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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I hope you had a chance to read my last blog post about the birth of my first baby. Today, we will fast forward 7 years to 2008 when I had my second.
As you can tell, conceiving my second was not an easy task.
The disappointment started to sink in around my 30th birthday (four years after my first), but we still didn’t take action for a couple more years. We spent 2007 at the Fertility Clinic getting blood tests, follicle counts, sperm counts and a hysterosalpingogram (an invasive test where dye is injected through the vagina and cervix to investigate the reproductive system via x-ray). We hoped to have an answer and make a plan for circumventing whatever problem cropped up. Except there were no problems found.
We had unexplained infertility.
It was frustrating to not really have a solution. The options offered to us included taking fertility drugs (with a risk of multiples), having intrauterine insemination (where sperm is injected right into the uterus) or in vitro fertilization (a hefty price tag we could not afford). We went home to contemplate things and found we weren’t on the same page at all. My husband was perfectly fine to accept only having one child, whereas I really, really wanted another. I sort of jokingly demanded he had until September to get me pregnant before I paid the $1000 for the IUI.
By mid October, we were pregnant all on our own!
We found out at our 19 week ultrasound that we were having a girl! Yes I also peeked at Christmas presents in advance (sorry mom!) I’m the type who NEEDS to prepare. So we painted, decorated and shopped all things frilly and girly. Including a trip to Spokane, WA to buy the nursery décor I really wanted.
I worked as a grocery store cashier throughout the pregnancy and found that 40 hours a week on my feet was a lot harder at 32 years old than pregnancy at 25 with a desk job. I had another uneventful, healthy pregnancy with the exception of some crippling pubic symphysis pain (where the pubic bone shifts around). I worked until 38 weeks and couldn’t have been happier to stay off my feet for the final weeks.
I became an even bigger “birth expert” by reading more books, watching more episodes of “A Baby Story” and watching “The Business of Being Born” – a documentary about the maternity care system in the USA.
I was sure this birth was going to go “right”.
My family doctor was more than happy to support me through a trial of labour – the term used when you attempt a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC). However, protocol dictated that I had to see an OB/GYN to chat about it first. My visit there was less than supportive… She suggested that because my first baby was so big and this second was looking pretty big too, that I should have a planned caesarean. I politely declined that plan and stuck with my family doctor.
My due date was July 1, 2008
For any non-Canadians reading, that is Canada Day, the birthday of our nation. I had heard rumours of government savings bonds being handed out for Canada Day babies and thought that would be pretty cool. Plus it was also the birthday of my brother in law and one of my favourite hockey players – Jarome Iginla. The evening of June 30th, I begged and pleaded that baby to start making her way. Lo and behold, I woke up the next morning with that familiar cramping feeling. I carried on with my day until late morning when I was quite surprised with the amount of blood in the toilet. Very begrudgingly I had my mom drive me to the Rockyview Hospital where my husband met us from work at about noon. In triage, the nurse examined me and said I was 4 c.m. dilated and the bleeding was nothing abnormal. I was so disappointed to have gone in far too early again. My mom, sister and son waited downstairs while the doctor was called and a room was prepared.
The contractions were surprisingly super intense!!
The SPD (symphysis pubic dysfunction) was rearing its ugly head. Every contraction I said, “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!!” My husband seemed to repeat the same response, “Where does it hurt? What can I do?” I recall after about the third time, yelling at him, “Right F***ing here!!” as I pointed to my pubic bone which felt like it was splitting in two. I remember seeing the nurse’s head whip around to glare at me! At about 1:30 p.m., another physician from my doctor’s group arrived in her street clothes and wanted to take a look. I tried to move towards the bed, but I was having a hard time and then all of a sudden my water burst! The doctor and nurse both commented on the incredible amount of fluid I just dropped. Finally I made it on the bed and the doctor examined me, looking a bit surprised.
She said I was transitioning and needed a room NOW!
Almost immediately, I was wheeled down the hall with the nurse yelling out my stats: “40 weeks, trial of labour, GBS negative, spontaneous rupture of membranes, 10 c.m.” My biggest concern of the moment was where my sister was - someone had to get my sister. She missed Justin’s birth and couldn’t miss this one. I recall the nurse looking down at me and callously saying, “What do you want us to do about it? We’ve got more important problems here.”
We were wheeled into the smallest room in Rockyview’s labour and delivery and almost immediately I said I needed to go poop and sat up to go to the bathroom. The nurses said I was not getting out of that bed! All of this was unfamiliar territory as I had never gotten to the pushing stage with my first. So I pooped in the bed! Gross, I know. But now I realize that it happens to nearly everyone. I have a post about that too! My mind was so many steps behind because I hadn’t been in labour very long.
I thought I had hours and hours to go.
