When one does a hard thing, such as running a marathon or climbing Mt. Everest, one prepares for the worst and forms contingency plans around the worst happening. When one proceeds to run the marathon again or retackle Mt. Everest (presumably off the proceeds of the book one wrote about doing it the first time), the valuable experience gained the first time around informs the second venture, but the contingency plan is not discarded. One still must assume the worst.
Forget the third person here. In my previous four labors, I followed a recognizable pattern: labor started, it got progressively harder, and then I had a baby. I assumed this pattern would repeat itself, and if there were any deviations, it would be because something had gone wrong. But the pattern didn't repeat itself this time. And it didn't get worse.
It got easier. Not easier as in, "I know what to expect, so I can knuckle through it." Easier as in for three hours after the midwives arrived, I laid in bed and read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and enjoyed it. Easier as in I would have thought that labor had stalled out entirely except that I kept dilating. Easier as in twenty minutes before baby was born, I was standing around with my hands on my hips saying, "I know something has to happen here sometime." (The midwife was still laughing about that the next day.)
I laid in bed. I looked at the tomatoes in the garden. I ate breakfast and lunch. I quick-stepped up and down the stairs in an effort to get up a contraction that the student midwife could monitor. Low-key doesn't even begin to describe it. There was no hard labor. There were almost no painful contractions. I was in no hurry, but once Jack went down for his nap and the girls went for a walk with Grandma we decided to have the midwife strip the bag of waters so that we could have the baby before Jack woke up. And then I braced for the transition that never really came (I think maybe my legs felt a bit shaky) and the three-minute contractions that didn't show up. Sure, there were a few hard contractions that let me know things were moving, but nothing like in the past. And then I was bored with waiting around and decided to push (in the absence of any pushing contractions), and baby finally shook a leg and made her appearance.
Was it orgasmic? No. She got a little stuck and they had to give her shoulder a nudge, and nothing could be further from orgasmic than having a body wedged in your birth canal. That was pretty uncomfortable. And then there she was, and eventually she stopped yelling long enough to nurse. Then the afterbirth pains hit, and they were definitely the worse than any contraction I'd had that day.
I've tried in the past to be honest about my labors (pretty painful) and I guess this is the flip side of the coin -- sometimes it isn't that bad? Maybe it makes a difference that this was my fifth jaunt around the block? I do want to say that I don't think I could have had such an easy labor if I wasn't at home, where I was completely comfortable, and with midwives I trusted who never pushed me to rush things along. I would take this almost-fourteen-hour labor over any of my previous, including the less-than-two-hours I spent on #3.
So there you have it, and if all you mothers out there never speak to me again, I'll understand.