I awoke with a start. It was the early morning hours of November 17, 2017, and I was exactly 40 weeks pregnant with my second child.
“Why am I awake?” I wondered.
I knew I had been tossing and turning but at nine months large that wasn’t uncommon. I didn’t need to pee (miraculously), there was no noise from the toddler in the next room, and my husband was sound asleep beside me. I checked the time on my phone. It was 2 am. I adjusted my pillows and tried to get comfortable, shoving them between my knees and under my pregnant stomach. I was having a hard time getting comfortable. I noticed that my lower back was hurting, strange since it was the middle of the night and I hadn’t been on my feet for hours.
Suddenly, a familiar sensation gripped my abdomen, and I knew what had woken me: contractions. I had already had two rounds of false labour in the last two weeks so I tried not to get excited, assuming this was more of the same.
Fifteen minutes later, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I felt another contraction. I told myself that it was nothing and I wasn’t going to be tricked by false labour again. But then ten minutes later, there was another. Since I couldn’t sleep and had nothing better to do, I decided to time them, even though I wasn’t convinced that this was the real deal.
But after half an hour of regular contractions, I was beginning to entertain the idea that this was the start of something. The contractions felt different somehow than what I had experienced during false labour. I felt very relaxed, even though the contractions were strong enough to cause me to breathe deeply through them. I enjoyed the quietness of the night as I laid there focusing on my body and my baby.
After an hour of timing, they were consistently ten to fifteen minutes apart and forty-five to fifty seconds long. This was so different than my first labour where my contractions had been a minute long and two minutes apart right away. Things seemed to be starting slower this time. I was feeling a lot of pain in my lower back, and I desperately prayed I would not have to endure back labour again.
Another hour of timing and the contractions were still getting closer together. They were now seven to ten minutes apart, fifty to fifty-five seconds long, and strong enough to cause me to roll onto hands and knees in bed when one came. Thankfully, they had moved from my back to my stomach, which was much easier to handle. I was fairly certain this was the real deal, so I decided to wake up hubby to confirm it for me.
Turns out having false labour twice in two weeks makes your husband extremely skeptical when you try to wake him up at 4 am and tell him you’re having the baby. After a lot of mumbling about it not being real, he finally woke up and watched me go through a contraction. After that, he took me more seriously. He checked if I was dilating, and I watched his face go from half asleep to wide awake in two seconds.
“At least four centimetres,” he said and went to get in the shower. He knew the drill. 🙂
I continued timing the contractions while I double checked the hospital bag. Everything was ready. I called my mother in law to give her a heads up since she was coming with us to the hospital. Hubby got out of the shower and asked if I had called the midwives. I said no. I was still scared that everything would grind to a halt and I would feel dumb for waking them up in the middle of the night.
I called my parents and told them they needed to come to pick up Little 1. I went into his room and watched him sleeping peacefully. He was not even two yet, still my baby. I felt an intense connection to him at that moment and I didn’t want to leave him. I double checked his overnight bag while hubby woke him up and put his coat on. My dad and sister arrived to bring him to their house and it was time to say goodbye. As I kissed his forehead the thought came, what if I never come back? But I pushed it away, determined not to give into fear. I committed my labour and both my babies to God and waved goodbye to my sweet firstborn.
“Now,” I told myself, “let’s get down to work.”
My body knew that I no distractions now, and my contractions quickly intensified. I had no more doubts that I was in labour and paged the on-call midwife, who was as skeptical as hubby had been. She wanted me to stay on the phone so she could hear me go through a contraction. I was silent for a minute as I breathed calmly through a strong contraction, then told her I had just had one. I could tell she was skeptical. After two or three silent contractions, I decided to be a little louder so she would believe me. Still not convinced, she offered to drive out to the house and access me or said that we could meet her at the hospital.
“But if you come to the hospital and you’re not in labour, you’ll have to go home,” she warned.
I was sure that was NOT going to be the case so I quickly agreed to meet her there at 7 am and hung up, annoyed that she didn’t believe me.
It was now five in the morning and I had been labouring for three hours. My contractions were still five to seven minutes apart and not quite a minute long. I decided that I needed to shave my legs and get “presentable”. Just as I was about to step in the shower, a contraction hit. It was much stronger than what I had been experiencing. I could feel my uterus stretching and pulling at my cervix. It was not painful, but very intense. I leaned against the wall with both hands and moaned until it had past. Suddenly I didn’t care that my legs weren’t shaved. I knew immediately that things were progressing and a bit of hair didn’t matter anymore.
I walked out of the bathroom and told hubby it was time to leave. I wanted to get to the hospital and settle in before I hit transition. We had a thirty-five minute drive to the hospital and I didn’t want to wait until the last minute. He quickly called his mom and told her that we would be picking her up soon.
