Four months have passed since we welcomed fabulous Freya to the world, and regrettably some of the details of the days leading to her birth are slowly, and sadly starting to fade buried under “to-do” lists and piles of laundry. Time for me to commit my memories to e-paper as I did with Max. You can read about his birth here:
I’d like to tell you a story
of rushing to the hospital, of excitement and fear, and my water breaking weeks early, and surprisingly at work. Um. Ok. Maybe not. Other than the excitement and fear, that story line is about as far as it can get from Freya’s birth story. Freya’s birth was a long and until the last few hours, boring process, yep, boring.
It all started with a phone call. The phone was supposed to ring on Saturday. It didn’t. The reason the phone ringing started the process of bringing Freya into the world, and not, nature taking its course, is because with Freya, like Max, I had obstetric cholestasis. Obstetric cholestasis is a rare condition where pregnancy hormones causes the flow of bile to slow or stop. The buildup leaks into the bloodstream, usually in the third trimester and causes itching insanity, usually at night and on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. It is associated with a higher risk of stillbirth, but, early induction (38 weeks) reduces this risk considerably. As much as I would have liked to have Freya 100% naturally, I wasn’t going to mess around, so chose the early induction option and waited for our phone calls.
Saturday was a full moon. An old wive’s tale insists that more babies are born on a full moon than at any other time. I’d done my homework and when I suggested to my doctor that Saturday wasn’t perhaps the best day for my induction to be scheduled because the hospital would be too busy as a result of the full moon the doctor laughed and wrote me off as some kind of cloth diapering, natural childbirh kook. Sure enough, Saturday morning I wasn’t awakened by the hospital calling me in for the induction. When I called to find out whether I might come in that day, a panicked nurse told me that every pregnant lady in Ottawa had gone into labour and the birthing center was completely full.
Sunday morning came and went. I called family and assured them I wasn’t in labour and it would probably be another few days before the hospital could take me. At this point, as my due date was approaching (I was supposed to be induced at 38 weeks, and this day had come and passed) I was starting to worry about the increased risk to the baby as a result of the cholestasis. As I lay down to take a nap in the afternoon, the phone rang. “When can you come to the hospital?” the nurse asked. “I can be there in an hour” I answered. It is “go time” I said to Rob.
As we gathered our things I heard a familiar tune coming from my husband’s mouth as he ran up the stairs to fetch our bags. bam bam ba da bam bam bam bam bam ba da bam bam bam. It increased in intensity as we started saying good bye to Max, and my mom who had come to watch him. Finally, I stared at him incredelously. “Please don’t tell me you are singing the Rocky theme song!?” With a big smile on his face he nodded “Yes”.
We arrived at the hospital and after sometime I was brought to my ‘delivery room’ aka very nice prison where I would spend the next few nights. The first order of the induction is being given a synthetic prostagladin which is supposed to “ripen your cervix”. A lovely term which caught me off guard with Max’s induction. After that, you get attached to machines monitoring yours and the baby’s heart rate, and then you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And in my case with the cholestasis, you aren’t supposed to leave. With Max, I had been given the prostagladin on the first morning and went into labour the next morning. Labour then lasted all day and he was born at 9:55PM. I was sure Freya would cooperate and I’d go into labour that first night. I sent Rob home to rest and told him I’d call when something started happening.
Nothing happened. Nothing at all. The afternoon went by. A long sleepless night went by. I felt nothing. The doctor’s forgot I was there, and the nurses came and checked on me every few hours. I read. I wandered around the hospital. Rob went to work. I was given another strip of the synthetic hormone sure that this time it would do it’s job. Hours passed. I was given a third dose. I was told that if this one didn’t work, I’d be looking at a C-section because of the cholestasis. Rob came by afterwork. I was bored. I’d read all day, and hotel Montfort was starting to feel a bit like a prison. The novelty of jello and pudding had worn off, and I was excited and nervous for Freya to make her entry. We wandered the hospital some more, taking new back routes and staircases we’d missed before until there was nothing left to explore. Rob tested the wheelchairs. Proving that indeed you could pull a wheelie on them. Apparently, embarassement doesn’t induce labour. We went back to my room and I stared out the window. The 28th of January was a beautiful, perfect winter night. Thick, beautiful snowflakes were falling. I needed to escape. I hid my coat, hat and mits in a bag and told Rob we had to get out of there – just for a few minutes. We snuck pass the nursing station and into the cool winter air. I looked up at the dark night sky as refreshing flakes fell on my face. I inhaled the crisp, fresh winter air and felt incredibly relaxed. I walked Rob to the car and he drove me back to the hospital. I kissed him good bye, again told him to get some rest, and that he’d probably hear from me in a few hours. I settled down for my second long night.
