For awhile now I’ve been meaning and promising to write about the day/night/day that Max was born. With 4 months now passed, the entire process has become a little blurred with certain events and feelings being more prominent in my memories than others. I am actually lucky enough to have my progress notes written mostly my midwife which serves as a good dose of reality amongst my memories as I attempt to capture Max’s entry into the world.
The best laid plans….
Both Rob and I had been extremely enthusiastic and prepared for a home birth. When the option came up in an appointment with our midwives, we asked a million in one questions, did a fair bit of research, made our decision and set about converting all the neigh-sayers. We had a long list of supplies ready in the bedroom…plastic picnic clothes to use as sheets for the bed, a baking tray for utensils, an old yoghurt container for the placenta, a few garbage bags, old sheets, and lots of towels. I loved the idea of having the fridge packed with my favourite snacks; a little spread on our table for the midwives. I imagined labouring in our house, and sending Rob off to fulfill my food orders. “Honey make me a sandwhich”. I’d planned on mixing up a big juice container of “labour-aid”, the home-made sports drink of choice for labouring moms. I dreamed about dozing off to sleep with my little one in my arms, in my bed, and celebrating with a sip of wine (shhh don’t tell anyone!). I have a gorgeous Nepalese Mandela in my room, and I thought it would be the most beautiful object to distract my thoughts when labour got rough. I figured if I needed some pump-up music I could blare a little Jon Bon Jovi. I wanted Max’s first glimpse of the world to be our cozy house, not the machines and noises of a hospital. Seriously, this is exactly how I imagined and hoped Max’s birth would be.
A healthy dose of reality
As I wrote during a prior entry about my pregnancy , plans changed during my last week of pregnancy. I won’t go into detail here, as its all in a previous post, but, with my blood pressure rising and a diagnosis of Choleostasis, my dream of a home birth started looking more and more unlikely. The last week of my pregnancy wasn’t spent nesting, but rather with long hours at Montfort Hospital drawing blood and conducting stress tests on Max. We started talking about an induction as soon as possible. My name was put on a waiting list, and I tried to sleep (with horribly itchy feet, and waiting for an early morning phone call to tell me that I was going to have my baby that day).
On May 1st, our due date, my midwife called and told us today was induction day. We packed our bag (yes…for all you pregnant women out there, your supposed to have your hospital bag packed from week 36 onward, but we were so set on a home birth that I had nothing more than a little pile on the floor). We rallied our supplies as we were warned that the induction process could be quite long and boring (which included a kettle, a selection of tea, and scrabble) and headed to Montfort. After a little waiting we were brought to a room. The first step of being induced is the “ripening of the cervix”. In order for labour to take place, the cervix needs to soften and become more distensible through a process of both physical and chemical changes. Since my body wasn’t quite ready for labour, a product called “Cervidil” was given. Each dose is good for 12 hours…and I had been warned to expect 2 to 3 doses….we were in for the long haul.
It was a surprisingly pleasant and relaxing day. We hung out in the hospital room, I killed Rob in a game of scrabble which rarely if ever happens (maybe he was afraid of the hormonal reaction if he hadn’t “let” me win). We had a greasy hamburger and fries at Harvey’s across from the hospital, I read chapters upon chapters of “The Help” and I tried to rest as much as possible knowing that I would need all of my energy for the impending labour and life as a new mom.
At 23:40 I was reassessed and had had almost no changes in the condition of my cervix. Another dose of cervedil was administered, and I settled down for a restless night of nurses coming and going and machines beeping.
May 2nd 2011!
Although some might remember this day in history as the day that Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed, and the Conservatives won their majority (both of which I was completely oblivious to), for me, it’s always going to be something much more special. My water broke at about 5 in the morning. The second it happened, I was excited. The fact that I was “about” to have a baby became very real. I had a ton of fluid, and had been warned that when my water broke it was gonna be messy…oh and it was. A little part of me was relieved to be making a mess of the hospital and not leaking all over our beautiful brand new hardwood floors! The contractions started slowly and felt little more than light period cramps, then became more painful. Neither Rob nor I had slept well, and I sent him home, with lots of urging from our midwife, knowing that I would need him to have energy when I ran out.
The morning was grey and rainy, and as the day progressed so did the intensity of the contractions. By mid-morning I was thinking, yah, this hurts, but I can totally handle it. I felt strong and excited. My sister had told me to treat it like a race interval…and I did…with each contraction I knew it was going to hurt, but I also knew that the pain was temporary.
