It’s been nearly one month since I brought our baby into the world, and what a month it has been! Now that I have had some time to process my birth experience, I feel ready to share it with you all.
Preparing for birth
It was daunting to think about what giving birth would be like. I had to work through fears and feelings of self-doubt in the weeks leading up to my due date. To help me feel prepared, I researched the pros and cons of having an epidural, c-section, induction, home birth, and hospital birth. I took a birth class to learn about different coping mechanisms to use during labour. I read positive birth stories and books that reinforced the idea that birth is a natural occurrence that our bodies were made to do (I recommend A Guide to Childbirth and Hypnobirthing).
Based on the knowledge I gathered, I wrote out a ‘birth preferences’ list to give to my midwife. All of these things helped get my mind and body ready for the big day.
The waiting game
When my due date arrived, there were absolutely no signs of me going into labour. After a few days, I went to see my midwife, and she informed me that it might be another week or so until baby’s arrival. I realized I needed to go on with life and stop thinking that every day might be “the day”. I started going out again; out for dinner, out to parties, even out to a late night movie at the Toronto Film Festival!
One night after a dinner party, I felt particularly exhausted and decided to head to bed around 9pm. I woke up an hour later with a burst of energy and thought, “I think I’ll go into the living room and dance a bit.” Someone had told me that they induced labour by dancing aggressively around their living room, so I thought why not give it a try .
As soon as I put on a song, my water broke! David and I just stared at each other for a second in shock. “It’s finally happening!” we said ecstatically.
The beginning of my 20-hour labour
Soon after my water broke, we went to bed and tried to get some rest as I knew there was a long journey ahead. I kept getting interrupted by what felt at first like strong abdominal cramps. At this point my mom came over to help support me and David. The presence of my mother (who is also a doula) made me feel calm and comforted.
When 3am came around I couldn’t bear to be in bed anymore and had to get up and move. I started walking around my house and swaying my hips as the surges came and went. They felt like waves, building up in intensity and lasting for about a minute.
At around 5am the surges got more intense and I needed to do something different. I went into my tub and ran hot water over my back each time the surges came. The heat, in combination with the pressure from my mom and David’s back massages, were helping me cope. I remember saying “this is bearable! I feel GOOD!” I kept uttering birth affirmations to myself in between contractions; “my body is opening; I was made to do this; each surge brings my baby closer; I am going to meet my baby soon!” I don’t doubt the power of the mind/body connection and I truly think these words helped me progress quickly.
By 7am my surges were coming even closer together and we decided it was time for the midwife to make her way to my house. I was open to having a home birth based on how my labour progressed and how I felt about the pain. At this point I was feeling confident that I could get through till the end as I continued to labour in the tub.
A change of plans
When my midwife arrived I moved to the bed and she did an internal exam. More fluid came out and she noticed there was meconium (baby pooped in the womb, which is common for overdue babies). This meant that I had to go to the hospital so they could monitor the baby’s heart rate. I definitely got distracted by this news and a bit discouraged. But I was open to whatever needed to be done to safely deliver my baby.
At 9am we made our way to the hospital. When we arrived, something switched in my mind. Maybe it was the change in environment, or maybe it was the fact that I could no longer move around or go into a tub (I was hooked up to a continuous monitor because of the meconium) but I started to have difficulty coping with the pain. At this point I was 6cm dilated. I could no longer carry on a conversion as all my focus was on counting through each contraction. I felt like I was entering another world and began to shut everyone and everything out.
At around 10am my midwife did a second exam and told me I was still at 6cm. I was exhausted and started to feel afraid about going through the rest of labour. Although my midwife said I was close to the end, I felt I was at my limit and requested pain relief. At 2pm I got an epidural and was able to get some much needed rest.
Unfortunately, I was no longer able to move around and use gravity to bring baby down. I just rested in my bed as the contractions continued to rush through my body for the next few hours. I was able to carry on a conversation again and drink water. I kept telling my body to open up so that we could get this baby out soon.
Bringing my baby into the world
By 8:30pm I was fully dilated. I remember feeling pumped and ready to meet our baby.
My midwife, nurse, and OB coached me on when to push so I could effectively work with my body to bring my baby down. My husband was by my side stroking and kissing my forehead, reminding me of my birth affirmations. I closed my eyes and focused my thoughts to a time in my life when I felt strong. I remember everyone in the room cheering me on and the look of amazement on my husband’s face as he watched me work hard to bring our baby into the world. It was an exhilarating experience.
At around 9pm I finally saw our baby boy’s head emerge from my body. He came out quickly, with both hands on his face! The OB called for backup as our baby needed to get the meconium suctioned out of his lungs. He was brought to another table as soon as he emerged, but I remember locking eyes with him from across the room and feeling as though we were still very much connected.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do ‘skin to skin’ or delay cord clamping right after he was born, but as soon as the doctors got him cleared up they placed him on my chest and we started breast feeding. David was also able to do skin-to-skin with him. “We did it baby.” I whispered to my son. “So nice to finally meet you.”
Like I’ve always known you
The way I felt about this whole experience is indescribable. When I finally held Baby C, it was like I had known this little human all my life. It felt natural for him to be with me and on me feeding. Although I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the whole process of labour, I was at peace with everything and felt safe and secure.
I felt so incredibly powerful and strong in the moments leading up to my baby being born. I couldn’t have done it without the incredible support, compassion, and care from my husband, my mom and sister.
My birth story is not exactly what I had envisioned, but the best thing I did for myself was approach it with an open mind. Although I had certain preferences and had educated myself about the options available to me, I knew that I had to be flexible. I leave you with this quote that summarizes how I feel we should approach labour:
I do not care what kind of birth you have…a home birth, scheduled c-section, epidural hospital birth or if you birth alone in the woods next to a baby deer. I care that you had options, that you were supported in your choices, and that you were respected. – January Harshe