Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Birth Story

Okay, so in all the madness of being a brand spanking new first time mom, I've neglected writing out my birth story. This is no good, as I feel the memory of it slipping away from me already. So here we go.

On Thursday, I had another midwife appointment and had my membranes swept again by Kay. This time it hurt quite a lot, but she said I still wasn't very dilated and that the baby was posterior. His head was pressing on my spine, rather than turned the way it should be for easy passage. This was disappointing, but I was more focused on the fact that I was dismally overdue. That night, my back started to hurt a lot. I got frustrated with that, thinking that there was no progress anyway, that it wasn't labor and that I was just going to be uncomfortable until my induction date, which I had set for the following Wednesday. The back pain continued until Friday, and Mike took me out to Ethiopian food to cheer me up. We ended up going to the restaurant we had our first date in. We sat at the same table (not that difficult, because the restaurant is so small) and were served by the same waitress. It really is the best Ethiopian food in the city, aside from the sentimental connections. But those connections certainly made the meal more special. The waitress/owner commented jokingly that her food would 'make the baby'. I suppose it did.

That night I started having irregular contractions. The back pain would intensify and then ease off. We measured them online with 'contraction master', which Mike found humorous. The contractions surprised me. They didn't feel like I expected them to, and were mostly in my back. Since I had had contractions before that let off when i went to bed, I trucked myself off to sleep. I woke at 1:45 with intense back pain. I woke Mike up and we started timing. I called the midwife and she told me that they weren't long enough, so I should go back to sleep and rest up in case it was the real deal. I tried, but ended up sleeping on the couch, semi-reclined. When I laid down the contractions became intensely painful. I called Kay again in the morning, and she was already at another birth. She stopped by shortly, swept my membranes again, said I was only 2-3cm. She said she would send another midwife, Houley, to monitor me until she was done with the other birth that was in progress.

At 1:00 Houley arrived. Houley was a midwife from Africa who I had heard of but never met. Her English left much to be desired, which frankly stressed me out. I started to moan through the contractions, unable to speak. Houley made me some tea, and gave me some pausatilla, a homeopathic remedy, to hopefully turn the baby. The pain remained mostly in my back, which is referred to as 'back labour' and as far as I understand it, a whole other animal from regular labour. Mike rubbed my back incessantly, patiently holding me when I needed it. We 'slow danced', rocking back and forth for hours. I stared at his eyes through contractions, losing myself in them. You'd think that time measured in four minute increments would go slowly, but it raced by. My contractions were on top of each other, my uterus irritated by where Ender was sitting. They were two at a time sometimes, with double peaks, one minute apart.

Houley was relieved by Kay, who checked me again and said I was 3-4 cm. I had only dilated 1 cm in about 7 hours. I called my mother at some point through all this, and she arrived. She kept the mood light, remembering funny stories from when I was a kid. Her and Kay sat cross legged on the bedroom floor while I sat on the bed with Mike, labouring away. I sat in the bathtub and could feel the head of my future son bulging in my back, literally lifting me from the floor of the tub a little with each contraction. Mike could feel it too, as he rubbed me. Kay could tell I was getting tired, and told me that I should lay down. I got panicky, as this was my most painful position. She insisted it would lengthen the time between contractions, and probably move the baby more efficiently with each contraction, not to mention let me rest a little. I did so for a while, apparently passing out from the pain at one point, but this is what I was told by everyone else.

By midnight or so, I was getting frantic. I was exhausted, in a great deal of pain, and I didn't feel as though I was progressing. I wanted to go to the hospital. While the midwife's measured me as in 'active labour' for 12 hours, I had been in labour in my own mind since Friday. I sat in the bathtub, calling in Mike, my mother and Kay all in one at a time, like a ruined monarch. "You have to take me to the hospital." I said, "Nothings happening!". Mike tried to put me off. He knew how much I wanted a homebirth, but after I begged for a while he relented. Kay wanted to check me again before she transferred me to the hospital, just in case I was more dilated. I wasn't. She agreed now, that the transfer to the hospital was the best choice. I was going to be too exhausted to push soon, and I was still only at 3-4cm.