I was in the throes of transition and their biggest concern was starting an I.V. which is protocol during a trial of labour after caesarean. I’m sure the nurse loved trying to put that in while I was less than cooperative! Miraculously she succeeded and then nervously called the nursing station inquiring to the doctor’s whereabouts all while trying to keep me from pushing. And I still implored my husband to get my sister to which he helplessly really couldn’t do a damn thing.
Finally the doctor arrived after changing into scrubs and I was encouraged to push. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in retrospect I laugh at how they tried so hard to keep me from pushing, but then switched to making me push like a maniac when the doctor arrived. All when my baby was practically falling out anyway. So yeah, basically one contraction of pushing and out she came at 1:48 p.m. I was in such disbelief! I couldn’t believe I did it so quickly and easily! All the talk of trial of labour and having an "untried pelvis" as they call it, really got into my head. Having never pushed a baby out, we all expected a much longer second stage.
So less than 2 hours of active labour... WOW!
She wasn’t nearly as big as the ultrasounds had predicted, but was still a good size at 8 lbs 11 oz. and 22” long. With such a rapid descent, I had some minor tearing that the doctor repaired. Shortly after I was all cleaned up, my mom, sister and son came in to meet her. I’m not sure exactly how we got away with this as usually no one would be allowed to visit on the labour and delivery ward (especially a 7 year old!) My sister was crying that she had missed it again. My son was a bit timid at first, but then was pretty enamoured of his little sister (miraculously that feeling lingered until she was about 2 years old and it’s been war of the siblings ever since!)
I had my Canada Day baby after all!
While I was disappointed that the savings bond story was a myth, the Calgary Canada Day committee did visit me in postpartum and gave us a lovely bunch of gifts. Blankets, teddies, books, onesies, a flag and a certificate all to commemorate the day!
With a much faster, easier recovery I went home within 24 hours. Breastfeeding was a breeze thankfully and I really enjoyed a wonderful summer with my big boy helping me every chance he could. I was so sad when he went back to school in September, but on the other hand, I enjoyed lots of one on one time with my baby girl. Having two was really quite easy with a 7 year gap. All that went out the window 25 months later when number three came along, but that’s a story for next time! Stay tuned.
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The birth of my first born was quite some time ago, 16 years to be exact! So my current concerns are about who is driving & how fast, are drinking or drugs involved and exactly how many half filled plastic lunch containers can one teen hoard in their bedroom before I need to call an exterminator (seriously, no joke!)?
Let me set the scene for way back in 2001... I was 25 years old, had been married for 3 years and was the box office manager for a local, professional theatre company. I had always loved babies. As a matter of fact, my goal in life as a child was to be a mommy... and a waitress - little did I know it was one and the same!
40 weeks, 3 days pregnant.
Thank goodness the baggy maternity fashions are a thing of the past!
I was a self-proclaimed birth expert.
That's a title I earned by watching 127 episodes of a show called, A Baby Story that was on TLC (you're probably too young to remember). And reading a great book that I still love and recommend to this day, "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books" by Ann Douglas. It's a great read from a Canadian that is relevant to our system.
I had a really uncomplicated pregnancy - only slight nausea, passed all my tests with flying colours and only dealt with bad swelling in my feet. I don't think I had any evidence of ankles. Let me tell you, wiggling into support hose at 6:30 a.m. before my feet hit the floor and wearing them all summer was the most unpleasant part of my whole pregnancy!
Rafting down the Bow river with my husband & friends 3 days before my due date.
Feeling fantastic despite the swollen feet!
I was due August 15th which is my husband's birthday, but nothing started happening until August 19th. I remember being really restless that evening and I wanted to go walking to see if I could get labour going. We walked my entire neighbourhood in the dark - which had to be pretty late if it was dark in August. My husband went to bed, but my mom and I stayed up. At 1:00 a.m. (now into August 20th), contractions started. I had wanted to stay home as long as possible, so when I woke my husband, he just went back to sleep and said to wake him up when things got rolling. My sister wanted to witness the birth, so I called her sometime in the middle of the night. Since the Calgary health region book at that time recommended going in when contractions were 5 minutes apart, we headed to Rockyview Hospital at 6 a.m. I was sure birth was imminent.
When we arrived, I was 1 c.m. dilated. 1 stinking c.m.!
In those days, the hospitals were nowhere near as busy and I was actually admitted (nowadays, I would have been sent home).
Dealing with back pain through every contraction.
We spent the next 6 hours roaming the halls and pacing the room. I had a ton of back labour! Things were surely progressing! I was examined again. Still 1 damn c.m.! With all the back pain and constant pressure from my nurse, I "caved" (as I saw it then) and got an epidural. After the epidural came some oxytocin to restart my labour that had stalled out. There was a delicate dance of increasing the oxytocin and stressing the baby out. I think I slept the next ten hours away. All I remember is feeling nauseous at the end and getting the shivers & shakes. Sometime after 10:00 p.m., my nurse checked me and cheerfully declared I had made it to 10 c.m. and would start pushing soon! She left to go call my doctor and bring in the obstetrician that was doing rounds at the hospital.
