Labor & Delivery: The Second Time Around

My first pregnancy, I was prepared weeks in advance for labor and delivery. My bags were packed and I'd read all the books. Five years later, and thirty-nine weeks pregnant with my second son, my doctor told me after an ultrasound appointment that I needed to be induced the following day.

"Tomorrow?" I said, a little panicked.

"Yes."

I was happy to get this pregnancy over with, and I knew what to expect from an induction because that's how my first was born. But my hospital bag wasn't even packed! I realized that as a second-time mom, I'd been so focused on how to prepare my oldest boy, who had just turned five, for baby brother's arrival, that I hadn't given much thought to preparing for labor, delivery, and my hospital stay. That night I threw two baby outfits and three days worth of pjs, sweats, magazines, and shower items in my overnight bag and went to bed on my last night as a mom of one.

Being in the maternity ward the following morning brought all the memories back. Labor involves a lot of uncomfortable waiting, so I sent my hubs for a newspaper and worked on the crossword and Sudoku puzzles until the pitocin and contractions became too painful.

I was surprised how different my second childbirth was from the first. Both were inductions, but I had different doctors, which made me realize how much the doctor sets the tone for what happens during delivery. But I think it's important to remember that every birth, no matter who's running the show, is different and unpredictable.

Thankfully I didn't stay in labor and delivery for long. But over the next two days I got pretty used to the postpartum nurses and hospital staff. They bring your medicine, check to see if you need anything, bring you food three times a day, help you in sticky situations, and tote your child to and from the nursery for checkups. Enjoy it, because as soon as you get home you'll be on your own.

If you're breastfeeding, expect the nurses and lactation consultant to keep tabs on when and how long you feed your baby. The night my youngest was born, we both slept for about seven hours. The next day the night nurse took note and told the day nurse, who tsk-tsked me for not waking him to feed every two hours. It's their job to make sure everyone is well fed, so even if you hate to wake a sleeping baby, play by their rules. Your doctor will probably want you to continue nursing your baby every two hours, even if it means waking them up, until breastfeeding is well established.

With all this attention, people coming in and out of your room day and night, it can start to feel like Grand Central Station. If you need a break, you can always tell the staff that you don't want any unnecessary visitors—something many moms don’t think to request.

One thing I did remember from my first postpartum stay in the hospital was being anxious to get home, and that didn’t change the second time around. Although you're tired and achy and overwhelmed, there's nothing like the joy of finally bringing home that new baby—no matter how many times you've done it.