If you are anything like me, after meeting an adorable, squishy, and oh-so-(not-quite) edible baby you want to know details; name, birth weight, length, and…. what was the delivery like! Of course, after the traumatic experience of childbirth many women are not comfortable sharing that story, so it is often not talked about.
As pregnant women, we are given small snippets of the most horrific, worst possible, least helpful and not at all encouraging stories out there! And while not every labour and delivery is the same, or even goes smoothly, I want to share my story with expecting mothers, to say that it’s not all bad, things don’t always go perfectly, but they can still go very well and it can be a wonderful, and empowering experience!
To start I wanted to say, it was important to me not to write down a birth plan. I had one, I discussed it with my midwives, but I did not want it on paper, because for me I knew that any variation from that piece of paper would feel like a failure, and would be very very disappointing. In hindsight I’m happy with that decision. Here is what my verbal birth plan included. Get baby out, vaginally, without induction, or other interventions, including the use of pain medication. Post delivery, I wanted baby placed on me, and to have skin to skin bonding for as long as possible. Delayed cord clamping, I wanted to try breastfeeding before he was taken away for measurements and other assessments. The rest was either standard practice or wasn’t that important to me!
Getting The Party Started
On Friday May 17th, around 1pm I started having very mild, period like cramps. They were so mild that I never even mentioned them to Hubby Bumpkin, before he left for his final shift for more than 4 months of parental leave. I was sure that what I was experiencing was just false labour, and I didn’t want him to think that I was being over dramatic, not that I have a tendency to do that or anything. 🙂 After a failed attempt at a nap, I decided to have a shower and go for a walk because I had heard that those would slow or stop the cramping and I would be able to get a few chores done around the house!
Later on, around supper time, I was outside walking while chatting with my mum on the phone, you know, incase a cougar tried to eat me. I was wearing a tank top, and some of my silliest pyjama bottoms (not my Dr. Suess footie ones, believe it or not), and because it was the Friday of a long weekend and we live in ‘Cottage Country’ the increased traffic on our road made me only a little more self conscious as I waddled up and down the driveway. My mum recommended that I start timing my ‘cramps’, so I quickly downloaded an app for my Ipod touch. (I don’t remember which one, likely the first free app when you search contraction timer). I really thought it was pointless, because contractions are supposed to hurt, and these didn’t. I was borderline in denial, and was surprised to see that these ‘cramps’ were quite regular coming about 6-7+ minutes apart and lasting 20-30 seconds each. While on the phone I moved inside and started bouncing on my gigantic exercise ball, holding my Contigo water bottle, it accidentally slipped landed on the hard floor and the clip piece broke off. I exclaimed “MY water bottle broke”, which led to my mom screaming ‘Your water just broke?! Your water broke?!!!” That may have been the most disappointed in me, that she’s ever been!
At 930pm I phoned Hubby Bumpkin at work, I think he thought I was playing a joke on him, this being his last shift for more than 4 months or so, but because he works so close to home, I just told him I’d let him know if I needed him later on. I was a tad nervous because I was all by myself, but I kept really busy, and had my mom on speaker phone while I tidied up around the house, so Hubby Bumpkin really would have been bored and likely in the way if he were home anyways. Once I was convinced that this might actually be the start of something real, it was amazing how much I was able to accomplish. Not that I should need to go into labour to really deep clean my house… but it was pretty difficult to procrastinate in that situation.
When he got home from work just after midnight, I decided to have one more quick shower to try and slow things down (just in case it really was some kind of super powered stubborn false labour) and when that didn’t work, surprise surprise, I phoned the midwife.
My midwife Leah wasn’t on call, but luckily I really bonded well with the midwife she shares call with, Veronica. She suggested because my contractions were about 5-6 min. apart, and 40-50 seconds long that we make the trip into the hospital! She had been at another birth all the previous night and said if we were ok with it, she’d wait for the nurse to check me and have her make the call as to when she should come in.
It is an hour long drive from our house to the hospital, so after gathering up some last second items from home (My hospital bags were packed for a few weeks and already in the trunk of my car) and taking 1 final belly shot we left the house. There was much rejoicing, the monthly belly shots were finally over! Thank you Hubby Bumpkin for tolerating my demanding ways!
