Because the baby was still not engaged, I had been instructed to get down on the floor with my bum in the air should my water happen to break before labour. Because of the amount of water still gushing out, I could tell that the head was not engaged, but I didn’t really know what it felt like to have a cord prolapse, so down onto the wet bathroom floor I went, bottom in the air. Robb got my phone and I called the midwife on call while he called our friends Jon and Kristiina, who were going to take our 2.5-year-old while I was in labour. Meanwhile, Mirabel woke up and, sensing my panic, went into full-on meltdown mode, demanding to nurse. With a screaming toddler in the background, Kat, our midwife, assured me that if the cord had come out before the baby I would definitely know about it, and that lying on my side until ready to head to the hospital was OK. I knew from the moment I saw that green staining that my homebirth was out, but my midwife broke further bad news - the hospital policy for meconium staining before labour was induction.
Robb was trying to calm Mirabel down, but once I was able to lie on my side, she joined me on the floor for some nursing. This is how I was when Jon and Tiina arrived, not more than 15 minutes after we called them. Robb was running around packing our hospital bags (we had literally spent all of Saturday saying “We need to pack the hospital bags today. We really need to pack those bags today.” And of course, not doing it.) Jon put Mimi’s carseat in the car and Tiina helped me get Mirabel and myself dressed, as I directed her to choose underwear from my underwear drawer etc. It’s nice to have such good friends at such times!
All this time, the baby hadn’t moved, and I was terrified.
I was chugging mango coconut water in the car on the way to the hospital, and finally, finally the baby squirmed a little and I cried. I was so distracted and upset that once we got to the hospital that I very nearly barged into L & D without saying goodbye to Mirabel, and I feel so badly about that now. But I did kiss her goodbye, and told her I loved her, and poor thing was quite sad to see us go. Luckily, Jon and Tiina are her (3rd and 4th) favourite people in the universe, and they were able to distract her pretty quickly.
Once checked in, I was strapped to the monitors and grateful to know that the baby was just fine. Somebody checked my cervix for baseline (1.5 - 2cm) though I can’t remember who now - the resident, Dr. Chad? The OB? My midwife? Everybody asked me a ton of questions about my heart condition. I was still feeling anxious about the induction, but at least I wasn’t worried about the baby. Just before we were moved from triage to our delivery suite, my doula Bethan arrived. I was so glad, she’s such a calming presence.
Once in our room (a medicalized room near the OR, they don’t allow inductions up in the fancy birthing suites) I was made to change out of my own clothes, and attached to the monitors (our room was the only room with wireless monitors, hooray!) I was disgruntled about having to go braless, not a comfortable thing to do when you have large breasts, but I also didn’t want them to have to cut off my expensive nursing tank top in case of emergency. Then, Claribelle our nurse, inserted my IV. It was an awfully bloody procedure, and terribly uncomfortable. I told her it hurt, and she decided to take it out and try a second spot. Even worse. My hand was covered in blood and aching. So she conveniently took her coffee break just then, and the break nurse expertly and painlessly put in the IV in the other hand. My right hand, which was inconvenient, but it had to be so, since as soon as she put the tourniquet on my left arm, the second IV site swelled up to golf-ball-size, and I had to ice it. We hadn’t even started the induction yet and I was cranky, and anxious and in pain (and still leaking green fluid everywhere, I might add, yuck.) Luckily, Bethan had urged me to scarf down a granola bar before the nurse had arrived, so I wasn’t super hungry.
And then they started the oxytocin, just before 11am. I paced the room like a tiger, all nervous energy - scattered, and seeking desperately for some kind of distraction. We chatted with Bethan, who was knitting baby booties, we attempted to play Scrabble on our phones (I was too distracted to concentrate) Bethan did some accupressure and we tried some exercises in the room to keep me mobile. I took little walks down the hall, pulling my IV pole, but the distance was so short that I just wanted to get back to our dimly lit room with our music, and keep talking to Bethan. Kat came in for a while to chat, she was also attending another birth upstairs. Then the anaesthesiologist came in for my consult about my heart condition (superventricular tachycardia) and said that an epidural would help supress any episodes I might have. I told him I was set on not using any drugs, and he was really understanding. Bethan was amazed and said he was the nicest anaesthesiologist she has ever seen, and that most would have spent more time pushing drugs on me.
I started contracting after not too long - they were mild and close together. After an hour and a half or so they were strong enough to warrant stopping and swaying, and Kat and Bethan both thought it was a good idea to take their lunch then, in case I went really quickly. Lucky for me, my nurse was lenient about food, so I had been eating crackers and toast with peanut butter and an apple. Robb and I walked the halls some more, and on one trip down the hall we heard a woman in one of the other delivery rooms just shrieking. Screaming “I can’t, I can’t!” and lots of big, high-pitched pain noises. Robb chuckled, and said that I didn’t sound like that when I delivered Mirabel. I don’t remember what I sounded like. About 5 minutes later, on our next pass down the hall, we heard the moment that she delivered the baby and it started crying. I burst into tears. Even through a closed-door, it was beautiful. I’m tearing up right now, just thinking about it. It really changed the way I thought about what was happening to me, and hearing that stranger-baby cry made me focus so much more on my own baby.
