This is quite a read, but I do hope you’ll take the time to read through, and I hope you enjoy it as this is a very special story to me.
So the backstory to our birth story, is that it was quite a journey for me to get pregnant. When S and I decided we wanted to start a family, I was working at a stressful job, we were still struggling financially and our marriage was not at it’s strongest point. So lots of things really weren’t aligned properly. But, we started trying. Because having a baby fixes everything, right?!
Three known miscarriages later and a whole lot more stress added to the plate, something had to change.
I started looking for a new career, something I would be happy doing if we never had kids. Because that was starting to creep into the back of my mind. Maybe it would never happen. I would never get to be a mom. Sure, we could adopt- that didn’t feel right. Sure, we could do IVF or other fertility treatments- that didn’t feel right to me either. I had a nagging in my conscious that kept saying “if you can’t maybe you shouldn’t…”. I know there is a whole medical industry focused around disputing that, but nonetheless that’s how I felt. As that reality started to kind of sink in, I started looking for a new career, found a few programs I was interested in and we decided that although we would suffer a bit financially, being happy and stress free was ultimately more important in the long run.
So I enrolled in my ideal program and quit my job. What a glorious, bitter-sweet day.
School was amazing. I had the privilege to meet tons of beautiful, like-minded individuals that made me realize that yes, there is life beyond a crappy job. I learned so many facinating things, I got to practice what I learned. I loved helping people, I loved reading and meditating on what I was learning.
Suddenly I had lots of new things to share and talk about with S. I wasn’t coming home tired, grumbling about my crappy day at work and how much I hated it. We had fun dates. Things were getting so much better. I was really happy. He was really happy. Going back to school was such a huge plus for our marriage- even more so than any career I could possibly imagine.
Fast-forward to my last week of classes. The weekend before I graduate. And guess what- we find out I’m pregnant! To me that spoke screaming loud volumes about being on the right path in life before things work out. I got my certificate knowing I had a wee little speck growing inside me, and that this life change I had decided to make so many months before was truly just preparation for the major life changes that were now coming.
I had my first doctor’s appointment to confirm the pregnancy, and when she asked me what route of care I wanted, I asked what my options were. After finding out that midwives were covered by our health care just the same as any other doctor, I decided that’s what I wanted. I went home, applied to all the midwifery offices in town and waited patiently for my acceptance email. I was only 5 weeks and 1 day pregnant after all, so you’d think I had a fighting chance! …Nope!
After being disappointed with not getting a midwife, I sulked to the low-risk clinic and settled for my less-than-great care they provided. I got to pay for parking every visit. I got to wait 45 minutes at a minimum for my first-thing-in-the-morning- appointment. I got a nurse that lied about my blood pressure on my file. Time ticked along and the baby and I were both healthy, so meh- it wasn’t a big deal.
Having a natural birth was always important to me though. I always felt that pregnancy wasn’t a disease. I wasn’t sick, the baby wasn’t sick, so why did I need drugs for it or doctors checking on me every 30 minutes? Plus, billions of babies have been born before epidurals, so I figured I would try and stay away from the giant scary needle if I could. I was more afraid of the needle than I was of the pain! I decided I wanted a doula so that we would have good, natural birth support in the hospital while we had the baby. S is the kind of guy who freaks out at a paper cut, so I was a bit unsure of how he would cope being my main labour support. The woman that we picked turned out to be an angel! Not only was she an incredible source of birthing, breastfeeding and parenting information during our prenatal prep, she was the most amazing human being with us while I birthed (next to S of course, who did fabulously the whole time). And since the birth, she has become a cherished friend who has led me into the amazing world of Babywearing- which is probably my favourite part of being a mom so far, next to breastfeeding of course!
