About two weeks ago, I started a draft entry for our "Birth Story". Then I realized that it was far too long-winded and detailed. I re-read some of my favourite Birth Stories and now I'll give it another go. Here are two that I found particularly inspiring and relatable. A CUP OF JO Joanna Goddard's and Sarah Sophie's at HelloGiggles. Both of these ladies had (what seemed to me) to be a great approach to the whole childbirth experience.
I don't think there is anyway to prepare for the experience. You can read and talk to people about the process but I think the reason why I've had such a had time sitting down and writing about the experience (besides the taking care of a newborn and not getting any sleep thing) is that it's...indescribable. It's scary, intense, exciting, overwhelming. All the cliches and things that people say are true... it's pretty much the worst pain ever and it seems like everyone goes through the "I can't do this" moment but holding your baby at the end of it makes it worth it. So worth it.
So let's recap this story before it becomes too hazey.
So the baby was due on a Sunday. Sunday came and went and nothing happened. I didn't feel any different but I kept waiting and watching for changes. I was achey, huge and cranky. I took a photo of my belly on D-day so that I could remember just how terrible I felt. My belly skin was tight and uncomfortable, I started getting stretch marks around my belly button and the skin was actually bruising. It looked and felt like it was about to split open. I probably won't post that photo.
Anyway, the Monday after due date, the day before Valentine's Day, I spent the day doing everything on the list of "Things to do to induce labour naturally"... The day was coming to an end and one of the only things left was "Go for a walk". So after dinner, Lowell and I bundled up and went for a walk on Queen Street. Our original intention was to make it to the new crepe place that I had been frequenting as they have delicious hot chocolates. Normally this walk would take 15 minutes or so. On this night, we would never make it there as walking was incredibly difficult. I had been used to feeling gigantic, achey and gotten used to having to pee all the time.... but on this night, every step was uncomfortable and borderline painful and I felt like I was going to pee myself. I thought at the time that it was because I hadn't been getting much physical activity in but in retrospect, I realize now it was because the baby had dropped super low.
Anyway, we never made it to the crepe place as I gave up a few blocks short. We wound up at Starbuck's instead and then I waddled alone home. My Mom was staying with us and goes to bed around 9:30, so Lowell and I also went to bed but stayed up until about 11:30pm watching DVDs.
Around 1:30am, I woke up feeling a little bit.... off. My stomach was churning so I went to the bathroom. I was starting to feel crampy, like all the books and baby class said, it was like period cramps. I decided to get in the shower to relax and just in case it was go time... and as I was showering, the cramps started to get worse and I started to realize it was happening. I wasn't nervous or excited or anything like i expected. After my shower, I dried my hair and went back to bed. My plan was to let Lowell sleep a few more hours and then wake him up. But he woke up on his own and I said something along the lines of "I think it's baby time". We were both surprisingly calm but I think part of this was due to lack of sleep. For the next few hours, we stayed in bed and started tracking the contractions. At this point, time started flying by in fast forward. The contractions were starting to happen closer and closer together and getting more intense. I remember a moment during a particularly intense contraction when the thought of "this is just the beginning, eeeep" crossed my mind. Yet somehow, I wasn't scared or nervous like I expected to be.
After a few hours, at around 4:30am, we decided to get ready to head to the hospital. Our plan was to stay at home as long as possible to avoid being sent home and having to go back later. Also because our birth class teacher mentioned that staying home as long as possible would help avoid getting medications if you're planning for a natural birth. My intention was to try for a natural birth but I was certainly open to the idea of an epidural.
We arrived at the hospital around 5:30am. It kinda felt like we were going on a roadtrip, cruising along the desserted highway, listening to the New Pornographers. Walking into the hospital, I felt a twinge of nervousness. We got checked in to a triage room and was hooked up to a monitor and checked just after 6am. At this point, the contractions were between 3-6 minutes apart and I was tired and not dealing with the pain very well. I was disappointed when the Doctor sent us to go for a walk even though I was already 4cm dilated. To me, that seemed like enough to be checked in but it wasn't. I knew that "walking for a few hours" like they told us to wasn't going to be an option as I was exhausted and cranky and not dealing well with the pain. Most of this time period is a bit of a blur now, but I remember whimpering to Lowell that I wanted the drugs. I was so tired and a little bit delirious and decided that I wanted an epidural. I knew at that point that I was too tired and no amount of breathing, yoga and massaging (as I had originally idyllically planned) would get me through. I was surprised to discover that I didn't want to be touched during the contractions.
