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2nd Labor and Terrified
February 26, 2013
It's not that anything major happened during my first labor. That is, not when I compare it to some of the stories my friends have where blood and placenta spattered the walls of the delivery room and an exorcist was summoned to haul off a doula run amok. No, my labor was actually calm and uneventful to the point where I felt we'd been let off easy. So will someone please explain to me why on god's green earth I'm so scared to go through it again?

To lay out the facts in their entirety, my first labor -- which had been going on slightly undetected for two days -- proceeded perfunctorily. (Maybe we were being slackers, but we didn't walk into the hospital with a "labor plan." We didn't want to feel hemmed in by edicts that -- if not carried out -- would leave us vulnerable to self-flagellation.)There was not-too-fast/not-too-slow dilation, an epidural, some vomiting, several anti-emetics to stop some vomiting, bouts of rest, and then the pushing. Even the pushing seemed ho-hum as we chatted with my labor nurse about Star Trek between contractions. It's true that we got to a point where my obstetrician wasn't too happy with how fast the baby wasn't coming out. He growled the heart rate had "gone tachy," and that I was going to need a little extra help from the vacuum. No one was in panic mode. I wasn't panicked, my husband wasn't panicked, the labor nurse wasn't panicked, and the doctor, though swift and determined, wasn't panicked. A few more pushes and SSSSSHHHHLLLOOOOOCK! the baby was out.

Once we were all home and various parts were healing, I never considered what I went through to be "birth trauma." At the time, I heard stories about women who, when their labor didn't go according to plan, were made to feel -- by themselves or others -- that they somehow "failed." Maybe they "failed" because they had an epidural or because they didn't have a vaginal birth or because their birthing tub sprang a leak and ruined their beautiful labor story AND their wood floors.

I also later learned that there is such a thing as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on by intensively traumatic birth experiences. But the feelings of failure, the PTSD -- none of that was me. My labor was over, I had my baby, and I was just relieved to be done with the hospital bit. At no point did I look at my experience as a failure or something traumatic I needed to come to terms with postpartum.

Until now. For some reason with this second pregnancy, I'm seized by the (irrational?) fear that I can't do it. That, once again, I won't be able to push the baby out on my own. That I will need the vacuum or that the vacuum won't be enough and other more drastic measures will be taken.

So what the hell is my problem now? Why has it come to pass that I feel even more terrified by the idea of laboring with this second baby than I did with the first? It made sense to be scared the first time around since everything was new and unknown. It made sense that I came thisclose to passing out during the C-section video in our childbirth class and had to escape to the bathroom where I could put my head between my knees without making an utter fool of myself. I mean, I'm not proud of my weak sauce moment, but it made sense.

I guess I figured that all of this -- pregnancy, labor, delivery -- would be old hat to me by now. Because, Jesus, if that's not the case, what does that say about second-time motherhood, which so many have told me is not as scary as first-time motherhood?

I've played amateur therapist on myself and considered the following:

1. My fear is simply me recognizing that, no matter what, this child -- in labor and in himself -- will be materially different from his brother. And really, it's the unpredictability and lack of control that I fear more than anything.

2. My fear of how a second child will change things around our relatively stable household is being manifested in an over-anxious fear of second labor, which is the final step that brings a new member into the family.

3. I've read and been told too many labor horror stories since my first.

4. I need to be medicated.

I honestly don't know the answer here, and since none of my friends mentioned going through this with their second babies, I am left wondering: is this just me? Am I an anxious freak of nature? Please, please, PLEASE tell me I'm not.

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Stephanie Vander Weide Lucianovic