Anyway, off topic. We hired a doula. She recommended doing some prenatal classes that were natural-birth oriented so that we would know what to expect. We signed up with Healthy Birth Choices and that was yet another amazing thing that came from our doula. The classes were phenomenal. They explained what we needed to know. The real process. Nothing was sugar-coated. And it was awesome! I sat there envious of all the ladies planning their water births and home births, and knew that while I wasn’t going to get that this time around, at least I was learning the skills to advocate a natural hospital birth for myself and my baby. It was the very best I could do!
Fast forward a little more, I’m almost 30 weeks pregnant. We are standing in the kitchen just about ready for bed, and my phone rings- some unknown number. I answer it expecting a telemarketer. It was a kind, English lady. She was a midwife from Cochrane that had just transferred to a new clinic and was taking clients. And she had a spot for me! I literally jumped up and down as I accepted her proposal and tried to write down all the stuff I had to do to transfer care to her clinic. I was so excited I hardly slept that night- it was definitely more exciting for me than Christmas!
After transferring care, I had my first appointment with her. And it was mixed. She was concerned about my BMI, wanted an extra ultrasound and bloodwork and a clearance from an OBGYN before she would even entertain a home birth. So, I was disappointed again. BUT at least I had a midwife. She put my referral into the OBGYN and we hoped that the baby would wait long enough so that I could actually have this appointment and get clearance before it was delivery time!
And again, I needed to learn to trust in the process. I had put it out to the universe that this baby was meant to be born at home, in the water, with a midwife. I was halfway there, so why couldn’t I trust the rest? Well I learned my lesson!
Got clearance from the OBGYN no problem. Her line in our appointment, “Well I think you’re crazy for wanting a water birth, but there’s nothing medically causing you not to have it if that’s what you want.” So we were set! Now we just had to wait for the baby to come!
Weeks passed, days passed. Uh, I was SO SICK of being pregnant. Every morning I woke up thinking- “it HAS to be today” and the day would pass and I was still pregnant. We went mall walking almost every night. I bounced on my exercise ball while we watched tv. I was so uncomfortable, had such bad heartburn, couldn’t sleep, and was starting to panic and think “I’m never going to go into labour on my own and as soon as they decide to induce there goes my home birth!”
Which I know was just crazy talk- I hadn’t even hit 41 weeks yet! But pregnant women are not known for thinking clearly. Or rationally for that matter.
We’re nearly at 40 weeks now. I have my 40-week appointment with my midwife on Wednesday. My mother-in-law drives me as I seem to get contractions every time I drive (likely because I’m a total nutjob while driving now). The midwife checks things out, says everything is peachy. Asks if I’d like her to try a membrane sweep to see if that helps get labour going. I of course say yes because I am SO SICK of being pregnant. She tries, and ends up saying “oh I can’t even reach your cervix it’s so high and closed”. I nearly burst into tears. She confidently said “there is no way this baby is going to be here any sooner than Sunday!” I waddled back to the reception area and my poor mother-in-law saw the look on my face. As she drove me home we chatted a bit, but I was still upset. I was D.O.N.E. with being pregnant.
So Valentine’s Day comes around (this is Thursday, the day after my appointment) and my official due date is February 15th- I decide to make spinach dip (from my other post recipe of course!). I make it, it’s delicious as it always is, and I go to get sour dough bread from Co-op. They don’t have any. I cry in the bakery department. People looked at me like I was a psycho. I was seriously upset. So I drive home and pout about my sad, pitiful situation- being hugely pregnant with no sour dough bread. S comes home from work and I immediately pick a fight with him because of course by this point I have decided it’s basically his fault that the store didn’t have bread and for all of the problems I’m currently experiencing. Right- again with the completely irrational part of me coming out. So after we fight a bit, we’re both tired, decide to go to bed. I get off the couch to pee before I waddle my way upstairs, and SURPRISE my water breaks right in the bathroom, 10:30pm. Good timing of course- thank goodness I was on the tile…what a flood.
