Today is the anniversary of my first birthing day! What a wonderful opportunity, to share my oldest son's birthday with Mother's Day this year. In honour of that day I thought I would share the story of his birth into the world, and my birth as a mother.
Two weeks before my last day of work, I was sitting leaning back in my chair at a paramedic course, when I felt like there was an enormous earthquake movement in my uterus, enough to make me slam my chair down and gasp (which of course made all my coworkers freak out--the pregnant lady just gasped!!). I had been enduring months of extremely active kicking and shoving from within, and this was the most violent movement yet. As it turned out, this was one last somersault that determined the course of my entire birth.
On my very last shift in the distant town that I commuted to work in, in the morning as I got dressed to leave for my 2.5 hour drive home, I noticed some bleeding. It was four weeks before my due date, and I didn't know what on earth it could be from. I went over to the hospital to be checked out by the local doctor, who I of course knew quite well. He palpated my belly and did a full exam, kind and professional. He reassured me that the small amount of bleeding I had was likely a minor irritation, nothing to worry about. But he did point out that I had more amniotic fluid than normal, and that my baby was in the breech position, all from palpation. The hospital was in a very small town with only very minimal technology available.
I drove home, and the next day mentioned what he had found to my doctor in my regular prenatal appointment. She referred me for an ultrasound to confirm the baby's position at 38 weeks. At the time I wondered why she ordered the test so late, but I have since read that it is fairly standard to wait until 38 weeks before intervening with breech positioned babies, because attempts to turn them earlier can often result in a return to the breech position. In my case, 36 weeks would have been wiser, but we didn't know that at the time. At the ultrasound I watched the screen and thought I was astute enough to determine that the baby was a girl (despite not wanting to know one way or the other). Ha, ha. Once my doctor confirmed the baby was breech, she referred me to an obstetrician. I LOVED my obstetrician. She was very soft spoken and gentle mannered, intelligent and empathetic. She and another obstetrician, whom I didn't like nearly as much, attempted an external version in the hospital the following day. The baby was already measuring around 4000 grams (9lbs) and had a rather large head, and despite repeated attempts to get him to turn, he persisted. He was too big to turn. My uterus only put up with so much manhandling, and eventually they had to stop. I was surprised at how intensely such uterine manhandling affects a woman--I almost fainted later as we were driving home, and I felt nauseous and weak. I think I slept for a few hours after we got home. Since the EV failed, my obstetrician recommended a cesarean. I said, "Oh. Okay." And I remember being surprised when my OB looked visibly relieved and said, "Oh, good. Because a large research study published last year in Canada shows that it is safer to deliver breech babies by cesarean. It really is the safer choice." It was the first time I realized that I actually had a choice in the matter and didn't HAVE to follow my doctor's orders. Not that I disagreed with her, but that was the first time I realized that I could.
So, a cesarean was scheduled for a week later. I felt like a failure. I wouldn't even get to go into labour. But part of why I went along with the idea of a cesarean so calmly was that I knew that vaginal birth after cesareans are possible, so I figured that next time I could try again. At my post operative visit with my OB she indeed told me that "There is no reason why you can't have a vaginal birth next time." I'm glad she encouraged me, though I would have pursued a vaginal birth anyways. It was significant to me that normal birth was something she valued and encouraged me to have with my next pregnancy. It has also been determined more recently that the Term Breech Trial my obstetrician referred to had some major flaws, and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada is no longer recommending automatic cesareans for breech babies. But we didn't know that in 2003.
On May 8th, 2003, I went to the hospital at 8 a.m., after fasting all night. I was scheduled for surgery at 11:00 a.m. We got a room on the maternity ward and settled in. We joked around and took pictures. My mom was there, and my cousin, and my friend Keli. I don't remember Brent's parents being there but I know they must have been, because they were there immediately afterwards. My general physician was running behind, so my surgery got repeatedly pushed back because she was assisting my OB for the operation. I got crankier and cranker, because I was STARVING, and because I was so, so afraid of the surgery itself. Eventually they wheeled me to a waiting area outside the O.R., and I remember feeling very helpless and small, watching the ceiling tiles go by above me and anticipating surgery. I was afraid they would forget to get Brent before they started the surgery. I was afraid of the spinal anaesthesia. I was afraid to become a parent.
But eventually my doctor rushed in, and they prepped me, and although I threw my arms around the scrub nurse with all my strength in anticipation, making her yelp in surprise, the spinal anaesthesia didn't hurt that much, and wasn't that bad after all. I laid down, they put a catheter in (which I felt, but numbly), and soon after they pinched me with tweezers on my belly. As they were doing this, Brent walked in. I was flooded with relief, because I knew that as long as he was there with me, I would be okay. "Can you feel this?" someone asked me. "Yes." I could feel pinching. "What does it feel like?" "It feels like someone is taking tweezers and pinching my skin, lifting it up, and twisting it." The anaesthesiologist tilted the table so my head was lower than my body, to encourage the medication to travel higher up my spinal cord and numb me properly. This happened fairly quickly, and they started the surgery. As they cut, I asked Brent to look at me in the eyes and tell me all the things we would do with the new baby, and how wonderful it would be. As long as he was looking me in the eyes and talking, I felt calm. As soon as he slowed down or looked away, I panicked. When they pulled him out it felt like an enormous animal was gutting me alive. My whole body rocked back and forth, and I could feel my insides being pulled out. It took my breath away. The doctor asked Brent if he wanted to see whether the baby was a girl or a boy, and he looked over the curtain. He didn't say anything, and he looked back at me. "SO?!?!" I said. "Uhhhh...." and he looked back over the curtain. "It's a boy!.....And what a boy!" This was intended to be a joke, which fell absolutely flat in the operating room in awkward silence. I was so irritated, but only for an instant. "A boy? Really?!" I was shocked, having convinced myself we were having a girl. I remember someone asked what his name was, and we told them it was Ayden. Then I heard a baby cry, and I remember thinking "Someone's baby is crying. That's weird, that I can hear it from in the operating room." And suddenly a few minutes later it dawned on me that it was MY baby that was crying! Brent left to go to the baby warmer and cut the remaining cord, which they had left long, take some pictures, and meet the baby. I remember he looked at me just before he left, to make sure I was okay, but I felt far less anxious, and I told him to go with the baby. A few minutes later they brought him to me and placed him on my chest, bundled in blankets. He was quiet, blinking his eyes and looking around, his face all squished up fat by the blankets. Well, his face was chubby anyways, but the blankets squashed them even more. I held him for what felt like a very long time, and stroked his cheek, and tried to shield his eyes from the bright lights. Then they took him and put him in an incubator and he and Brent left while my obstetrician finished my surgery.