The Drive In
1 am. The drive to the hospital, let me tell you, It was an experience like no other! I was anticipating being stuck in the car in excruciating pain crying and screaming at Hubby Bumpkin to “Hurry the _____ up!” but that wasn’t the case at all. I now know exactly what Snow White must feel like if she were to be transfered to the hospital! (I really do imagine that at least one of those dwarves had some sort of Midwifery background, and she likely had an idyllic home birth in her quaint cottage nestled deep in the heart of the woods) I however was so distracted by the representation of every woodland creature’s family sent to the road to wish us well on our journey to even notice the contractions. I kid you not there were fox, skunk, porcupine, rabbits and deer scattered in the ditch, on the shoulder, and in many cases smack dab in the middle of the road. We only had to slam on the brakes twice to avoid hitting an animal, but all the glowing eyes by the side of the road really had me focused!
*No animals were hurt in the making of this birth story..but there were some close calls!
Arriving at the Hospital
2am. When we got into the hospital things were very quiet. Due to some construction it was a long walk up a covered ramp, and down a few empty hallways before we made it to the reception desk. After the trek we took to get in, walking past dozens of wheelchairs parked along the walls, standing to sign some paperwork and a good couple minutes of conversation with the receptionist, she offered me a wheelchair to take the elevator up to Maternity. I just laughed and told her I was ok.. and waddled off. When we got upstairs the bubbliest nurse I’d ever met greeted us by name in the hallway, (gotta love small hospitals, like small towns, they know your business before even you do!) Which is exactly the way it was when she checked me a few minutes later. I was 3.5cm dilated and about 90%! This was the real deal, and they were keeping me, until I had a baby! She suggested that we go for a walk in the hallways to keep things going. This was good news to me because it was much more comfortable to be walking or moving than sitting still or laying on my back. Hubby Bumpkin and I wandered the hallway for about 2 laps, it was a pretty slow walk because, well honestly, it was a pretty short hallway. Maternity shares a space with Surgical, so the farther we got down the hall, the more ‘hospital like’ the view was, which made us both a little uncomfortable. We headed back to our room where I sat on a birthing ball placed on the floor at the foot of the bed. Having been awake since 8am the morning before I was quite tired, so I would rest my upper body on the bed and try and doze between contractions, but the excitement really didn’t allow me to get much rest!
At about 5 am, I knew I wanted to get into the tub. I was having contractions that I had to stop and breathe through, and I was looking for a little relief! The hospital doesn’t allow water births (although it sounds like there may have been one or two ‘accidentals’ in the past) but has a giant jetted tub for labouring in. I told Hubby Bumpkin that I wanted to call the nurse to get it ready but he was trying to hold me off a little longer, he was worried after I told him that sometimes getting in the water can slow things down if it’s done too soon. Thankfully not long after, the nurse walked into our room to check in on us (for the most part we were left to do our own thing, and this was maybe the second time she came into the room just to see how it was going.) She checked me and I was 6cm! Not bad progress! The nurse seemed impressed with how I was coping, and was very encouraging. I actually found it a little funny because I normally don’t handle pain very well, I thought, she must think I’m not doing well and is trying to make me feel better about myself. But looking back, I really wasn’t that uncomfortable yet and probably was coping well for being where I was.
I got into the tub about 5:45am, and honestly didn’t find it was that helpful off the bat. The tub was so large that I mostly just slid around in there. The jets were not positioned anywhere near where I would have liked them (they never are, are they!) and the water was luke warm at best (I know, I know, safest for baby). I just kind of hung out, uncomfortable and wet between contractions, while Hubby Bumpkin dozed on and off in a chair beside me. When contractions started getting more intense I wasn’t able to talk or move through them. Hubby Bumpkin did an excellent job of reminding me to take long deep breaths, which really helped take away my focus on the pain. The part of being in the tub that I did like, was the shower head. I used it to spray (much warmer) water onto my back, and later onto my belly during contractions.
At 630 am Veronica and the student midwife Lorissa (who had also been shadowing Leah at my appointments) arrived (they were nice and refreshed, which is just what I was hoping for!) so Hubby Bumpkin left to grab himself some breakfast and a coffee, and he was back in a flash! (I may have threatened him with bodily harm should he miss the birth) I stayed in the tub for another hour or so. As much as I didn’t think the tub was helping, when I got out things were much more intense immediately.
Here is where things start getting real.. really gross that is! When I got out for a bathroom break I discovered I lost my mucus plug partly in the water, and the rest when I used the toilet (also, here’s a little heads up, going pee while in labour is really really not fun). When I got back into the tub, I almost immediately felt a lot of pain and pressure during the next contraction. I started to feel a little panicked. Hubby Bumpkin did a wonderful job keeping me focused, his voice was surprisingly soothing, and nothing like the drill sergeant I was expecting. I felt quite nauseous at this point, and decided after the first contractions back in the tub that I wanted out, like 10 seconds ago! I had to wait for one more contraction to end before I was able to stand up and get out of the tub. Lorissa wrapped me in a large warm blanket and all but held up all my body weight as I walked back to my room. Labour had really gone from manageable, to painful quite quickly. And if I had any desires for decency or modesty… they vanished right around this point!