I struggled to get dressed in between contractions. Moving around was starting to get very uncomfortable. I finally got my clothes on and waddled outside while hubby threw everything into the car.
“Phone chargers? Wallet? Keys? Pillow? Both bags? Carseat?” I asked breathlessly.
I continued to feel very relaxed as we picked up my mother in law. After we had been driving for ten minutes and she had heard no noise from me, she asked hesitantly if I was sure I was in labour.
“Well, I don’t care that my legs aren’t shaved.”
Having had five children herself, that convinced her. She asked me to tell her when my contractions started and stopped so that we would know what to tell the midwives when we arrived at the hospital.
Twenty minutes from the hospital I suddenly had a strong feeling like I was going to throw up. I gagged in the bag I had brought with me but my stomach was empty. After two or three minutes the feeling passed. I knew I was probably at 5cm because that’s when I had thrown up with my first labour.
As we neared the hospital, I started to get excited. Soon my baby would be here! During my pregnancy, I had been nervous about going through labour again, but I felt calm and in control now that the time was here. I kept on thinking how grateful I was to not have back labour this time.
Hubby dropped me and his mom off at the front doors while he went to park. We went up to the registration desk and the nurse asked for my health card. She typed on her computer for what seemed like forever. Impatient, I told her I was meeting my midwives up in labour and delivery.
“Ok, are you here for a non-stress test?” she asked.
Why would I be here at 6:45 am for a non-stress test, I wondered silently.
“No. I’M IN LABOUR,” I told her loudly.
I did not want to be sitting in that uncomfortable chair any longer, and I’m not the most patient person when I’m preparing to push a human out of my body. She gave me a weird look, quickly handed me some papers and a hospital bracelet, and gave me directions to the elevator.
Hubby still wasn’t in yet so I text him to meet us in L&D and we headed up. I had to stop several times on the way there and lean against the wall to work through a contraction. Finally, we arrived. I was so relieved. Now I could relax. I walked through the big double doors and saw my two midwives, Susan and Monica, busy doing paperwork and other labour prep.
“I’m here!” I announced cheerfully.
My birthing room was being cleaned, so they brought me into one of the exam rooms to do the assessment. Hubby arrived with all our things, and I changed into a t-shirt dress, sweater, and slippers.
Monica, the student midwife, came in to perform the exam. She announced that I was 5cm, stretchy, and my waters were still intact.
“You’re definitely having your baby, ” she smiled.
I knew that, I said to myself. I waited until she left the room before blurting out, “I told you so!”
By this time the birthing room was ready. We got settled in and unpacked what we needed. It was 7:15 am and I had been labouring for just over five hours. I wasn’t tired, so I walked around the room in between contractions to keep things progressing at an even pace. It was a large room so even with five of us in there it didn’t feel crowded.
Suddenly I heard screaming coming from the room next to mine. I must have looked nervous because Susan was quick to assure me.
“Don’t worry, it’s her first baby. She’s just scared.”
I nodded nervously and was happy when the screaming stopped and turned to cheers and the sound of an infant’s cry. I smiled to myself. Soon my baby would be here too.
Since I had hemorrhaged severely with my first birth, we had agreed to take precautions to keep it from happening again. The plan was to insert an IV during labour so that as soon as the baby was born I could be on oxytocin to prevent excessive bleeding. I wasn’t thrilled about having a needle in my hand, but I felt more comfortable knowing that it would be ready immediately after the baby was born. Monica inserted the IV successfully after two attempts. It was painful and annoying, but they have to learn sometime. The procedure took about fifteen minutes. Susan had to ask if I was still having contractions since she hadn’t heard a peep out of me the whole time she had been in the room. I took this as a sign that I was handling labour well.
Once the IV was in and had some fluids run through it to make sure it was working, they unhooked it so that I was free to move around. I asked for food, and Susan brought me banana bread and yogurt from the cafeteria. That gave me the energy I needed to keep going. I felt sorry for all the women who aren’t allowed to eat or drink during labour. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
Susan and Monica left us alone for the most part, coming in every fifteen minutes to check the baby’s heart rate. Hospital policy required that I be hooked up to the fetal monitor for a certain amount of time every hour, which would have confined me to the bed. Thankfully my midwives didn’t feel that annoyance was necessary, so I simply stood by the bed while they held the monitor on my belly and listened to the baby for fifteen seconds. For the next three hours, I alternated between laying on my side on the bed, leaning on the birthing ball, and walking around the room. If I was walking when a contraction hit I would put my arms around hubby’s waist and let my lower body completely relax.