I was wheeled to the recovery room and told I could go upstairs and see my baby after I could move my legs, which takes about an hour. At first I felt no urgency, just tired and relieved that the surgery was finished. But within about fifteen minutes I was DYING to see my baby. I felt a sense of loss and eagerness, and could hardly wait until I could see Ayden again. I tried every few minutes, and finally after 45 minutes in the recovery room, I could move my legs. I called the recovery room nurse over and showed her, so she called for a porter to take me back upstairs. No porter came, and no porter came, and finally she took pity on me and wheeled me up herself one hour post operative.
In the meantime, Ayden was in the nursery with Brent. My mom had encouraged me to ask that no one hold him before I came back from the operating room and had a chance to bond with him, so she and Brent's parents crowded around and took pictures, but no one except Brent held him until after I came back. The pediatrician talked about possibly giving him a bottle because he was so big and might need feeding before I returned, but fortunately he didn't make good on that. Brent says he would not have allowed that to happen because he knew how strongly I felt about wanting to only breastfeed.
When I returned, Ayden was placed on my chest, skin to skin. And I finally felt I could relax. I was surprised by the strength of my feelings, and by my desire to simply LOOK at Ayden, for hours and hours on end. A bustling nurse asked me if I had fed him yet, and I said, "I don't know how." She said, "What do you mean you don't know how? There's nothing to it! You just put the baby on your breast!" And she bustled over and helped me. She had a kind look in her eyes when she said that, so I didn't mind. Ayden was a hoover vacuum cleaner. SUCK, SUCK, SUCK!
My family flooded into the room, all excited and chattering, and I was proud to show Ayden off. I was still starving, since I hadn't eaten since the night before and it was now dinnertime! So I convinced someone to give me some of their subway sandwich and lemonade, despite not having shown signs of return of bowel function (translation: I hadn't farted yet). I didn't care, I was SO HUNGRY! And then I promptly threw up. All over myself, the bed, and the baby. Nice. Everyone cleared out, and the nurse changed me and my bed with me in it. Brent was mad at me for eating before I was supposed to.
Later that night, as the anaesthetic wore off my face and chest were incredibly, maddeningly itchy. My mom got me a wet washcloth and rubbing it on my face was very very helpful. I held Ayden skin to skin on my chest for hours.
The next day I was able to get up and walk, the catheter was removed, and I got to have a shower. I was still weak and sore, but mobile. I spent most of the day in bed with Ayden, feeding him often. That night, I developed a headache that was incapacitating. It was the type of headache that feels heavy on your head, and whose pain is so loud it is difficult to think. Every time I would sit up to feed Ayden, it would crush me. When I laid down, it disappeared. I was diagnosed with a spinal headache, which is a complication of spinal anaesthesia. A small amount of spinal fluid leaks out the hole the catheter was threaded through to reach the spinal meninges, causing a change in pressure that causes a headache when upright. My surgeon kept recommending a spinal patch, where blood is taken from the veins and injected into the spinal fluid, compensating for the pressure change and curing the headache. She would visit separately from the anaesthesiologist, who kept visiting and recommending a hands off approach, since my headache seemed to be improving. In the end, no patch was done, and the headache lasted two weeks, and I had residual vertigo for four months afterwards.
My milk came in that night, two days after his birth. One day earlier than normal for a cesarean birth, which my mom attributed to the near constant skin to skin cuddling. I remember that Ayden was always hungry, hungry, hungry before my milk came in, and then that first feed with milk he seemed to relax, and acted drunk when he came off the breast. He spit up a tiny bit and the spit up was WHITE! And I felt like the most AMAZING MOM IN THE UNIVERSE! LOOK AT ME MAKE MILK AND FEED MY BABY!!! Breastfeeding empowered me. At last, I was successful at something in this whole birthing/mothering thing. Which of course is not entirely contingent upon breastfeeding, because some women are unsuccessful at this but still amazing moms. But breastfeeding was really what redeemed the experience of Ayden's birth for me and set me off away from the attitude which I had had during the entire pregnancy and birth, that this was something that was happening TO me, and towards the attitude of active responsibility for my baby. I persisted, despite the spinal headache that required me to learn to breastfeed lying down. This is reportedly the most difficult position to nurse in, though because I learned it so early it has always been one of my favourite positions. Also, large breasts like mine are unwieldy for tiny newborns, and the bed helps support the excess breast tissue.
We went home from the hospital on the Sunday after he was born, which was three days after his birth, and on my very first Mother's Day. Brent got me a card and put a photo of Ayden in a little frame that says "Mommy's Little Angel," which still sits on my bedside table. I cried. It was amazing and overwhelming to watch myself fall rapidly in love with this hungry, cranky little creature with big blue eyes and no hair and the most peaceful sleeping face imaginable.
And that is the birth story of Ayden Leonard Smith Vose, born May 8th, 2003 by cesarean section at 4:39 in the afternoon.
Matthew's story is longer than average. Matthew has essentially had TWO births--one physiological and one adoptive. In fact, there are many births tucked inside Matthew's birth story. Beautiful. Here is the story from my perspective.
Matthew's was a healthy pregnancy. Unexpected, but healthy. His birth father refused to accept the baby as his biological offspring, and his birth mother did not have enough money to support the two children she already had, and also could not support Matthew. She was living in an emergency home for pregnant women that is run by a Baptist group, and during her pregnancy she became a Christian. With the help of the emergency home, and much prayer, she decided to relinquish Matthew for adoption. She was much relieved to find Friends For All Children, an organization in Thailand that cares for and finds homes for a great number of relinquished children. Matthew was born at 8:16 a.m., vaginally, at a hospital. His birth mother reported that his birth was normal and healthy. She took him to the emergency home for the first ten days of his life, and then left him with Friends For All Children, in the care of two women, named Melissa (isn't that funny?) and Lisa, both mennonite missionaries from America on long term volunteer assignment in Thailand.
Melissa was Matthew's main nanny for four months, and then she returned home to America, and Lisa took over his care until he was 16 months old. We call this most beloved foster mother Momma Lisa. Momma Lisa gave Matthew what all babies profoundly need in the first year of their lives: responsive, trustworthy, loving care, and good nutrition. She carried him when he needed touch. She got up in the night to comfort and feed him until he began sleeping through the night at seven months. She fed him formula and introduced solids at six months. She bathed him, dressed him, kept him safe, and got him medical care when he was sick. She loved him fiercely.