The Final Countdown
7:30am. As soon as I got back into my room I crawled up onto the bed and was in quite a bit of pain. The most comfortable position for me was lying on my right side, or so I thought, really I think that was the position I ‘landed’ in and with contractions coming back to back, there was no opportunity to move. I felt overwhelmingly like I was going to throw up. For some reason this became my worst case scenario. Each contraction caused me to panic, as much pain as I was feeling a lot of my energy was focused on not throwing up! I didn’t think I would make it through many more of those, and they were coming one on top of another. Now, in my verbal birth plan, the agreement was that if I asked for any drugs that Hubby Bumpkin, and my midwives would do their best to delay it. Either suggesting that I wait 1-3 more contractions, or that I be checked for progress before administering any meds. At this point, I asked (ever so sweet and politely, I’m sure) for the gas. I know it must have been the tone in my voice, but I doubt there were 10 seconds between when I finished saying ‘gas’ and when a mask was handed to me. Bless them all for changing the plan for me! I wouldn’t have tolerated anything else very well at all!
I know that they say that the gas is loved by some and hated by others! Although not in my original plan, it’s safe to say it was loved by me! It took away the nauseous feelings completely, took the edge off the pain and I was even able to doze off between contractions. I knew ahead of time I was most open to using the gas over other drugs, because I felt that it was the least invasive. Thankfully it worked so well for me, there was never any desire to try anything else. (noting that epidurals are not available during labour at this hospital, only in the event of surgery would one be given)
During each contraction I felt more pressure in my bottom. As much as it hurt, there was a sense of relief every time I had a contraction. It was totally involuntary, but during each one I was bearing down and pushing. I would wake up for each contraction and start sucking back the ‘air’ in the mask. It made a rattling noise, and the harder I inhaled the faster and stronger it would rattle and the better I would feel. I started sucking back the gas like it was going out of style! I could hear Lorissa’s voice telling me that I was doing wonderful, and that baby would be here soon! I can’t tell you how exciting that was! Because of the wonderful effects of the gas I have zero concept of time. It could have been 5 minutes and it could have been hours later, but during one contraction as my body started pushing again, it was like someone popped a very full water balloon, my water officially broke on it’s own, and oh man was that gross! It sprayed everywhere! I again got very scared because I have heard so many times women say that after their water broke contractions got much more painful. I didn’t think I could cope with more pain! In my case though, I didn’t notice any difference! Other than a very wet leg!
Time to Meet Baby
I’m not sure exactly what time, but not long before he was born Lorissa began giving me instructions on how to breathe after his head was out, like I was trying to keep a feather in the air. I felt a lot of pressure, and burning, but there was nothing I could do to stop my body from pushing, this was great because I think if I had a choice, at this point I would have packed up and gone home, I was over being in labour! I’m a big Johnny Cash fan, but he was singing about a totally different Ring of Fire, I can promise you that! The midwives kept saying, “I can see his head, it’s right there” and that was all the motivation I needed. As much as it burned, I knew it wouldn’t last forever, it was like I got my second wind, and on my next contraction I let my body do it’s thing, and BAM! His head was out!
9:08am. It so seemed that Lorissa’s instructions were for nothing, as soon as his head was out, his shoulders and body shot out at rocket speed! I was in total shock, it was over! He was here! I am pretty sure I babbled on for quite some time about how amazing he was, and that I did it, I had a baby! Hubby Bumpkin was honestly a little grossed out, a little amazed, and a whole lot exhausted. (I’m the one that just pushed out an 8 and a half pound baby, remember) but most of all, totally and immediately in love, as was I! My whole body started shaking, uncontrollably, but it felt so good, to have him here, and to be holding him! It was by far the biggest and best adrenaline rush I’d ever experienced!
When Arthur was born, they immediately placed him on my tummy for skin to skin. This was so important to me, and I felt huge waves of relief and comfort that we were able to get this time to bond! They delayed clamping his cord, but it was pretty clear very soon after he came out, that things weren’t all smooth sailing.
