Even though the birth of the baby is still some 15 weeks off, Andrew and I have been thinking about it for quite a while, both because we're anxious for this child to arrive but also because of Spencer. As I've noted in previous entries, already having a child has impacted virtually every aspect of this pregnancy, and having the baby will be no exception. While some parents opt to have their child(ren) in the delivery room with them to welcome the new family member, Andrew and I do not wish to go this route, and so we need to make arrangements for Spencer's care while the baby is being born. Fortunately we have friends who live nearby with a daughter Spencer's age, and they happily agreed to have Spencer stay with them during this time. For everyone's sanity, but primarily my own, I'd like to try to get a handle on how long "this time" will be, but this is a bit difficult given the circumstances of Spencer's birth.
I gather that labor and delivery of your second child is generally shorter than your first -- Andrew read me an article recently that said that this time is half as long. And while my labor with Spencer was fairly short -- six hours from start to finish -- it was also not "real" in that he was induced. When I went for my weekly appointment on his due date and the doctor put on the fetal monitor, she was concerned that the baby's heart rate was dropping slightly during the mild contractions that I was having at this point.
The doctor asked me to come to the hospital the next day for a stress test to see how the baby would respond to slightly stronger contractions, and the result was the same -- the heart rate dropped. Therefore, to avoid a possible emergency c-section, the doctor decided to induce the next morning at 6:00 a.m., and Spencer was born at 12:30 p.m. I went into the hospital that day thinking that I was going to be there for just a couple of hours for a stress test, and left six days later (five days in the hospital after a birth is standard in Switzerland) with a baby!
The birth of my first child was therefore not at all what I had envisioned. I had hoped to spend the first part of my labor at home and not go to the hospital until things had progressed a bit, but instead, I was in the hospital for the whole time. I had also hoped that I would perhaps manage without drugs, and I was fortunate in that I was the only person giving birth in the hospital on that day and so had total access to the bathing pool; however, that wasn't enough for wimpy me, and I ended up opting for the epidural. (I have since heard from friends who have had children both naturally and by induction that the pain is harder to manage with induction because it comes on so quickly and is so intense that you don't have time to adjust to and deal with it.)
The really distressing thing was the epidural didn't seem to work at all!! I've heard from most women that the epidural changes their lives and that while you can still feel the contractions, the pain is gone; however, my pain didn't seem to be reduced at all once the epidural was in. In fact, one of my memories of the whole delivery process (because much of it is a blur) is looking at Andrew and desperately asking "When is it going to start working??" And on top of it all, it was clear that the midwife handling my birth (there is a midwife present at every birth at most Swiss hospitals) felt that I had failed by resorting to the epidural. So I earned the scorn of my midwife and got no relief in the process.
At the end of it all though, I ended up with a healthy baby in my arms, which is all I wanted. A friend has since told me that she has heard that no woman's birth story is at all what she envisions, but that it doesn't matter because, at the end of it all, you have your child. And that's all I want in October, too, although having that child end up in my arms following a non-drug-induced, relatively short labor would be a bonus.
Guilty aside: having said all this, induction would sure make things easier to plan on the Spencer front. If I know that the Pitocin drip is going to start at 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning, that gives us the night before to pack up Spencer and drop him off at our friends' house. A scheduled c-section would have the same benefits and even more so, since the date for a scheduled c-section is usually set fairly far in advance. But obviously my and Andrew's convenience is completely irrelevant and unimportant in this matter, a statement which pretty much applies to parenthood in general. The baby will be born when and how it is meant to be born, and it will be wonderful.