WARNING: The birth story is graphic. It talks about bodily functions. I didn't leave details out. It's not for the weak or people who are easily grossed out! Deal with it. Read at your own discretion =)
My new baby is sound asleep in his father's arms on the couch, so I finally have a few minutes to write down his birth story. It's going to be lots of information (probably a lot of TMI), so just be wary of that. I want to make sure I don't leave out any details; I doubt something like this could fade from someone's memory, but just in case parenting fries my brain as much as pregnancy did I want to have it all written down!
So below is the birth story of Aias Jeffrey, born November 8th 2009 at 4:52pm. He weighed in at 6lbs 9oz, was 20 inches long, and had Apgar scores of 9 and 9.
A little due date tidbit:
My original due date as based on my LMP was November 8th 2009. My dating ultrasound took it down 2 days, so the mental due date I had in mind was November 6th. At any rate, we all know that due dates essentially mean nothing, but instead just mark a point in a 5 week-ish period where our babies could arrive, but I only take note of this because Aias was actually born on his original due date. Pretty cool!
More relevant background info:
I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy, but it was one with many anxieties because I am a nervous person by nature. When I found out I was pregnant at 6 weeks, the worry set in and I was worrying on a regular basis about everything from miscarriage to birth defects, stillbirth to SIDS. I essentially mentally tortured myself from the start. All the time, worrying and worrying, inquiring about EVERYTHING. Anyhow, you'll be somewhat relieved to find out that everything I obsessed about turned out ok in the end. Just don't expect that it will make your worries go away; in my experience, nothing can actually fully bring to a halt the anxiety of a first time mother.
Even more information:
- I was a part of the South Community Birth Program in Vancouver, BC, Canada; a centering pregnancy group that combines group care with one-on-one care and uses a team of amazing female doctors, nurses, midwives, and doulas. At present, this program isn't authorized to do home births, but they do focus on low intervention pregnancy and births , and babies in the program are born at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Vancouver.
- Early in my pregnancy my baby screened positive for Down's Syndrome with a 1/230 chance; very high for someone my age (26). Because his health looked quite perfect based on ultrasounds, movement, heart rate, etc, we opted AGAINST the amniocentesis and decided to find out at his birth whether or not he had down's.
- In August of my pregnancy I tested GBS- (Group B Strep Negative), however in both September and October, I tested GBS+ (Group B Strep Positive). This played a big role in my labour choices, or rather, the nature of choices I had to make.
Onto the actual birth story:
My pre-labour began at about week 36. I was getting lots of strong contractions, mostly Braxton Hicks, probably about 5-8 times an hour and for most of the day and night. On the rare occasion, a contraction would be "painful," but for the most part they were painless and very irregular. There were actually 2 separate occasions when I went to the L&D (Labour and Delivery) because I was quite convinced my waters were leaking but both times it turned out that I had just been having lots of discharge or I had peed myself (typical in pregnancy, not typical for me otherwise haha). I had promised myself at this point that I wasn't going back to that L&D unless I was 100% sure that my labour had begun! I was starting to feel a little bit goofy, and I wanted them to take me seriously there and not think I was this crazy woman who just constantly thought she was in labour.
Toward week 38, I was getting REALLY antsy and I was fairly concerned that my baby was never coming by his own means. This terrified me because I really wanted to have as natural a birth as possible. I think that part of the reason was that I wasn't feeling very uncomfortable, the contractions seemed to be just messing with me, and everyone kept saying how small my tummy looked and how high the baby looked. I'd been on mat leave since week 36 and the idea of potentially waiting until week 42 made me nuts! Anyway, I plugged on. I took loooong walks (two of them were 12k with lots of uphill), ate an INSANE amount of spicy food, had sex despite the awkward positioning it required, and I kept drinking my red raspberry leaf tea and taking evening primrose oil orally. When November 6th came, and my baby didn't, I was very discouraged. I had convinced myself that since my due date on my dating ultrasound had given me a due date of November 6th, that now my child was "late."
