Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mama’s out there! What better day to share the story of how I became a Mom? Time to go grab a cup of tea and settle in, this is a long one. People asked me all throughout my pregnancy if I would share my birth story once the baby was born, I honestly hadn't given it much thought until closer to my due date once I started reading birth stories online. I love that each woman's story is different. Note, this is not a horror story of labour and delivery. Did unexpected things come up? Yes, but it was such a positive experience and I wouldn't change a thing... ok maybe a couple things but I'll explain later.
I chose to have a midwife (highly highly recommended), I loved going to my appointments and preparing for birth. Labour wasn't something I feared as I knew my body was designed for this. I knew that I didn't want an epidural and wanted minimal interventions but would give birth at a hospital. My thought process was that millions of women give birth without drugs, my mother included who gave birth to 4 children with no pain medication. That said I was planning on using a TENS machine and laughing gas if needed. There was always the epidural available if I had one of those "GET ME THE DRUGS NOW" moments, right? Wrong, at least for me. Spoiler alert, I did have one of those moments but it wasn't during labour. That was a few hours later but I'll get to that. Due to a bleeding disorder that I've had my whole life my midwife recommended that I go for a consult with an anesthesiologist to see if an epidural would even be an option for me if I changed my mind. The anesthesiologist then referred me to a hematologist and she explained that an epidural would be too risky and it wasn't an option for me. Great news to me! Since I didn't want one anyway this removed the option. I’ll never forget the look of shock on her and her resident’s face when I was happy to hear that I couldn’t have an epidural. The hematologist also referred me to an OBGYN. This was the scary part. I was so nervous that they would classify me as high risk and I would to transferred to their care. Note, that this was all happening very late in my pregnancy. By time I saw the OBGYN I was 37 weeks pregnant. Sure enough I sat in his office with him and he said that with the risk of my bleeding, I was too high risk to continue under midwifery care. I tried to explain to him again that my midwife and I had a very cautious plan in place to prevent excess bleeding and extra precautions in case those didn't work. All of the treatment would be the same under midwifery care or OB but there would be no middle man if anything very serious came up. As I was explaining this to him I couldn't fight back the tears any longer. I started bawling, like uncontrollable sobbing with this poor man. Luckily I was transferred to him specifically, he let me cry as long as I needed to and was very comforting. He told me to write down all of the things that I planned for in labour and delivery and he would ensure that the hospital would accommodate as much as possible. He explained that the only real difference that I would notice was that my midwife wouldn't be able to deliver the baby but that she could attend the birth as a support person. Regardless, I was still heartbroken. I started reading birth stories and looking into birth plans and preferences. I didn't want a written plan originally as I know that things come up and birth isn't something that we can control or plan. But I was nervous that I wouldn't have the natural birth I was hoping for.
At 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant, the Thursday before Good Friday, I had an appointment with my OB. He recommended that I have a post due date ultrasound to make sure everything was still going well and we would talk about induction next week (something that I wanted to avoid at all costs). I had the ultrasound and later that day my OB called me (it's always bad news when the Dr calls you directly). He informed me that he had put me on the induction list at the hospital for the next day because my placenta was looking "tired" and compared to my last ultrasound there was some concern about the baby's growth. I wasn't personally concerned about the growth because I know that ultrasounds can be over a pound off in predicting weight. But I also didn't want to put my baby at any unnecessary risk so we planned to go to the hospital once we got the call and I would be induced. Ugh. Enter all the tears again. I emailed my midwife with the update and she called me back right away. She suggested that I try castor oil as a final effort to get labour started on my own. At this point it was Thursday evening; I was at home and I live out in the country so it's safe to say that my local corner store would not carry castor oil along with the other ingredients to make the induction cocktail that my midwife gave me the recipe for. Luckily my hubby was still downtown and just about to leave work so I frantically called all the health food stores around to make sure they had all the ingredients. After his wild goose chase, James came home with castor oil, almond butter, apricot juice and lemon verbena. So I blended it all up and down the hatch it went. It is suggested to do 3 doses few hours apart so I stayed up most of the night (not like a was getting much sleep during my pregnancy anyway) sipping away on this induction cocktail, praying that it would work.
Throughout the night I was having some stomach pain which I chalked up to the castor oil. Around 5am I noticed some lower back pain that was minor but starting coming and going. I decided to start timing them just to see if they could really be contractions. After about 10 minutes of timing the pains were consistently 2 minutes apart lasting for 20 - 30 seconds. This was it! Time to wake up James and get the show on the road. We started getting ready for the hospital, still thinking that is was going to slow down, I mean who starts labour with contractions only 2 minutes apart! Contractions did not slow down and around 9am I started throwing up. Ok, time to go the hospital. My parents quickly came over so that Mom could come to the hospital with us and Dad could take Rudy (our sweet pup) home with him. Note: I always planned on having my mom with me when I delivered. She is an amazing person in stressful situations and I knew she would provide so much love and support. A 30 minute car ride with full on back labour and contractions still 2 minutes a part was not so fun. Just as we were making on final turn to the hospital I realized I forgot my wallet. Great, can you have a baby without a health card, or any ID for that matter? Turns out you can. Luckily I was preregistered and had some documents from my midwife's office that they were able to use.
