Before I was pregnant I never fully understood why people shared their birth stories; I found it interesting but I wasn’t sure if it was something I would ever do. Now, having experienced our labour and birth, I want to write it down for what it was. I know that over time, the memory of that day will fade (even now it’s already a blur) and I’ll just remember that on March 25th, 2021, I became a mother to a beautiful baby boy.
During my pregnancy, I spent hours watching videos from home births to pain relief, tips and tricks for an easier labour, how to push without tearing and more. I was fascinated. These positive birth stories had me feeling ready and excited to do the same. Of course, if you’ve been pregnant you know that pregnancy comes with unsolicited advice, opinions, myths, superstitions…and it seems, that women are ready and willing to share their experience, particularly the scary, not-so-great parts. I now understood why so many young women and expectant mothers were scared of pregnancy and birth. How was I supposed to be excited with all the negative talk? Yes, there were positive things to be shared, but none more than all the things that sucked. Oh the “naivety” of a new mom. Well, I’m allowed to be positive, to believe I can have a good experience…I am…and guess what, I did!
This story begins about 9 months ago.
I found out I was pregnant mid-summer and I was so excited and terrified at the same time. I was the first of my friends to have a baby and though my sister-in-law had our niece a couple years earlier, this baby was the first in my own family. Oh, and we were about 6 months into a global pandemic (that still hasn’t ended as of May 2021).
I didn’t have a family doctor; they’re hard to come by in the Okanagan. As I searched for a prenatal care provider, I knew the possibilities of Justin not being able to come to appointments with me, the possibility of labouring and delivering alone. I wanted desperately to believe everyone who said this would all be over by the time March 2021 came around. Even still, Justin and I were in a different province from the rest of our families, so there would be no visitors coming to see us in the hospital or bringing food to the house in those first few weeks. We weren’t alone, but it would be a different experience for sure.
As a first-time pregnant person, you don’t know what you don’t know. You are taught how to prevent pregnancy. Never how to be pregnant and prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for labour and delivery. Movies and television shows are far from realistic and the whole topic is quite hush hush in real life. I read the classic What to Expect When You’re Expecting and turned to the app Pregnancy+ – both were great resources. One of the books I read, that I truly believe everyone should read (whether you’re pregnant or a support person to someone expecting), is Hypnobirthing, The Mongan Method. I never made time to listen to the recordings, but the book itself was exactly what I needed mentally. With future pregnancies I will 100% be turning to it again and preparing with the CD and classes if possible.
I’d also like to note that considering there are people going through pregnancy and postpartum every single day, the lack of maternity clothes, products and postpartum essentials in stores is ridiculous.
At the end of my pregnancy, I was feeling all the emotions. I felt like I had been pregnant forever at the same time that it had all gone by so quick. I was ready to not be kicked every night by little feet and for the acid reflux to go away. But, I also knew I would miss carrying our baby safe inside me. We were still in a pandemic, unsure when family would be able to meet the newest addition. With every little change in my body from week 38 on, I questioned if labour would be starting soon. Everyone had a guess and “Just wait until the baby comes” was on repeat in response to almost anything and everything I said.
At 39+4 I made a red raspberry leaf tea and read my “fortune” on the tea bag…
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. – Lao Tzu”.
As soon as I read it I knew, within 24 hours we would meet our baby.
We went to bed early that night and I woke up to contractions around 10:30pm. It felt like menstrual cramping and back pain, but more intense. Sporadic as they were, I went back to bed until some time after midnight when I started timing. I used the Stork app. I let Justin know and after an hour of consistent contractions 3-5 minutes apart, I called the midwives. Since I was uncomfortable but not in pain, she told me to try a Tylenol, Gravol and get some more sleep. I tried, but resting my body was about as much as I was getting. Eventually we both decided to get up and start our day.
We ended up heading to the hospital around 10:30am. My contractions were consistently 2-4 minutes and the Tylenol was doing nothing for the back pain so I had nothing to lose. Who knows, maybe it was baby time?
It wasn’t. I was 2 cm dilated and 60% effaced though! Active labour starts at 4cm, so they gave me a shot of Morphine-Gravol, advised that I return when my water broke or the intensity grew, and sent me home to rest.
We desperately needed groceries and a few other items so before heading home we stopped at Costco. The contractions remained and so did the back pain. I’m not sure the morphine did anything aside from making me feel high and nauseous. Never Again. We picked up Fresh and headed home. I think I took 3 bites of my Buddha Bowl before feeling sick and heading for the bathroom where my water would break and I wouldn’t realize it. Apparently, when your water breaks, things pick up pretty quickly though because I went from 0 to 100 REAL QUICK!
I thought I would try to lie down and get some rest but instead, the contractions just kept intensifying. Justin took our dog for one final walk and we headed to the hospital because there was no question this time, our baby was coming.