The two things that kept me feeling less antsy were:
- Thinking it would be pretty cool if he was born on Friday the 13th, even though that would have been a week past his due date
- Thinking it would be pretty cool if he was born on November 8th, which was his "official" due date according to the doctor's office and according to my last menstrual period
Saturday November 7th didn't bring a lot of action... I got up early, went downtown, walked around in the bookstore and a few other shops, had breakfast and coffee at Starbucks, and went to an Annual General Meeting for a society I'm a part of. Then I went home and Morgan had surprised me by doing the final cleaning touches on our bedroom and setting it all up so it would be ready for when the baby arrived. The baby has his own room, but we REALLY wanted the whole house to be in PERFECT shape before the birth because we knew that if it wasn't clean then... it would never be, haha. Anyway, it was a super nice surprise and we planned on getting a Zipcar (www.zipcar.com) the next day to drop off recycling at the depot, drop items we were getting rid of at a charity, and drop trash off at the transfer station. I figured that then the house would REALLY be in perfect shape for the baby and then the baby would feel like he could come.
That night we went to bed at around 11pm.
At around 3:45am I woke up because I had a dream that I broke my pelvis. I rolled over and my pelvic bone was hurting a bit for a second, and then it stopped. I poked Morgan and said "I think the baby is getting too heavy for my pelvis! I think it's breaking!" and then I went back to sleep. What felt like 5 minutes later but was really about 45 minutes later, I felt something warm, poked Morgan and said "I think my water broke!" He ran to turn on the lights and sure enough, it had! And it wasn't like the other times before when I thought it broke, it was a tidal wave!!! I was laughing and giggling hysterically at this point, partially because I was so shocked and excited, and partially because I was SO RELIEVED that this time I was SURE my water broke. I ran downstairs and sat on the toilet and sure enough, the water kept gushing out in little bits. It was AWESOME, haha. Morgan and I both realized it would probably be a super long day and that we should go back to sleep and give the doctor a call a bit later. Morgan managed to get a little extra sleep, but I was WAY too excited, so I went downstairs and bummed around until 6am when I finally called the birth program to let them know what was happening. One of my favorite doctors, Kiran, was on call, so the first thing I asked was how much longer her shift was; and she was only going to be on shift another 2 hours! I asked who the person was who was on next, and she said Martha, which made me VERY excited because Martha is amazing. Since I am GBS+, Kiran reminded me that at the hospital I'd have to decide if I wanted an induction if labour didn't really get going on it's own,and if I wanted antibiotics, etc. We agreed that I would call around 8:30am to give an update and at that point would plan on going to the L&D to meet with Martha. After talking to Kiran I called our doula, Erin, to let her know what was happening. We said we didn't need her just then but that we would need her later in the day.
When I got off the phone with Kiran, Morgan and I had a talk just to double check with each other how we felt about the antibiotics and the induction; we wanted to avoid both if possible. At that time, I was having contractions but they weren't strong or regular. I knew I was in labour, but just early labour and I could handle it. We took the dog for a walk and then planned on going out to breakfast. Morgan booked a Zipcar for 2 days because we didn't know how long it would all take. We ended up going to Cafe Crepe, and it was really delicious, relaxing, and kind of funny. The whole time I was having these random contractions and every time the baby moved little mini gushes of water would soak into the giant pad I was wearing. I thought it was pretty sneaky and funny that I was in labour and no one in the restaurant knew but us! I felt so sneaky, haha.