I kept on telling hubby how easy this was with no back labour. I couldn’t believe the difference it made. I had been in labour for about seven hours and I felt so calm. My contractions were still about four to five minutes apart so I got a nice long break in between where I felt 100% normal, even though the contractions were extremely intense by this time. My coping mechanism, as simple as it sounds, was deep breathing. When I felt a contraction start, I took four slow breaths. That would bring me to the peak of the contraction. I concentrated on not letting my breathing quicken as the intensity in my uterus heightened but focused on counting my breaths in my head as I breathed in through my nose and out my mouth, letting my belly sag deeply. Once I reached four, I knew I only had to get through three more breaths and the contraction would be over. It was very effective.
After several hours of this, Monica asked to check my dilation again. I was only at 7cm and had been labouring for eight hours. Susan was concerned that I would exhaust myself and stall at 9cm again like with my first birth. She asked if it would be ok if they broke my water to help speed things up. I instantly started crying (thank you, hormones). I was afraid that labour would become unbearable and painful if they broke my water. I was enjoying my slow and steady pace. I was staying on top of my contractions with ease, and I didn’t want to mess that up.
Susan told me that my contractions were still five minutes apart and that they weren’t being very effective at those intervals. She wasn’t comfortable letting things go for a long time, especially because an exhausted uterus can contribute to postpartum hemorrhage. She said the decision was mine, but she recommended that they break my water. I’m very wishy-washy when I’m in labour, I can’t make a decision to save my life. I hate being interrupted and having to think.
“I don’t know what to do,” I bawled to hubby.
Finally, he made the decision for me since it was clear that I couldn’t. He went with Susan’s recommendation and they got me on my back to do the procedure. I was expecting it to be painful and ineffective like it was with my first birth, where the baby’s head acted like a cork and no fluid escaped. But this time my baby was still quite high and I was shocked at the volume of water that escaped me. As I stood up, I felt the baby shift down more, which was what they wanted. Other than having to be on my back for a short time, which I hated, it was painless.
After that, my contractions got closer together, about three minutes apart, but didn’t feel any more intense. I was so thankful. I couldn’t get over how bearable labour was when the baby was in the proper anterior position and not putting pressure on my spine.
Around this time I could sense that I was nearing the final stages of labour. My body was doing some serious work and I intently focused on relaxing and letting go of any tension. I moaned and swayed through the contractions, helping my baby move down. Monica and Susan sensed things were getting closer, and they asked if I felt an urge to push. I said no.
Occasionally I would lay on the bed to get some rest, and I was even able to sleep in between the contractions. The birthing ball was my most comfortable position at this point. I knelt on a pillow on the floor and hugged the ball to my chest, letting my belly hang loosely. In this way, I was free to move my hips to help baby get in the right position for birth.
One of the nurses came in with lunch around noon, but I had no interest in food. I just wanted to focus. I went and laid on the bed again to get a break from kneeling. Monica came to the bedside and quietly asked if she could check my dilation. I complied. Her eyes lit up.
“You’re 10cm. You can push your baby out!”
I looked at her, unenthused. I was comfortable. I was handling contractions like a pro. I was happy to keep labouring like this for several more hours. I just wanted to keep laying there and rest. In fact, I felt so good I couldn’t believe I was fully dilated.
“I don’t want to,” I said.
I think she was a bit taken aback.
“But don’t you want to have your baby?”
“I don’t want to push. I don’t like it,” I said, starting to cry again.
Hubby stepped in and calmed me down. I felt no urge to push (I hadn’t with my previous labour either) but everyone wanted me to at least try, so I agreed to give it a shot. Looking back, I realize that I should have listened to my body and waited until I felt like pushing, but I’m very impressionable when I’m in labour.
The next fifty minutes were torture. Gone was my pain-free labour. My body still wasn’t pushing, but they wouldn’t let me stop once I had started. Fifteen minutes in, I begged to have a rest, but I was told I could rest when the baby was here. I loved my midwives but the one thing I fault them in was forcing me to push prematurely.
I tried every single pushing position I knew. I started off squatting, but that got too exhausting, so I tried a semi-squat. I didn’t like that, so I went on my side with one leg bent up. That was even worse, so they helped me to move and lean over the back of the bed. I hated that. Kneeling on all fours didn’t feel right either. After forty-five minutes of pushing, there was no progress. I could feel that the baby was not moving down with my pushes.
“It’s not working,” I gasped, drenched in sweat.
I was exhausted and in so much pain. I knew I was pushing correctly because I had pooped. Although it was embarrassing, I knew it meant I was using the correct muscles. I knew something wasn’t right. There should’ve been progress by now.
Sensing that something was up, Susan stepped in. She had been letting Monica handle everything up until that point so that she could learn. She checked my cervix and discovered I had a slight anterior lip that was preventing the baby from moving down. Forty-five minutes of pushing wasted. She quickly took control.
