It’s been a very long time since I posted about the cesarean birth of my son in 2001 and the vaginal birth after cesarean with my daughter in 2008. At that time, I promised the story of my third and like often happens with third children, life got in the way and her story got put on the back burner! Oh, my poor forgotten third child! This is one of my favourite memes which absolutely nails life with 3.
So, I’ve finally sat down to weave this tale…
We took a long time to conceive our son and an incredibly long time to conceive our daughter. My daughter was breastfed for roughly 14 months and kept my period away for somewhere around a year. I was sad when it returned and of course it was unpredictable at first, so by December I hadn’t even noticed that it had been missing. My husband and son had gone up to Edmonton for the weekend for a hockey tournament while my mom and I completely cooked up a big surprise redecoration of my son's bedroom, involving an awesome loft bed and painting the walls Calgary Flames red (note to readers: do not attempt this on your own… worst idea ever! I highly recommend hiring a professional!) It was around coat number 329 (at least that’s what it seems like when painting red) that I really started feeling dizzy. And nauseous. I had lots of leftover pregnancy tests and despite the fact it was not my first urination of the day as recommended, I peed on a stick. Which came back clear as day: Pregnant.
It is very interesting for me to note the emotions surrounding positive pregnancy test 1, then the long awaited 2 and finally the unexpected 3. There were lots of tears all three times, but the excitement was certainly not there the third time around. I was shocked. Questioning how it happened. I mean, I know how it happened obviously, but we always took years to get pregnant, so this was mind-boggling. Second note to readers: Don’t be complacent! We all hear about the couple unable to conceive that adopts and then immediately becomes pregnant. I feel like that was me. So anyway, I picked up the phone and called my husband. He was as shocked as I had been, if not more. 24 months prior we had been elated to finally be pregnant and now we were… disappointed? That's not quite the right word, but I don’t know what is.
I immediately applied to get a midwife – I wanted one with both my prior births but couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for one. Now their fee was covered by our provincial health plan making them hard to get, but I was luckily accepted into care at Briar Hill Midwives. The dating ultrasound determined we were due Aug 7, 2010. My midwife asked me if I wanted to do the First Trimester Screening to test for chromosome abnormalites and I emphatically said yes. With my second, only 25 months prior, I had skipped them because it took so long to conceive her, that it didn’t really matter to me if there were health issues – I wanted that baby no matter what. With this surprise pregnancy, I didn’t know how I would deal with any special medical needs, so I decided to get the testing done.
At 12 and a half weeks I had my ultrasound. I was then taken to a consultation room where I had a doctor come and explain my risk for a trisomy issue was 7 times what it should have been. I was already so muddled in my feelings about being pregnant and now this. I can’t describe how I felt upon hearing that news. I was offered either an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). We choose to have the CVS since it could be done much sooner, but I didn’t get in until I was nearly 14 weeks along. As part of the procedure, a nurse counsels you on the risks associated before going in. She really downplayed my results, saying I was only on the high end of normal whereas I felt the doctor at the ultrasound clinic made it sound worse. So now here I was coming to do a test with a 1% miscarriage rate in order to check for a 2% chance of having Down Syndrome… 3rd note to reader: really analyze your risks before subjecting yourself to these tests. 7 times the risk sounds far worse than 2%.
I believe I waited over 2 weeks to get the results. The most agonizing two weeks of my life! By this point, I’d already felt those little baby flutters and started to seriously doubt my ability to terminate a pregnancy no matter what the results said.
Finally, the call came. “We are happy to report that no abnormalities were found,” she said. After the biggest sigh of relief, my second reaction was this, “That’s great! Is it a boy or a girl??” After all that torture, I was happy to at least get a 100% accurate answer of the baby’s gender. The lady at the clinic laughed and told me we were having another girl. Thankfully I would have the same gender as my last (and born in the same season!) so that we didn’t have to buy anything new. However, this brought new worries – how would my firecracker of a toddler handle sharing the limelight? And her room. My pregnancy journal is full of apprehensiveness about how she would adjust.
My pregnancy was otherwise uneventful - I managed to still offer doula services to my clients right up until July. Care with the midwives was amazing. They supported my choice to give birth at the Arbour Birth Centre, despite the recommendation for hospital birth after having a previous c-section (even though I already had an uneventful VBAC). My appointments were never rushed and they always listened to my concerns about having another fast labour.
My due date, August 7th came and went. I crawled into bed for an hour or two before being woken with contractions at 1:00 a.m. on August 8th. I came downstairs and said to my husband who hadn’t gone to bed yet, “Peaches.” (if you’re confused, watch the Ice Age clip below).