We called Martha at around 9:20, and she said to meet her at the L&D in 20 minutes or so. When we got there, Morgan parked the car and we checked in. Martha arrived shortly after, checked my pad to double confirm it was amniotic fluid, and of course, it was! She didn't do a pelvic exam to check my progress because of the GBS+ and not wanting to contaminate anything if it wasn't necessary. Then we once again discussed some of our choices... the first issue to deal with was whether or not I wanted to start the antibiotics... the second issue was induction. Typically in women who are GBS+, if their water breaks before active labour begins, they start antibiotics every 4 hours. If labour doesn't begin until 18 hours, they induce. She said we could get an induction right then and there if we wanted, or we could plan to come back later in the day. Either way, we really should plan to have one within the next several hours, because the clock was ticking. We wanted to avoid the antibiotics unless further risk factors were present (such as my getting a fever) and we didn't want a pharmaceutical induction (cervadil/pitocin/etc). We decided to go home and wait it out, and to meet back at the L&D at 5pm to discuss a possible induction at that point. As a last effort, she offered to give us the midwife "Labour Cocktail" to see if it got things started. We asked what it was, and she said it was a recipe that you blend together in a smoothie. The ingredients included 2 tablespoons of castor oil, almond butter, fresh apricot juice, 1 litre of water, and then 5 drops of 100% pure verbena oil (the oil being very expensive, hard to acquire in its purest form, and unavailable in Canada). We decided we would DEFINITELY want to try this. She didn't have any of the verbena at the hospital, but said she would drive to the clinic to get some if we followed her. We followed her, got the oil and the recipe, and then went to Whole Foods for the remaining ingredients (the juice and almond butter and castor oil). Before we left she let us know that I could go walking or do whatever I wanted after taking it, but to stay close to a bathroom because I could possibly get some pretty bad diarrhea from the cocktail. She also reminded me to drink LOTS of water to avoid dehydration.
We tried calling the doula a few times again, and left a few messages, but still hadn't heard anything back from her.
We got home at around noon, and I had Morgan mix the drink. It smelled disgusting, and I'm really terrible at eating and drinking things that gross me out. Nevertheless, I didn't want a pharmaceutical induction at all, so I chugged it down, chasing it with handfuls of these Organic Cheddar Bunny Crackers (they are like goldfish crackers basically). I got through it at pretty much exactly 12:30.
Then... we waited. We watched a few episodes of the office and it felt like forever. At about 1:47, we ran out of episodes and I looked at the clock and I remember thinking "this is never gonna happen and I'm gonna end up with the induction."
Boy was I wrong.
At 2:10 the contractions really started to hurt. The best way I can describe them is that they felt like REALLY bad REALLY persistent menstrual cramps. They were all in my lower back, and when they would come my body would just get incredibly tense and tight and I found it very hard to loosen up or breathe through the feeling. I've always gotten horrible menstrual periods that required me to take tons of midol and to stay home from work or school for a day or 2 just laying in a ball on a heating pad because they are so bad, and that's just exactly what these pains felt like, except that that pain lasted for longer spikes. We tried calling the doula again, but still, no answer. Around 2:30 I was in actual uncomfortable pain. Any sense of modesty I had previously maintained was just completely out the window. I ripped off my t-shirt and sweatpants because I was having hot flashes, I got into my robe, and was just breathing and trying to cope while sitting on our couch. When a contraction came, I ripped the robe off, when it went away, I covered myself up to keep warm. More water kept gushing out every few minutes, so I kept my underwear and pad on, but other than that, I was just running around with no clothes. Morgan had the computer set up to a website that times contractions (you hit start and stop and it keeps a log) and was helping me keep track of how close they were. For about 10 minutes they were about 30 seconds long and 5-8 minute apart. Then around 2:40, I'm not even kidding, they were 60 to 120 seconds long, and were coming every 3-5 minutes. Things started to happen fast now... we called the doula yet again, and she still wasn't answering. I was stressed because I had planned on using her TENS machine, and was planning on her being there to support us. Because we had planned on having a doula, we hadn't talked about different support measures we wanted to take. Every time a contraction would come, we would sort of fly by the seat of our pants trying to figure out what to do to get through it. I fear the impending contractions because I was using all the down time to try and come up with a brilliant coping plan. I DESPERATELY wanted to get into the bathtub but I couldn't because of being GBS+. so I settled for the shower. I tried to have as many contractions as I could on the couch with Morgan rubbing my back but they were just too damn painful. I was getting frustrated with having to say start or stop, and poor Morgan was getting upset because he didn't think he was timing the contractions accurately. The next 45 minutes (from about 2:45 to 3:30) were just a complete gong show. Morgan was trying to keep track of my contractions, but I was completely spacing out. There was so little break between the contractions and they were so irregular and had such variable lengths. We called and talked to Martha a few times, and Morgan read his contraction timing averages out, and she said it didn't sound like we were very frantic but that things were definitely happening and to hang in there. She didn't think it sounded like the contractions were close enough together or regular or strong enough to take it to the hospital just yet. She asked if we had talked to our doula and we let her know that we weren't able to reach her. She was unhappy with the doula situation as well, and said she would get her work phone number from the system and would give her a call. At the very least we needed a replacement.
