Besides being pregnant through one of the most humid summers and early autumns on record, my pregnancy was a pretty straightforward one. Most of my suffering came from the realization that most of my shoes no longer fit due to water retention and my iron levels dipped dramatically low during my third trimester, but the wonderfulness (dare I use that word to describe pregnancy?) during my second trimester made up for the morning sickness during the first and the fatigue during the third.
Even though I started dozing off during my commute home, I was also overwhelmed with excitement. Not soon after my husband and I decided to start trying we found out we were pregnant, and we couldn’t wait to meet the little guy.
My estimated due date was November 6th, though that day came and went without incident. My midwives* assured me that it could happen any day now, which became my immediate response anytime anyone asked if he was here yet.
*By the way, I can only say positive things about my midwifery experience. It is truly care that goes above and beyond. I initially chose midwives for the convenience of getting to appointments, but was overwhelmed by how “on call” they are for you and how they addressed every one of my questions and fears with knowledge and genuine insight.
The evening of November 11th, I slept horribly. It was one of those “I am over this and so incredibly uncomfortable” nights that had shown up as of late. On November 12th, for some reason our husband and I decided to stay up ’til midnight. He was already sleeping separately from me that week; he had a cold and didn’t want to pass that along to me when I needed my “health and strength for labour.” I recall saying good night and then commenting, “I think I’m starting to have contractions.”
I didn’t sleep at all that night. Instead I stared at the alarm clock as every 10-11 minutes, without fail, my stomach would cramp and cause me to curl up in a ball. It disturbed all hope of sleep and instead told me one thing – I would be giving birth to a baby sometime in the next 24-48 hours!
At 8:30 in the morning of November 13th, I decided to wake my husband with, “I think I’m in early labour.” He replied, “Why didn’t you wake me sooner?” and asked me how I was feeling as we quickly ate breakfast.
One of the final things on our to-do list was to install the car seat, which came with a base for first-time parents who don’t want to fiddle with seat belts each and every time. The police station downtown offered free installations and we luckily had made an appointment for that morning so off we went, with hospital bags in the trunk and me timing my contractions at about 7-8 minutes apart during the ride there. As the gentlemen installed the car seat, my husband excitedly told him that he thought we were going into labour. Oh man, that guy reacted!
“Oh, WOW! Wow, wow, wow! How do you feel?”
I had just finished going through a contraction. “I’ve been better.”
He howled. “Wow, congratulations! Wow!”
With car seat securely installed, my husband asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I called my midwife, who was caught off guard that we were already on our way there, as she was half an hour away. Still, she said she would meet us there and to let labour and delivery know of our arrival and then just walk around.
And walk I did, arms linked with my husband’s. I couldn’t tell you how many laps we did around that wing of the hospital, but I do recall making jokes at certain posters talking about pregnancy, and pausing every 5 minutes to either hunch over in pain or take deep breaths. We called both our parents, and my mom and dad said they’d be there in a couple of hours.
When my midwife arrived just after noontime, she led me to a private area to check out baby’s heartbeat and see how I was doing. This is the moment I was dreading. Was I making this pain up in my head? Was I really in false labour and be sent home? We soon discovered that I was already 5cm dilated and the baby would, indeed, be coming either today or tomorrow! (Though of course I was thinking, today please!)
We became acquainted with the room where we’d meet our little one for the very first time and my husband went off to get us some lunch – fine dining of Subway and doughnuts from Tim Hortons. I was apprehensive about eating (I had heard one too many horror stories of pushing something other than baby out), but also knew I’d likely pass out if I didn’t have anything inside my stomach so I munched away as my midwife explained the pains and discomfort that would come in the next hours.
A little aside: I had no detailed birth plan. When people asked I answered, “baby healthy, and hopefully mama healthy.” I had watched enough YouTube pregnancy vlogs and post-delivery vlogs to realize I did not want to set myself up for something and then be disappointed if it turned out differently. I decided to just roll with it. If I needed drugs, I would take them. If I could stand the pain, I’d go without. I did have one hope, though – that I could use the tub.
The tub was more like a jacuzzi and was the best hour of my labour. Just my midwife and husband in the room with me, bikini top on and submerged in warm water. With each contraction, my midwife would pour water over my belly and then a few minutes later, my husband would bring me water to stay hydrated. My midwife warned me that in some instances, the tub slowed things down, but fortunately it didn’t in my case – I was 7cm dilated at next check!
My parents had arrived and it was amazing to have my midwife and husband take turns massaging me, while my mom asked if there was anything else I needed, and my father talked the midwife’s ear off and asked a gazillion questions.
The next few hours were spent either bouncing on a birthing ball or sitting on the toilet. And I literally do just mean sitting on the toilet. It was one of those industrial ones where the metal pipe hit right against the base of my spine and it felt SO GOOD. Most of the labour seemed to be in my back, even though baby was in the right position.
