The Background Story:
When DH and I finally got our positive pregnancy test, we were thrilled! We knew we were going to have a midwife deliver our baby. We wanted a homebirth, but we decided it was not in the cards for us, as we live about an hour from the closest hospital that delivers babies, and with it being the first baby for both of us, we didn’t know what to expect. So we were resigned to a hospital birth.
About a month after we found out we were expecting, we discovered that one of the doulas in the city where we would be delivering had built a birthing suite that she rented out to expectant mothers who wanted to birth in city, but not at the hospital. It was the perfect solution!
So when we first met our midwife June, we were sure we were all prepared. As the pregnancy progressed, we had a few reservations about her attitude – not at all about her ability, but about her attitude towards my particular body size and type. I am quite overweight, no question there, but I had a complete physical before trying to get pregnant and I’m in very good health. Perfect blood pressure, good cholesterol, no diabetes or any of the other problems that are sometimes associated with being overweight. We live on a farm so physical activity is a big part of our life. So DH and I were both a bit annoyed that our midwife was treating me as if I was unhealthy and high risk due to my weight. However, her experience and knowledge was quite calming, and we decided to continue on with her.
My pregnancy progressed as smooth as could be. No morning sickness or any other serious symptoms. Some heartburn, and a persistent low grade UTI, but that was about it. My blood pressure stayed picture perfect, and I aced the GD test that my midwife insisted I take – the 3 hour fasting test rather than the regular one.
Around 33 weeks pregnant, I ended up in the hospital briefly due to some kidney stones. After that, my midwife insisted that I see an anaesthesiologist for a consult, just in case we needed to transfer to the hospital during labour. The anaesthesiologist was a very nice man, but he decided that due to my weight and some damage to my sinuses from a car accident, that I was too high risk to birth out of hospital. In fact, he felt that I should have an epidural immediately after arriving at the hospital in labour. I then had a consult with an ob/gyn, who told us that we should be fine labouring at the birth suite as long as we were prepared to transfer to the hospital at the first sign of trouble.
At this point, DH and I finally decided to request a transfer to a different midwife in the practice. While June gave us full confidence in her abilities, her attitude had robbed me of MY confidence in my ability to birth this child. That was not the kind of support that we felt I would need during labour. While we did have a doula arranged, she was a new doula (it would only be her second birth) and we knew we would need support from someone with more experience, but that we had more confidence in.
Unfortunately, June had decided that the anaesthesiologist’s opinion was the one she wanted to hear. On her recommendation, the midwife practice ruled me out of a homebirth. They would only attend the birth in a hospital. On top of that, we were too late in the game to change midwives – all the others had a full schedule for the time around my due date of July 26th, 2011. We were stuck with a hospital birth with a midwife who we didn’t fully trust. Our worst fears were coming true.
By 36 weeks, baby was head down and fully engaged. I was 1 cm dilated and 75% effaced when I was in the hospital at 33 weeks, so I knew my cervix was already getting ready. And then we found out that our midwife was actually going to be out of town for a week, from about July 10th until the 17th. If I were to go in to labour during that time, by default we would get whichever midwife was on call that day.
On Wednesday July 13th, 2011 I decided I was going to try to induce labour. I was 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant, which may seem early, but I was convinced that early was best in this case. I had been measuring ahead the whole pregnancy and around 36 weeks my feet and legs had swollen completely out of control. I had been having practice contractions for about 2 weeks. I also knew that self inducing wouldn’t work if baby wasn’t ready to come, so I figured it was a safe plan.
So, on Wednesday morning, I prepared the “labour inducing concoction” that my SIL’s midwife had given her for her birth last year. I took it at 10am and waited to see what the castor oil in it would do. By 3pm, it had done precisely nothing that I could tell, beyond encouraging even more of my mucus plug to come out. So when DH got home from work, I enlisted his help! We DTD and by 4pm, real contractions started and I had bloody show. Woohoo – progress!
For the next three hours we puttered around the farm, doing last minute chores and packing things that we wanted to take to the hospital. I tried to eat dinner and was not really up to stomaching much. Shortly after that we called and talked to to the midwife on call, Debbie. She said it was our choice when we wanted to come into town and she would meet us at the midwife office to check me and decide what our plan of action was from there. About an hour later, we decided to head in to town and see her.
We drove in to the hospital where the midwifes’ offices are. Our doula met us there, as did Debbie. I should add here that the on call midwife this week was my absolute favourite of the midwives in the practice, a wonderful lady who I felt an instant connection to the first time I met her the week previous. She took my blood pressure and listened to baby, everything was great. She said after she had checked me we would talk about our options. Well, she checked me and said she was shocked – I was 5 cm dilated and completed effaced, and my membranes were bulging! Since I’m a first timer she had expected my cervix to be long and hard and barely dilated at all.