At around 3:40 (I think) our doula called and said she would send a replacement doula ASAP, and she said to hang in there, keep timing the contractions, and to plan on still meeting back at the L&D at 5pm and we would take it from there. She also gave Morgan some good tips to help me manage the contractions. By 3:45, I was in so much pain I'd HAD it. I was completely flustered, the contractions were insane, and I was hopping in and out of the shower during them. I had the water on basically boiling, a towel on the ground of the tub so I could get down on all fours, and I was just running all over the place. Finally Morgan was like "let's try and work through these together on the couch if you can." We went through 3 contractions with him rubbing and putting pressure on my lower back, and I really don't think I could have gotten through those without him... they were so strong. Then it occurred to me that I hadn't had any diarrhea at all, nor had I made a bowel movement since the day before. I suddenly felt as though the contractions were probably so bad because perhaps I was constipated in addition to being in labour. A minute later I passed gas once, and suddenly decided that the best place for me to go would be onto the toilet. I decided what felt best was to push out through the contractions. The thing is, I felt lots of pressure in my lower back and in my "tummy" and bowels, and I really felt like nothing was happening near my uterus or vagina or anything like that. So essentially I started doing what I thought would make me pass more gas or have a bowel movement, and in turn perhaps make this whole process hurt less: when the contractions would come I would run onto the toilet and push what I THOUGHT was my bowels. I was freaking out and hoping this would help, because I figured that at this point I was in active labour but I knew that transition and pushing were to come, and I couldn't even BELIEVE that transition could be worse than this.
Well... what I didn't know at that time was that transition wouldn't be worse than that, because I was already in transition. My urges to push had nothing to do with constipation, and everything to do with being fully dilated and my body urging me to bear down and push out the baby. I didn't know this at all, and didn't describe it to Martha on the phone or to Morgan because I was in so much pain I couldn't speak or really articulate how I was feeling. Morgan stood next to me as I went through 3-4 contractions on the toilet as I pushed. I was getting really frustrated that I hadn't made a bowel movement, and my dog was staring at me in a seriously annoying way from across the hall, so I asked Morgan to please bring the dog upstairs between the next contraction, so he did. When he was upstairs with the dog, I put my hand between my legs to check for bleeding and I felt something very weird... I screamed "Oh my GOD I feel something I think it's the cord coming out!" (it wasn't, it was actually the very top of my baby's head or something, but I didn't know that).
Morgan RAN down the stairs and said "We are leaving now; I don't care what they say... we need to be there now...this is crazy"
As he grabbed our stuff, I waddled down the stairs, went out the door, and stood sort of bent over outside the Zipcar as I waited. I had this unusual feeling of relaxation coming over me, that felt different from before... my contractions still hurt, but there was more time between them (maybe 5 minutes now), and they just felt... different. Morgan unlocked the car and l told him I was going in the backseat because I needed to lay down.
JUST as he opened the drivers seat door, a cab pulled in front of the house and the replacement doula, Michelle, stepped out. Morgan got out, yelled to her to get into the car, and she did, then he started driving. When she got in I was annoyed at first because this was seriously too little too late in my opinion (not her fault though!), but Morgan did the talking and just briefed her. She seemed concerned to me about the description of how I felt... and she told me DO NOT give into the urges to push... those are urges to give birth to the baby! I said "no they aren't I just really need to poo" and she said "NO that's what it feels like!" I couldn't believe how calm and nice she was from the start; I think she's some sort of naturally soothing wizard woman or something.
