Okay, let me wash my hands and you can push.” I was not having it. I wanted to wait for my midwife. I had no plans for an unassisted birth. The mind is a powerful thing.
What I did next, I would never advise anyone to do. I held James in. Yup, I panted through the contractions because of fear.
I did not feel 100% safe giving birth without Sharon there, or my other midwife, Connie. This went on for about an hour. Looking back on this, I can’t believe I was even able to do that.
My mother had arrived in the meantime, and her jaw dropped when we told her I was ready to push and no midwives were present.
At one point, right before this, I passed a couple of blood cots and got a bit nervous. I had reached out to Connie because she lived closer. She arrived first.
I knew I was completely dilated, but Connie checked me to confirm. Sharon arrived, and two student midwives. It was like a big party in the bedroom. I asked my mother to wake up Matthew before I began pushing so he could witness the birth of his brother or sister.
Matthew handed me my drink and put the cool cloth on my forehead. My Mom was by my side. Steve was with me speaking gently and rubbing my back.
My body took a while to reverse its mode of not pushing. So it was approximately one hour of squatting and moving, and telling myself it was okay now to push James out. I did not know I was having a boy. I was calling him Jamie because that could go either way.
When I became tired from standing and squatting I got into my bed and lied on my left side. I had plans to labor and birth in the bathtub, but at that moment I did not have the urge to do so.
As I was crowning, I smiled with joy. I did not experiene the burning that is always associated with that moment when your baby’s head stretches you to the max.
I gave birth to James in my bed at 2:23 a.m. surrounded by my husband, son, mother, two midwives, and two student midwives.
James was named after my father, James Joseph Kraft, who had died 6 months previously, after battling cancer for several years. I played one of his original songs as James came out during a loud rainstorm. It was beautiful.
Now, the cycle of life continues, as my baby, 21 years old today, is expecting his own baby in July. I am looking forward to this next chapter of life. I hear being a grandmother is a blast!!