Birth Story of Our Baby
At the advice of my cousin Jessie (who is more like a sister to me), I’ve written the story of the birth of Paul and my son. Warning: this might get a little graphic for some.
On August 3rd 2013 at 12:11am, Paul and I got to finally meet our beautiful baby boy. A week overdue and feeling like I’d won 41 weeks worth of pie eating contests had me over-ready to give birth. You can get a little emotional toward the end when baby is late, and you’re anxious to meet them. The morning before I went in to labour I caught myself crying uncontrollably over a youtube video of a puppy. I called Jessie to vent and she talked me through it. She’s been an incredible support through this pregnancy as she’s gone through it with her two kids and brings truckloads of experience, knowledge and hand-me-downs. I’m more grateful to her than she will ever know. (Note: In hindsight, I think the crying might have been a natural form of induction.)
Later in the day – after coming down from the ledge – I had a nap and was woken at 5pm by something that felt like a wee star momentarily bursting in my guts. I thought “maybe it’s actually happening this time”, but went back to sleep to wait it out. About 15 minutes later I felt my first contraction. Contractions came about every 10 to 12 minutes after that. My water had also broken. Unfortunately it looked like pea soup when it should have been clear fluid. My fears were quickly confirmed after a call to our midwife Lucia. Baby had pooped in the amniotic fluid which meant we needed to go straight to the hospital. We’d been meticulously planning a zen home water birth since early on in the pregnancy. Baby totally pooped on that idea. He had his own plan, I guess.
From that moment our house turned into those scenes from Home Alone I and II when the family sleeps in and almost misses their flight and chaos ensues. Paul and I were running around flustered and trying not to leave anything essential behind, getting the cats sorted out, while calling the friends we’d wanted to have present at the home birth. Naturally, I got almost all answering machines in my frantic calling around, but I did manage to connect with my friend Melissa. I was so happy to know that Mel could be there as anyone who knows her knows that her life schedule is busier than most. Again, baby had it in his plan that Aunt Mel would be able to make it to his birthday party.
We arrived at the hospital at 7:30pm to meet up with Lucia. At this point I knew that my labour was moving along faster than I ever expected it would as I had about 4 contractions while I was being admitted. Paul and I went up to Labour and Delivery, loaded down with enough supplies for a month of backpacking through Europe. Once in our delivery room, Lucia walked us through what was to happen next. Because baby poop in the amniotic fluid brings with it the risk of infection and complications, it was pretty important to get baby out quickly. They wanted to administer pitocin which is a lab-made form of natural oxytocin which is what makes contractions happen. Crappy part is that pitocin contractions are more vile and evil than oxytocin contractions. I requested only the smallest dosage as I really thought that this baby was coming quickly and I was 5cm dilated at that point.
By the time my friend Lisa and Paul’s sister Lindsay arrived I was already feeling the wrath of active labour which nothing can ever prepare you for (unless you’ve given birth before). This is the point at which any shame you once had completely dissolves, and your natural instincts just take over. I think I was totally winning the ugly sister championship, but didn’t think to care. Soon Jessie and Melissa were there too. I was so uncomfortable, strapped up to all kinds of monitors and IV drips and unable to move freely to find comfortable positions to get through the contractions. The only thing I could do was moan low through the contractions while trying to break the bones in the hands of my friends, who happily let me squeeze as hard as I needed to. Hypnobirthing? Hell no! Jessie told me to visualize a flower blooming with each contraction. All I could visualize was a dark, damp cave of despair. Any possibility of hypnobirthing or meditation seemed totally impossible. When the contractions started to bleed into each other with no respite, I knew this baby would have to come quick as there was no way I was willing to suffer through much longer. I also couldn’t imagine myself sitting still long enough for someone to stick a needle in my spine to give me an epidural. Soon the contractions were putting so much pressure on my lower abdomen that the feeling/fear to push was taking over. Lucia said that I couldn’t push until I felt the urge to push through my bum – she called it the pendulum swinging. I quickly switched my position and with the next contraction the pendulum did indeed swing, and I knew I had to push. My team of girls and my husband all grabbed a limb or a hand and guided me through each pushing contraction as I hiked up my knees and pushed as hard as I could. At one point between contractions I opened my eyes (which had been closed for most of the labour) and looked around at all of these faces beaming at me with huge smiles, basked in the warm glow of the overhead lamps. It felt like a scene from a movie. I felt so loved and so supported in that moment that I knew that I could do this without medication. I felt like if anyone had been missing from this equation, I would not have been as strong and determined as I felt in those moments. I felt truly grateful for having everyone there with me, despite that fact that I was sloppy and sweaty and a bit vulnerable. Vulnerability aside, this pain had to end; I was going to get this baby out! The pushing part was intense but felt far more bearable than having a contraction and not being allowed to push. I was basically following instructions at this point. Lucia and my team were coaching me through it saying to push three times with each contraction by holding my breath and bearing down as hard as I could. The pushing stage seemed to take a while and I was beginning to worry that baby was too big to fit through my pelvis. But bodies are miraculous and my baby had a plan. When Melissa said “I can see his head” I felt relieved. Lucia then said something about me having to really push hard or there was the threat of having to use forceps to help get the baby out. I glanced at Paul and made a quiet promise to him that no forceps would be used in the delivery of our baby if I had anything to do about it. It took about three contractions to fully push baby’s head out. I was trying to imagine what that must’ve looked like for my friends and family members and how weird that must’ve been. Everyone was fully engaged in the moment of watching the miracle of a baby being born, so weirdness of a baby half-born probably felt more like wonder. The lull until the next contraction felt like a lifetime. I knew that the next one could be the last one to get the baby out entirely. So where was the contraction? Why was it taking forever to kick in? I had a brief moment of panic that the baby was being strangled by my vagina. Because of this I probably started to push prematurely before the ideal peek of the next contraction. But with a quick gush, baby came out at 12:11am! All perfect, pudgy and in one piece.
Because of the baby poop factor, the nurse and assistant midwife needed to take the baby to get his lungs cleared out and assess him to make sure he was ok. I’d imagined a million times over being able to hold my baby from the moment he was born. Having that first contact was so important to me. But in this moment, having a healthy baby trumped everything I thought that I’d wanted from a birth experience, including having the ability to birth at home. I was so grateful to the midwives, hospital staff and to my amazing team for helping me get through such an incredible experience. It felt so much like a team effort that when I was later describing the whole experience to my brother and sister I was using the word ‘we’ rather than ‘I’.
The intense relief of labour ending is indescribable. I felt elated and triumphant. I just wanted to crack inappropriate jokes and laugh with my friends. Everyone in the room was so happy. It felt like a really great birthday party, and I was so thankful that everyone could make it. Finally getting to hold my son felt wonderful. We’d just worked together on the most crucial project of his life – and we totally scored an A+. I was so proud of him.
Cohen weighed in at 9lbs 8oz – which is pretty huge kid to birth naturally without pain killers. For me it felt like there was just no other way. There was no time to change paths. It was just going to happen the way it would happen.
My deepest love and gratitude goes out to everyone who was present at our son’s birth. I could not have planned something more perfect for his birthday party.
Paul and I are now home nesting and falling in love with our baby boy. Sometimes I catch myself day dreaming about what he’ll be like as he grows, but I quickly stop myself and revel in the now of experiencing just how amazing and perfect he is in this moment. Life can’t get much better than this.