Then it was time to discuss options. Debbie decided that while we were supposed to be birthing at the hospital, she would give us the option of going to the birthing suite to labour and then transferring to the hospital. The choice was left up to us, so DH and I discussed it and decided we wanted to stay away from the hospital for as long as possible. We agreed that as soon as Debbie said it was time to transfer to the hospital, we would go immediately, but we were certainly hoping for an “Ooops, it’s too late to transfer!”
So we headed over to the birth suite and settled in. Debbie said the baby still needed to move down more, so I started saying “Down” and “Out” through each contraction and trying to squat and open my pelvis as much as I could. The contractions felt quite manageable to me as long as I focused and breathed into them. It felt almost like I was breathing out through my cervix with each contraction. For the most part, I was only feeling the pressure of the contraction, but not pain. Whenever I felt a bit stalled, I went for a walk – on the street outside, or around the birth suite, or just up and down the stairs.
Sometime after midnight (I think it was around 1:30am but it could have been anywhere from midnight to 2:30am) Debbie checked me again and I was 7 cm dilated. I was happy I had made progress but had been honestly hoping for more. At this point, Debbie asked how DH and I were doing and what we wanted to do. We both wanted to stay at the birthing suite and not go to the hospital. To our surprise, Debbie offered to break my water! I think we all knew at that point that if I agreed, we would be staying at the birth suite for the duration. So of course we agreed.
I knew (and Debbie warned me) that things would get more intense once my water was broken, but I really couldn’t have understood in advance exactly how much more intense it would be. I think I had maybe 4 or 5 more contractions after that that I was able to move with, breathe with, or in any way stay on top of. I knew that sitting on the toilet was a position that worked for many women and I had tried it numerous times only to find it unbearable, but by that point I swiftly couldn’t find any position that WAS bearable. I found myself in the bathroom and unable to figure out a way that I could get out of the bathroom and still deal with the contractions. The next one that came felt like I needed to push, and I knew for certain that there was no way I was ready to push. That was the first time I was afraid. Debbie told me to do whatever it was that my body wanted.
I knew baby was trying to move down and I knew that was what I wanted him to do, but for quite a while I couldn’t do anything during these new, intense contractions except try to survive each one. After a while I asked Debbie if I could lay down on my side and try pushing that way. She agreed, and I moved to my right side laying on the bathroom floor. Debbie sat down on the toilet and braced my top leg with each contraction so that I had something to push against. I figured out at that point that the contractions didn’t hurt as much as long as I was pushing – it was only if I backed off pushing while the contraction was still on me that they were agonizing. I have no idea how long I laid on that floor, pushing with each contraction and then dozing between them, but it felt like an eternity. In hindsight I’m sure it was about an hour, certainly not more than 90 minutes but probably not even that long. The contractions were hard but not lasting as long as Debbie wanted them to (I was very certain that they were quite long enough, thank you very much!).
Eventually, Debbie checked me again and told me I was completely dilated, but that I had to change positions. Baby was not making enough progress and we needed to change things up. I somehow managed to get to my hands and knees, made it through one contraction that way and then got up to a kneeling position. There was a counter in the bathroom that was then at about my face height – with each contraction from then on, I gripped the edge of the counter and bore down. It was harder work than laying on my side had been but I could immediately feel the difference. The change in position made it impossible for me to tighten my butt muscles as I was pushing, so I was no longer fighting against myself with each push. I was sure I could feel baby coming down then with each contraction. At one point I reached down and I could feel his head, just inside of me, and all of the sudden I knew that we could do this. I hadn’t realized how afraid I was that he wouldn’t drop until I knew he was actually close to crowning!
From then on, things went very fast. Debbie says it was less than 45 minutes from when she checked me to when baby arrived. Some time around here the second midwife Jessica arrived. I remember feeling the ring of fire, and Debbie and Jessica both telling me to do short pushes and breath him out. I did NOT want to do that, I just wanted him out! But I tried hard to stay calm and just breathe him down. When Debbie told me his head was out I remember yelling at her to get her fingers away from his head – it felt like she had her fingers inside me beside his head. Of course she didn’t and it was just his chin pressing on my perineum (I apologized to her for that after!). Then I asked her if I needed to still do small pushes or if I could push hard again, and she said I could push however my body wanted to. That was exactly what I wanted to hear, and with one more big prolonged push, baby entered the world.