When we arrived at the hospital I was 3 cm dilated and was admitted. Once we were settled in our room the baby's heart rate had dropped drastically. The nurse had me flip flopping on the bed and had James call the emergency bell. I could tell he was nervous but thankfully the baby's heart rate came back up but I had to have constant monitoring from the next few hours to make sure everything was ok. Contractions were getting longer and more intense. Up until this point I was managing the pain, still back labour at this point, by leaning over, swaying and having either James or my mom massage my lower back. We decide to give the TENS machine a try and got that hooked up. OMG that thing was my saving grace. As the contractions got stronger and stronger I would crank that puppy up to the max. The TENS machine does by no means take away the pain but it does provide a distraction and something else to focus on. The next time I was checked I was 4 cm dilated and they were hoping to move things along. The OB came in and did a stretch and sweep. Over the next couple of hours, we did lots of walking the halls, trying different positions, and even laughing and joking around. I was managing the pain quite well and was generally feeling pretty good. At my next check I was 6 cm dilated and they recommended that they break my water to progress things. I was pretty nervous about this as I had heard that if they break your water it can intensify contractions really quickly. But hey, no pain no gain right? I had been texting my midwife with every update. Once she heard they were going to break my water she came to the hospital as an additional support person. Once the baby was born and if everything went well we would be transferred back to midwifery care. Contractions did become much more intense at that point but we continued to walk the halls and crank up that TENS machine. All day James had been such a great birth partner, he was so supportive and helpful. He kept telling me "you're doing great dear" with every contraction. But after 18 or so hours of hearing "you're doing great dear" I couldn't take it anymore. After I was done breathing through a rather difficult contraction I lost it and said "you cannot say that to me one more time! I don't care what you say but you can't say that!" Poor guy. Contractions soon became too difficult to walk through so we trying all kind of different positions; squatting, side laying left, side laying right, side laying with a birthing ball. At the next check I was 8 cm and the TENS machine was no longer cutting it. Enter the laughing gas. Again, it doesn't take away or change the pain that you are experiencing but it takes the edge off and I found it really helped to focus on my breathing. This was especially important because it wasn't long until I felt the need to push. Is there anything harder than not pushing when your whole body is telling you to push? Luckily it wasn't too long before they checked me again and I was 10cm. This was it. The final stretch.
Again, I was pushing in all kinds of different positions. I had ditched the laughing gas and was just focusing on pushing and getting my baby out. I had the best support possibly with my dream team and they cheered me on with every push. My midwife gave lots of advice on how to push, what positions to use and even what noises to make. Yes, the low deep groans are more helpful than the high pitch squeals I was making before. After an hour of pushing my pulse had skyrocketed to over 160bpm. They told me that if I couldn't get it down than I would need a C-section. Oh dear god no. Since an epidural wasn't an option if I needed a C-section it meant that I would need to go under general anesthetic, meaning that James wouldn't be allowed in the room. I've been under general anesthetic before and I am groggy for a long time afterwards and that's not how I wanted to meet my baby. They started me on IV fluids to help lower my heart rate. With every push everyone kept telling me to relax my legs. I was flexing my legs with every push. I simply could not relax my legs, eventually I just stopped trying to figured I'd deal with the damage later. I remember James saying that he could see the head and that our little one had hair. My midwife asked if I wanted to feel the head, at that point I had no idea just how much of the head was out. I reached down and felt my baby's head for the first time. That was enough motivation to keep going. I couldn't wait to hold him in my arms. The next thing I remember seeing was the Dr holding a scalpel telling me that she was going to do an episiotomy to help get him out. "NO!" was all I could think. I wanted to tear naturally to ease the healing process afterwards. I looked at my midwife and she encouraged me to give it a few more pushes to see if I could get him out without doing the episiotomy. Being a very goal-oriented person, I was up for the challenge. I pushed with all my might and it wasn't long before they placed my sweet boy on my chest. He came straight to me for skin to skin. At 2:47am he was here, I was a Mom.
Of course we didn't know the sex of the baby but those first few moments with my baby I didn't even think about it, I was just so happy that I was holding my baby. After a few moments, someone finally said "are you ready to know the sex?" I lifted him off my chest slightly, moved his umbilical cord so that James and I could both see and we announced, "it's a boy!" We were overjoyed. After months of waiting we finally got to meet the little one that we had been imagining. Another person asked if we had a name for the little one. I looked at James and asked him if he was ready to assign the name that we had discussed, he gave a nod and I introduced Finnegan to our birth team. Within those first few moments Finn began to bob his little head and started nursing right away and then had a little nap. It was perfection. Eventually, after most of the team had left the room, our midwife weighed Finn and he came in at 7lbs 11 oz. After getting checked over he went to James for skin to skin so I could get cleaned up and get ready to move to the maternity ward.