I could hear everyone in the room talking among themselves and my midwife would come in every 10 minutes to check baby’s heartbeat and see how I was doing, but it was nice to have a little bit of solitude and brace myself for what was to come.
It was while I was sitting there that I began to experience the worst contractions, to the point of groaning. My midwife offered just putting needles in my back – not drugs, but it was essentially little “bee stings” that would help alleviate back pain, but I declined. It was also while I was sitting there that I grew fearful. As the pain intensified, I wondered where would be the peak, and had I even progressed at all?
I’ll admit, the next two hours are a blur to me now. I remember saying bye to my dad who was heading to an evening work shift, eventually getting checked and confirmed to be 8cm, groaning to the point where my husband and mother became increasingly concerned, and then telling my midwife that I was starting to feel a strong pressure down below unlike any I had felt before. She told me that this would be the last opportunity for drugs if I wanted them, but I refused. I was becoming used to the idea of being mobile and being in any position I wanted to be in.
Eventually it came time to push, and the backup midwife had arrived to assist. I remember my husband going between standing behind the curtain and in the hallway; he said he couldn’t see me in pain anymore and also didn’t want to see it all, and I understood. My mom was at my side, holding my hand and stroking my forehead — until, suddenly, she wasn’t.
I was in the middle of a push when my mom’s grip on my hand loosened and then I heard a dull thud – she had fainted! Immediately the cord was pulled from the wall to request assistance, and my husband freaked but remained behind the curtain. “Is everything okay?!”
I was freaking out, too. “I can’t do this alone!” I recall exclaiming.
“You’re not alone!” my midwife replied.
My mom, thankfully, came to and was feeling okay, though she spent the rest of the delivery sitting safely in the armchair. She expressed that she fainted at seeing me in so much pain, which made my heart ache.
At this point, delivery while lying on my back wasn’t progressing well. They had broken my water, but when they searched for baby’s heartbeat, they found it had slowed down, so we decided to switch things up.
At first, I was on my side with my legs hovering about. This wasn’t helping either. Finally, I ended up on all fours, my mouth biting the pillow when the pain became too intense. My midwife guided me, telling me to do short pushes now. Short pushes?! No! Baby needs to come out, now!
I’m grateful though, because after only 45 minutes of pushing, our beautiful boy entered the world at 8:31pm.
And he came out shrieking.
He had swallowed some meconium and so for the first 10 minutes, he was pressed up against my chest, his fist somehow knowing to go into his mouth, and he wailed and wailed. I was so overwhelmed, unable to calm this little one, but struck with such an intense desire to love him and surround him with calm. He was born, he was alive, and after a quick check, he was healthy.
This new mama, on the other hand, had to suffer through 40 more minutes of painful stitching as numerous people were brought in to consult on the extent of the tearing. It was hard to fully embrace the moment and I found some of the stitching more painful than the contractions!
My husband had gone to pick up my father-in-law and by the time they had returned, I was still being stitched up.
But soon, everyone was able to greet our little guy. He came in at 7lbs, 3oz and the measuring tape snapped(!) so he was measured at 48cm but we just say 49, haha.
My husband unfortunately had to work the next day, but first he accompanied us to the third floor where I’d be staying for the next 38 hours.
My mother, God bless her, stayed with me the first night. I’m not sure if she just saw how tired I was, or how I was suddenly overwhelmed with anxiety when they put my son in a bassinet next to me and then just left -LEFT! – as if I knew what to do next. Thanks to her, I was able to rest on and off, feed him when needed (thankfully he was latching okay), and then my mom pretty much held my son for the whole first night of his life. Even after fainting, she stayed up pretty much all night with her third grandchild, and I am so incredibly grateful and forever indebted to her.
The next morning I was able to soak in that newborn smell of this beautiful and still unnamed boy. My husband came to visit right after work with pizza and strawberry kiwi juice (pizza trumps hospital food by far), and raved about how proud he was of me, how he respected me even more, and spoke of my strength and resilience of giving birth naturally. My friends came to visit us in the evening with lovely gifts and even lovelier hugs, and after that I soon realized that a full night’s rest did not exist anymore, haha.
The next day, with his jaundice levels normal, my husband and father-in-law scooped us up and took us home. I still remember putting him his crib for the first time and seeing how tiny he was in comparison.
Now, our little one is not quite as little. He’s almost six months old, has more than doubled his birth weight at 15lbs, 15oz, is 66cm in length and while he’s not the biggest fan of sleep, he’s such a charmer and warms our hearts with his gummy smiles, surprises us with his strength, and amuses us with his babbles.
People sometimes are shocked when I speak about giving him siblings, but I make sure to add not anytime soon! I know that my next pregnancy or pregnancies might have more complications and the labour and delivery might not be as smooth sailing as this one was, but I hope and pray that they are!
Well, I hope you enjoyed that short novel and get ready for more to come, including more of a throwback to my pregnancy days!