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.
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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.