So now I’m soaking wet, still angry with S, and the panic sets in…this baby is going to come like REALLY soon. We set our differences aside, S gets me a few towels, and I go upstairs to change out of my wet clothes. No contractions started though. We decide to sit and watch tv for a little bit in case they start. Nothing started. So, taking my midwife’s advice, we go to bed and try to get some rest because who knows what kind of night it may turn into.
At 12:45am I couldn’t stay laying down anymore because the cramping had definitely started coming regularly. And it was getting more intense with each one. I go and wake S up and tell him that I think labour is actually going. He’s totally groggy of course, but eventually gets out of bed as I’m having a contraction on the floor next to the bed. He asks if we should call the doula and the midwife yet. I say no, it’s ok, we can wait a little while still. Fast forward several contractions, we get to 2am and I decide that we should call the doula. I dial her feeling awful for waking her up in the middle of the night. She sleepily answers, listens to me have a contraction or two on the phone, and decides that she’ll come and “hang out for a bit” as she thought we were still in really early labour.
She arrived around 3:00am, and by around 3:30am her and S had the birth pool set up and filled for me. I stripped down and hopped in. Ahhhhh…that warm water was fantastic! And the pressure was off my back a bit. So much better! She wanted to see if my contractions stayed steady, as the transition to water can sometimes cause them to slow down a little bit. They didn’t slow at all. About 3:50am her and S decided they would start timing my “one hour” mark, for the 3-1-1 rule the midwife had given us. Contractions 3 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for at least 1 hour solid. I labored, S did counterpressure on my lower back and rubbed my hips. He held my hand and said I was doing a great job. Our doula was running around trying to get things ready for the baby and for after I got out of the pool. She kept encouraging me and reminding me to breathe through the pain and keep my vocalization low and open. At 4:40am they called the midwife and told her that things were progressing nicely. At 4:45am I had my first urge to push. They phoned her back right away and asked her to hustle. She assured them that as a first-time mom, it would surely take me at least an hour to push this baby out, and that she would be there with plenty of time to spare. Our doula kept reminding me to huff through the pushy feeling and just to relax, and I just kept feeling like I really had to push. For anyone that has had a baby naturally, you know that when you get to this point, it’s not really a choice to “not push”…your body just pushes and pushes regardless of what you try to do to reverse that decision! And it HURTS not to push. The pushing is relief from the contraction pain- I wanted to push!
After a couple contractions of huffing and little pushes, the doula asked me to feel and see if I could tell where the baby’s head was in my birth canal (as doula’s are hands-off). I could feel the head. Like holy shit balls there was a head! So they phoned the midwife back again. She said to call 911 and she was coming as quickly as she could, and to keep huffing and not pushing! S phoned 911 and was on the phone with the dispatcher for 11 minutes before the fire department arrived. They walked in the front door as the doula stood behind me and watched our baby being born. I caught him myself as our doula told me to ”reach down into the water and pick up your baby!” What a moment! I picked him up and put him on my chest as 4 firefighters stood in my kitchen, at 5:29am. The midwife ran in a minute after, and EMS a minute after her.
I did it! All by myself! It was not meant to be that way as I do tend to agree that unassisted home birth is unsafe, but it happened anyway! My body was so strong it couldn’t even wait for the right help to be there. S and the doula had given me such support, such a beautiful, private, safe space to birth that my body and my primal instincts took over and it birthed our precious baby boy with no trouble at all. My total labour start to end was recorded as being 5.5 hours long. Incredible!
After the first cry EMS asked if I wanted them to stay and I said no, so they left along with the fire department. I’m sure I was a story in the fire house that morning…the crazy lady naked in her living room, in a birth pool, having a baby alone!
The midwife cut the cord as S was shaking like a leaf from being on the phone with 911 and in a panic, and just couldn’t do it. After she cut the cord (delayed, clearly, as it took her a few minutes to get her gear out!), she handed N to S and got me out of the pool. His cries were beautiful, the most beautiful sound. Everyone focuses on the baby at that moment, but that is also the moment that parents are born. S turned into a dad. I turned into a mom. This new chapter had firmly started and there was no going back. Our life would never be as it was! The permanency of that reality took several days to set in though- it most certainly was not instant. Even still today sometimes I look at little N and think “wow you are really mine!!!”