Things here are a bit blurry for me. Debbie caught the baby and I asked her to pass him forward to me because I really needed to sit down. I was still kneeling at this point and my knees were shaking like crazy. She passed him forward through my legs and I sat down – what a relief that was! I couldn’t believe how immediately all of the pain had vanished when he came out. I think that really shocked me more than anything. It’s hard to imagine while you’re in it that the intensity of that pain could just vanish in an instant, but it really did. I leaned back and DH was there, so I could just lean against his chest and hold our new baby against my stomach. Back when we had our 20 week ultrasound, the tech had said it was a boy, but neither DH nor I ever fully believed that it would be – we had always thought it would be a girl. But the ultrasound tech was right – we most definitely had a boy! The umbilical cord was quite short so I couldn’t bring him all the way up to my chest, but we made due. He was bluish, moving some on his own and making weak little cries. DH and I could only stare at him in awe. Jessica and Debbie quickly started checking him out. His Apgar scores were 7 and 9. Because of his body’s swift passage through the birth canal, he didn’t get all of the fluid cleared out of his lungs, so Jessica suctioned him just a little bit to help him out with his breathing. Everything else improved all on its own.
Debbie asked us if we wanted to cut the cord so we could bring him up more, but we chose to wait until it stopped pulsing before doing that. Once it stopped pulsing, the midwives cut the umbilical cord (DH chickened out) and I brought him up to rest on my chest. We stayed that way for a little while, then DH got his first chance to hold his son while the midwives and I started thinking about the placenta. DH took baby for a walk around the birthing suite (which was currently populated with my mother and our doula) while Debbie and I talked about another oxytocin shot to try to get the placenta to come out. I hadn’t realized it at the time but we were passed the 30 minutes mark and there were no signs of the placenta coming yet. I asked if we could wait a bit longer and I would try to push it out. I got back in to the kneeling position that had worked so well for baby but whenever I tried to push, my arms and my side would cramp up – I guess I was all pushed out! A little while later I accepted a shot of oxytocin, and about 5 minutes later, did manage to pass the placenta intact.
From there, we finally relocated out of the bathroom. I laid down on the bed so Debbie could check me for tears – I think that might have been one of the most painful parts of the whole process. I had a 2nd degree tear which she stitched up for me, and minimal bleeding from my uterus. All in all, pretty good for a first timer with a relatively fast birth. Then Jessica weighed the baby and we found out he was a whopping 9 lbs! We all guessed his weight before she weighed him and our guesses were from 7 lbs 8 oz up to 8 lbs 6 oz – no one was even close to guessing what he really weighed! He seemed so tiny, but then I guess it’s all relative. DH and I are both big people.
Anyway, after that my mom and our doula left, and DH and I finally got to curl up on the bed with our new baby. We decided that we would stick to our original name choice of Kayden. Jessica helped me get Kayden latched and eating his first meal – he nursed like a pro pretty much right from the start. Shortly after that, Jessica and Debbie left us alone to have our first bit of sleep as a family of three!
I know that I’ve missed a lot of the details of what happened in this, but there were some things I still can’t figure out where they fit. I know that DH and our doula Solveig took turns feeding me and making me drink throughout everything. Solveig was applying counter pressure to my back a lot during the active labour stage – not during contractions like a lot of women want, but between them instead. I couldn’t stand having anyone touch me during contractions most of the time. I know I walked a lot in the active labour stage as well – I walked a few laps around the cul-de-sac in front of the birth suite, and I was walking back and forth up and down the stairs into the suite for quite a while to try to help baby drop. I remember DH having a cold facecloth to wipe the sweat off my face with and how good that felt, especially during transition. I remember Debbie checking in with DH and I a few times to see if we wanted to go to the hospital, and us asking to stay at the suite just a bit longer each time. I also remember thinking very clearly that DH had said he did NOT want to see the baby being born – I think he was worried it would forever change his perception of *that* region of my body. But in the end he couldn’t bear to not watch, so he saw it all, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t regret that one bit.
More details will come to me with time and I’m sure I’ll update this birth story, for my own memories if nothing else. Right now though, I am so thankful that things went smoothly and we have a perfect, happy, healthy baby boy to love and dote on. My birth team was the best anyone could ever hope for. Our doula Solveig was quick to help with anything and everything she was asked to do – this was only her second birth and she was cool as a cucumber. My mom was there for support and she gave it every step of the way – mostly in silence, quietly sitting in the corner waiting for me, or DH, or one of the midwives to need her for something. DH was supportive and caring and also backed off whenever I needed him to, and never once got overwhelmed or panicky (at least not that I saw). And Debbie, our stand in midwife, who barely knew us but had absolute faith in our ability to do this our way, even though her midwife practice had risked us out of a homebirth. She asked the questions that needed to be asked but never once tried to pressure us to go to the hospital. Her steadfast, unwavering confidence was my rock when things got tougher than I thought I could stand. She went out on a limb for us to help us get the birth experience that DH and I had dreamed of and that we believed, until that night, was going to be taken away from us. Debbie gave that dream back to us, and we will be forever grateful to her.
Okay, I think I’ve rambled enough! Time to finish it off with pictures of our son:
Kayden John Clifford Thomas, born at 4:11am July 14th, 2011, 9 lbs even and 21 inches long
With dad a few hours after birth:
With mom, 1 day old: