Over the last few days, Chris and I have really begun adjusting to parenthood, affording us a bit more time once more for non-baby related activities (like blogging in my case and cooking delicious breakfasts and stirfries in his :) ). As my first "real" entry since S arrived, I thought I would document her birth as it was an incredible experience - something I will want to share with her when she is a little older! I asked Chris to read through the post as well and add his own comments where details were missing or where I got some facts messed up. :)
Starting where we left off last Tuesday, November 23rd, I'd been having a lot of cramping and Braxton Hicks since my stretch & sweep on Monday night. Soon after I wrote that post, I lost my mucous plug and then we headed into Kitchener for our post-dates biophysical profile ultrasound. The technician who conducted this session was much more willing to reveal specifics than ones we'd encountered previously, including the approximate weight of our child - 8 lbs, 9 oz!! So much for having a small baby like Dr. Schnarr suspected! This gave me some concern about being able to birth her naturally, but I recalled some of the stories in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth where women effectively birthed babies over 10 pounds, so this kept me hopeful. Chris and I headed back home hoping/expecting further progression, but things seemed to have slowed down. The cramps even eased off somewhat that evening. Chris and I watched Season 1 of Hoarders on Netflix while I squatted on my exercise ball in an attempt to get things moving further, but no dice. We went to sleep at around midnight, me feeling a bit anxious with one more day to go before our scheduled induction.
I woke up at around 3 AM Wednesday morning, again feeling crampy and uncomfortable. I was experiencing "waves" every 5-7 minutes or so which I assumed were more Braxton Hicks, as so many people have said that when it's real labour, I "would know". I wasn't sure, however, as the waves felt like tightening sensations rather than pain, and in between them I still felt crampy. I paced around a bit, then tried to go back to sleep to no avail. I ended up calling Beth (our doula) at about 3:30 AM and described what I was experiencing. She thought it was likely early labour, and suggested that I try getting a bit more sleep while I could. Right at the end of the conversation, however, I felt my first real contraction - it hurt and I needed a moment to catch my breath. Beth thought it sounded like the real deal as well, and we decided I'd take a bit more time to see how it developed and then call her back. As it turned out, we didn't need much time as these painful contractions were coming 4-5 minutes apart. I woke up Chris, told him what was going on and we had called Beth back and were in the car within about 15 minutes - luckily our hospital bags were ready to go!
The 25 minute ride to the hospital was less than pleasant, with contractions shortening to 2-3 minutes apart and limited range of movement. I worked on my slow breathing and low tones, however, which helped me manage the discomfort. Chris parked right in front of emergency (illegally as it turns out, however there were more pressing concerns at that point!) and he helped me through the hospital up to 4D Childbirth. I remember crouching down in the elevator in the middle of a fairly intense contraction, which ended up being a position I assumed quite frequently later on. (Chris - when the elevator doors opened, Kristy was frozen in a position and did not want to move. I wedged the door with a foot and it started beeping at us before she was finally ready to keep moving. There were several places from home to 4D where I thought I might be delivering our first child into the world!) We were admitted immediately into Triage, where they checked me and I was already 6 cms dilated! It was GREAT to hear that I had progressed so far already and that the contractions were as manageable as they were. While in Triage, Chris left to move the car and Beth arrived. Apparently they checked baby's heartbeat during this time and I did a lot more leaning / kneeling on the bed, but my memory's a bit foggy here.
I believe I was only in Triage for 40 minutes or so until they found a birthing room for me. Chris and Beth were both there at this point as well as a nurse named Tiffany who was really nice. Once in my room, someone (Tiffany?) checked me and proclaimed I was at 9 cm! WOW!! I couldn't believe how quickly things had progressed! My contractions were coming fast and furious at this point, and I asked to go in the tub. Apparently I went in for just a couple minutes (Chris - she was in the tub for 10 seconds tops!) on my hands and knees and then "got the hell out" (according to Chris). Tiffany was also concerned as I think I made a comment to the effect of the baby "coming out" soon, so she wanted me out of the tub too. Apparently Tiffany also asked us around this point what we'd be naming our daughter (I think she was trying to help keep my mind off things), and I told Chris to tell her. So one of the GR nurses was the first person to learn the name of our new daughter. :)
As an aside, I'm amused how I did all this research ahead of time on what I would be wearing in labour - in the tub, in bed, etc. In the heat of the moment, however, I didn't give a flying crap what I was wearing. I think I ended up with just a tank top and a bra on top and nothing on the bottom, and then switching to a hospital gown some point in the middle of everything. Fashion was certainly the last thing on my mind, right down there with modesty. :) But I digress...