The car ride to the hospital was intense. I was feeling a lot of pressure and while the breathwork and moaning through contractions were helpful to me, Justin says it was the longest most terrifying drive he’d been on. We arrived at the hospital at 2:30pm where I had another cervical exam. The nurse told us I was now 7cm dilated and completely effaced.
We were moved into a labour and delivery room, Justin grabbed our bags from the car and I focused on breathing through my contractions. We were so lucky to have 2 amazing nurses and our midwife Erin by our sides throughout the 5 hours it took to bring our baby earthside. I really felt like I was in the drivers seat getting from 7cm to 10cm. Our team was there to offer differing positions to try; on my side, leaning over the top of the bed and on a birthing ball worked best, but they all had a place in my labour when I needed them.
Justin was with me the entire time…
Keeping a cool cloth on my forehead or the back of my neck, making sure I stayed hydrated with water and juice boxes, giving me words of encouragement, holding my hands, relieving pressure from my hips (that’s really where the pain was) and most of all trying to make me laugh and keep the environment warm and calm. Breathing through contractions is no easy feat. I didn’t have an epidural and I never felt like I needed it. When thinking about our birth plan I knew, if I wanted it I would ask and while I was uncomfortable, enduring extreme pressure and intensity, I was so fully present to what was happening. I think things would have gone differently for me had I chosen otherwise. Having Justin by my side through it all was my pain relief, knowing I wasn’t alone. He may not have been sure of just how helpful he was, but I’m here to say I wouldn’t have been able to birth the same way without him.
One thing I learned through our labour was that when you listen to your body, it will tell you what to do. I wanted to switch positions and lean over the bed; it took pressure off my back. The contractions were coming fast with barely any time to relax in between. All of a sudden I remember saying “I need to push!”. The nurses and midwife encouraged me to trust my body and go with it. After that contraction ended, our midwife checked my cervix again and I was 10cm – YAY!
Two hours and a few different labouring positions later, I was still pushing. I could feel him, his head was there. He wasn’t breaking through so my midwife did another check and believed I had a prolapsed cervix. She then told me she was going to prep me for an episiotomy. We had been pushing for a while and they didn’t want the baby to be in distress. Of course, I didn’t want that either but I really did NOT want an episiotomy.
I pleaded for more time and she agreed to give me a few more pushes. I don’t know if it was one of the nurses or our midwife who suggested I feel the baby’s head. In a way I didn’t want to. If they could see him couldn’t they just grab it and this would be done? But, I decided to trust in the process and reach down. There he was! He was so close and it was all the motivation I needed. You think you’ve pushed as hard as you can, you’ve screamed louder than ever before and think you can’t go any further…and then you do.
I’ll never forget the moment of pushing him out. It felt like a water balloon popped between my legs, washing away the intense pressure that had been building all day. The next thing I knew a baby was being brought onto my chest. He was here! Our hearts were full. I was in awe and shock and love. He was quite alert, lifting his head and checking out the new world around him. Justin and I rotated between smiling at each other and smiling at him. He was here 🙂
Once Emmett was on my chest, my midwife guided me to deliver the placenta. With just one little push it was done (what an easy delivery in comparison to a 7lbs baby). The nurses began clearing the area so she could begin her cervical exam. She checked for the prolapsed cervix again, but it was gone so we’re led to believe it was just tissue getting in the way.
We stayed in the hospital for 48 hours and I really didn’t get much sleep while there. From the adrenaline rush, to the awe of looking at our perfect little angel, to just taking it all in, there was very little deep sleep happening. But, I did take time to reflect on what I had just done. My labour was intense and raw and eye-opening. I am still amazed at what my body did. I had a lot of new postpartum pains and the waddle was real. But, my labour and birth experience were very positive and for that I’m grateful, thankful and feeling blessed.
While I don’t know what it was like to be pregnant pre-pandemic, I know that a first pregnancy is something special and cherished.
A year into the pandemic, my experience overall was better than for those who were in the home stretch of theirs in March and April of 2020. That said, I still missed a lot. There was no baby shower for us to celebrate with friends and family, thanking them for the gifts they sent us. Our families didn’t get to see my pregnancy progress and watch the bump grow; facetime isn’t the same and pictures don’t capture baby kicks. The fear of things getting worse and having to deliver alone without a support person was endless. You just wouldn’t understand unless you lived it. Honestly, I hope you never do. But, still, I’m thankful to be able to look back on the past 10 months and say it ended with a healthy, happy baby and that I as well, am doing well.
P.S. I just have to say, I’m glad I wrote down my thoughts that night. It’s now been 6 weeks since Emmett joined us. My labour is in many ways fuzzy, so it’s really cool to re-read it all and be taken back to that day. Whether you’re expecting your first or your fifth, whether you’ve shared a birth story in the past or not, I encourage you to write down any thoughts you might have after your birth experience. You don’t need to share it to appreciate it.