I think I clued in when I could hear the midwives speaking quickly and quietly back and forth, I caught the tail end of “She’s losing a lot of blood” and although this probably should have triggered a reaction out of me, I felt a strange sense of calm. I felt ok, my baby was here, and I was in love. Nothing could be that bad! The nurse had already assured me that Arthur looked perfectly healthy, although I never did hear, or ask for his Apgar score. But it was obvious that my body wasn’t cooperating.
Part of our verbal plan was that I would only take Pitocin after he was born, if there was a need for it. Before I knew it a nurse said something quickly before jamming a needle in my arm, and the starting an IV. I was ok with all of this because there did seem to be a legitimate need for the medication. I’m pretty sure in hindsight she did inform me of what she was doing before the needle, but at the time it seemed like everything happened very fast!
The next little while or so was quite uncomfortable. Veronica ended up taking over from Lorissa, who up until this point did an absolutely incredible job! She used a lot of gauze that later had to be removed, and honestly I think that hurt more than labour did! They allowed me to keep the mask during this time, but it didn’t feel as good anymore. Suddenly the gas made me feel quite dizzy, which it didn’t do during delivery. It was more like I was drunk, not sleepy, so I’m sure I was delightfully entertaining at this point! I had Hubby Bumpkin put a hand on Arthur just to make sure he didn’t roll off me, because I was feeling quite weak. It is sure amazing how perspective changes regarding pain when you are cuddling skin to skin with your precious new baby!
I had a 2nd degree tear, internally, that needed some stitches, but that was probably the least painful part of my immediate recovery! Over all I felt pretty good, and despite losing a lot of blood I considered myself quite lucky that everything resolved itself before more serious complications came up. We tried breastfeeding, and it was about 2 hours before they took him off me to do further assessments and check his weight and length! That was such bliss to me! Exactly what I had planned and hoped for, and being able to be close to my baby for so long immediately after birth I believe had great healing powers for me!
The Rest of the Story
Later on that afternoon I really had to pee. With a nurse and Hubby Bumpkin supporting me, I felt quite dizzy and faint, so I instead decided to just wait a little longer. When Hubby left to pick himself up some lunch I made a second attempt to get up. First of all let me say, I wish I had of been warned, it stings. BAD. For me however this only lasted about 2 days and having the little spray bottle of water they give you handy, really made all the difference! With a nurse in the room I remember saying something along the lines of “I feel really dizzy” and the next thing I knew 2 nurses were holding me up, and yelling at me. Turns out I fainted, while on the toilet. I luckily didn’t hit the floor, but it was a struggle to get me back to bed. I was quite embarrassed, I mean it’s one thing to push a baby out of your body in front of a crowd (Midwife, Student Midwife, Nurse and Hubby Bumpkin), but it’s another to pass out with your underwear around your ankles! They thankfully got me set back up, but because of this spell took a closer look at some blood work. My hemoglobin levels were very low, so I was immediately put on iron supplements. The midwife suggested we spend a second night in the hospital. Before going home my levels had dropped even lower (much lower and I would have needed a blood transfusion), but I was ready to sleep in my own bed so badly that they let us leave on the promise to take as much iron as possible in the form of pills and in my diet, knowing I’d be closely monitored once home by both my regular midwife Leah, and the Public Health Nurse’s home visits!
Since being home, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my birth experience. I held a lot of anxiety about what going into labour, and giving birth would be like. Looking back, very little of it went how I was expecting, most aspects were much better! I know that my experience is unique to me, but I wish more women had shared how amazing giving birth was. Did it hurt? Yes, by the end it really was the most painful experience of my life. Was it the worst experience of my life? Not even close, in fact I’d even go as far as to say it was the best! I really never knew how capable I was of handling something like that, and how powerful my body was..even with the use of drugs, I felt like I accomplished a lot on my own! I know that I am so lucky to have been able to have had such a positive experience, that said I didn’t get the “All Natural” birth I wanted. And you know what? I’m perfectly OK with that! My baby is here, he’s healthy and for the most part happy (until one tries to change him out of a wet diaper). I feel so blessed and have been soaking up all the new baby bliss that there is, and with this little guy, there is a lot! Arthur is an excellent sleeper and nurses like a champ!
In the coming weeks and months I look forward to sharing with you more of my experience as I enter the realm of motherhood, but I’d also like to share, specifically with first time moms to be the little tid bits I wish others had shared with me. After reading this if you are a first time mom, I really hope that you take away at least some positive from my story. I think it is so important to know that bringing your baby into the world will be an amazing experience, good or bad, like you planned or not, when you hold your beautiful, slimy (yes, they will be slimy, and you may just kiss them, slime and all!) baby, you will know that YOU did that! And nothing beats that feeling!