The car ride was a blur. I refused to wear my seatbelt, rocking my pelvis though contractions. My mother drove slowly down Queen street, and I vaguely recall swearing at the hipsters that blocked the road on the way to St. Joseph's. We got there, and I lumbered my way down the hall to labour and delivery. I didn't know I was capable of it before, but I walked forward through my contractions, silently. I didn't want to disturb any of the truly sick people! Imagine my conscientiousness! My eyes were wide, fixed, and I walked and walked and walked. I got to labour and delivery and let myself moan again. The nurses rallied around me, a transfer of care was given and a shot of morphine dispensed. It didn't make the contractions hurt any less, but it let me focus on resting in between them. By now my moaning had become monotone, repetitive. Women in other rooms laboured as well, moaning almost exactly the same as I. "I can close the door." Kay offered. "No, no, it's fine." I demurred. "She's doing good." Occasionally you'd hear the first cry of a baby. My mom smiled at me. I sat hooked up to monitors, leaning forward and eventually removing them. I couldn't sit still for them to do their work. Kay checked me again and I was 6cm. She told me we could still do it naturally, but I refused. I was so, so, so tired. I needed sleep.

The anesthesiologist, from what I can recall a skinny man with owl glasses who condescendingly asked me if I wanted my epidural now. It was 5 am. The hardest part of the whole labour was probably this, where I was expected to sit perfectly still through my contractions, which were still no more than two or three minutes apart and very lengthy. Mike held my feet as I sat on the side of the bed, rubbing them reassuringly. They finished, and taped up my back. I leaned back and slowly lost the burning, twisting sensation that had been plaguing me for the last two days. I slept. Mike slept on the pullout chair in the room. My mother kept vigil on a small steel stool next to my bed, as though convinced she was the only one monitoring the baby's heartbeat. I told her to go sleep in one of the family waiting rooms, but she refused and stayed with me. Kay went off to sleep in one of the unused hospital rooms.

By 7 in the morning, I was almost ready to push. I felt so much better and more refreshed. I could still feel my contractions through the epidural, it just didn't hurt. Nurses, midwives and obstetricians piled into the room to watch. Babette, my other midwife arrived. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I put my heart and soul into it. Everything I loved and hated and felt ever in my life, I put into pushing. My mother laughed at said she'd never seen me try so hard at anything in my life. Probably true. Kay told me to push three times for each contraction and I always tried for four. At one point, the lack of oxygen made me forget where I was. Why was I pushing? Who were all these people around me yelling for me to keep going, keep trying? I came to my senses with a gasp of air in. Mike was to my right, whispering in my ear. I really mostly listened to him, and blocked everyone else out. In between pushes I rested, smiling ear to ear and giggling like a little kid.

The push that pushed Ender's head out felt amazing, as did the one that pressed the rest of his little body out and into my arms. Mike and I screamed and laughed and cried. He was wet and warm and beautiful. I've never felt such a rush of inhibited joy before in my life. He cried softly at first and gave us a little pout of his lips, drew breath and let out a scream. He started to turn pinkish. They took him away to weigh him and he came in at a whopping 9 pounds 12 ounces. He was healthy and strong. The placenta showed no signs that I was almost two weeks overdue. He had come just when he wanted to, and just when it was right.

And that's the story of how it all happened. Now I can't forget.


  1. I swear you could have been telling my birth story...posterior baby (did he ever turn over?), hours and days of back labour...everything. Except for the ending, of course :) I'll admit I was in tears when I got to the end of your story - it's such an intense happiness when you get to see your little miracle for the first time, something I'll never, ever, ever forget. Thanks for sharing!

  2. thanks for reading! I figured that our labours were similar, because I remembered you telling me your story and it seemed a lot the same. The exhaustion and emotion is all so intense! My midwife told me that the back labour was unlikely a second time, but I'm pretty hesitant to dip my toe in THAT pool a second time ;)