Baby was due on March 19th and the time was ticking… I wasn’t sure if I’d be calling my little one a March baby, but he finally made his appearance on the 31st! Baby Finn arrived 12 days past his due date, at 41+5. 8lbs 12oz of love and squish. This is my birth story.
This is my birth story.
Or I guess Finn’s birth story – because who knows, there might be another baby someday!
Our birth wishes included an unmedicated water birth at the Birth Centre, which would allow me to go home pretty much immediately and enjoy the benefits of unmedicated births: easier recovery, generally easier time breastfeeding, no swelling, less risk of adverse reaction to medication or epidural, and no need to go to the hospital.
COVID was just beginning and the hospital policies were changing daily. We also didn’t want to risk going to the hospital and contracting something ourselves (or worse, our newborn baby), so our original plan to deliver at the birth centre made the most sense.
Alright – back to the birth story. I was overdue with Finn, and trying all of the natural things to induce labour: walking, squats, stairs, pumping, sex, etc. But nothing was happening.
My midwife wanted to get the baby out because he was so overdue and there were questions about the baby’s size – he was measuring “big” according to his latest ultrasound. Because I was planning a birth centre birth, concerns about shoulder dystocia and other risks due to a large baby needed to be considered. In the end, after reviewing in more detail, we realized only one measurement from the ultrasound suggested a big baby and because it wasn’t the head, my midwives were comfortable staying at the birth centre. As long as we got him out soon to avoid medical induction.
With everything going on, I was happy to stick with the plan of an out of hospital birth. Remember, COVID.
Time to get this baby out.
I scheduled a stretch and sweep with my midwife for Monday, the day before I had Finn. It was the second stretch and sweep after the first one didn’t do much. I was a little more dilated this time, so my midwife was able to be more effective (aka. it was very uncomfortable).
The stretch and sweep worked and I began contracting immediately. I was advised to take a long walk after the sweep and then take castor oil in the evening if I felt like things weren’t progressing on their own. Once contractions started, I was also advised to use my breast pump on and off.
I got home from the sweep and took Oakley, our pup, on a nice hour-long walk, in the pouring rain of course. When I got home I rested and pumped. I was getting contractions regularly while pumping, and although they spaced out when I stopped, they never went away entirely. Into the evening, I decided not to take the castor oil since I was still contracting pretty regularly – between 8-10 minutes apart.
By 11pm, I wasn’t able to sleep and found contractions hard to simply breathe through. They were irregular (5-10 mins apart), but lasting 1 min or more each. I needed relief so I ran a bath, texted my doula that I might need her soon, and got in the tub. I contracted in the tub until almost 2am and got out. I called her back and told her it was time.
I woke up Mike and we made our way down to the main level of our house to labour there. My plan was to stay there until we had to leave cause we have a nice flight of stairs that I knew would SUCK during labour. If you haven’t experienced labour contractions, they basically get worse every time you move. And stairs = constant contractions.
I was on all 4’s on our couch, and leaning forward between contractions. Mike was helping me breathe through them and time them. My contraction pattern remained weird: I was having long intense contractions and then followed by a couple short ones that were milder but came more quickly. My doula hadn’t arrived yet, but I decided to call my midwife to get checked. The contraction pattern was weird, but it was intense and I was having contractions as far as 8 mins apart, and as little as 2-3 minutes apart. She said she’d come out to my place to check me but assured me I was probably still in early labour.
My support team arrived
Meanwhile my doula arrived and we got out the TENS machine. I used that for almost the remainder of the labour, and it was a lifesaver. It distracted enough from the pain of the contractions and gave me something else to focus on.
Eventually the midwife arrived and checked me. I was only 3-4cm dilated, but not enough to be admitted at the hospital or birth centre. I couldn’t believe I was in so much pain and not even officially in active labour.
She felt it would be best if I got some sleep, so she gave me an injection of Benadryl, Tylenol and Gravol (I had already been sick to my stomach once). I tried to eat a smoothie for energy but I just couldn’t do it. Plus I was getting sleepy and needed to rest.
Back up the stairs we go (not happy about this), and I got in bed. Fortunately I was able to get some rest in between contractions. I closed my eyes for what felt like half an hour but it ended up being 3 hours! By that point I was in a pretty consistent 4-minutes-apart pattern, but some contractions were double peaking and ended up being up to two minutes long.
I changed my mind – I wanted an epidural.
