Joan’s Birth Story
I love writing up my babies birth stories as soon after as possible – before all the details get fuzzy and my mom memory kicks in (aka blocks out all the details!)
Disclaimer: it’s a birth story so it’s about, well, birth. Also, its long. Also, it has pictures, so if you aren’t into that kind of thing: ClickAway!
Last night was Sunday evening (I wrote this on the day she was born! – and edited it later), it was a bit of a long and boring Sunday. I couldn’t think of anything I was up for taking the kids to do after Mass, so we stayed around home and tried to make it as “restful” as a Sunday could be at 38 weeks pregnant. Finally at about 4pm we went stir crazy being home all day and so we took them to the local spray park for the first time this summer.
They aren’t actually a fan of getting sprayed with water at all they are not the biggest fans of the whole spray park idea, but they stayed at the playground for awhile and I waddled around when I absolutely had to and then we came home and ate hot dogs. The glamorous pregnant life. It was a late supper and the kids were going squirrley So I told Brian I would give them all a bath and give him a chance to clean up the kitchen.
It was the hardest bath time ever, I was having contractions pretty frequently (as I have been for the past few weeks) but during the bathing 3 wild slippery kids process the contractions seemed a little more bothersome, but I was also wrangling very uncooperative kids into diapers and PJs so it was hard to tell what was the cause.
I told brian to take over once the bums were covered and I laid down about 8 pm. He did bedtime all on his own and I stayed laying down trying to relax and see if the contractions would go away. In my mind I was trying to be prepared to survive up to 4 more weeks of being pregnant, so my strategy was ignore contractions as much as possible, as long as possible. But I have also had extremely fast labours and scared it would happen again, so I would rather call the midwives for 20 false alarms than catch my own baby.
I texted my sister Emma at 8:45 complaining – first sign these contractions were different than the previous braxton hicks.
At 9:45 I warned dad (my child care person for the other kids) to keep his phone on during the night.
I stayed in bed til brian came at about 10:30 after putting the kids all the bed and doing dishes because HE’S AMAZING.
At around 11 we timed contractions just 3 or 4 but they were clearly fitting the “call-the-midwife!” pattern, even though they still weren’t painful or anything more than not ignorable. Just given my history (see Hugh’s birth story) we called the midwife pager line just “in case” and my FAVE midwife was on call who knows me well and wanted to come and check things.
She came around midnight and offered to check me and I was completely expecting a “false alarm – get some sleep” but instead, BEST NEWS!!! I was at 7cm, she said the best words a overly pregnant lady can ever hear: “you are having this baby tonight!”
I wasn’t quite mentally ready, but hearing that pushed me into gear.
I told the doula to come at 12:30 and she rushed over as well as my dad to come be on call for the kids.
I stood, swaying, staring outside the window at the beautiful full moon and wondered if this was real labour, contractions were uncomfortable but I was still talking through them. Julie suggested moving to hands and knees to try to help baby shift a bit more center because she was off to the side
Clara and Hugh each woke up for a few minutes but thankfully went back to sleep easily with my dad’s help. Brian and the doula were working on filling the pool andI wondered secretly if it was even worth it and there would be time to get in.
I did move over to the room next door when the pool was full and climbed in and really enjoyed the relaxing effects of the warm water. First time ever trying labouring in water.
The contractions seemed to be lightening up and I was able to completely relax, maybe even fall asleep between them, a lot of prayer and internal dialogue happened in my mind as I tried to get ready to meet this baby. I was in a sitting position and at one point asked if I should switch to a more hands and knees position and Julie, the midwife, teasingly answered “do you already know what will happen if you turn over?” she expected pushing the baby out was imminent, although it was still very peaceful and I was wondering if the mythical group of “don’t feel pain, only pressure!” birthers were about to have a new member.
The painful part was my feet falling asleep or my legs cramping from trying to stay in certain positions. It became clear to Julie that something was not quite right, even after my water had broken and I was asked and been told to try to sustain a push through a whole contraction things were just not quite intense enough. I remember telling her that I knew “it has to get worse than this.”
