Sooooo, the last entry I posted ended with “I hope she gets here tomorrow night!” ….And she did!
I am 19 days post partum, but for some reason, feels like forever ago since I’ve given birth. It probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve been getting about 4 hours of sleep a night. We’ve been pretty busy here adjusting to life with Sweet Pea, so I wasn’t able to post my birth story sooner. Hopefully I don’t forget any details, so here goes:
On Tuesday, April 8th, I went on with my day as usual, and Dan came home at around 3pm. We were watching some TV when at 5pm, I felt a weird crampy sensation in my gut. Naturally, I went to go use the bathroom. When I was finished, the cramps were still happening and that’s when I said to myself “these are contractions.” I took a shower because I knew in a few hours I’d probably end up in the hospital with a bunch of people looking at my lady bits.
Dan and I started timing at 5:40pm, and this is also when we moved all of our hospital bags into the car. Right off the bat, the contractions were 5 minutes apart lasting 1:00-1:20 minutes, teetering between 5:15 and 4:30 minutes apart at times. This went on for a few hours, and at 9:30pm, we called the midwife. She told us to call back when they were a little closer together, and to go relax in the tub. I had a contraction while I was on the phone with her, and I think because I could talk through it, she knew there was still a bit of time to go.
It was amazing how fast the time flew by just timing contractions. It was nearly midnight, and Dan and I were zombies waking up every 3-4 minutes to press a button on my phone every time I felt a surge coming on. I was doing well using the hypnobirthing breathing techniques, but anytime I had to get up to use the bathroom I would get the chills and be freezing by the time I got back to the couch. My temperature was slightly elevated, but my midwife wasn’t concerned and explained that it was my body doing lots of work.
After being camped out in the living room for hours, Dan convinced me that we would be more comfortable on a bed – except it just made it harder for him to wake up when I signalled that another contraction started. It was actually more painful lying down, so I took my phone from him, and started timing myself while pacing back and forth. This sped up the contractions significantly, lasting 1:20-1:30 and about 3.5 minutes apart. Dan got a decent nap, and we called the midwife at 3:00am and met her and my birthing companion Shoshana at the hospital at 4:00am.
At one of my previous midwife appointments, they asked me if I would be comfortable having a midwifery student attend my birth. I am SO glad I said yes. (My theory was: everyone needs to learn somewhere.) At first I was a bit nervous about it, thinking that it would be some kid in 4th year university, but when I got to the hospital, I was introduced to her and she turned out to be a very experienced midwife based out of Ireland just looking for re-certification here in Canada.
They triaged me in an examination room before admitting me. I was 100% effaced and 5cm dilated. Only 5 more to go! We “checked in” to the birthing suite and Dan, Shoshana and I were kind of like “now what?” Contractions were still coming, so I breathed through them and both midwives said they were very impressed with the way I was handling everything.
Sweet Pea’s heartbeat was checked with the Doppler every 15 minutes, and stayed a constant 148-152 bpm. Eventually, I got into the jetted tub, and laboured there for a couple of hours. It was very relaxing. A little too relaxing. My contractions were completely painless, but also slowed down to about 5 or 6 minutes apart. This scared me a little, so I got out and started walking again.
At 8:30, I received another internal examination, what was beginning to be my most hated procedure. I was about 7-8 cm at that point. Had a Timmie’s breakfast sandwich (soooo Canadian) and come to think of it – I’m not sure if Dan or Shoshana had lunch! Another round of contractions, and 4 hours later at 12:30, the midwives checked me again and I was at 8cm.
At that point, they asked I wanted them to break my waters. Outside of labour, I would have never entertained this idea. I asked them what the risks were – they said there weren’t any, but that it would cause more intense contractions and help me to progress further. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was excited to meet Sweet Pea, worried about the GD, or just plain exhausted and didn’t want to spend any more time in the hospital than we needed to – but I said yes, and out came the crochet hook. (Yikes.)
My previous contractions were pretty tame, I could deal with them no problem. These next ones were definitely more intense, and I could feel this bowling ball of a weight trapped in between my legs and pelvis. Weirdest feeling ever. Hanging off of the labour bars, I slowly tried to breathe down the weight. More Doppler checks, more temperature readings, more blood pressure readings. 2 hours later, I had another internal exam. I hate internal exams. I was just hoping that they wouldn’t have to do any. But I was 9 cm, and my cervix was getting swollen.
“Heather, you can’t push yet if you’re not at 10cm. You’ve been pushing without knowing it and now your cervix is getting swollen.” I can’t remember the exact wording of what she said next, but basically if I kept pushing and getting swollen, it would lead to more interventions like an epidural and Pitocin. I kept worrying that if I failed to progress, I would end up with a C-section, and I would be so upset that we went through all of this just to end up in the operating room.
