Feb 25, 2010

For me the birth of our first baby is an example of the most important life lesson parenthood has taught me so far: some things are out of my control. The education and preparation we put in prior to the event was invaluable (we loved every minute of our class) but at some point we just had to let it go and let the events unravel as they may.

The contractions started 2 nights prior. They interrupted my sleep all night long both nights but in the morning they disappeared. I was in denial at the time and called them “bowel cramps” because that is what they felt like and they were always followed by an episode of diarrhea. On the third night of these “bowel cramps” they continued on thru the morning. At noon I noticed they were consistently 30 minutes apart. How curious, I thought, still not putting the pieces together. I called my husband at work to tell him. He suggested I try to nap that afternoon, but wisely he didn’t raise any alarm. Around supper time the contractions were getting strong enough that I needed counter pressure and frequently around 10mins apart. I finally had to admit this was labour! I called my friend/ doula who happens to be a delivery nurse to let her know this might be the real thing. By midnight I was “in the zone”, alternating between the birthing ball, the stairs, the toilet, the bathtub and every position in between. I found it painful but exciting and totally manageable. I kept reminding myself this is just the beginning and I was ready to take on more. Despite being up all night the mood amongst the 3 of us was high, we were all pumped with adrenaline and elation that we would get to meet the baby soon. The labour game continued all night long, the key for me was counter pressure, that and the love and encouragement from my husband and friend kept me going when the contractions got tough. Fortunately not all of them felt the same. Some were crippling and literally brought me to my knees, some were accompanied with vomiting or a little bleeding, while others drifted away with just focused breathing. The randomness made it fun and kept me guessing. I asked to go to the hospital around 6am and when we checked in an hour later I was dilated to 8cm. Yippee, I thought this is going to be a snap!

We settled into the room and my birth team kept challenging me to keep up a variety of positions. By 11am my positivity was dwindling – nothing had changed; I was stuck at 8cm. I agreed to let them break my waters hoping this would be the instigator to kick labour into the final home stretch. Unfortunately it had the opposite affect. Without the pressure of the amniotic sac on the cervix it digressed to 6cm dilation. The baby’s head was not pushing evenly as she was in a “sniffing” position rather than having her chin tucked down towards her chest. There was also meconium in the fluid which meant that I was sentenced to the external fetal monitor for the duration of the day. It also meant that the Respiratory Team would have to be called at the birth in case the baby had any breathing complications. The downwards spiral continued as my body began to fail with fatigue. The contractions were losing strength and regularity, labour was grinding to a halt. My spirits were also spiralling down, despite all our best efforts, natural labour, acupressure, nipple stimulation and visualization had all lost their power and effect. We had been in hard labour for 18 hours and it seemed all our options had been exhausted. My husband found tremendous comfort in a phone conversation with Rhonda who in her remarkably positive approach agreed that medical intervention was our only remaining option. I asked for an epidural with the pitocin drip to encourage the contractions to pick up again. After 10hours the only progress was that I had managed to sleep a little. The nurse and doctor were getting concerned about the baby’s well being. They inserted a catheter into my vagina to measure the internal pressure that each contraction was having then they pumped litres of saline in to try to re-inflate the amniotic sac and take some pressure off the baby. It worked! Finally I was dilating again. I reached 10cm in less than 30minutes. Of course I was completely numb, so as the medical team prepared themselves my doula helped my legs into the stirrups and encouraged me to try some practise pushes. I was reenergized and filled with renewed hope so I pushed with all my might assuming this was going to be very challenging waking up my anesthetised muscles. My friends’ eyes widened and she said “okay, let’s just practise relaxed breathing now, because I just saw the head”. The medical team hurried into position and in 3 pushes we were rewarded with a beautiful cry from our baby girl. The doctor, knowing our wishes, waved off the ICU team feeling confident that the baby’s airway was clear based on the ability for her to fill the room with an incredibly strong cry. She didn’t seem to have any ill effects from the umbilical cord being wrapped around her neck 3 times either. She was a perfect little girl full of vigour and life. She showed incredible strength and resilience throughout the labour and birth and she continues to impress us with her strength of character and wilfulness. She is a joy, the joy of our lives.

I am eternally grateful for all of the support from my loving husband, my doula/ friend and the invaluable education we received from Rhonda. I was sceptical to birth in the hospital for fear of being pushed into an unwanted c-section, but we couldn’t have dreamed up a better doctor and a more patient nursing staff. Although the process did not follow the ideal birthing plan that we had drawn up in Rhonda’s class, we felt confident and strong in the choices that we made as each challenge presented itself. I think we found a mutual respect with the medial staff as we all shared a common goal - the birth of our baby and the well being of both mother and child.

Calgary hospital birth