When Matthew was seven months old, he was matched with our family. Matthew's birth mother had requested that Matthew be placed with a family of the same religious beliefs as herself, and we were the only family on the list at that time who were also Christians. Baptist, no less. :)
We recieved a phone call informing us of Matthew's proposal for our family ONE DAY after we mailed our application for adoption to Thailand. Normal waiting periods from application to proposal were six to twelve months at that point, so we were very surprised to have news so quickly! It was that request of Matthew's mom that accelerated the process. Because of this, Matthew was one of the youngest children ever to be adopted through our agency from Thailand.
We sent pictures and gifts and emails to Momma Lisa, getting to know her and asking her to share our picture with Matthew, so we could seem a tiny bit more familiar than strangers when we showed up on his door proclaiming to be his family! We sent him his own laminated photo album of our family, a DVD of us, a CD of lullabies for which we had a copy and asked Momma Lisa to play while Matthew fell asleep. We continued to use this CD when we brought Matthew home, and it helped him to have familiar music to fall asleep listening to. We still use this CD of lullabies to help Riley fall asleep--we got a ton of mileage out of that CD! Lisa emailed us back, giving us details about Matthew's personality and their daily activities, and included pictures.
We waited for the Thai government to award us an appointment with the Department of Social Welfare, another seven to nine month wait. It was very tough to know who Matthew was, and see pictures, and hear stories, but not be able to go scoop him up and begin the business of becoming a family of four. The waiting seemed interminable! We hoped and prayed that we would get the call before Christmas. In mid November, I gave up on this hope and resigned myself to waiting until sometime in the New Year. But lo and behold, just after we had resigned ourselves to Christmas apart from Matthew, we got a call! I was at a friend's place, sleeping between night shifts, when Brent called me and said, "How would you like to spend Christmas in Thailand?!" Hooray!!! We were so excited!!! I didn't sleep AT ALL that night, though the night shift I worked was so quiet, I could have slept eight hours if I was able to! We booked flights, packed our things, and seven days later boarded a plane that would take us across the Pacific ocean to meet our little boy. I felt SOOOO impatient for the flight to be over, and for the miles to pass beneath us, and for time to pass! Ayden was excited to meet "Baby Mafew" and Brent was impatient and excited, like me.
Matthew was born in a domestic airport. We walked through the arrival gate with our luggage and some gifts and great excitement and some fear, and there he was sitting in Momma Lisa's arms, with his chubby legs dangling over the edge of the railing separating the arriving passengers from the waiting area. Behind him stood a circle of our close friends, cheering and laughing and crying and taking pictures. THAT was cool, to have good friends supporting and surrounding us as we met our littlest son. Matthew took us in, but in that distant interest type of way. I was glad he didn't seem overwhelmed by all our affection. Ayden gave him a toy phone that he had chosen for Matthew at the toy store before we left Canada, and Matthew liked the noises and lights in the phone. I cried. And tried not to appear overwhelming! I reached out and took his foot in my hand and said, "Hello little man!!"
His resonse to us was in the realm of, 'Huh, there are some people here.' I was glad he wasn't overwhelmed by us, and I didn't expect any recognition of how important we would be to his very near future. Which seems obvious when you state that you just met a 16 month old for the first time, but with all the anticipation wrapped up in adoption, it is pretty hard not to overdo that first meeting, and your expectations of it. We have video and pictures, and I remember what everyone was wearing and how warm it was, and the smell of the airport, and that Torie, especially, was crying.
We climbed into the car and drove back to the home Matthew was living in, and let the kids play while we talked for a bit. Matthew was so tiny but so physically capable--I remember being nervous of him climbing on the little playground in their front yard, and sliding down the slide, but he was very comfortable with his physical capabilities. I was so glad we brought Ayden with us to Thailand, because the two of them became fast friends, and it took the pressure off Matthew as we hovered around watching him intently, because we already loved this little creature but we were irrelevant strangers to him. Ayden rapidly became relevant. We arrived on a Friday and by Sunday morning, Brent was relevant too. It was as if he looked at Brent and thought, "Now THAT'S what I've been missing all these months--a daddy!!" He initiated affection with Brent within a few days of meeting him.
That afternoon we spent a few hours together and then left to settle in at our friends Jen and Andrey's house, and allow Matthew to have a nap. He was, and still is, a very predictable sleeper, who NEEDS his sleep when he needs his sleep, and is firmly out of sorts if his sleep pattern is changed. It was hard to leave, but we were tired and so was Matthew, so it didn't make much sense to stay, and we knew we would see him again the very next morning.
That week we spent as much time together as possible, and tried to get to know each other and gain some trust. Momma Lisa was very supportive of us and demonstrated through her actions and words that these new people were trustworthy and important, which we were grateful for. At the end of the week we chose a date, December 16th, as handover day. We asked Momma Lisa to choose a place and a time that she felt was best, and she chose the morning so that he wouldn't be too tired, and Jen and Andrey's house so that she could exit without him having to see her leave him behind--she didn't want him to feel that the woman he loved as mother was abandoning him in any way. She brought with her the director of her volunteer program and his wife, and their baby Bailey. The director spoke about the program and about the families who come to adopt the children under their care, and he mentioned that it struck a particular chord in him when Christian families adopted the children. He felt deep joy when Christians adopted the children that they loved and prayed for so constantly, and released so completely into the hands of their adoptive parents. He prayed for us, and for Matthew, and for Momma Lisa. Then we all went outside and Lisa handed Matthew to Brent, and we all stood in a circle and cried, because it was incredibly painful to watch Lisa say goodbye to this little boy she loved so much, and to watch Matthew as he lived through one of the most significant moments of his life and had no idea what was going on, and how fundamentally his life would change, and how much pain and grief that would involve. It was a moment filled with both tremendous joy and deep pain, love and grief, gain and loss. Eventually Brent turned and walked into the house with Matthew in his arms, and Lisa hugged me tight. "You will make a great mom," she said to me, and then she left. We didn't see her again until two years later, when she came to Vancouver to visit both Matthew and another foster child she had cared for.
The very first thing I did as Matthew's mom was to dress him. I took off the clothes he came in, and put him in some orange pants and a blue tank top with fish on it, which had been Ayden's. I was very excited to dress him because it really is an act of intimacy to dress a child, and the clothes I put on him were tiny and well loved and OURS, and it made him seem like a true Vose to have him dressed in clothes that Ayden wore and I saved in our crawlspace in a box, waiting for this day when another little Vose would wear these orange pants and this blue top. I gave him a snack, Brent fed him a bottle, and we spent the rest of the day playing together. That evening after supper we went out to the night market in Chiang Mai. Matthew rode in the MEC backpack on my back, watching the sights with his little observant gaze and playing with Ayden. I'm sure he had never been out past his bedtime before, in a market teeming with noise and music and activity, but he handled it with wide eyed calm. It was a beautiful day.