“I’m going to need you to lay flat on your back,” she told me.
I groaned. That was the last position I wanted to give birth in.
“I know it’s not ideal,” she said, reading my mind, “but it works amazing for getting rid of the lip. This is the position I use when nothing else works.”
I nodded with tears in my eyes and got into position.
“Alright, I’m going to hold this lip back for a few pushes so that the baby’s head can get past your cervix,” she stated calmly. “Pull your legs back all the way onto your chest, that will help stretch it as well.”
I grabbed my knees to my chest and pushed with all my might. I was sobbing in between pushes and felt like I was never going to get this baby out. Why wasn’t he moving? Was I going to need a c-section? That thought scared me so bad that I pushed even harder. Susan was stretching my cervix this whole time, trying to clear the way for the baby’s head. I grabbed onto hubby and he wrapped his arms around me. I squeezed his neck as hard as I could while I was pushing, gathering strength from his closeness.
Suddenly I felt something change. The baby was finally moving. At last, my body started pushing with me, and I bore down as hard as I could. Everyone started shouting in excitement. I didn’t have time to get up into the squatting position, and I don’t think I could have moved even if I had wanted to. This baby was coming fast.
“I see the head! I see hair!” Monica encouraged me.
“Do you want this baby on your chest?” Susan asked me and I nodded yes. She quickly pulled my shirt and bra up so that the baby could be skin to skin immediately upon birth.
The pain was excruciating. They told me to stop and take a breath but I didn’t listen. I wanted this baby OUT. I felt my body stretching as the head slowly crowned. I was sure I was being torn in half. I let out a scream and then pushed with all I had in me and felt his head slip out.
“Stop pushing!” Susan said sharply.
The cord was wrapped tightly around his neck three times, and I panted while Monica quickly freed him. She gave me the ok and with one final push, my baby boy entered the world. The whole room cheered, and I looked over to see tears in my mother-in-law’s eyes. This was the first grandbaby that she witnessed being born.
I reached down for him and he was immediately handed to me. I pulled him up on my chest, all warm and slippery. He wasn’t making any noise, so Susan started rubbing his back with a towel. The umbilical cord was still attached and pulsating, providing him with oxygen, so no one panicked. He was waving his little arms around and squinting at the bright lights. I patted his back and rubbed him vigorously, and heard that precious cry for the first time. Everyone smiled in relief. I laid back on the bed and hugged him to me.
“I did it!”
It took about thirty minutes for the placenta to come out. Susan asked me to push to help it along. I tried, then laughed.
“I have no more muscles,” I giggled.
The placenta finally detached from the uterine wall and Susan was able to pull it out with minimal pain since I was unable to push it out myself. After the placenta was out, they hooked my IV up to oxytocin as planned to ward off hemorrhage. Monica massaged my uterus to help it contract, which was extremely painful, but very effective. I lost minimal blood during the birth, thankfully.
During all of this, less than five minutes after birth, I looked down to see that the baby had latched on all by himself and was sucking away vigorously. He nursed for 45 minutes and I was so proud.
Even with the oxytocin and the baby nursing, my uterus was still having a hard time staying contracted. Susan told me that I was probably prone to postpartum hemorrhage. She had hubby gently but firmly rub my stomach in circular motions to stimulate the uterus to contract. He had to do this for an hour before my body decided it wasn’t going bleed everywhere.
I did not have any significant after birth pains with Little 1 but with this guy they were brutal. I begged for Tylenol to get some relief. I birthed med-free for the health of my baby, but now the baby was out…give me the drugs! 😄
Once my pain was under control and the baby had finished nursing, my first thought was to see my toddler as soon as possible. We called my parents and asked them to bring him right away to meet his little brother. While we waited for them to arrive, the midwives performed the newborn exam. Baby boy weighed in at 9lbs 1oz and 20 inches.
The next two hours were spent relaxing and visiting with family. Little 1 was only nineteen months, so he wasn’t quite sure what to make of this creature, but he enjoyed holding his little brother until the screaming started.
After the family left, I got up and walked to the washroom by myself, which was a huge accomplishment for me so soon after birth. I had not been able to walk for over twenty-four hours after my first birth. We spent the night at the hospital so that my bleeding could be monitored, but everything went smoothly and my body cooperated.
Aside from the hour of pushing, I would describe my labour as pain-free. I attribute this to optimal positioning of the baby, staying mobile (not laying in a hospital bed attached to monitors), and being confident in my body. I am so thankful that everything went according to plan and I was able to have an intervention free labour, but I am most thankful that I walked out of that hospital with no personal complications and a healthy baby boy. That’s all that matters in the end. ❤
This post is part of my blog series, Real Birth.
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