Man… Birth? It’s crazy. No matter what sort of birth story you have – it is likely to be the most intense and surreal experience of your life. In preparation for this marathon – we skipped out on traditional prenatal classes and instead – we read, we talked, we educated ourselves, we reached out to experienced parents (aka friends who have at least one kid) and we made sure to pre-pad our postpartum experience with as much support as humanly possible. We were open to any sort of birth story that might come our way and settled back to wait for the stereotypical, VERY overdue first baby to arrive. Mwhahahaha.
On February 28th (one day past due date), in the wee’est hours of the morning – I began to experience some cramping that was uncomfortable enough to periodically wake me up. I played it cool and kept thinking this is probably some classic, obnoxious early labor that can/will last days/weeks (I had yet to experience any serious braxton hicks so I was expecting a long period of discomfort before real labor kicked in). Around 6 AM I decided oatmeal was the answer to all things, made myself a bowl and swiftly threw it up minutes later. Deciding this could possibly be ‘labour induced hurling’, I strolled cooly back into our bedroom and informed the husband that work was probably out of question for today. I texted my doula (Candice) to keep her in the loop – but chose to hold off summoning her as I was coping well on my own (I had also given myself a 36 hour window to have this baby as I figured first babies typically take awhile – I was ready to hunker down for days… babe had other ideas). Within an hour or two, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, approximately 1.5 minutes long. Doula time. She arrived and hooked me up to a tens machine (I found this to be an AMAZING distraction all the way up until active labor). I tried to catch some sleep in between contractions for as long as possible, but eventually moved to an exercise ball to help encourage labour along. Throughout all this – Kev gathered all hospital related items, encouraged me, and kept me fed and hydrated. We kept in contact with our midwives (Heba – midwife and Megan – student midwife) throughout the afternoon and around 2/3 PM my contractions were 2 – 2.5 minutes apart and almost 2 minutes long. Because having a baby in the car wasn’t my jam (maybe for baby number 2) – I opted to meet the midwives at BC Women’s Hospital sooner vs later (after I DEMANDED that they admit me upon arrival). They were intimated by my ferocity/are highly educated and made an informed assessment – and assured me that all signs pointed to me staying once we got to the hospital. So off we went.
Thanks to the tens machine and our spacious new ride – the journey to the hospital was a manageable one (I only threw up once #winning). I was admitted and assessed and although only four centimetres dilated – I was permitted to stay. We moved to our room (where we stayed for labor, delivery and postpartum care) – and when I say ‘moved’ I mean… I walked twenty steps, stopped and moaned against a wall, an elevator, a hallway… and carried on. Our room was spacious, dimly lit (because sterile hospital lighting – ew) and had a biggggggg bathtub (we were planning for a waterbirth). My midwives offered to fill up the tub immediately if that’s what I was vibing. I expressed concerns about slowing labor down completely if I ‘tubbed too early. They wisely encouraged me to give it a go and play it by ear (turns out labor only picked up the pace after getting into the water). The next 6 or so hours (yes – I turned into a prune) were something out of National Geographic. As labor got more and more intense – I got more and more intense. Things got primal reeeal quick. My focus was entirely on keeping my sounds low and controlled throughout each contraction – which meant I lost almost all awareness of my surroundings. What I do remember? I vividly remember Kevin’s presence and support (kissing me on the head and *insert stream of encouraging/loving comments*), I remember smacking midwives hands away when they tried to check for baby’s heartbeat while a contraction would build – requiring all my attention, I remember my doula and midwives reassuring me CONSTANTLY that I was doing an amazing job, everything was progressing normally and that ‘I could do this’. I remember horrible popsicles and water pumped full of electrolytes (birth hack – stay hydrated!). I remember hitting the wall of ALL walls as the intensity and pain of contractions started getting the better of me and I felt myself begin to mentally to unravel. I felt like I was loosing all control and this was scary. In the midst of contractions – I pulled myself together enough to casually ask ‘what my pain management options are as I feel like I’m no longer coping’. My support team immediately affirmed how I was feeling – reminding me that this was the most intense part (I was transitioning) – and they were confident I could continue naturally. Their voodoo worked wonders and I was able to get past that miserable hump into the next stage of insanity – pushing.
Pushing. Now this was a fun time. And by fun time – I mean – Holy. Shit (literally and figuratively #birthjokes). I would like to take this time to credit my dear cousin – for off-handedly informing me that at some point during the birth process, I would feel like my ass was going to explode (we don’t sugarcoat in this family). Don’t worry, she assured me, it won’t actually. Honest to goodness – it was this bizarre nugget of information that got me through pushing for two hours. With each contractions, I felt like I would break apart at any moment – but I was SURE she wouldn’t lie to me (inspiring, no?). Hey, whatever gets you through. Kev, bless his heart, had expressed interest in catching our babe if the opportunity presented itself (which I fully supported and hoped for). But as soon as things got real – I apologized sincerely to him and told him there was no way on God’s green earth that he was allowed to stop supporting me/helping me through each contraction (how I wish this wasn’t the case – but at the time it was non-negotiable). He was everything I needed throughout the entire birth process and I have absolutely decided to keep him on as a birth partner for all subsequent children – he was that outstanding (any man who will jump in the tub to care for his labouring wife is aces in my book).