And that is the birth story of Matthew Thanawuth Smith Vose, born September 20th, 2004, adopted December 16th/December 23rd (legally he became our child on the 23rd, though we had him living with us from the 16th), 2005. Merry Christmas, Vose family!! The best gift I ever received!
I was very pregnant, and due on August 17th 2008. In the afternoon on August 12th I had a burst of nesting energy~I cleaned the downstairs bathroom including scrubbing the floor, and swept and tidied the rest of the downstairs. I wasn’t sure if this was nesting or not, but suspected it was because of the strength of my drive to clean, particularly compared to my preceeding two months of all encompassing inertia with regards to cleaning my house. I wanted to ensure my midwife would see an adequately clean bathroom and an adequately tidy house. Labouring in dirt sounded aweful, too.
At 8:30 a.m. on August 13th, I got out of bed to help Ayden and Matthew set up a DVD to watch. While in their bedroom I felt a trickle of fluid run down each leg. Not a gush, but enough to get some on the carpet. I went to the washroom and on the toilet paper was a pink stained something~not mucousy, but definitely pink. So I waited an hour until 9:30 so as not to be rude or wake her up, and paged my midwife. Jeanette was on pager that week. I wasn’t sure if my water had broken, or if I had lost my mucous plug. What I saw was a bit of both descriptions! I looked it up on the internet to be sure.
Brent was sleeping off his final night shift so I didn’t tell him until he woke up at around 10:00 or 10:30. By then my mom, sister Megan, and cousin Sara knew. I tried to stay calm and keep my mind off of labour or babies in order to conserve energy for the task ahead. We went out to do a few errands. I had some mild, prelabour contractions but nothing regular or encompassing more than my front, lower abdomen, similar to the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been having for months.
We bought my mother in law, Sharon, a betta fish at PetSmart, dropped it off, went to London Drugs, and ate lunch at the Pita Pit. By that time the contractions were stronger and I was feeling a strong urge to be in a hands and knees position and for some privacy, so we went home. Brent took the boys out again, and I walked around, tried to lie down and relax, and listened to some music.
When Brent came back, at about 5 p.m., the contractions came more frequently and moved around my back as well as my front, down low. It became impossible for me to talk during the contractions quite early on. Then I knew it was true labour and not simply ‘false,’ or prelabour.
When true labour started, I needed to stand during contractions rather than be on my hands and knees. I got Brent to page Jeanette again, and to call my mom and sister to come, and I called my friend Rowenna to come and pick up Matthew as preplanned. Brent packed Matthew a suitcase and got his carseat ready.
I tried to walk around because movement is good to keep labour progressing, but I was feeling confined to the bedroom and bathroom because with every contraction I started to leak more fluid so I tried to be in the bathroom when they came to protect my new carpet! I turned on my hypnobirthing CD. It was helpful for creating a positive headspace for me, and for helping me relax even more than I already was. With each contraction I tried to relax my jaw, neck, shoulders, abdominal, and perineal muscles. I breathed deeply and slowly to keep my uterine muscle and baby well oxygenated. More oxygen means less pain for me and greater labour tolerance for baby. At the end of each contraction I took a deep, cleansing breath. I took it one contraction at a time and tried to move into a creative, intuitive frame of mind where I could lose track of time passing. One contraction at a time, I got closer to my baby.
Jeanette arrived. I was in the shower. When I heard her arrive I tried to get out of the shower but got so cold that the next contraction was really painful, so I just got back in and figured she could see me naked! I’d not yet lost my sense of modesty.
Jeanette was amazing. She talked to us, watched me labour a bit, and listened to the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler. His heartbeat was strong, regular, and rapid. Jeanette had an intuitive sense of what would be helpful touch: four fingernails at pressure points on my lower back, light backrubs, light pressure touch to my forehead and the back of my neck. She just knew what to do and when to do it. She administered via IV my first dose of antibiotics to treat Group B Strep. I gave her some tips on starting IVs that I have learned from my job, since she indicated that she doesn’t get to start many IVs. I wanted minimal poking, so I gave her some tips!
In the shower I had a stool to sit on between contractions, and by the bed I had my exercise ball but it didn’t help. I really preferred to stand, though this was VERY tiring! At 10:00 p.m. Jeanette asked to check internally to see if I was in early labour or active labour. If it was early, she would go to Sharon’s (my other midwife, Jeanette’s work partner) and nap: active, she would stay with me. I was four to five centimeters, which surprised her because she said I was very relaxed and calm for someone in active labour. Also, because my contractions were two to three minutes apart and only 45 to 50 seconds long. She commented that they were short but intense. She told me that the reason why I was progressing at the speed I was, was because I was so relaxed. It was good to know that I was doing well and progressing. It made me feel empowered and positive about succeeding with my plan to have an unmedicated, natural, vaginal delivery.
Jeanette suggested going to the hospital before contractions became more intense and the ride became very uncomfortable for me. We left around 10:30. The drive was aweful because I couldn’t stand up during contractions or move around, and the force of the car speeding up and slowing down was painful. I swore at Brent for making a joke and not letting it go when I didn’t laugh. Ayden was with us, as he wanted to be present for the birth of his baby brother (he didn’t hear me swear, as he was asleep in his carseat).
Surrey Memorial Hospital maternity ward was full, but Jeanette told the staff over the phone that she could bring another midwife so we would only need a room and not a nurse, so they allowed us to come. I’m very thankful that the original plan was able to happen, with regards to location. We arrived and the security guard offered to find me a wheelchair but I just wanted him to leave me alone. We were able to go straight to my room. I paced. I tried to pee. I tried to drink water and sports drink, but I felt nauseous so I didn’t drink much. Sharon arrived not long after. It was reassuring to see her, and I felt like everything could happen now that she was there. She was kind and reassuring. Jeanette and Sharon did a half hour fetal monitor strip to have a baseline to monitor the baby from, as we had agreed upon in my prenatal visits. Women who have Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) are routinely put on the External Fetal Monitor for early detection of uterine rupture, but I had refused this intervention because of the statistical ambiguity regarding its usefulness, and the high rate of cesarean section associated with its continuous use. Instead, I opted to have a baseline assessment and intermittent fetal heart rate checks with the Doppler. I also refused the routine application of a large bore IV saline lock for women who attempt VBAC, because I did not want to labour with a saline lock in my hand. I knew the risk of uterine rupture to be low (0.4%) and the time frame in an emergency to be one that allowed time for IV access to be gained. I even joked that I volunteered to start an IV on myself if no one else could do it! The half hour of lying in bed with the fetal monitor on my abdomen was the most painful and difficult period of time in my entire labour. It was extremely painful for me to lie down during contractions. Sharon held my hand and talked me through it.