At this point I completely broke down. I was crying at the end of each contraction and was SO ready to give up. I wanted out and needed relief – I was so ready to go to the hospital for the epidural. But then I could just see the challenges in front of me: waiting for triage, getting an IV, getting the anesthesia… We called back my midwife and she suggested we meet at the birth centre to check me first before deciding on the hospital. I agreed. If I was far enough along I’d stay at the birth centre. If I wasn’t, I’d zip to the hospital. It was a race against time in my mind.
Getting dressed and going down those damn stairs triggered SO MANY contractions. Any movement – sitting down, walking, anything – brought one on. Car contractions also sucked, but we had a smooth highway drive that helped make them more bearable.
Upon arrival at the birth centre, my doula and I parted ways. Unfortunately she couldn’t join us for the actual birth itself due to the current COVID guidelines, but I was so grateful for her support in getting me as far as she did.
As I walked into the room, I heard the tub filling up with water and she told me I was 6-almost 7cm dilated. She didn’t think I had a lot longer to go, and even though I REALLY wanted the epidural, it was what I needed to hear. The birth centre felt so calm and right, and the tub looked so inviting… So I stayed.
Back to the original plan: an unmedicated water birth
Once I got into the tub, I found a comfortable position leaning over the side and didn’t move the rest of my labour. The water felt amazing – it was so relaxing that in between contractions I was dozing off. When a contraction hit, Mike was there holding my hand and helped me get through it with a few techniques:
- Vocalizing during contractions with low tones and moans. These are said to help relax and open up the body and cervix, as opposed to high pitches which create tension making contractions more painful.
- Counting in my head. I’d take a breath in, and through each audible groan/exhale I would count to 10. Then repeat. I was able to do about 4-5 of these before the contraction started to fade out, and that’s how I knew I was getting close to a break.
- Tapping rhythmically. While counting in my head, I was holding Mike’s hand and tapping our fists against the side of the tub. These rhythmic motions gave me something to focus on besides the pain.
Eventually I started experiencing multiple contractions on top of each other. The midwife could tell I seemed different and checked me. I had hit 9.5cm, but in checking she released a lip and it was possible I was 10cm.
Almost immediately the sensations changed. I felt him moving lower and lower through my pelvis. She told me to let her know when I felt the urge to push. It mustn’t have been more than a couple contractions, and my body started to uncontrollably push. It was the weirdest sensation. I guess it felt like I had to poop, but it mostly just felt like I had something MASSIVE in my body that I needed to purge. The fetal ejection reflex was so strong that it caught me off guard.
I started pushing with contractions as she called for the backup midwife. Shortly after I felt my water break, and panicked a little. I knew it was close, and was nervous for the ring of fire. I started to feel a burning sensation, and told my midwife. She checked me and realized how quickly I had progressed. She called her backup to find out how close she was, but she wouldn’t make it in time. She had to call a different midwife who was doing clinical hours in the birth centre because the baby was coming so quickly.
In the end, I pushed for less than 30 minutes and the head was born. Along with one, possibly two of his hands by his face (nuchal hands). In the next contraction I was able to push out his body. It all happened pretty quickly and I was SO grateful for the birth tub.
He was born with the cord wrapped around him 3 times. They unravelled it and helped me put him straight to my chest.
My baby was finally here.
It took him a bit to cry, but he was mostly stunned from how quickly everything had happened. I was sore, but felt instant relief from the pain of the contractions and pushing. It was incredible.
My labour was a total of 20 hours from early labour to birth. According to the midwife, I was only in active labour for about 4 hours, and pushed for less than 30 minutes. A relatively quick labour for a first time mom. He was born at 10:39am.
After the cord stopped pulsing, he went to Mike’s chest first while I got out of the tub and delivered the placenta. Then he came to me and he latched right away. We were officially a family, I couldn’t believe it!
I was able to have him completely unmedicated (aside from the the random shot of Tylenol and Gravol at 3am). I had 3 second-degree tears – two symmetrical ones due to what they suspected were two nuchal hands, and then one small one at my perineum.
It was the most intense (and painful) thing I’ve ever done, and it pushed me to my limits multiple times. But in the end, I feel like a damn warrior for being able to do what I did. The strength required for natural childbirth is just incredible. Not just physical, but mental. You need to really be committed because there is so much time to change your mind in labour. As much as I wanted that epidural in early/active labour, once I hit transition in the tub, I didn’t even think about it once. I was so focused on getting through each contraction and meeting my baby.
And boy was it ever awesome.Follow