In the prenatal class, we talked about our birth plan and “birth fairies.” The idea was that, like the story of Sleeping Beauty, even if we try only to plan for good things, the not-so-nice fairy might still come to crash the party. The only way to not be weighed down by disappointment is to be make sure we have the skills to deal with as many things as possible. And we learned many skills, from meditation to birth balls to baths to taking naps and doing crosswords to baking cookies.
So, like many women, I had hoped for a natural unmedicated birth: it’s rumoured to be quicker in transition (aka pushing), stuff heals more quickly, I wanted “the experience,” and giant spine needles are NOPE NOPE NOPE D:
My pregnancy was fairly uneventful. Three months of nausea gave way to six months of physically feeling fairly glorious — my worst complaint was heartburn and needing about 17 million pillows to sleep comfortably. There were moments when I felt like a fat, beached whale, waddling around bitching about people not giving me seats on the bus, but the extra weight didn’t really catch up to me until the last few weeks, when going up and down the stairs at work really sucked.
BUT THEN three weeks before my due date, I woke up to a wet mattress with no contractions. I feared being induced was going to be my birth fairy, but the doc confirmed at the hospital that it was not amniotic fluid (we’re not sure what that was to this day). While life continued as normal, we kept the bags packed in the trunk of the car. The feeling of some-serious-poo-poo-is-about-to-go-down began to sink in that morning.
A week passes and my maternity leave begins. I walked to grandma’s house to spend the day with her and make dumplings. M and I went out for a movie at the VIFF. Afterwards, I complained that I had a tummy ache, which I chalked up to not eating enough fruits and veggies. Nothing seemed to help, but I ignored it long enough that it went away.
The next day I went to grandma’s again. My tummy ache was back, and this time it didn’t really go away. I couldn’t sleep… I got up to watch some soaps. The next morning M figured he probably should work at home. I applied for EI, we settled some business at the bank, and we walked the dog, my contractions becoming more intense. We got Vietnamese take-outs so we wouldn’t have to cook or clean up (a very good idea in hindsight). We had some doubts as to whether it was The Real Thing. But by dinner time it was pretty clear that a rhythm has been established.
We called the doc and the doula at 8pm. They both said to try to get some rest, call back when the contractions are more frequent and more intense. Great, but I couldn’t sleep. Neither could M, who stayed up with me to time my contractions.
At 4am, the doula came over to help. I rocked on the birth ball, took one last shower with M where I sobbed and sobbed. I was blathering on about ruining our future and all the fears that I didn’t know I had about having a baby. I kissed my freedom to stay out late goodbye. I bid adieu to a good night’s sleep. I made peace with not being able to do a lot of things anymore, and began to look forward to all the things I can. My water broke, for reals this time, at 5am. With that, I texted dad to look after the Gir and headed to the hospital. The time was 6:30am, just before the morning traffic rush.
Labour stalled as we waited to get examined. Seems like the first birth fairy has arrived: after more than a full day of early labour, I was only 4cm dilated. But no matter. Everything else was going well and my doula reassured me that from the sounds of it the baby would be out by the afternoon. And they couldn’t send me home, because I was GBS positive so I needed the antibiotic drip. Suckers!
So we were checked into a room in the Cedar wing of the BC Women’s Hospital, which was more like a boutique hotel room — spacious, warm, with a big clean bathtub. It was bigger than our apartment. We got set up with the mobile drip thingy, and labour picked up again with the walking around.
Noon came and went. M went to grab a lunch and a coffee. Our second doula, who had to write a midterm exam in the morning, came in and started a regimen of massage and breathing exercises. A lady who was studying massage therapy came in and used me “for practice” as well, so at one point I had four sets of hands helping my labour along. But I was still only 5cm dilated. This birth fairy likes to stick around!
I started feeling the urge to push late in the afternoon. R was well descended and raring to go, but I wasn’t ready. I actually managed to fall asleep in between contractions, I was so exhausted. Every five minutes I would open my eyes and frantically search for M, who would hold my hand until the waves subsided and drowsiness took me again. Finally the doc came to examine me at 6pm and found the birth fairy in her full glory. Even though my amniotic sac has ruptured, there remained a little bubble of it riiiight at the lip of the opening. It was cushioning R’s head and not giving enough pressure to signal the need to dilate. Also, one side of the opening was becoming swollen from accidental pushing. If I wasn’t GBS+ I could labour on slowly and everything would probably be OK, but I was running out of time. The baby was at risk of getting an infection.
The doc’s verdict was that she had to rupture the amniotic cushion. However, it would be up to me to pick my pain meds, which she highly recommended at this point. Manually rupturing the sac meant that the pain would intensify suddenly. Also when it came time to push, I might have to not, due to that little swollen lip, which would six kinds of hell.
I opted for an epidural. My doulas were very good, making sure that I was choosing it for myself and not out of pressure from my doc, who offered it to me very matter-of-factly. I was exhausted (this is nearly 3 days of no sleep by now) and was reassured that I would be able to get some rest this way.
To distract myself from GIANT NEEDLES D: I entertained peeps with the story of M’s proposition in the back of the Salisbury Cathedral. Soon after, I could barely feel the pressure from my contractions and felt no pain at all. The anaesthesiologist gave me a high-five and I had a popsicle (can’t have solids in case surgery is needed) before going to sleep.
Oxytocin was added to my chemical soup. I was woken up every hour or so to have my vitals checked. Two sensors were strapped to my belly, one to hear R’s heartbeat, another to show me when my contractions were because I could no longer feel them reliably.
After four more hours, I was finally ready.
The doc came in and the nurses wheeled over all sorts of equipment. The room was bustling with quiet, nervous energy. M and the doulas woke up from their naps as well. Everyone gathered around me. I had a glass of water and threw it up all over the nurse’s shoes. :D
Look at his head in the mirror!
When you push, visualise an elevator moving down from the tenth floor…
He’s crowning! Do you want to touch him?
Is this it? This slimy, goopy soft thing making my vagina look like a melon?
I see his ears!
Stop! Stop pushing!
I felt a faint gushing sensation between my legs.
Oh… I heard M’s gasp and knew that our son was born. A cry of heartbreaking desperation filled the room.
Someone lifted my gown and a wet, bloody baby was placed on my breast. The time was just past 1am.