My sister arrived. My mom arrived. When my mom came in I had a moment of childlike need: I curled into her hug and whimpered, “Oh mom! It hurts!” She said “Oh Melissa, I know…” and then I returned to the business of labouring. I got in and out of the shower, and in and out of the bed. Sitting was really getting uncomfortable, even in the shower between contractions, but I was also getting quite tired so I used the bed a lot to conserve energy between contractions. The baby was doing great, tolerated labour like a pro.
I purposefully did not ask the time, look at the clock, or ask for internal exams. My cognitive mind wanted to know, to mark progress, but I knew I couldn’t think my way through labour. I had to be intuitive and function very much in the present moment. At one point I was in the shower and Sharon asked me a time-related question but I truly couldn’t even guess at an answer. I told her, “I don’t know. I’ve lost all sense of the passage of time.” She replied that it was good that I was in that space. It was the perfect mindspace for giving birth.
Early in my labour I had emailed my closest friends and asked them to pray for me. During the intense part of active labour and transition I kept thinking of them. And I prayed. I had wondered if I would pray to Mary while in labour because of her femininity and experience with labour, but I didn’t. I prayed only to Jesus. ‘Help me. Make me strong. Oh, this is hard. Help me.’ This, I think, reflects my relationship with Him, because I spoke to Him and felt it entirely appropriate, felt heard, empathized with, and powerfully held. Positive. Right. I felt Him giving me strength and peace. I felt my friends’ prayers, too.
Labour was the most intense, laborious, fascinating, creative, spiritual thing I’ve ever done. The final two contractions I had in Stage 1 labour were so painful and overwhelming that I actually hit my head against the wall of the shower. Suddenly, my whole belly shifted and pushed down with incredible force. This surprised me! I waited for the next contraction and this time the force was even greater, and I let out a quiet yell. Brent came in. “Tell them I need to push!” I told him. He couldn’t hear me. “PUSH! I need to PUSH!” I was irritated to have to repeat myself. Sharon came in and asked me about it and then asked me to lie on the bed for a second internal exam to determine if I was fully dilated. I was. There had been a small bulge of memrane with fluid trapped between baby and cervix at my first internal exam and Jeanette ruptured it now. I had only those two internal exams for my entire labour, which I appreciated. My second round of IV antibiotics was given to me on the bed sometime during transition or pushing, I’m not sure which.
After determining I was fully dilated, I had a lull in my contractions. Everyone helped me lie down to rest, and this “rest and be thankful” phase lasted approximately twenty minutes, although to me it felt like only three or four minutes.
For a long time, once my body began contractions again, Jeanette let me go with my body. Mostly I tried pushing on my hands and knees in the bed for the first hour, resting in between as best I could. I think I was running out of creative steam—you would think I would try something new! Then Jeanette and Sharon started suggesting ideas. I pushed for awhile on the birthing stool but my left leg fell asleep very soundly. So we switched to the toilet. But, firstly I was so afraid of giving birth INTO the toilet, though I knew this to be irrational and unlikely, and secondly BOTH my legs fell asleep on the toilet. So I returned to the bed and pushed for awhile on my side. I was frustrated and tired. It felt like I was getting nowhere—I knew the goal was to get the baby to “turn the corner,” and he was NOT turning the corner! Jeanette kept saying I was making progress but I was frustrated that it was taking so long. An hour and a half more passed with these trial and error techniques and slow progress. Finally Sharon suggested I roll onto my back “like a turtle on its shell,” hold my knees up “by your ears,” and push that way. I was sweating so hard I could hardly see.
The first thought I had with Sharon’s suggestion was, “that’s the least effective pushing position!!” But I trusted her, so over I went. It worked!! Mom, Jeanette, and Sharon all cheered when he turned the corner in the next few pushes. I pushed for awhile in that position, until the baby’s heart rate dropped just a bit, to the low 90s. They had me roll onto my side again and his heart rate returned to normal. At one point I was holding Sharon’s hand, at another Brent’s, and another my mom’s. I often reached out for a hand without looking up, so once when I reached towards Brent and he didn’t take my hand, I looked up and was grimly aware that it was humorous that he was asleep in the rocking chair beside my bed, sitting straight up.
Again I rolled to my back. Many times I felt the baby’s head push up over my pelvic bones during the contraction, and then slip back when it was done. Crowning was definitely a nerve-wracking sensation, but not very painful as I was numb from three hours of pushing. I truly didn’t fear or dislike the sensation because I knew the whole experience was very close to being finished when I felt it. Jeanette got a mirror for me so I could see the baby’s head—but then I needed my glasses. They rolled me back onto my side and off came the glasses. On. Off. When the baby’s head was just reachable I was able to touch it—very cool! And later when it was almost fully out I touched it, too. Soft, warm, and pretty wet! Then I felt his arms move inside the birth canal, just below my pelvic bones. I didn’t like that at all! More trauma to the tissues! But in retrospect it was a good signal that the baby was still doing well. I did small pushes when directed. I could feel small tearing at the top as he eased out, but nothing terrible nor more painful than the sensation of extensive stretching.
Pushing felt different once his head was out~I couldn’t really feel contractions anymore and it was harder to effectively push with less baby inside me. The baby’s head and body turned with some help from Jeanette, but another push and they could tell (a) he wasn’t doing well, and (b) he was stuck at the chest. I heard Sharon say, “Do you want her on her hands and knees?” and I thought shoulder dystocia, although later Jeanette told me it wasn’t his shoulders that were stuck, it was his chest. Jeanette reached in with the fingers of her left hand, hooked one under his armpit, and pulled as I pushed. She pulled him down and his top shoulder popped out, then up and his bottom shoulder popped out. She put him on my chest and the first thing I thought was, “Wow! He’s huge!” He was bluish grey, covered in amniotic fluid and blood, and I didn’t care at all. I laughed with total relief and joy.
Sharon very quickly rubbed him with a towel and then said, “He’s very limp!” in a firm, emergent tone. “Cut the cord!” she directed. The she directed Brent to pull the emergency call cord on the wall and shouted, “Limp baby!” over the intercom. The code team was called. Meanwhile I tried to talk to the baby, touched his head, and gave him one kiss before he was taken to the baby warmer for resuscitation.
A team of people came into the room. They assessed him. Sharon had started positive pressure ventilation with the infant bag-valve-mask, and the team continued. Someone said “Heart rate less than one hundred, start compressions!” and Sharon started compressions. [note: the heart rate for starting compressions on a neonate is less than 80. Either he didn’t need compressions or the nurse misstated in the flurry of activity surrounding his resuscitation]. Approximately 30 seconds of compressions and 90 seconds of positive pressure ventilation, and Riley pinked up, started to breath on his own, and made a small cry. He was still very limp, but he was pink. The team suctioned his mouth, took blood samples, dried him off, and watched him for a few minutes.