The very best part of having a midwife for care was the ease after the birth. I got to lay on my own couch while S made coffee and toast, while the midwife attended to my placenta and all of the newborn exams. N never left my side for any of it. I got to smell him. I got to look at his tiny fingers. I got to notice that he had a broken nail! I got to rub in the vernix that he was born with, into his fresh skin. He quickly latched on and nursed like a champ, his eyes wide open and his cheeks rosy pink. After those first priceless moments were shared, they wrapped N up and gave him to S for some skin-to-skin daddy time while I was helped upstairs, helped into a nice hot shower, and then tucked into my own bed with my baby and my husband for some bonding, rest and reflection on this beautiful morning event.
As I wound down from the rush of all my labour endorphins, the mama hormones settled in, and I could hardly believe that I was holding this precious baby that grew inside me.
Yeah, labour hurt. Yeah, a baby coming out of you makes your body hurt for a few days. Things were sore and swollen and achy. But any athlete hurts a bit after a marathon! They don’t call it labour for nothing, but I certainly didn’t need doctors and nurses and drugs to survive this horrific event that having a baby has turned into in our world. It turned out perfectly all on it’s own.
Our midwife did home visits for our first couple check ups, our doula came by the next day with a care package and a visit. Such a wonderful support system had been built around me during this process. I am thankful everyday that I was denied the first time around for a midwife because it led me to my doula. And I’m thankful for my doula who led me to the birthing classes that encouraged me to keep hope for a midwife. And I’m forever thankful for that late night phone call that was my midwife. And I’m thankful that my midwife referred me to an OBGYN because I felt with that clearance letter I was SAFE to birth at home, it quieted my fears that birth was dangerous. And I’m thankful that my baby came into my own hands, on his schedule and no one elses. I was strong enough on my own, healthy enough, educated enough, empowered enough, patient enough and most of all, I WANTED it enough.
Since the birth, I have become immensely passionate about natural birth, water birth, breastfeeding, and most of all, empowering women to take back what is rightfully theirs- birthing their babies how they want to! Our society has lost so much of that! While I was pregnant I was interested only in finding the best information for me and my situation, but now that I’ve come out unscathed from my experience and immensely changed, I want to share it with everyone! We are a society of people that look to the healthcare system to “fix” our problems instead of us OWNING our issues and being proactive about our health and wellness. Things are slowly changing, but there is a such a mindset and attitude surrounding the “authority” that doctors and health care professions have, that it makes showing people an alternative way really difficult. People are scared to question the medical authority even when it’s for their own sake. For those that are open to it- the paths are easily found and followed, but it’s not until the masses learn these ways that things will really change.
Anyway, another topic at hand that I could go on for ages about…but this was really just supposed to be about me birthing N.
Our birth was beautiful, natural, and oh-so-quick. I will never forget it- I have some beautiful photos from the doula, and some uber raw video that shows labour at it’s best. The result, my precious son, was worth every minute of the struggles we had in the beginning, the hours of study for my new career, the never-ending morning sickness while I was pregnant, the journey to get the birth I wanted and my own path to empower myself as a mom. And it doesn’t end there. Now I carry on navigating my way through this new role in life. Fighting for the birth I wanted was just a teeny tiny warm up to all the efforts that caring for a baby and making all these new choices as a mom, really takes.
Special thanks to my beautiful, amazing, super-woman doula B who gave me courage, told me to fight and showed me how to get what I want. And my strong, unconditionally-loving husband S who never gave up on my dream for a natural birth even though it was scary for him, and supported me even as I yelled at him for the bread-fiasco while my water broke (and the million other things I tried to blame him for during my hormonal rages)…. As they are the ones that held my hand and carried me through our son’s birth story right to the end.