John’s Hospital Birth  May 26, 2014

Monday, May 26, 1:30am

I am a procrastinator. I had put off packing our hospital bags for far too long, especially considering the doctor’s due date for our son was May 23 and my personal due date for our son (May 27– based on my own tracking and calculations) was looming… so I finally got down to business and packed that bag. And one for Husband. And one for Baby, equipped with all the items I assumed would be necessary for bringing a baby home plus double of everything just to be safe.

Bags finally packed, Husband and I rushed through our bedtime routine and hit our pillows exhausted. Exhausted from weeks of doing last minute renos to our new house, moving into our new house, preparing a room for Baby, washing clothes and bedding and swaddles, and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning– just to be sure things would be ready and perfect to bring home our guest of honour.

I had nearly fallen asleep when I felt my belly tightened ever so slightly. I was quite used to random cramps and thought nothing of it. I do remember hazily wondering whether that was what a contraction felt like (I had not experienced Braxton Hicks or any contractions prior… at least that I knew of). Then a few minutes later my belly did it again– tightened up ever so slightly for a few seconds and released. Hmm. Then I felt myself pee a little. Whoops. Not again! Sheesh. But I had just gone pee before bed! I considered briefly that this could be my water breaking, but it seemed so unlikely. Rhonda taught us that only happens to 5-10% of women at the beginning of labour, and never happened to my mother with her births. So I tried to go back to sleep. But when I rolled over to get comfortable, I felt another small gush of liquid… and told Husband. So it begins!

We discussed it, and decided it must be my water breaking. So I went to the toilet to be sure the liquid was clear (vaguely remembering Rhonda mention that clear fluid is good but soupy fluid means meconium in the fluid, means possible baby in distress). It was clear. Okay good, so now what? Do we need to leave for hospital? What did Rhonda say about that? I had sort of mentally skipped over those parts in class, assuming that scenario wouldn’t apply to me. Let’s just wait a bit and see what happens.

Not long after coming to the conclusion that my water had indeed broken, I started feeling contractions. I was sure that they were contractions, because I could not ignore them. The spontaneous tightening and releasing of my belly was strong enough that I had to assume that is what contractions felt like. I tried to get comfortable and fall asleep, but after attempting for several contractions to no avail, I finally gave in and gave them my full attention. So this is labour! Interesting! Husband knew now what to do… in fact he was so on top of it that he was offering a birth ball, water, massages, changes of position and soothing encouragement all at once. He had done his homework! Though at the time this was overkill, his excitement in supporting me made him my hero all the more.

Monday, May 26, 4:30am

We had been haphazardly timing contractions, just to get a gauge on where we were on the timeline outlined in our Healthy Birth Choices binder, but found the timing to be random. Sometimes they would come 2 minutes apart, sometimes 7 minutes apart. Always they lasted only about 30 seconds to the peak of the contraction. We were starting to worry about whether we should head to hospital earlier than we would have otherwise planned, because my water was broken. We looked it up in the binder. Sure enough, we were doing exactly what it said. Because the fluid was clear, we were okay to continue labouring at home. This was a relief but both of us still felt slightly ill at ease about it. Then Husband wisely remembered another resource– let’s call Rhonda! But it’s 4:30am and there’s no emergency. Let’s not disturb her. Let’s wait awhile and see.

Monday, May 26, 6:15am

Contractions had become increasing less pleasant. I had taken to leaning over the bed or a counter, head on arms, eyes closed, focusing on breathing through each one. But I was to the point where each one was a serious inconvenience to my comfort. I wasn’t comfortable lying down, sitting, sitting on the birth ball, doing squats or partial squats. Husband kept me moving between contractions, but I was starting to wonder how much more of this I would have to endure. Contractions were coming almost consistently every two minutes, lasting about 30 seconds to the peak. We decided to call Rhonda.

Rhonda had a chat with us both on speakerphone and she calmed our fears about labouring at home even with broken water. She said we were doing great with contractions coming as frequently as is ideal, but not lasting long enough to give any good dilation. She suggested we keep doing what we were doing and that I eat while I still felt up to it. She told us not to get our hopes up as it would likely still be a long time before Baby would come, and she said she would call to check in around lunchtime (which seemed to me to be an eternity away). She reminded us we wanted to labour at home until contractions were at least 50 seconds to the peak before heading to hospital, to achieve the goal of a natural birth without interventions. She reminded us to consider that the staff at the hospital would need enough time to give me the antibiotics which I would require because I am Strep B positive.