I had some minor cramping which I both hoped and feared would instantly turn into the severe pains of labour. I couldn’t believe how anxious I was to have what I knew would rival the most pain I’d ever been in. I remember thinking how ironic it was that I was wishing so much for pain knowing what it would bring. I tried to sleep and couldn’t. I tossed and turned and watched the bright red clock on the wall slowly turn. As the night turned into morning I started worrying about what would happen if this last dose of prostagladin didn’t work. Around 4 in the morning a nurse came to check on my progress. “Please” I begged. “Can you at least tell me if my cervix has dilated?” Reluctantly she investigated.”It is a one she told me. Maybe one and a half.” After two days of fake hormones and hanging out in the hospital my darn cervix had only increased by a sad scale of one. “Can you get the doctor to try and break my water?” I asked. “I’ll see what the doctor thinks”. She replied “But I doubt it”.
The nurse returned with a resident. After having a look at the sad progress my cervix had made she agreed, in any case, to give breaking my water a try. Using a wire hanger contraption that I’m pretty sure she got out of the coatroom she rooted around. Suddenly my water gushed and I happily realized that she had been successful. The reality that things were going to get a lot more painful set in. With Max as soon as my water broke I’d been hooked up for more labour induction drugs (oxytocin). With Max, I’d felt that it had made my contractions crazy and also potentially led to me needing a vacuum assisted birth, as well as his heart rate decreasing severely at some points. “Perhaps we can see if this gets started on its own”, I suggested. The nurse was in agreement. They suggested I walk about to try to get things going, and left me. Walk I did. In circles and squares, in diamonds and hearts. I did jumping jacks and squats and any form of exercise I thought might elmininate the need for me to take more synthetic hormones. Soon little contractions began, and minute by minute they increased with intensity. I smiled with hope that I would not be attached to an intravenous machine for the rest of the day. As things got serious, I counted my contractions using the red clock that had kept me from sleeping and dutifully wrote them down on a scrap piece of paper. I kept marching around the room determined to keep the momentum going.
Around 6AM Rob called. “Things have started” I updated him, “but I’m sure we still have a long way to go.” With Max from this point it had been 16 hours. I prepared myself for a marathon, but hoped for a sprint. “Maybe come around 8” I suggested, “but no rush”.
The contractions continued to increase in intensity, and I started to puke. A sign, I assured myself, that things were getting serious. (Oh and as an aside. If your like me and avoid reading baby books, apparently puking is part of the labour game that no one bothers to tell you about. Ain’t it glamourous) As 8AM approached the contractions were full on intense, and I wondered how I ever put up with this for so long with Max, sure, that I had at least another 6 hours to go before Freya made her entrance. At 8:15, seeing the intensity of the contractions he nurse asked with some concern “Are you sure your husband is coming?” Between contractions I replied, “I don’t care if he isn’t here, I’m not waiting for him. If this baby wants to come, it is coming”. Rob sauntered in around 8:21, incredlous at the state I was in, mumbling something about traffic and that I’d seemed fine when we had talked earlier. I turned to the nurse and said with surprise “I think I’m almost ready to push”. I laboured standing for a few more minutes, and Rob dutifully took his position as my waterboy. Minutes later I was on the bed ready to push. The nurse frantically got on the phone telling the doctor to get there five minutes ago. At 8:45, with a resident and no doctor in sight. Freya was born. A slippery little girl of 6’2 the resident fumbeled her, luckily catching her before she hit the ground.
Rob filled me in on all the details I wish I had never heard. A few minutes later the doctor sauntered in and introduced himself. “I see the hard part is over with” he joked, settling in to do a few stitches.
And that was that. Freya was beautiful and tiny as could be, with long long fingernails and lots of dark hair. She latched immediately and sucked away.
Just like that, we became a family of four.