During all this activity I was torn between euphoria that he was born and that I did it, and concern for him. I know some babies need resuscitation, and that the vast majority of those babies are just fine. I’m also very calm in emergencies. I don’t ask, “what if” so I didn’t panic. But I was worried! Especially when it took some time for him to cry.
He crowned at 5:05, his head was delivered at 5:07, and his body was delivered at 5:09. By 5:24 he was back in my arms. I delivered the placenta before the team gave him back to me but after he was vigorously crying. The placenta was very cool to see and touch. It was strong and warm. Riley’s home and lifeline for nine months!
I was grateful to have the natural delivery that I had hoped for, and euphorically happy to meet my baby. I put him skin to skin on my chest and settled in for a cuddle. After about half an hour he wanted to breastfeed, and he stayed on my breast for the next hour. It was the most rewarding hour I’ve ever spent, getting to know Riley after having worked so hard all night to deliver him.
This birth was a gift. It was beautiful, and peaceful, and so filled with love I could hardly contain it.
A short time before my due date, my friend Dana emailed me that she was praying that I would hear a specific word from God regarding this birth. Immediately afterwards, my friend Jen emailed me with several Bible verses filled with words of peace. Several of them stood out for me and were comforting for me during labour, and remarkably descriptive of the emotional and physical space of this birth.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.~John 14:27
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.For (s)he will be like a tree planted by the water,that extends its roots by a streamAnd will not fear when the heat comes,But its leaves will be green,And it will not be anxious in a year of droughtNor cease to yield fruit.~Jeremiah 17:7-8
Shortly before I went to bed on Sunday evening, February 27th, I had some mild contractions. I ignored them, figuring they would disappear once I went to bed, as usual. I was able to sleep soundly and peacefully, but the contractions continued all night. By six a.m. they kept me awake and were steadily ten minutes apart, so at seven as the household woke up for the day I told Brent and tried to distract myself between contractions. I let my labour support team know so they could plan their day, and paged my midwife. I knew it was early but I wanted to give everyone lots of notice. My midwife lives closer to me than to her office, so she came by to see me around eight in order to assess whether she should cancel her clinic appointments, or continue her day until I kicked into active labour. I knew it was too early to cancel clinics and expend a bunch of energy focusing on contractions, but she wanted to be sure so she came by. The baby was well engaged and my cervix was very soft and very thin, but too posterior to feel dilation, which means early labour.
She went to her clinic, and I had breakfast and helped scoot the older boys off to school. As I moved around and distracted myself, I noticed the surges were spacing out. Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, half an hour...
I pulled out my breast pump to add to my stash of expressed breast milk to take with me to the hospital in case my gestational diabetes caused blood sugar regulation problems in the baby and the hospital staff wanted to feed her. A bottle of formula can help regulate a newborn with low blood sugars, but for long term health formula puts an infant at increased risk of developing type II diabetes later in life. A baby who develops in the womb of a woman with gestational diabetes is already at increased risk for diabetes, so I was determined my baby would be fed only human milk to decrease its overall risk. I had asked a friend to donate me three ounces of her milk, and added what I could of my colostrum, just in case. The pumping helped bring things back to ten minutes apart, and regular again.
Louise came over to take some photos at about 9:30 or so, and stayed for over an hour chatting and taking gorgeous photos of my kids and my clock and me on the phone...I love her kids, and they play well with my kids, so we had an impromptu playdate! The surges were spacing out again so as she left, I went for a walk.
I was continuing to watch the clock to time contractions and to time my food intake, since good glycemic control is important during the last few weeks of pregnancy and during the birth process for women with diabetes. I ate every three hours and took my insulin as usual. Riley wanted to have a nap, so I lay down with him and nursed him to sleep. Breastfeeding him made my contractions jump from every ten minutes and moderately strong to every two to three minutes and stronger. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which is also the hormone that stimulates contractions. It was handy to have this tool to help keep things moving along during this long prodromal stage! I had expected this labour to go quickly, but the early phase was long and relaxed. I felt a bit impatient, but mostly relaxed and peaceful. I phoned my midwife and let her know that things had picked up a bit. She came over to assess me, and I was 2-3 centimeters dilated and the baby had progressed to +1 station, cervix very soft and very thin, and no longer posterior. This was all good information to have, but I knew I wasn't in active labour yet. It just didn't feel quite like my productive labour had been with Riley yet; that feeling that I was riding a river current that was deep, fast, powerful, and unrelenting. My midwife went home, but told me she expected to be back within an hour. This was around two o'clock in the afternoon. I let Louise and Rowenna know, so they could prepare to leave for the hospital once things picked up. However, things slowed down again! I had been trying to balance distracting myself so as not to waste my focus or energy on early labour, with being able to cope with contractions I couldn't ignore, and paying attention so I would know when my body made the shift to active labour. I got in the bathtub for an hour or so to relax, which made things slower again but warmed up my feet and helped me to get a regenerative rest. At six thirty I pulled out my breast pump again and pumped a few ounces to add to the hospital stash, and within fifteen minutes, my body shifted and I knew I was finally in that fast, powerful river of active labour with little chance of slowing down again. I ate dinner, and then we all headed to the hospital shortly after seven p.m.
When we walked onto the Family Birthing Unit, it was shift change and a large number of nurses were at the desk. We walked past with our entourage of photographer, midwife, Brent, my mom, three little boys, birth ball, pillows, food, and a rather full suitcase: an unusual sight on a maternity ward! It was a homebirth in the hospital, just like I wanted! Riley had his baby doll in his arms and two pigtails in his hair "jus' like mommy" and his favourite spiderman pyjamas on, and the nurses all thought he was SO cute.
When we arrived and got to our room (#216) there was paperwork for my midwife, and several routine things for the hospital with regards to women who are delivering VBAC. Here's where there is the most potential for conflict with hospitals in my part of Canada, when it comes to me. I tend to be a pain as a patient, because I have some weird preferences that go against standard policies. My nurse came in. Lets call her Amber. She was very businesslike and 'efficient'~which is a nice way of saying brisk and detached. She had the external fetal monitor with her, and my midwife turned around and said, "Actually she has refused the external fetal monitor. She won't be going on the monitor." Amber was stumped, "Oh, I don't know about that," she said, indignant.
"Both myself and Dr. Drake (my OB, not his real name) have discussed it with her, and she knows the risks and has chosen to refuse it. All you need is the refusal form, and she won't be going on the monitor."