My legs started getting tired, so I began sitting on the birth ball more, leaning on the end of the bed. It was so nice, though it really made the contractions slow down. We’d take a walk every once in a while. Then I started getting a migraine. Grrr. I took some tylenol, which can work if I catch the migraine early enough, and lay down in the bed with a cold cloth on my head and a hot water bottle on my stomach to help with the contractions. It was not very restful, but the aura did recede, and I only had a little headache, so I was back on my feet soon after, and the contractions picked up again. I began humming through them, totally tunelessly, but melodically. It was a good technique for the moment, because I was focused on the vibrations in my throat, but also concentrating on not turning it into a song. As the contractions ramped up more (in intensity - they were always about 1 - 2 minutes apart) the humming became deep vocalization, alternating with horse-lips and blowing.
I was starting to feel quite tired, and discouraged because the contractions were quite intense, and I was becoming scared of them. Dr. Chad the resident came in and checked me, and discouraged me further by saying I was a good 3 - 4cm and 90% effaced. The intensity that I was feeling was about on par with 6 - 7 cm with my first labour (I only needed to vocalize right at the end with my first labour) and I began to doubt how in the world I was going to survive hours and hours more of oxytocin-contractions. I really had to talk it through with Bethan - bring all the fears out in the open, lay out exactly how I felt before I could keep going. And once I did that, things really started to pick up. I was making all kinds of funny deep vocalizations, and lots of blowing to keep my lips loose. All much more than I needed with my first labour. And they were INTENSE. I can fully see why many inductions need an epidural. I needed to do something to try and move it along, because I was right on the edge of losing it, so I decided to try squatting through some contractions. I hung onto Bethan’s rebozo and... nothing. At least 2 minutes went by and no contraction, and this was at a time when they were near constant - with lesser contractions between the super intense double-peaking ones. So I stood up and WHAM, I was hit with a crazy implosive contraction that almost had me on the floor. It caught me so off-guard that I cried out.
The next ones were equally intense, and I clutched Robb in a big bear hug, vocalizing like a crazy-person. I must have sounded hilarious, because on the second one, Robb couldn’t help but laugh at me - and I laughed too! In the middle of transition! It was a revelation! The pain almost completely disappeared while I was laughing, though I still had at least 30 seconds of contraction left. I tried it out on the next one, vocalizing in the most ridiculous way, then busting out laughing at myself for the second half of the contraction. I had everyone else laughing with me too. Well, Bethan and Kat were, Claribelle the nurse was concerned. I guess she couldn’t tell that I was laughing and thought something was wrong! It was absolutely amazing, and both Bethan and Kat said that it was the first time they had ever seen a baby being laughed out.
And then, there it was - the pressure - and I was feeling pushy. It was 5:20ish, and Dr. Chad had told me that I was 3 - 4 cm at 3:30pm. If I hadn’t been in so much crazy pain, I would have been stoked. But as it was, I stopped laughing and grunted out “I’m... pushing...” and made a huge effort to crawl onto the bed between contractions. I pushed on hands an knees for a while, paying special attention to what I sounded like. Low and grunty, good. Then Kat told me that hands and knees wasn’t doing me any favours, and I flipped onto my side. The urge to push was so strong, I couldn’t help but bear down with all my strength. Once I moved, the baby very quickly moved down, and I remember only 3 or 4 sensations of progress and retreat. At one point I moaned in frustration as the baby’s head slipped back, and Bethan reminded me that it was just doing what it was supposed to - getting me ready, stretching me out, letting me rest. After delivering the head, I was surprised that I had to push again for the shoulders, and again for the hips of the baby - my first baby had just slipped out after her head was delivered. This one felt bigger. Baby started crying before I had delivered the hips and legs, so they didn’t need to take him away right away for suctioning and they were able to put him on my chest just like I wanted, and wait to cut the cord. I was so, so happy - finally something going the way I wanted. They handed him to me legs first, and I was able to see he was a boy, at almost the same time Robb did.
We cuddled skin to skin for a moment before I realized that something was wrong - Kat was white and shaking. I got jabbed in the leg with a needle, and had the oxytocin turned up and the nurse was practically doing a handstand on my stomach. I was bleeding. I just focussed on my baby so as not to panic and let them do their job. Luckily the cord had stopped pulsing by that point - they wanted to get the placenta out, and wanted to cut the cord ASAP. Robb still got to do it, and then they took my little guy to the pediatrician across the room to be looked over while they tried to stop my hemorrhage. Robb went with him. I was more frightened now that I didn’t have a baby to distract me, but Robb and Bethan helped with that. Oren was weighed - 9 lbs 11 oz! 21 inches and a 37.5cm head! We looked at the placenta - it looked good, intact. They set it aside in a safe place. As soon as I got Oren back, I put him to the breast, and he latched like a champ. The bleeding had slowed, but not stopped, and they kept pushing on my uterus and causing blood to gush out. Nursing would cause blood to gush out. They were concerned. So finally, Kat said she had to check inside my uterus for clots. That was excruciating. And when she said she needed to clean out all the clots she found, with her hand, I nearly fainted. So they got me the laughing gas, and I huffed and puffed and gasped and cried as she rooted around inside of me. Worst. Feeling. Ever. Drug free labour, but man I needed that gas for the final procedure. And the bleeding finally stopped. I requested a couple of stitches for my two minor tears, because if I didn’t get them stitched I would have needed to limit my activity like going up and down stairs, and I just couldn’t do that.
I was shaky and anxious about my bleeding, and I remember feeling disappointed that I didn’t have that same sense of triumphant euphoria that I had with my first birth. I was just tired, and scared, and looking at this little pink stranger in my arms. But he had a name, and just like we did with our daughter, when we were asked what his name was, Robb and I just looked at each other and both said “Oren” at the same time. So we did know him after all, our little baby laughed into this world.