This is where the complications started. Before I even got out of the bed I knew that my legs were in rough shape, especially my right glute. My legs felt like lead, as if I had just run 6 marathons in a row. I managed to get up and walk to the bathroom with the nurse. Here's where we get into the real TMI stuff (as if talking about my placenta and episiotomies wasn't TMI enough). After giving birth they need to make sure that you can go pee and everything is functioning. Do not underestimate how important that first pee is. Especially if you've been pumped with fluids like I had. I didn't realize how crucial this was, so I had a little tinkle and was ready to get out of the delivery room. I wanted to hold my son again and let Mom and James get some sleep. We made our way to our new room and made up the cot and chairs so we all could get some sleep. They quickly dozed off but my glute was in too much pain to sleep. I figured that I would walk around to try to ease the pain. I managed to get out of bed and thought I'd go to the washroom. My legs gave out and I basically fell onto the toilet and felt a very strong contraction pain and my body of bearing down and pushing again. What was happening? I screamed out in pain and Mom and James came running in, they called the nurse to help. I couldn't even lift myself off the toilet. Two nurses had to pick me up and sat me in a wheelchair. I explained the pain as best I could but I was having major muscle pain in my glute and the contraction like pain. I couldn’t tell if they were related or not. They offered me dilaudid or Tylenol. I thought, common nurse (I can't remember her name now), I just went through 22 hours of labour with almost 2 hours of pushing with no meds, I don't need anything. I quickly changed my mind and took the Tylenol. Within just a few moments the pain had escalated so much that I changed my mind again, get me the dilaudid. Over the next little while the pain got so intense that my whole body was shaking, and I was bawling with the pain. I would have rather gone through labour again than deal with that pain. There was no break and no end in sight. My muscle was spasming and the contraction pains continued. My body continued to bear down and push. The nurses had called for an OB and once they arrived (which felt like forever) she explained that she suspected it was my bladder and they would try a catheter to see if that would relieve the pain. I was begging for the drugs at this point. They had given me two more shots of dilaudid in the arm and were working on getting me a muscle relaxant. They were also going to send me for a CT scan to ensure that I hadn't ruptured my bladder or a kidney, or that I didn't have a blood clot from my torn glute muscle. I could see that James and my Mom were scared as they watched my body shaking. I couldn't even think about the fear; I was too focused on the pain. I can only remember staring at the nurse the was holding my hand and all I could say was "where are the drugs!!!!" This was pain like nothing I had ever experienced. Finally, I was given a muscle relaxant and was feeling much better after in kicked it. Within an hour with the catheter I had lost 2 litres of fluid. And another fluid an hour after that.
It turns out that my bladder was so full that it was unable to empty and it starting contracting. This is definitely something you want to avoid at all costs. Again, don't underestimate the importance of that first pee after delivery. Lesson learned, next time (yes we're planning on having at least one more little one), I will not be leaving that delivery room until I am completely empty... or maybe I'll just ask for a catheter right away lol. The muscle pain was mostly stemming from a gigantic bruise that I didn't even know I had until a few days later. The midwife came to our house to check my myself and Finn and when she was checking me out she was shocked to see the size and the colour of this bruise. I was about 16 inches long, and 10 inches wide all on my right side. It was unlike anything she had ever see before. I didn't need any more muscle relaxants after leaving the hospital and had some chiropractic care and massage therapy to aid in the healing. Luckily Finn was happy as could be just snoozing away while we were dealing with everything that was going on with me. As that first day went on I was able to get up and walk the halls, snuggle my baby, eat (thank god I had brought my own snacks! These Protein Balls were my saving grace that day).
Despite the complications that I had after Finn's delivery it was an amazing experience. I felt that I could do anything after giving birth. Dare I say that labour was actually kind of fun? Call me crazy but I really enjoyed experiencing just how strong the human body is. If you're nervous or scared of labour and delivery, know that your body was designed for this and you can do it. I found the book Hypnobirthing very helpful in preparing my mindset beforehand. While I don't agree with everything in the book I loved its overall message that birth is not to be feared and it's the fear that brings the most pain. I also really liked the birth preferences that it had outlined in the back. It really helped me to compile my list when I was transferred to OB care. I had my naturopath, a former midwife, look it over and help me refine it, as well as my midwife and her midwifery student. Looking back at that list now there was many items that didn't happen but I wasn't disappointed that certain things didn't go exactly that way. I purposely called that list my birth preferences, not a plan because I knew that you cannot plan a birth, it will progress and shift in many different ways that you cannot anticipate. That's what makes every woman's story different and beautiful in its own way. There is no right or wrong way to give birth, all that matters is the end result of a healthy mama and babe. I hope you enjoyed reading my story and how I came to be the mom of the most gorgeous little boy (ok maybe I'm a bit biased).
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