When Javi asked me to share my birth story, I figured it would be an easy (and very short) project. I had relived our birth adventure many times in my son’s ten months of life and I was excited to share a positive birth story on her blog. I assumed I’d start my story when my labour began; but, after much research, I now believe birth stories start much earlier than that! (If you’re only interested in the latter, skip down to LABOUR)
My husband and I wanted children as early as possible in our marriage. We knew that it had taken my parents several years to conceive so we were prepared for that challenge. We were shocked to learn very soon after we were wed that we were also expecting. Excitement and nerves ran high in our house that month.
The first two trimesters were a blur of physical changes, emotions, anxiety, excitement, and travel. I ate more white bread during my first trimester than I have in the past 10 years. Every bite of it was delicious. My sisters were both humoured and annoyed that I couldn’t mention a food I wanted without our mom running to the kitchen to prepare it for me. My husband immediately started researching cribs, strollers and car seats and presented me with information that I could still be sorting through today if I had really considered all of it. We spent two weeks honeymooning in Hawaii telling anyone that asked all the details about our growing family.
At our 20 week ultrasound, the technician asked if we wanted to know the sex. She began showing us all of the wonderful growing parts of our baby. As she pointed to different parts on the screen, she said, “Here’s the baby’s head and the baby’s thumb. And here is her heartbeat!” Quickly after we saw her heartbeat, we also saw his penis. It was a very confusing moment for both of us. The technician insisted she didn’t use the word “her” but both my husband and I had heard it. We’d gone from having a daughter to a son in seconds and after the initial shock, we were ecstatic! Coming from a family of all girls, I had a lot to learn about having a baby boy.
I had a hard time controlling my anxiety about labour and delivery so my friend recommended we reach out to a doula. In just one hour, Nicole made me feel much more empowered and confident about what was going to happen. We immediately signed our agreement with her to ensure she’d be available for our due date.
The next few months flew by and dragged at the same time. We took a prenatal class and learned how to diaper, bathe and feed our baby. We had our baby shower. We set up our nursery. We bought a new car. I took prenatal yoga. We packed our hospital bags.
As we got closer to our due date, my anxiety about labour resurfaced and began to affect my everyday life. I was having trouble falling asleep at night. I was not eating enough. The (most likely irrational) fear of going into labour and delivering my baby at work was constantly on my mind. I had to apologize to many of my friends as they welcomed their first child, but I was not able to listen to their birth stories as I was trying to work through the fear of my own.
Due to the stress I was feeling, I was eventually told to stay home from work and try to relax. At our 39 week check up, I was surprised to learn that I was already starting to dilate and my body was doing everything it was supposed to be. The next week, I was even more surprised when our midwife said we should expect to meet our baby in the next few days. At our final appointment, I asked her briefly about breathing and pushing as it was something no one had ever talked to me about. She explained how it worked and helped me to practice a few times in her office.
After my last midwife appointment, I felt great. I met a friend for a quick lunch. I went home and had a very long nap (which had become a daily routine). I ate dinner and picked up my sister to get our nails done. We sat beside each other and talked about nothing and everything for an hour. As I stood up to leave, I noticed my pants felt a bit wet. I quickly asked her if she could see it from the outside. I remember her already big eyes getting even larger as she said “YES!” We paid as quickly as possible and called the midwife (Bonnie) from the car. At that point, I wasn’t having contractions but Bonnie was fairly certain my water had started to break. She advised me to go home, put my breast pump on (to hopefully progress things along) and to wait for her to call me back in an hour. She told me to get ready; we were meeting our baby very soon! My sister drove home as I called my husband and my mom to let them know the plan.
Fifteen minutes later, everyone was at my house. I was sitting in my living room, nearly naked, breast pump on, bouncing on my exercise ball. My sister and I were timing contractions through an app on my phone. My mom took a quick glance at the app and noticed my contractions were coming about two minutes apart. She told me that we didn’t have time to wait for Bonnie to call us back, and unless I planned on having my baby at home, we’d better get in the car and get to the hospital. At the time, I remember thinking she was being a bit dramatic; I felt fine. We called Bonnie to let her know what was happening, and she agreed it was time to go to the hospital. I waddled myself through the entrance and into the birthing room.
When we arrived, Bonnie did an assessment and told me I was already at 7cm. The next 45 minutes are quite a blur to me. I bounced on a ball, changed into a hospital gown, and drank more water than I knew was possible. I remember asking permission to pee. (I honestly wasn’t sure what would happen if I tried to stand up!) As I sat back down, my water completely broke. I think I screamed because it startled me but I also don’t think I could have suppressed the scream if I had wanted to. With help, I walked back to the bed and had another assessment. Bonnie told me that the next time I felt a contraction, it was go time.
Somehow in that moment, all of the fear left me and I was just excited to meet our baby. Looking around the room, I had an amazing, very supportive team who cared for me and were going to help me get through this. My husband, my mom, our doula, our midwife and two other midwives were present. There is very little I remember about this time, except for that I was thankful I had asked about breathing and pushing prior to actually being in labour. I was grateful for every person in the room supporting me.
I don’t go into too much detail during this part of my story because I think it is important that as women, we support each other through this potentially scary situation. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it hurt. But it was possible and it was worth it.
Before I knew it (and also what felt like years later), Bonnie asked Chris if he’d like to catch Jack. A very loud, screaming baby was placed on my chest and everyone in the room went silent. “He’s got good lungs”, Bonnie said.
I’d done it.
We’d done it.
Nothing could have prepared me entirely for that night. The experience was unfamiliar and too familiar at the same time, just like it seems like yesterday and an eternity ago. My anxiety and fears about labour vanished just as I needed them to.