First of all, if Dr. Drake was in the room telling Nurse Amber I wouldn't be going on the external fetal monitor, she wouldn't be saying 'I don't know about that,' and second of all how fantastic is it for me to have a midwife to advocate for my wishes, which we had discussed at length for the previous eight months, while I focused on labouring. I knew this conversation was happening, but I didn't need to contribute to it. My midwife also said, "It's in her birth plan. You really need to read her birth plan, which is in her chart."
I wasn't aware of what happened next, but my midwife and Amber wound up at the nurse's station talking to the head nurse. Of course, the head nurse knew that a woman can refuse anything she doesn't want in health care, so she settled the matter in my favour and nothing more was said.
A similar thing happened with my I.V. Women who are VBACs in hospital are always given a large bore I.V. saline lock in case they require surgery and/or a blood transfusion. I choose not to consider myself a potential obstetrical emergency and dislike extra discomfort or apparatus while giving birth, so I refuse this I.V. However, I have tested group B strep positive for both my natural births and decided in both cases to accept I.V. antibiotics to treat it, which are administered every four hours during labour. Most women would choose to have a saline lock in place so they only need to be poked once with a needle, but I prefer repeated pokes and no saline lock.
Amber bustled up with a eighteen gauge needle and the longest saline lock I’ve ever seen with about a billion ports.
“Why are you using an eighteen gauge for an in and out I.V?” I asked, eyeing the huge needle with a green port (green is eighteen gauge).
“Oh, this is the standard size in obstetrics,” Amber assures me.
“Yes, I know it is, but it’s not staying in so can you get a smaller one?”
“No, this is all we have.” POKE, fiddle, tape, op site, more tape…I rolled my eyes. Then my midwife Cathy noticed what was going on and reiterated that Amber really needed to read my birth plan, because that I.V. would be coming out as soon as the antibiotics finished running. Ambers eyes widened in surprise:
“You would rather be poked more than once?” I laughed.
“YES! I know I’m weird, but that’s what I want!” I’m not sure if it was the joke about me being weird, or if she figured my birth plan really deserved a read, but she was no more trouble after that. We didn’t need her much, so she was only in the room for a few more minutes and then for the birth itself, several hours later. This whole interaction took only about fifteen minutes but was an interesting example of the intersection between a medical approach and a humanistic or midwifery approach.
The kids all grouped around the room, eating timbits and looking around with wide eyes at the hospital room. Matthew was curious about all the machines, my I.V., the fetal monitor, the cupboards, the bathroom…
Ayden settled back in the soft chair and watched like a pro~he was present for Riley’s birth process and remembers it well. Riley was establishing territory with Matthew and settling his doll on the windowsill, waiting for the “baby come out.” All three soon settled in reading stories. Brent was perfect labour support, he was very in tune with me and applied counter pressure to my back during contractions and rubbed my back in between whenever I asked him to. He was never far away. If he was occupied with one of the kids my mom filled in with counter pressure on my back.
It was interesting to me the amount of pressure I felt in my back during each contraction this time~my labour with Riley was almost all in the front. I didn’t have ‘back labour,’ because the pain was absent between contractions, and Amarys was in a good position (not posterior), but with every contraction my sacrum felt pulled with such force that it flexed in the middle. A few times I commented that it felt like my back was going to break in two pieces!
Brent’s mom and sister arrived and came into my room to say hello. Everyone was quiet and peaceful, but I like to have a number of supportive, loving family and friends around when I give birth so it was nice to feel like we filled the room and that there were a number of conversations going on at once.
When the I.V. antibiotics were started, I moved to my exercise ball on the floor by the bed. Early evening was generally the baby’s most active time of day, and so it wasn’t surprising that she started doing some major gymnastics at this point, causing her heart rate to increase to the 170s and 180s. Cathy recommended some time on the fetal monitor and I agreed. The monitor paddle kept being kicked by a very active baby and the sound made me giggle; “thwockathwockathwockaTHUMPBUMPthwockathwockaKKKKKTHUMPBUMP!” The movements were very visible. It was remarkable how everyone’s focus, even my own, moved from my body to the readout and noise coming from the monitor. We are a fairly low tech bunch of people who believe in physiological birth and a woman’s body knowing best and yet that machine is quite captivating! Once she settled down her heart rate returned to the mid 140s and stayed there, and Cathy removed the monitor. For me, as long as I stayed vertical, either sitting or standing, and I had counter pressure, my contractions were very manageable. The antibiotics finished and the ridiculous eighteen gauge gadget was removed from my hand. I was free! The kids went to a waiting area next to our room to watch a movie, and I emptied my bladder and then climbed in the enormous bathtub. WOW the tub was awesome! I loved the tub, I praised the tub, I determined I wanted to MARRY THE TUB! It was obviously designed for labouring women because it was enormous and deep. (Water births are not officially “allowed” at this hospital as yet, but this tub will be perfect once they are). The water really soothed me and helped me to maximize my hypnobirthing techniques to really get deeply relaxed during surges. It was still more comfortable for me to be upright so I mostly sat in the tub rather than lay down.
The best techniques that worked for me this time were counting backwards from ten, silently, and relaxing twice as much with each number. Usually by the count of six or seven, the height of that surge was finished and a few more breaths and it faded away. Sometimes the counting didn’t work so I would repeat, silently, “Relax, relax, relax,” or “Peace, peace, peace,” or if it was really intense, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” A few times I visualized my cervix melting away into the thinnest ribbon and lifting up and disappearing, and a few times I pictured that tree planted by the water in Jeremiah 17. Whenever I remembered that my friends and family were praying for me, I smiled, and a few times I laughed even during contractions if someone said something funny. Ina May mentions the dilating power of being positive in labour, so I tried to be as positive as I could. This really helped me, as did the Birthing From Within concept of non focused awareness, because last time noises really bothered me, but this time full conversations didn’t bother me, nor did the Doppler, nor did the camera. There were floaties in my tub, but they didn’t freak me out. My strong fear of germ contamination was totally absent. It really was incredible how peaceful it all was, and how calm and capable I felt.
The kids were in and out of the bathroom during the several hours I was in the tub. I lost all track of time on purpose, and didn’t want cervical checks because I try to get away from my left brained, measuring, logical brain during birth, particularly the active phase. Its better in my experience to get deeply engrossed in the present moment, it makes things easier to cope with. Counter pressure would have been helpful~before I got in the tub it brought my back pain from 7/10 down to 3/10 or less! But the tub was so large and deep that without his bathing suit it would have been awkward and pretty wet, and we forgot to pack Brent’s shorts. It wasn’t as bad in the tub, or I didn’t care as much, because I was managing well without the counter pressure. I ate my evening snack in the tub, a pear and some cashews. When we arrived, and later when I got out of the tub, Cathy had me test my blood sugar. It was high after that snack so she had me give myself four units of short acting insulin to bring it down a bit.
