Birth. Nailed it.

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This is a birth story. It’s long-winded and lady parts may be mentioned but the ending is awesome, trust me!

As this was our second baby, I had a fairly good idea of what to expect and also what type of birth experience I didn’t want- one that involved a lot of interventions and ended with a fairly traumatic (both for the wee boy and the lady parts) forceps delivery and a very long recovery process. We both came out of it healthy and ok, but I knew the process could be better. My attitude about birth had also changed; for our first baby the birth was something that was going happen TO me, while this time birth was something I was going to DO. And do a lot differently. We took Bradley Method (husband-coached natural childbirth) classes where we learned a ton about staying healthy and low risk during pregnancy and comfort measures for each stage of labour. We developed a list of birth “preferences” and I felt very confident that we were going to have a very different birth experience.

I think the birth story begins on Thursday (birth day -1) when I had a great massage from a doula and she really went to town on the “labour inducing” pressure points. I definitely felt different afterwards and had twinges on and off for most of the afternoon and then went to yoga class at 6 pm. The massage (and likely the birth hormones) must have opened up the old pelvis because I was doing lunges and squats like a rock star. I had a couple if mild contractions on the way home. I had a good supper and we decided to go for a family walk since I was pretty sure labour was starting and wanted to keep things moving along. We walked along the same route we had taken when I was in labour with Davin, but this time he came along on his bike!

Mild contractions (could keep walking and talking) continued and we called Grandma to come and pick up Davin around 9 pm. While we waited for her I rocked on the birth ball and read Davin a story; he wanted a ball too so he sat on his soccer ball during the story. The contractions were regular but I could breathe through them easily enough. I texted the massaging doula and told her I was in labour; she told me to “relax and enjoy the ride” so I stopped timing the contractions and just went to bed. I was worried everything would stop but things continued to intensify once I laid down. Dan slept for a couple hours since I was managing fairly well on my own; relaxed on my side, had a bath, leaned on the birth ball. Groaned. After a few hours the contractions continued to get stronger and I was getting restless. I knew it was time to head to the hospital when they were quickly less than two minutes apart. Now I had reached the “get down to business” stage and needed Dan to be with me for each contraction. We used sacral counter pressure (all Dan), low pitched vocalizations (more groaning), and Dan counted me through each contraction (he knew how many breaths each one was lasting generally). I tried to keep my jaw and body relaxed and take deep belly breaths. I closed my eyes for most of the ride to the hospital, but I’m pretty sure some red lights were ignored. On the way up the 4th floor of the hospital we had to stop 4-5 times to focus on the contractions. The hallway seemed to go on forever! Dan took care of the paperwork and I leaned on a chair during another contraction. Right then another couple from our class wheeled by on their way to labour and delivery and their doula stopped and said something very reassuring (strange how you forget things in labour).

Once we were in an assessment room they checked my cervix and I was 4 cm dilated. The nurse monitored the baby for about 20 min to make sure he or she was happy with the whole labour situation. Baby was handling it like a pro. The intensity of the contractions was increasing rapidly so I knew it wouldn’t be long even though I was “only” 4 cm. The hospital was very busy that night (full moon maybe?) so we waited awhile for a room. I leaned over a birth ball and laboured on hands and knees since that seemed most comfortable. Once it was time to move over to labour and delivery the nurse asked me if I wanted to walk which seemed impossible to me and I said “are you kidding?”. We took a wheelchair.

Things moved pretty quickly once we were in our room. I was in and out of the bathroom and starting to feel the urge to push at 6 am but was 7 cm dilated so the nurse told me to wait. My groans were starting to sound like grunts! Dan kept me hydrated with water and pushed on my back with every contraction. I was starting to think I couldn’t handle it much longer and was wondering about laughing gas or something (not sure if that was even an option!). At one point I turned to Dan and said “I think this is transition!”. I really hoped it was since I knew that was the hardest part and we were near the end. During this transition stage there were double peaked contractions and I was definitely wondering if I could manage- all the emotional sign posts we had learned about in class were there! Dan kept me focused and encouraged me it wouldn’t be much longer. I could tell things were changing quickly and could feel increasing pressure with every contraction and the baby moving down. I must have indicated this somehow in my vocalizations because the nurse got on the phone in a real hurry and told the doctor to come right away because the baby was on its way. We had quickly progressed to 10 cm and I was given the go ahead to start pushing-thank goodness because the urge is totally uncontrollable and I was already doing it!

Contractions were very close together so I didn’t have time or a rest to move out of the side lying position to deliver- it was happening so fast I felt like I couldn’t move. I had planned to try delivering in a squatting position since it can be very effective for opening the pelvis and preventing tears. Also very primal. However, all my concentration was focused on getting through each contraction. I pushed however felt right (grunting a lot seemed to help), and panted through the end when the baby was crowning. I reached down and felt the baby’s head at that point- it was all wrinkly and squished! A few more pushes and baby was born and on my chest. Dan announced “It’s a girl!” and I was laughing. Such a huge relief. It’s true the pain stops as soon as they are born. Dan was a super star Daddy coach. I could not have done it without his support. I noticed right away that her hair was reddish like mine. I had my own mini-me! I cuddled her on my belly under a blanket and she crawled up and found my breast all on her own. Her latch was nice and deep and she nursed heartily twice on each side. We were in love with our little girl.

I had a minor first degree tear which was repaired with a few stitches. We opted for delayed cord clamping, delayed newborn procedures (weighing, vitamin K shot, etc) until after skin to skin and breastfeeding and all of these wishes were respected with no question. The staff had clearly all read our birth preferences. She wasn’t weighed until 2 hrs after birth (8 lbs 10 oz) and even had some skin to skin time with daddy. My dear friend and labour and delivery nurse Cindy took care of us after the birth and brought me the biggest breakfast tray ever (she even put peanut butter on my toast!).

Our baby’s birth was a truly amazing and empowering experience. Yes, it was painful, and intense, and there were times I wasn’t sure if I could continue. Dan was there to support me and remind me that women’s bodies are not flawed; they are designed to give birth and can manage the pain of contractions since it has a purpose- bringing that little baby that we had prayed and hoped for into our welcoming arms. Welcome, Violet Marie, and thank you for such a rewarding experience.

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