The epidural allowed me to get some rest.
Towards the end I had the shakes and hot/cold flashes of transition.
My husband quickly called my mom and sister who hadn't returned from their dinner break, but couldn't reach them. The OB came in and had a feel at my cervix. She stood up and said I needed a cesarean section because the heart rate kept dropping and the baby hadn't descended at all. I was completely blind-sided by all this as I thought everything was going great. My heart fell in that instant and I started crying. My whole birth plan went out the window.
After that everything happened so fast! Consent forms, yucky drinks, a flurry of activity as everyone prepared, including my husband who left to change into scrubs. Next thing I knew I was wheeled to the O.R. and was being shuffled onto the table. My arms were strapped down, crucifixion style, a screen thrown up very close to my face and I didn't even recognize my husband when he came in with his cap and mask on. I had an anxiety or panic attack once they started the incision - I'm not sure to this day if it actually hurt, or if I only imagined it did since I could feel every part of the operation. The anesthesiologist gassed me since the epidural was already fully dosed up. I was told to expect a tugging sensation when the birth neared. Tugging is putting it mildly - my husband later said he thought the doctor was going to put her foot against the bed to gain more traction! It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest and I couldn't breathe.
Then, at 11:00 p.m. on the dot, my son arrived!
He was crying heartily, but I still asked over and over if he was okay. My husband was invited to see him in the warmer. What seemed like forever later, he was brought to me all bundled up in blankets and placed on my chest. He was so close I could hardly focus on him, but noticed how chubby his cheeks were! Then he was taken away to the baby nursery with my husband and I was sent off to recovery.
My "little" chunker and his dad in the nursery.
I feel bad for the poor nurse who watched over me in recovery as I was worse than an impatient kid on a long car ride, repeatedly asking every few minutes,
"Can I see him yet?"
"Can I see him now?"
"How about now?"
I believe I spent two hours in recovery before I was taken to postpartum and finally able to hold him.
My recovery was sort of rough - we learned afterwards that he was presenting asynclitic (his head to one side with his ear on his shoulder) and had been pretty wedged into my pelvis, explaining the extra effort involved in getting him out. He had a pretty decent sized cephalohematoma which is an area of pooled blood under the scalp that looks like a big swollen spot, likely because of the way he was wedged in. I was on a morphine drip for at least a day and was pretty sore. I was kept in the hospital for 3 full days and 4 nights. My breast milk didn't come in until the morning we were discharged (day 4) and concern had already begun to mount over his weight loss. He was born at 9lbs 13oz (yes nearly 10 lbs!!!) and had lost almost a pound by day 4. Thankfully with lots of follow up afterwards, including many public health visits, breastfeeding clinic visits and 6 months of medication to increase milk supply, my doctor finally said - "I think he's just going to be tall and skinny like his dad and we should stop worrying about this!"
Going back to leaving the hospital, I remember feeling so nervous about heading home! When we were all buckled in and leaving the parkade, I kept looking over my shoulder expecting someone to be chasing us down to say we weren't allowed to take that baby home! Kind of like the Ikea "start the car" commercial if you remember that one!
All ready to head home from the hospital on day 4.
I spent a lot of time afterwards dissecting my choices and berating myself for them.
Why did I go in so early? I should have stayed home. If I didn't get that epidural, I would have been up and mobile. He wouldn't have had malpresentation issues if I'd been walking around. It's taken many years to let that go and I can now recognize after witnessing so many births that it's unlikely I would have avoided the surgery. It was most definitely the right choice and I'm now at peace with it. Thankfully, many policies in Calgary hospitals have changed now where most people will not be admitted before 4 c.m. dilation and epidurals are usually not given before then either. However other policies have changed for the worse - I had 3 support people the entire time, my sister and mom were allowed in the nursery to see him and I had many, many visitors over the 4 days. I was constantly surrounded by those I loved and had a lot of support.
One of the interesting things from my birth plan was a request for a “volunteer birth companion” which at the time was only offered at Peter Lougheed Centre. I’ve only recently come to realize that that program was the beginnings of the Calgary Doula Association which I’ve been a proud member of since 2010. It is really neat that I came full circle and now offer that support I only wished for at my first birth. I truly love my career!
Thanks for making it all the way through! I don't typically write novel blogs, but it's hard not to when telling your birth story. Also, the pictures predate digital photos, so they are the best I can do when taking picture of actual photos. Yes, I know I'm old! Stay tuned for birth number 2 and 3... spoiler alert... there may be a VBAC involved.
If you are expecting and want the best birth doulas in Calgary, contact us today for a complementary consultation.
Tracy is a mother, birth doula, postpartum doula and childbirth educator. She lives in the Calgary, AB area with her husband, three kids and her lazy cat.