At 7:30am, we were put back into the triage room to get checked again and wait for a Labour and Delivery room to be ready. The hour or so spent in the tiny, brightly lit room was probably the most painful. I really have such great respect for women who cope with childbirth naturally. To me, it was truly the worst pain I've ever experienced. Comparing it to an intense period cramp is a start.... but is really just the tip of the iceberg. The anticipation of the next inevitable contraction turned out to be bad as well. I remember thinking to myself at one point in between contractions that I just didn't want to do it anymore. Perhaps I could just go get a C-section and have them cut the baby out.
After a few more hours, a nurse finally became available and we were finally checked into our Labour and Delivery room. This room was awesome compared to the tiny, overly bright triage room. It was huge and spacious, had big windows and a big whirlpool bathtub. Our nurse Deanna was fantastic, after she showed us around the room she discussed our birth plan with us. At this point, I was absolutely set on getting the epidural pretty much as soon as it was possible. And our only other request was to delay the baby's eye drops after her birth and that Lowell was not planning on cutting the cord.
We wound up having to wait a few more hours until the anesthetist finally showed up. This Doctor was amazing, had a sense of humour and was very reassuring. I liked how he kept describing everything he was doing. Getting the epidural was a bit scary as they kept stressing how you can't move... and picturing needles in my spine was pretty scary. I was scared that I'd have a contraction and wind up moving and screwing everything up. As promised, the worst part was actually the shot they gave first to freeze the area. Once the freezing was done, the rest was a breeze. Once they started the epidural, the pain magically went away. One of the side effects of the epidural drugs is low blood pressure, which I started experiencing. I remember telling Nurse Deanna that I felt a bit dizzy and her putting an oxygen mask on my face. And then "a bit" dizzy became intensely dizzy... and then intensely nauseous. I wound up puking a bunch and then after they ran some drugs in my IV, I went back to feeling lovely.
At this point it was probably 11:30am or so... The epidural made me feel lovely and I was able to use my cellphone and text my affections for the epidural to my friends. I sent Lowell off to get lunch and we were able to relax and rest. The Doctor came to check me again and at this point I was 4-5cm dilated. So not very much progress. I asked if there was anything I could do to help the process and was told that I just needed to hang out and rest up. Time continued to go in fast forward but I was feeling pretty good thanks to the epidural. I was able to nod off a few times and just relax. Around 4pm, Lowell went to check on our parking and the Doctor came in to check on me. For some reason, I wasn't expecting her to tell me that I was fully dilated and we'd be ready to start the pushing process. All the books and personal experiences that I've read talk about "transition", which is supposed to be an intense, emotional time regardless of the epidural. I didn't really experience this. They decided to give me half an hour to rest up and then at 4:30, it'd be go time.
Perhaps this was the typical "transition" feelings, but I recall feeling really anxious and excited for the first time. Even having had the epidural, I was exhausted since I hadn't slept and hadn't had a meal in almost 24 hours. Nurse Deanna was great at coaching me through the pushing. The first contraction came and all the things we learned in birth class and everything that I read about went out the window. I felt defeated after the first round of pushing came and went and nothing happened. For some reason, I had expected to be really great at pushing and that I could get the baby out nice and quick. The pushing was physically the most intense thing I've ever experienced. And even with the epidural, the pressure was very intense. After a few more ineffective rounds of pushing, I was wiped and in tears and convinced that I couldn't do it. I remember honestly thinking that I would be stuck like that forever. I remember saying over and over again that I wanted to do it but couldn't. At this point, Nurse Deanna was fantastic and snapped me out of it by making me open my eyes and look at her. She was firm and direct, without being mean and pretty much whipped my butt into gear by telling me that I couldn't waste my energy on being negative and that I would get my baby out.
So almost exactly 12 hours after we first arrived at the hospital, in a huge blur and after a few more full body, intense pushes... our baby was out. They announced that she was a girl and then they plopped this beautiful pink baby on me and I couldn't stop looking at her. There was no overwhelming emotional response like I expected and always read about. It was just a feeling of... peace. Even when it was all over, I didn't cry like I expected to. As soon as she was here, it was like it was a relief and I felt at peace.
Since this is hugely long-winded, I will wrap it up now. I'll save the aftermath story for another entry. And I'll try to make an effort to "blog" more often and share some more photos.... but as I'll write about in the "taking care of baby" entry, there is just not enough hours in the day sometimes. Time has been flying by ever since the moment we left for the hospital. The sleep deprivation is more intense than anything I could have imagined. My former "all nighter nights" and bouts of insomnia were nothing in comparison. But Little Miss Rowen makes it all worth it.