Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

Labor & Delivery With Your First Kid Vs. Labor & Delivery With Your Second Kid

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I'm a big ol' hippie, but I tend not to be a terribly sentimental one. Still, when I think about the births of my two children (which were very different) I fondly and truly believe they both entered the world exactly the way they were "supposed to." Every birth story is unique, but I've also found in talking to other women that there are some relatively common differences between labor and delivery with your first kid and second.

Above and beyond my first and second labor and deliveries being different just based on the fact that my first delivery was a c-section and my second delivery was a VBAC. So, in some ways, while my first and second labors were differentiated, my first and second deliveries both felt like firsts. Emotionally or otherwise, though, I never had the exact same feelings during my second delivery. In the end, nothing prepares you for birth like birth, largely because nothing really can. (Short of, like, swallowing a live, medium-sized puppy and pooping it out after nine months or something, which I really, really urge you never to attempt.) So laboring and giving birth a second time allows you invaluable insight and retrospection that makes for a familiar but new experience.

A bit of a disclaimer: I feel like it's fashionable (or at the very least common) for "veteran moms" to say things that seem to look down on first-timers. That's not at all my intention or feeling. For one, it doesn't make sense, since we were all first-time moms at some point. Secondly, it's not really fair to expect people who have not given birth before to approach it the same way as someone who has. Thirdly, and I feel like this should be the motto for everyone and everything on the face of the planet: everyone is different. What worked for you won't work for everyone. That said, looking back on my own experiences between my two labor and deliveries, I can glean some insight (and, in some cases, self-deprecating humor) that I know some other moms can feel me on.

Preparing For Your First Labor And Delivery...

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Your hospital bag is fretted over endlessly. It is quite possibly packed weeks or even months in advance. You are better prepared than some intrepid climbers who have attempted to scale Mt. Everest in terms of snacks (I feel like everyone is convinced that they and their partners are both going to want to spend the duration of labor eating granola bars and bagged nuts). You have several adorable maternity pajama sets that you think are going to look so cute on Instagram but never once consider whether or not you will bleed on them. You have seven different "going home" outfits for your baby so you can see which one "feels right" on them. You have packed way more entertainment options than you will actually need.

...Preparing For Your Second Labor And Delivery

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LOL! What hospital bag? You mean the empty duffel bag I am going to squeeze as many possible free hospital diapers and mesh underwear in as is humanly possible? That's not so much a hospital bag as a swag bag, my friends.

Your First Contraction Pain...

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Since you've never done this before, you really don't know what to expect except, generally, that it's going to hurt. For some women, at first it doesn't hurt as much as they worried at would. However, at some point sh*t is going to get real and you're going to feel betrayed, and that sense of betrayal won't go away until you pop out a kid. There's a decent chance your body has never hurt you like this before, and you don't know why it's starting now. What a spectacularly awful thing to do, body. Why on Earth have you been programmed to do this? It's the worst.

(If you're super lucky, like me, your water will break ahead of time and you won't get as much internal cushioning on each contraction and it will hurt like a mofo from basically the very beginning... so very lucky...)

...Your Second Contraction Pain

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I'm sure many of you will want me to say, "Oh, you're totally prepared the second time and it feels like your tummy is being gently licked by puppies." Nope. It still hurts. This time, however, you don't feel betrayal so much as sensing that an old enemy has returned and you are bitterly squaring off against them in the field of battle.

What You Think You Want During Your First Labor...

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A common chuckle among moms who have already given birth is looking back to what we thought we wanted out of a birth experience the first time around versus what we actually wound up wanting. Don't get me wrong, birth plans are a good idea and getting everyone on the same page is best accomplished by literally showing them a page, ya know?

That said, it's hard to truly know what you want if you've never had any substantive experience with the matter at hand. And hey, you might be really intuitive (and lucky) and things will go exactly as you imagined and that would be awesome. But there's also a good chance that things will deviate from expectations just a titch (or, you know, completely).

...What You Know You Want (Or Don't) During Your Second Labor

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Second time around, you have a birth under your belt already. Maybe it was great and you want to replicate it as best as possible. Maybe it was miserable and you want to avoid a repeat as much as humanly possible. Maybe you just decide that the exact details aren't as important to you as you once thought, or that you didn't spend enough time thinking up details the last time. Point is, your opinion in how you want to give birth is always important, whether this is your first baby or your fifteenth. But second time around you have an opinion back with personal experience, which is, I've found, tremendously useful.

Your Attitude During Your First Labor...

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Inexperience may lead some first time moms to believe that their extensive research is sufficient preparation for a delivery to go exactly as they imagine, from how they will feel to what they will do to how everything will go from a medical standpoint. Extensive research is excellent preparation, but before you are face to face with such a tremendous force of nature, such as childbirth, you can't know exactly how things are going to go down physically, emotionally, or mentally.

...Your Attitude During Your Second Labor...

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Conversely, inexperience may have led other women to fear child birth is something beyond their scope completely and they rely on other people to make decisions for them. Decisions which, ultimately, may not have been what they would have chosen for themselves.

Guys, birth can be overwhelming and scary and even the logistics of it seem completely impossible sometimes. Like "a fully formed human is either going to come out of your vagine or a four inch incision." Say whaaaaa-?! Hell no. Witchcraft. Impossible. Go home, you're drunk.

...And How Assured You Are

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Because you've done this once before. You are a baby-having goddess already, and now you're coming out of retirement to perform this miraculous feat again. You know from personal experience that your baby is going to come out of you. You also probably know a bit more about birth now, and therefore know there's a lot you don't know. This is actually super empowering, I find, because it gives you a kind of serenity of knowing when to give the power to someone else.

Your First Labor And Delivery Fears...

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Various and sundry and, of course, they differ from person to person. There's a general fear of the unknown, of course. There's also the Big (if unlikely) Fears: for your own life and safety as well as for your baby. Then there's the fear of what the whole experience is going to feel like, physically and emotionally. And, of course, TV and movies don't really help in that regard, what with everyone dying in childbirth for completely unknown reasons.

...Your Second Labor And Delivery Fears

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Giving birth the first time around may have alleviated some of your fears... or made them worse, depending on your experience. But now you're not afraid of the unknown in the sense that you don't know what it will feel like. You're all too aware of what it's going to feel like. You also have a knew thing to be afraid of: how childbirth might affect your first child. Guys being a mom is so much fun!

How Excited You Are For Your First Labor And Delivery...

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Because you're going to have a baby! You're going to be a mom! You're going to have a family! Your life is going to be different! You're going to get to do all the sweet parenting things you've been dreaming of! Sure it's going to be hard, but you're prepared for that! And it's going to be worth it!

First time in L&D, the excitement you feel is the blind enthusiasm of the novice. It's like living in a lovely pink cloud, and it's the best.

...How Excited You Are For Your Second Labor And Delivery

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You know that the first time around you really weren't truly prepared for anything. And you know that, this time around, you're better prepared but you still don't know what this tiny human is going to throw at you. That's scary, but exhilarating. And you also know just how deeply and completely you can love a child. The excitement second time around is imbued with a kind of reverence that I don't know is possible the first time around.