Hypnobirthing did not prepare me for what was coming next. My contractions went from an 8 on the pain scale to like a 15. I was no longer peaceful through them, but letting out guttural cries. I finally asked if there was anything that I could take that wasn’t an epidural. Everyone kept saying that when you think you can’t take it anymore, it’s almost over. Contractions were almost every 2 minutes, lasting 1 minute each. It was horrible. We tried different positions and I’m pretty sure I was close to breaking Shoshana’s fingers, I was holding her hands so tightly.
I received yet another internal exam, where I was at 9.5cm. The midwives agreed to let me have nitrous gas: non-invasive, doesn’t affect the baby, but they were hoping that it would relax me enough to get that last half centimetre so I could start pushing. My instructions were to wear the mask and breathe with it on during contractions. The only thing is, it took a while for it to take effect so by the time I started feeling relief the contraction would be over. These were the most painful contractions so far, not to mention the unbelievable urge to push – I kept clenching so that I would prevent myself from accidentally pushing and swelling up even more. I’m pretty sure I looked like Linda Blair in The Exorcist – stiffening up and flailing all over the place.
I was dehydrated and not peeing, so they put a catheter in me which I didn’t feel because of the nitrous. After 3 hours with the gas (which was the maximum time allowed) and another internal exam, I was at 10 cm and ready to push on my own. No more gas – but the feeling of being able to push took away the pain in a different kind of way. It was more pressure and not pain, or at least that’s how I remember it (maybe it hurt so much that I just forgot about it? haha) and felt like a giant bowling ball was trying to work its way through my body. My throat was getting sore and raw from screaming (moaning? They weren’t high pitched screams – more like “ow ow ow get this thing out of me” screams) – still loud, however – I wonder if any of the nurses at the desk outside record these things. I’m pretty sure the door was open behind that curtain as well. Whoops.
It took TWO.FREAKING.HOURS to push her out. After every push I just wanted to heard them say “the head’s coming out! I can see the head!” But no, none of that. Apparently, my perineal muscles were “too strong” and the midwife kept pulling and trying to stretch it out (who knew being loose would have paid off at childbirth? oh, snap). Guess I should’ve done that perineal massage like the book said. Whoops.
FINALLY, her head was coming out and I heard everyone’s voices encouraging me to push, and then the midwife said “push… push… SLOWLY!… Slowly! Okay, push…” and then out.came.everything. The relief that I felt was unbelievable. I felt so much lighter, so open. I was in a bit of shock as I saw Sweet Pea for the first time, I couldn’t believe she was actually here.
She was PURPLE when she came out. It was scary, but I felt better once I heard her cry. They put her on my chest for skin to skin, and then I heard the midwife ask Dan if he wanted to cut the cord and he did. I watched Sweet Pea on my stomach for what felt like seconds, and then all of a sudden it looked like she wasn’t moving. In a split second I thought to myself “is she moving?” and at the same time, one of the midwives told me “oh look, her eyes are open!” I started to feel better but then she took her off of me, brought her to that newborn station (never got the name of it… it’s that spaceship looking thing) and yelled “CALL FOR HELP, CALL FOR HELP NOW.” Next thing I knew, the room was full of hospital staff, all of them crowding around my baby.
I remember not feeling worried. In my head, I just kept thinking back to my mommy group where lots of people had crazy birth stories where their baby was in distress, or something crazy would happen – and they were always okay. I watched the whole thing while my midwives worked on delivering my placenta and trying to draw blood from the umbilical cord. “It’s short… and collapsed… it’s completely collapsed!” she said as she held an empty syringe. I kept thinking to myself “but what does that mean???” Eventually she told me that because it was a short umbilical cord and we delayed cord clamping, Sweet Pea got every last bit of cord blood. Glad we didn’t opt for Cord Blood Banking! My placenta also needed to be sent to pathology, so good thing I opted not to do placenta encapsulation. Childbirth Win!
Childbirth Fail: Because my “muscles were so strong,” I had a partial third degree tear and needed an OB to stitch me up. At first I thought I heard her say I didn’t tear – but that was too good to be true. A doctor came in to sew all my bits back together – and keep in mind that the room is still FULL of other doctors and nurses while I’m just there on the table, all broken and tired. I received a shot of local anaesthetic when he said “you’ll still feel a bit of pulling, just not the sharp stuff.” Umm, I felt the sharp stuff.
Afterwards, they rolled my baby to the NICU and the room turned quiet with just me and two midwives. It was lonely and not at all how I imagined that moment to go. I thought I would be skin-to-skin, breastfeeding her by that point.
I didn’t get to see her for another 3 hours although tons of people were giving me updates. It turns out that her lungs were wet and when the umbilical cord was cut, she didn’t transition well to breathing on her own. Two different respiratory devices were used on her and she improved dramatically with the 2nd unit within an hour.
When I finally did get to see her, she was in a plastic bubble hooked up to probes and IVs and wore a tiny little oxygen mask on her face. It was heartbreaking. After almost 26 hours of labour I couldn’t even hold her to say Happy Birthday, but it was reassuring to know that she was getting better exponentially.
After a long seven days in the NICU for monitoring and antibiotic treatment for pneumonia, she finally came home with us on April 16th 🙂 And so it all begins…