So she checked me and found there was still a bulge of waters and babies head was not really pressing down on my cervix so I was still a 7 or 8 and if she broke it it may help. And we tried a few more contractions in the pool in a few more experimental positions, and she thought I might be getting tired. No signs from baby of any distress, she thought perhaps the head was turned a little or chin not tucked or for whatever reason just not applying pressure as needed to my cervix, and still moving up and down with contractions so not really engaged enough to get the job done.
The passage of time during all this is still very fuzzy to me. When I asked once it had only been 20 minutes since water breaking. Julie suggested that I get out of the water and try to lie down and rest for a bit which I did because I was at the point where I just wanted to be told what to do to get the baby out!
As soon as I laid down and tried to “breathe through contractions” the awfulness of labor came back to my memory and reality like a roaring lion. To “just” breath all of a sudden took ALL of my focus and effort and probably even more. There were no more than 10 minutes of laying on the bed that alternated between unbearably awful contractions and then complete rest and respite between, if I wasn’t falling asleep I was so close, half dreaming, singing celine dion songs to myself in my head (probably “Alive” one of my birth motivations songs) and praying to be able to make it through.
On the 3rd or 4th contraction I could NOT stand it and involuntarily started pushing during it no matter how I tried to relax. I told them and was probably crying and completely at my breaking point so I stood up and hung my arms around Brian’s shoulders. Standing there they asked if I wanted to go back in the water and all I was in no state to be making any decisions.
I just stood there at the end of the bed, holding onto him and another contraction came, It was awful and I completely just had to push and push as hard as I could and make it end and get it over. I remember thinking in the water when I was supposedly pushing along with my urges “when did transition happen?” Tip for future labourers – if you can’t identify when transition happened – it hasn’t happened yet.
It was bad now, and I pushed for 3 minutes and she was born, along with apparently another whole deluge of water, where did all this water come from?!?!! I looked down and saw more blood than I ever remember seeing before but i was too scared to ask if everything was ok, (a little blood mixed with lots of water looks like lots of blood – everything was ok!)
I felt her head and then her body be delivered and I just hung on Brian. I think this is when they were untangling her from her cord (which was what had been holding her back so much, wrapped one and a half times around her neck and shoulders and literally harnessing her back from pressing fully on my cervix.
Julie told me to reach down and hold her, and then moved me back to sitting at the end of the bed.
She was very very purple, and although she had a breath and one little sound, she wasn’t taking regular breaths even after 20, 30 seconds, so I started rubbing her and trying to help her breathe, Julie aspirated her, but still her breaths weren’t regular, so they used the a respirator for a few breathes to help fill her lungs all the way up, and also aspirated her nose and deep down her throat (later they told me that she has aspirated a little bit of blood which was difficult for her to clear)
I think it was after all that that I finally checked to see that she was actually SHE.
She was now breathing quite regularly, pinking up slowly, and such a mess, everything was a mess. I had another contraction and they wanted to move me a little so I could deliver the placenta and cut the cord and everything.
Some people offer their labour pains up for other people’s intentions, which is such a beautiful thing, but I wanted to offer all the pain and struggle of birthing Joan up for HER, and for the ways our family will have to grow and adapt to fit this new person.
I prayed for her, not knowing yet who it was, but in acceptance and gratitude and love and anticipation to be a part of her life and see what God has in store for her and our family and the ways in which she will add to and enhance our family in ways I can’t imagine. She’s coming to us because we need each other. Our family needs Joan. she needs us. I need her, I need the gifts and challenges that she will bring as the unique individual who she is.
Some other memories from my internal dialogue and prayer during the labor and delivery are praying in gratitude for feeling her movements within me. I think we will probably have more children in the future, God willing. But at that moment I just knew that this was my limit right now and this may possibly be the last time I feel a child within me and I held my hands on my belly and felt her squirms and was so grateful and enjoyed every one.
I am so grateful to my doula Cheryl MacLellan who is also a birth photographer and captured these pictures of the experience. I am also thankful to my midwives Julie and Tiffany.