Monday, May 26, 8:00am

Husband had cut me a pear to eat, but I could only stomach a few slices. I told him to make himself some breakfast so he at least would be well fed. He was working on eggs, bacon and beans and would check on me every few contractions. He left after checking on me but contractions were starting to become so intense that I felt I needed him helping me through each one. So as he was trying to gulp down his breakfast down in the kitchen, I angrily berated him for “abandoning me” which I think startled him, because I had been in good spirits up to that point. He had to forego the remainder of his breakfast to be by my side (hero again)!

Contractions were coming hard and long and frequently. Husband timed them and they were 45 seconds to the peak. They were coming one on top of another and, in realization that I would have to endure those for the whole car ride in to hospital (Cochrane to Rockyview), decided we needed to leave immediately. Let’s go! Yes, right now! Do we have everything? Who cares, let’s go! Husband drove speedily. I sat in the back seat to spread out better, but could not get comfortable at all. I had a pillow and tried every possible position but the car ride was the worst part of labour. I can’t believe how difficult it was to breathe the right way we had practiced in classes. Look for the stomach to rise and fall, don’t breathe through your chest, breathe through your stomach. But when your tummy is tightened like a charlie horse it’s nearly impossible to breathe through it.

I remembered Rhonda saying in classes that the car ride to hospital often slows or stalls labour for many women. I prayed it would for me. It seemed labour had gone so quickly– we practically sprinted through the stages of labour outlined in the binder. I couldn’t believe we were already on the way to hospital. I prayed that the intensity I was feeling meant I was really well dilated, because I couldn’t imagine being told I was only 5cm and had 5cm more to go.

Monday, May 26, 8:45am

We arrived at Rockyview and parked the car near the emergency entrance. As soon as I got out of the car I felt the urge to vomit. Up came a few slices of pear and a bunch of water. Luckily I missed the car next to us and just got the parking lot. Crazy. This means I’m in transition! Good thing we left when we did!

We got into the emergency doors and I found a bathroom and everything emptied out. And I mean everything. And man, was it difficult sitting on the toilet with contractions coming in waves. I finally made it back out to Husband (who was carrying bags, pillows and a purse– hero), and we try to navigate our way from emergency to sixth floor maternity. Walking down the hall took forever because I had to stop to lean on the railing on the wall every few steps to endure a contraction. We were standing by the elevator when a nice man appeared and offered to help us get up to the sixth floor. We followed him for what seemed like ages (he was very patient) and finally made it to the desk where Husband filled out some forms to check us in. The lady at the desk seemed unimpressed with the apparent pain I was in and didn’t feel the need to hurry at all, much to my dismay.

Monday, May 26, 9:15am

We were ushered into a triage room and I was given the hospital clothes to put on, and the triage nurse started taking my history. Contractions were still my main focus as they hadn’t let up at all. The nurse had me pee on a tester stick to prove my water had broken eight hours earlier. Yup, it proved it had. The nurse gave me a hard time for not coming in when my water broke but I didn’t have the energy to tell her it had been our plan all along to labour at home as long as possible. Then she tried to get a good reading with the belly band monitor and told me to lie still. I could hardly even remain lying on the bed at all, much less still! After a few minutes I asked if I could please change position as it was uncomfortable (an extreme understatement). “It’s called labour, hunny. You should have come in earlier. Did you take a prenatal class? Obviously they didn’t teach you that.”

Ouch. Rude! Clearly she has never taken the HBC class. I wanted to tell her that we actually arrived precisely when we wanted to, but thought perhaps that wasn’t the right time to have that conversation.

Another nurse took several vials of blood, and started me on an IV for the antibiotics I needed. I hardly knew what was going on around me as I was so focused on enduring contractions. Husband was by my side and doing his best to comfort me and not pass out watching all those needles while holding a vial of my blood for the nurse. The doctor came in and checked me and proclaimed the sweet news: 9cm dilated! I was relieved that I was nearly at the finish line. I told her I was feeling “pushy” at the end of my contractions and they asked if I wanted to walk or wheelchair to the delivery room. I attempted to walk but hardly got out the door and realized I would need the chair. The triage nurse reminded me again that I should have come in sooner because now I won’t have had the antibiotics in my system long enough for them to get to Baby, AND she didn’t even have enough time to complete my history! Obviously our decision to stay at home was a real inconvenience to her routine.

Monday, May 26, 10:50am

When we arrived at the delivery room they asked me to try to go pee. I did try but had to endure about three contractions during the attempt, and ended up leaning against the wall realizing that those contractions were telling me things were ready for pushing, not a chance I would be able to pee. I could see Husband out of the corner of my eye, checking his notes on the little trifold cheat sheet we got in classes. I told the nurses I felt “pushy” at the end of my contractions and they had me lie on the bed to check me again.