I should include a little explanation of what happens during an induction. In its briefest terms, induction is the process of artificially starting childbirth. Oxytocin is administered by intravenous, which meant that I was hooked up to an IV. . The severity of the contractions is controlled by the dosage of oxytocin which is increased at various intervals by the caregiver. My apologies to all of you out there who might be induced…but the entire process reminded me a little of the torture “life-sucking” machine in the Princess Bride…and anyone who pushed the increase button and made the contractions more powerful became a reincarnation of the “6-fingered man”. Induced labour is known to be more intense and painful for the patient. I had hoped to keep the birth as natural as possible despite the induction, and had made it clear that I wanted to try to do it without an epidural or any type of pain medication. The nurses thought I was crazy.
Ok – this is really starting to hurt
By 2 PM the contractions were getting more and more painful. Rob had returned refreshed from a little rest. The morning’s thought of “yah this is not so bad” was turning into..”ok this is really starting to hurt”. I see on my notes that I was starting “to get uncomfortable” but “coping well”. I found the best way to handle contractions was to stand for them, leaning over a counter, and then rest on a chair in the periods in between. I’d been warned that I would get tired with all this standing up and sitting down, but of course I thought that I was some superhuman soon to be momma and I wouldn’t get tired like everyone else. Discouragingly, upon assessment, I had hardly dialated.
By 5 PM things were REALLY starting to hurt, and I was starting to get really tired. (As an aside, and as I mentioned in my last post, I had once been told that a poisonous snake bite was more painful than labour…having suffered a poisonous Copperhead bite and an ankle swollen to 27 inches once upon a time, my masochistic self was quite curious to really see what was worse…as memory recalls…childbirth wins). I started to doubt my ability to carry on and had a series of contractions that never seemed to end.
Another aside….I had heard horror stories of moms in labour going a little psycho on the poor man who was responsible for the 9 months of cravings, morning sickness, and clothes no longer fitting accumulating in more pain than they could ever imagine. Rob really was fantastic through the whole ordeal, and as I listen to him humming away in the kitchen, it reminds me that the one thing that annoyed me just a little bit was his humming. I think it was the one thing I snapped on…but just a little, and I think there was a please included. The poor guy had been completely reduced to standing by with my amazing yak wool blanket. During contractions I would heat up and demand its removal, and the second I was done I would mutter “blanket” and he would cover me up. I don’t know how many hours he spent by my side covering me and taking away the blanket. I am happy to report though that there was no swearing or outbursts of “how could you have done this to me!”
Back to labour
By 8 PM I was at last fully dialated…or so I had thought. Upon changing positions, and a second assessment it was determined that I was only at 8 CM. I felt completely and utterly defeated. Perseverance and determination, and the hope that there would be an end to the pain sooner and later had gotten me through the last few hours. The news that I had 2CM to go was devastating and sucked away much of my remaining strength. I started to get the urge to push nevertheless. I didn’t care about tearing, and thought heck if I push hard enough the baby can come out at 8CM. The urge to push brought its own bad news. With every contraction Max’s heart rate started to drop to frightening levels. The doctor was called in for an assessment again, and chatter started about a C-section. A strange monitor was attached to Max’s scalp to monitor his oxygen levels and heart-rate. I was told to try not to push which was nearly impossible, but with every push I would see his heart-rate drop and I feared I was putting him in danger. It started to get to the point that I just wanted this baby out healthy and I didn’t care what they did. Around 9PM they took a sample of his scalp to assess the PH.
By 9:30 it had become clear that Max would need a little help with his entrance into the world, and I was told that rather than opting for a C-section, they were going to try and do a vacuum delivery. Nurses and supplies were put in place for a “code blue” meaning that there was concern that the baby would need to be recessitated. I felt worried, but determined, and maintained a sense of optimism that everything was going to be just fine.
WIth the vaccuum in place I was ready to push, and I mean really push. The vacuum looked more like a suction cup attached to a spray bottle with a trigger. It wasn’t what I had expected, but I didn’t care. After a few strong pushes it had become clear that Max had had his cord wrapped around his neck, hence the decreased heart-rate. In a magical move by the doctor he swept the cord from Max’s neck, paving the way for Max to officially make his entry into the world. In racing terms, I felt like I had to dig deeper than I ever had, to find the strength to push Max out. Somehow, it happened, and just when I thought that I didn’t have one more ounce of energy, Max was born.
He was placed immediately on my chest, blue hands and covered with guck. I smothered him with kisses and said ‘hello there’. As quickly as he had been placed in my arms, he was taken away for an assessment. He was fine and healthy. He was returned to me, and I snuggled him against my chest in a state of utter fatigue and relief. There was a huge sense of accomplishment as it felt like I had successfully completed the hardest test ever thrown at me.
I showered on shaky legs amazed at how exhausted and sore I was. We packed our items, and left the hospital. Being wheeled out in a wheelchair, I carried Max in my arms like the worlds most precious and hard-earned prize. As we drove home I felt calm and as though the night had a sense of serene magic. We arrived home by 2AM and crawled into our bed. Max slept soundly and peacefully on Rob’s chest and I went to sleep knowing that life would never again be the same.