Morgan kept driving carefully but quickly, and she started getting gloves on because she was worried we would have to pull over and she would have to catch this baby. When the next contraction came, it was very different... instead of me feeling the urge to push, my body was just pushing on its own. I was feeling frantic, telling her I couldn't help but push... it was just happening. She told me to lift my body up, pant, and really try my best not to push. We got through 3 of these, and I could feel the baby's head desperately wanting to come out. Just after the third contraction like this, Morgan pulled into the drop off of the L&D. They were waiting for us with a wheelchair. MIchelle asked Morgan to park in the 30 minute emergency parking even though we would be there for a while. I got out of the backseat, and waddled over to the wheelchair. It felt weird to walk or sit because of how low the baby's head was. They wheeled me into admitting, some talking happened (I don't remember this part very well at all) and then I was wheeled into a delivery room. Martha and 2 nurses were there, and they asked Martha if they should start an IV for my antibiotics or for pain medication; Martha just looked at them and said "she's about to have the baby, there isn't any need for that." Morgan appeared (he had been parking the car), I got out of my wheelchair, I ripped off my pants, I threw them at the wall, I climbed onto the bed, I laid down, and I shouted "I need to push can I please push!!!!!!" and Martha said "Yes push if you feel like you want to, for sure!"
I pushed long and short once, then I pushed long and hard once. Then they saw the baby's head... I gave one more super long push and out came his head... then out came his shoulders... before I knew it, this little creature was on my stomach staring up at me.
Morgan's parking ticket said 4:42pm; Aias was born at 4:52pm.
Seeing him was bizarre. He had been in my tummy only minutes earlier, and I had thought it would still be hours. It all happened so incredibly fast, that I barely even noticed it. Now this little person I had been waiting to meet for MONTHS was finally here! He didn't look how I thought he would look; he wasn't slimy or covered in vernix, he just had some of my blood on the top of his head. He was pink and alert. The doula and a nurse helped me breast feed him and Morgan stood next to us both. I had 7 teeny, tiny, 1st degree tears (all skin and blood vessels, no muscle or anything) and the midwife was giving me freezing and stitching me for about 10 minutes afterward. This was very uncomfortable and worse than the labour for me. It was also gross when they continually were checking my uterus to see if it was going back to the normal size. It felt really awkward! The stitching was over quickly though, and they put this pack of ice underneath me. I was worried it would be too cold, but it felt just right!!!
After his feeding, Morgan stood and helped the nurse do his newborn exam. He weighed in at 6lbs 9oz, was 20 inches long, and had Apgar scores of 9 and 9.
And just like that... he belonged to us. We sat in the room for an hour or so just getting to know the baby, nursing him, looking at his little face. Michelle was there with me and it was so nice to talk to her; I felt totally relaxed. I called my family, Morgan went to grab us food (Michelle reminded him to do that haha), and then home to grab pillows and to give the dog a walk really quickly (it had been hours). I took a shower. My aunt stopped in to see the baby, and then when Morgan came back, we went up to the recovery room.
The whole thing was surreal. In the end, I was glad that we didn't take the antibiotics and that we didn't opt for the pharmaceutical induction that was offered to us immediately. With Aias being born at 4:52, if we had not taken the labour cocktail and had just gone the pharmaceutical induction route, we would have ended up showing up 8 minutes later, just to start an induction. Who knows what would have happened naturally without the cocktail, but things could have ended up very different. I was really glad that the first and only needle I had to have during my labor was the needle sewing me up after it was all over. In all honestly, next time I will have a home birth because I feel like if I had been at that hospital earlier, I'd have been begging for pain relief. At one point when I was at home during transition, Morgan said I told him I wanted a c-section when I got to the hospital because it hurt so badly. I said I couldn't do it anymore, and that I needed pain relief. Now I know I don't need it. And now I know what it really feels like for my body to give birth to a baby, and I just think that's so cool.
Honestly... if you are considering a drug-free labour, go for it! Don't be terrified! Toward the end of my pregnancy I was SO SCARED and I knew I had talked myself up to everyone saying I wasn't getting pain relief, etc, and I was getting pretty nervous I'd be all talk... if I can do it, ANYONE can do it!!! I PROMISE!