Following the tub I spent about an hour and a half in transition. Coping with the contractions was very challenging at this point. According to Chris, I swore 5 times (3 effs, a shit and a goddammit) and bit him once. :) ( Chris - she also bit the bed and left a mark that would stay there for the rest of our visit) I also recall saying "I can't do this" several times as well, which I believe was somewhat deliberate as we learned in our prenatal class that if a woman feels this way during transition, she should vocalize it as it actually helps her push through. (Thanks Tracey! :) Chris, Beth and the nurses were great this whole time. Beth told me I *was* doing it, and Chris kept telling me he was in awe of me and I was amazing. I leaned on both of them a lot as well as over the bed, and spent some time in the hands & knees position. I was trying to maintain the slow breathing and low tones I'd been practicing, but this was hard and I often just ended up wailing my way through the peak of some of the most intense contractions.
A number of things happened during transition. Dr. McQuaig broke my water, and mentioned there was meconium in the fluid. (Beth quickly reassured me that this didn't necessarily mean anything was wrong with baby.) They asked if I wanted an epidural and I turned it down, and they checked me again and determined that a bit of "cervical lip" was in the way preventing me from pushing. (The contraction during the check was the most agonizing, presumably because I was semi-upright on my back. Ladies it's so true - this is the worst position to labour in!!!) I believe Dr. Raby ( Chris - nope! it was still Dr. McQuaig at this point) took over at around this point and did some "manual manipulation" to help move the cervical lip away from baby's head. Then they told me I could start pushing, which was such a relief! They suggested hands & knees position, I believe because I was comfortable with this and they thought I could make good progress this way. The doctor told me I'd have to be very effective with my pushing otherwise they'd need to medicate me to help baby out, which made me that much more determined to do whatever I needed to do to get her out on my own!
The pushing stage lasted about an hour. This part felt *a lot* better than transition. It was hard work, but thankfully my short labour left me with quite a bit of energy to get 'er done and it felt great to be at this stage so close to meeting our little girl! It was definitely intense and somewhat painful at the end when she was crowning, but not nearly as bad as I imagined it could be. Beth and Chris encouraged me to touch her head and at first I said no as I wanted to focus on the task at hand, but then Beth suggested it one more time so I reached down. Her head felt all warm, soft and wrinkled - what a crazy, surreal feeling! Just after this point, they had me flip over on the table so Dr. Raby could deliver our baby. (I can't quite remember how I managed this, though my guess is that it was more than a bit awkard and challenging!) About 5 minutes and some pulling and prodding later, I saw our little baby's head and then body twisting and turning its way out. Tears of relief and joy immediately trickled down my cheeks - S was finally here!
Unfortunately due to the meconium, they had to cut the umbilical cord right away and take her to the examination table to suction her airways and perform some quick checks. Beth and Chris stayed with me during this time ( Chris - I ducked away to make sure everything was okay with S after I knew things were good with Kristy) (which felt like forever, though was only about 4-5 minutes or so in reality). Once they were finished, they laid her on my chest and it felt wonderful to be able to cuddle, kiss, smell and love our new baby. :)
I did rip a little during the delivery so Dr. Raby had to do some "repair work", and I also had what they referred to as a "soft uterus", so they put me on a pitocin drip to help deliver the placenta and reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage. All told, my feet were up in stirrups for a good 30-40 minutes after the delivery, but I couldn't care less as our baby girl was here with us, and she was healthy!
All in all, I'm so happy and grateful about how S's birth unfolded. I had a wonderful support network, I was able to get through labour without medication according to plan, and the mere 4 1/2 hour duration left me with plenty of energy for the delivery. Chris said I should be careful who I say this to as I could make some enemies, but I disagree - I think we need more positive labour stories out there to counterbalance the horror stories that seem to be so prevalent! Even now, as I recollect the events from that incredible morning, I feel oddly wistful that the experience is over. But much more prominent is the joy that I feel when I hold and snuggle our baby, and when Chris and I share our thoughts and dreams about all the exciting times ahead with our new daughter. :)
Here are a few of our favourite pictures from S's birth day. More pictures in my FB album here.
First weigh-in: 3.87 kg (or 8 lb 8 oz)
Minutes after birth - Cuddling with Mommy!
Our amazing Doula, Beth Murch!
Our beautiful girl :)
Skin-to-Skin with Daddy