I was also working to stay hydrated, but at one point in the tub my water was too cold and each time I drank some of it, it gave me painful contractions. I asked for it to be warmed up and Cathy poured most of her peppermint tea into my water bottle: there’s a true example of midwifery care going above and beyond! I had expected warm tap water, but peppermint tea was infinitely better!
Suddenly, I hit an emotional wall, and I said, “Okay I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to do this anymore.” Part of this was deadpan humour, but the other part was dead serious. I knew I was near the end, I didn’t want to face greater intensity, and I did not want to push. Cathy reassured me that because I didn’t want to continue, it meant I was almost finished, and that I was doing really well. It was what I needed to hear. I told her I was afraid to push, and that I thought my vagina was too small to push out a baby, but she reassured me there, too, saying vaginas are built like accordions and designed to stretch. My mom reminded me of another analogy, where a tiny bud seems far too small to become a flower without violence or damage to the bud, but nature knows that full bloom is not only possible, but beautiful and natural.
After expressing not wanting to do this anymore, I felt bad for being negative and apologized for being whiney. Both Cathy and my mom laughed, because in general I was so quiet and peaceful, it didn't seem to them that I was being whiney at all.Cathy wanted me to get out of the tub for my second round of antibiotics and I kept saying, “Uh-huh,” but not actually doing it! I had been feeling pressure but not a strong urge to push, and I had a feeling the decreased gravity in the tub was keeping me from really feeling a strong urge to push. I didn’t want to get out of my nice, warm tub oasis, and I figured that once I got out I wouldn’t be able to get back in. I didn’t mind too much the idea of pushing outside the tub, although I had hoped to break hospital policy and just ‘accidentally’ give birth in the tub. This idea wasn’t something I felt strongly about but I couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t get out of the tub until it occurred to me that I was afraid to be cold. I remember the transitions in and out of the shower with Riley’s birth being quite uncomfortable. So I asked for some warm blankets to wrap around me when I climbed out, and they worked wonderfully. I went over to sit on the bed for the second round of antibiotics but realized I should empty my bladder again. While I was on the toilet I got really pushy, and I thought, “Well, lots of babies are born on the toilet!” Cathy didn’t want me to give birth while she was fiddling with an I.V, especially on the toilet, so she abandoned the I.V. and asked me to move to the bed. I did NOT want to be relegated to pushing on that darn bed like a beetle so I asked for the birth stool so I could be vertical while I was pushing. Both Cathy and myself anticipated this second stage to go quickly, so the second round of antibiotics was set aside as something we didn’t have time for. Ironically, I pushed for an hour! I spent about half that time on the birth stool, and it was very nice and peaceful with the lights low, my mom on one side of me, Brent on the other side, Cathy waiting watchfully and encouraging me, and Louise taking photos very unobtrusively and occasionally encouraging me also. Eventually my tailbone got tired of being compressed on the chair during each push and I felt that lying down would be better because I could rest more completely between pushes, so I requested to lie on my side on the bed.
It was remarkable to experience the difference between a first and second delivery with regards to pushing; it took me a long time and a lot of help and coaching to push Riley out, but this time my body transitioned into the second stage seamlessly, and I breathed through contractions until the urge to push was too strong to resist, and my body did it for me. Cathy said this is normal, to need coaching for pushing the first time but be able to follow your body in subsequent labours.
Eventually the second round of antibiotics was given to me by a nurse that I loved because (a) she used a smaller needle without hesitation, and (b) she was quick, thoughtful, and worked hard to ensure it went in my vein between contractions despite them being very close together at this point.
I breathed and moaned and Cathy said a few times that my still intact waters were bulging and that once they broke, the baby’s head would be right behind them. I felt them once with my hand, and it was like a balloon filled with water, but with seams in the balloon. Eventually I said, “Can you please break them [my membranes]? I’m a strong believer in letting them break on their own, but this is ridiculous!” Everyone laughed and Cathy tried to break them with her finger, but they were very strong so she needed an amnio hook. Right behind the waters, there was the head. When the baby’s head was crowning I swore, because the fullness was so intense and everything was stretched to its maximum. I think I was surprised that it stayed that way between contractions, and that is why I had such a strong reaction. I tend to be quiet in labour and turn inward very deeply, so it was funny that I laboured so silently and then hollered at the end! The experience of pushing this second time was far more coordinated and natural than the first time, and I just followed my body. The baby’s head emerged slowly and without tearing, with one loose loop of cord around the neck, but when her shoulders came out it was more difficult to control and I had a second degree tear. I had extensive tearing with Riley and scar tissue is not as strong as intact tissue so I wasn’t surprised, although Cathy was frustrated; we had worked together so well to ease the baby’s head out without trauma, and then the shoulders caused a tear!
I was so relieved that the baby was out! I reached down and Cathy passed her warm, slippery body to me, and I lifted it towards my chest. The cord was not long enough to come all the way up to my chest or for me to check if it was a boy or a girl, so we stayed cuddled up with her on my tummy while she was rubbed dry. She opened her eyes and let out a cry, and I was overcome with emotion and repeated, “You’re awake! You’re awake!” This moment made me realize that a small part of me was still emotionally wounded from Riley being born unconscious and needing resuscitation and immediate separation. This birth helped to heal that memory for me. My mom couldn’t wait any longer and checked~she jumped up and down and shouted “YES!!” so we knew it must be a girl!! Once the cord stopped pulsing Cathy clamped the cord and I cut it~our first time separated. I lifted her up to my chest and we stayed skin to skin for two hours, nursing and cuddling. It was perfect. I had knit her a hat, and she wore only the hat for two hours, and stayed on my skin under a towel and blanket acclimatizing to life on the outside.
The placenta took awhile to come, and although it had detached it was large and having difficulty coming out, so about half an hour after the birth Cathy proposed the idea of a shot of oxytocin to help expel it. We had been trying more natural methods, breastfeeding and being patient. I agreed to the shot and that did the trick; out came a large, healthy placenta.
Shortly after she was born, Brent went to tell the kids and grandma and auntie in the waiting room that we had a girl! The plan had been for the kids to be in the room when she was born, but it didn’t happen that way. They were very excited to have a sister though! And they had been a big part of the whole experience, so it was okay in the end. Brent gave them the choice to come in now, while there was still a lot of blood and the placenta yet to come out and suturing to do, or to wait until that was done. They opted to wait. By the time we were ready to call them in, Matthew and Riley had fallen asleep and they were so exhausted that we couldn’t wake them up for more than a quick peek, but Ayden was enraptured. We all were! It was a wonderful, joyful, peaceful birth and I am so grateful to have experienced it. And we are all grateful for our baby girl!
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.~John 14:27