Sure enough, I was 10cm dilated and at -2 station! The nurse said it was okay to start pushing with the contractions. I asked to be in a squat position instead of lying on the bed. The nurses quickly set up a squat bar for me that arced over the bed and clipped in on either side. Crouched next to Husband in my line of sight, one of the nurses assumed the role of pushing coach, and surprisingly gave me the same good pushing advice as Rhonda had done in classes! I remember thinking how hard it would be to actually follow her advice if I hadn’t already practiced, because her words were coming into my head but putting those directions into my mental computer, making sense of them, and then asking my body to follow them would have been nearly impossible.

So I set to work trying to focus on what I had practiced doing with the pushes. Wait for the contraction, then when it starts swing out of a sitting position on the end of the bed to a squatting position on the lower shelf of the bed, holding onto the squat bar. Deep breath with chin up, then tuck chin and hold breath while pushing with concentration. I found it really hard to hold my breath. It kept sneaking out. I remember feeling almost like I was watching myself during this time, and was amazed at both my own ability to do what I was doing, but also my body’s spontaneous knowledge of how to push Baby out. I also marvelled at the idea that Baby was inside doing his part to kick his way out. My mind, my body and my baby were all working in harmony to make this happen. So incredible.

I asked for a hot compress. Husband knew what to do with it and we had the supplies packed in our bag, but the nurse grabbed a cloth and ran it under hot water so Husband didn’t even need to move from his position. He held it on me and it helped give me a focal point to push towards. I pushed through four contractions, and when Husband moved the compress they could see Baby’s head! He was crowning and the nurses told me to stop pushing and they called for the doctor. STOP PUSHING??!! That seemed impossible! It took every ounce of effort to prevent pushing for the five minutes it took for the doctor to arrive. Husband says I had a “thousand yard stare” during that time. I was breathing really short breaths, kind of huffing. The nurse told me to breathe more deeply so I didn’t pass out. I remember focusing on the leaves and butterflies in nursery colours that were painted on the far wall of the delivery room.

Finally (!!) the doctor arrived, after the longest five minutes of my life. She seemed incredibly surprised to be needed in the delivery room so quickly. She mentioned something about needing to change out of her good shoes. Hurry up! I can’t hold this baby in forever!! She came over to have a look and then allowed me to push with the next contraction. I remembered to breathe short breaths, to grunt or huff the baby out, the way Rhonda had told us.

Monday, May 26, 11:12am

After one contraction of huffing, I felt that ring of fire subside. Good job. I could feel that the hard part seemed to be over, his head was out. Husband’s face was in awe. He was watching the part I couldn’t see and he was amazed at Baby’s arrival. Doctor repositioned things a bit for the shoulders and with the next contraction out he came! After the shoulders got through, he just slid right out. I now see why they call it “catching” because I’m sure Baby was slippery and he seemed to come out quickly at that point.

Wow! So that’s it? He is born?! Crazy!!! They put him on my chest, skin to skin, and I asked Husband what he had decided for the name (his choice between the two names we had ready). John. His name is John. John seemed alert and happy and content. He had a little hat covering his slightly oblong shaped head. He had ten fingers and ten toes. He was given APGAR scores of 9/10 at one minute, and 9/10 at five minutes. He was 21″ long and weighed 7 lbs 1 oz. He was perfect!

The nurses gave me pitocin through the IV I still had in me from the antibiotics (I had originally said I didn’t want it but decided that it wasn’t worth it to battle about it when it finally came time). The doctor examined me and found I had only a small tear and she said it would heal up on its own so she didn’t need to give any stitches. I was still feeling an aching pain in that region, but it subsided after about twenty minutes. The placenta came out without any effort on my part. I could feel minor contractions helping it along but that was it. Husband had a look at it with the doctor, and the doctor confirmed it was intact, nothing left behind.

The nurses had to go to an entirely different unit to find a lock for my IV before taking me to postpartum. They didn’t have any locks on hand because it is “so rare to see an old-school birth like this” (meaning a birth without the epidural, which requires IV fluids even in postpartum). Wild! The delivery nurses working with us were young, likely not yet 30 years old. They said they hadn’t seen a natural birth before. I hope ours stood out for them in a positive way. The details of John’s birth will certainly be etched into my memory as a happy, miraculous and empowering experience

I was asked in postpartum to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten (ten means feeling great). I said nine. The nurse seemed quite surprised by that. I honestly felt awesome! Not just directly following his birth but continuously since then. We left the hospital the next day, after being in for a total of 32 hours, most of which was spent recovering. I was feeling back to normal and going for walks with Husband and Baby only a few days after delivery. John has been alert, happy and content since the day he was born! He is the biggest joy of our lives thus far. Such a special time in our history!

What a grand beginning to this wonderful adventure!!

Welcome John – Natural Hospital Birth
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