As per our ‘loosey-goosey birth guidelines/desires’ – my midwives remained very hands off during the entire labor and delivery. They guided me through the process verbally and with very minimal physical intervention. When the babe had finally made his way down the birth canal (shortly after my waters broke) they encouraged me to birth his head (as slow and steady as possible) using my hand on his head to monitor the speed of his delivery. This was an incredible way for me to re-focus my energies and what was left of my mental capabilities. I’ll spare you the details of the crowning process – mostly because I choose not to spend time dissecting it (if I had loved it – I wouldn’t have cared at ALL about sparing you). Yes, it’s amazing. Yes, it’s the most pain I’ve ever experienced. The take away? It means it’s almost over! At 10:41 PM (approximately 16 hours after labor had begun), our son was born peacefully into my arms – eyes wide open. I brought him up to my chest as I laid back against his dad’s chest. I felt so much relief that this part of the journey was over. Kev and I took in this perfect, wide-eyed, snuffling stranger that had made us parents – the little punk who had kept us guessing for so many months. There were no tears, no overwhelming emotional response, no ecstatic exclamations… Instead, I felt the shock of having just endured such a sensational ordeal, I felt myself processing all that had/was happening and I felt mild disbelief that a new human – our human – was here and he was real.
I experienced a second degree tear (which I’m delighted to share – has healed up beautifully) and lost about a litre of blood (which I’m delighted to share – helped me drop a couple of those pesky pregnancy pounds). I had a lot of difficulty standing/walking after delivery as my core strength had vanished and I was pretty shaky due to exhaustion and blood loss. I spent the glamorous first night peeing in bed pans, rocking mesh, pad-filled undies, watching my newborn spew mucus onto nurses, listening to my husband exclaim ‘Wow – it is SO much different when it’s your kid’ as he stared hearts at his boy, and stuffing my face full of MEC dehydrated meals (birth hack – eat REAL food not hospital food). The next day, we opted for an early discharge and with a hospital pillow tucked firmly under my butt, we made the trek home (best choice ever). Kev and I high-fived and as a family of three – tucked ourselves into bed.
Birth. Is. Crazy. When I look back on it – I feel so blessed and mildly conflicted with our experience. I know that during delivery – the majority of what I felt was discomfort, pain, worry that I wouldn’t be able to do it and misery. I also look back on the wonderful people who helped me, respected me, coached me, encouraged me and loved on me during the most challenging experience I’ve ever endured. They helped me achieve the delivery I had crossed my fingers for (safely, in water, and without drugs/medical intervention). They trusted the process and gave space and time for my body to labor and birth a person. I hold onto the incredible memory of scooping our baby onto my chest and feeling my husband wrap his arms around us. When I reflect on our story – it is the positive moments and the impressive sense of achievement that stand out most of all. For that I am grateful. Birth is crazy, beautiful, unpredictable, excruciating, overwhelming, miraculous… and until baby number 2… OVER!
*Shameless Midwife Brag:
Our midwives were/are legendary and we do NOT have enough kind words to scream about them. Heba works out of Bloom Community Midwives (Vancouver, BC) and took the lead on our hospital water birth. Her experience, her confidence and her sense of humour had us smitten on our initial visit. Without her and her capable student midwife – our story would be a very different one. I absolutely recommend the midwifery route and absolutely recommend Bloom Midwives for exceptional care for pre and postpartum care. I will continue to have babies so that I can continue to hang out with them. That’s how serious my feelings are (I expect a restraining order to arrive sometime after the 7th child).
*Shameless Doula Brag:
We are so jazzed that we made the call to have a doula for our birthing experience. Candice crushed at supporting both Kevin and myself throughout the whole journey. She was so informative during our pre-birth sessions and was a beacon of positivity and empowerment during labor and delivery. The cherry on top? Her BEAUTIFUL birth photography. I never thought I would want photographs of my naked, mostly miserable self… but when I received our photos – my was immediately convinced that this was an important and incredible thing. I was able to process my birth experience through all these images. I got to SEE everyone supporting me and working around me (during L&D my eyes were almost always shut – sooooo, I saw practically nothing). I would definitely recommend Candice AND getting birth photography (bonus – she does BOTH).
**All photos were taken by Candice Tizzard – Stages Doula and Birth Photography