I hopped in the shower and spent a good half hour or so there repeating my mantra (Relax and open!) with contractions between 3-4 minutes apart. I called the midwife at 3 a.m. nervously expecting her to brush me off since I’d only been contracting for 2 hours. We agreed to meet at the birth centre at 4 a.m., so I gathered our things and told my mom we were leaving. Originally, I had planned that if things happened overnight I wouldn’t wake my kids, but in the midst of labour I changed my mind and asked my mom to get them up and bring them. I stood outside our SUV and willed myself to get inside (the car ride is at the top of my "worst part of labour" list). My husband threw some towels in the back seat “just in case” and I rolled my eyes as I already had my waterproof pad on my seat. Finally, I got in around 3:30 a.m. and we started the 25 km drive.
Immediately shit got real!
We hadn’t even hit the highway a couple minutes from my house when I frantically started calling my birth photographer and also my sister (who missed the first two births and was excited to get another opportunity). As we neared the turn off to Peter Lougheed Centre (my closest hospital), I had that angel/devil debate going on in my head.
“Tell him to turn off, you know this is progressing really fast!”
“No, no, not a hospital birth again. You have time to make it.”
We kept on driving... A few kilometers up the road at Deerfoot and 16th Avenue, my first involuntary push popped my amniotic sac - I was so glad I brought that waterproof pad! I told my husband to drive faster, but he claimed he was already doing 20 over! Another few kilometers and I couldn’t stop bearing down despite raising my chin and huffing through contractions with my window down and the cool breeze on my face. As we were closing in on the last dozen or so blocks, I told my husband to pull over, but he wouldn’t listen. I reached down to my crotch and felt the telltale bulge of the baby’s head. I hoped he would pull over at Home Depot, but instead he made the left turn on 19th St that we would have to take to go around to the birth centre. By this time, I feel like I was screaming at him to pull over, so he finally stopped in the strip mall parking lot of The Yoga Shala (who happens to offer prenatal classes that we recommend!! www.yogashalacalgary.com/index.html)
He threw the truck in park and came running around to my side, nearly tearing the door off it’s hinges. He ripped my pants down, literally tore my underwear in two (I remember thinking how hot that would have been in other circumstances hahaha!!!) and then threw my leg over his shoulder. He seemed so frantic and panicked, asking me what to do. I remember the strange sense of calm that I had at that point as I grabbed his shirt front, looked him in the eye and simply said, “Catch her.”
Now if you ask my husband this story, he has another version involving the complex maneuvers of easing shoulders out and all that, whereas it seems to me she pretty much shot out the next contraction. She immediately let out a little wail and then was silent, just looking around. I tried to cover her with my discarded pants and my husband grabbed the towel out of the back he had strangely (and wisely) thrown in. He was concerned about her not making noise or breathing, but I knew we had a few minutes with the umbilical cord still attached and she was alert. He hopped back in and we proceeded the remaining trip around the block necessary to access the birth centre from the east.
When we arrived, he ran to the door where our midwife, Shannon was just going in. Her and another midwife, Carol, who was arriving for her own client came running to the truck to get me. And now, here you will get a glimpse of one my life’s highlights…
Picture this: on the freaking TransCanada Highway, getting out of my truck with no pants on and an umbilical cord dangling in between my legs while I walked up to the birth centre.
The only saving grace was that it was 4 a.m.! Still there were no shortage of cars driving by. Big sigh!
Our photographer arrived soon after, followed shortly by my placenta, then my sister who is apparently destined to never witness a birth and finally my mom and kids. My midwives ran a bath for me since I might as well have gotten something out the rental fee I paid to use the facility. There were many laughs from the kitchen area while the midwives attempted to fill out the paperwork required – Place of birth? 15th Ave and 19th St? What time do you want us to say she was born? We picked 3:54 since we both like the number 4. We dealt with all the other necessities like the vitamin K injection, assessments, weighing and measuring – she was my second biggest out of the three kids at 9 lbs 4 oz and 22” long.
By 7:00 a.m. we were dressed and ready to head home. I had one flip-flop on and asked my husband where the other was. He said it must have fallen out of the truck in the parking lot. I looked at him and said, "Well can you go out and get it, so I don’t have to walk out barefoot?” He replied, “Not this parking lot, the parking lot she was born in!” Then we had to drive back around to go see and sure enough there it sat!
We arrived back home at 7:30 a.m. to a house full of visitors?!? Since this wasn’t our first rodeo, I thrust the baby at them and headed upstairs to bed, telling them to wake me up when she was ready to be fed!! I know darn well I would have “entertained them” on my first and maybe even my second birth, but I was having none of it this time around. Last and final note to readers: respect people having babies and don’t show up within hours of them giving birth, no matter how excited you are to see the baby! And if you have just given birth, keep the visitors at bay until you are ready for them. Even if it means putting your phone on Do Not Disturb! Hmmm… sounds like a good upcoming blog post! And this concludes the When Doulas Give Birth series – thanks for tuning in!
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Tracy is a mother, birth doula and childbirth educator. She lives in the Calgary, AB area with her husband, three kids and her lazy cat.