I’m still thinking about whether or not I want to talk about our actual delivery, see anyone that knows me – knows that I’m pretty open about my personal life. I’m one of those people who believes the more we talk about real life the easier real life becomes for all of us. Hiding behind the hard stuff, just makes things harder.
But, for some reason I feel almost protective over my birth story and I don’t exactly know why. I mean it’s obviously a very personal and intimate experience, but it’s not like I’m alone in it – people have babies every day all over the world. Nonetheless, the protectiveness I feel is real so I’m just going to write until I feel like I don’t want anymore and hope that I offer at least a little something to other mamas out there.
Preparing for labour & delivery is a funny thing because now that I’ve experienced it, I can solidly say there is really nothing that can prepare you for it. It’s insane and no two experiences are the same – it’s different for every single woman and every single pregnancy. So even though other women can tell you what it felt like, it’s just not the same. That being said, there are still things you can do to try to wrap your head around it and get yourself and your body as mentally and physically ready as possible.
Labour & Delivery Preparation
- The first step for us was choosing a midwife as our care provider. I will write a whole separate post on the benefits of having a midwife, but for now lets just say there are many. We went with Birth Partnership, they were recommended to us and they were fantastic. We honestly couldn’t have asked for better care.
- The second thing we did was take a prenatal class. Having never had a baby before, we really didn’t know what we were in for. And unfortunately, most childbirth stories you hear are horror stories that basically terrify you. For some reason no one wants to share the beauty in it. Don’t get me wrong, childbirth can be excruciating (mine was) – but through the pain there were so many amazingly wonderful parts too. Our prenatal class didn’t tell us what our childbirth was going to be and it didn’t tell us how to raise our kid; what it did do was fill our brains with all the labour & delivery knowledge there was room for so that we understood what was happening through our delivery process. It allowed us to make educated decisions and ask informed questions when we were unsure. It also allowed us to create a sense of community by meeting other first time parents we are lucky enough to still keep in touch with now that we’ve had the baby. The class was recommended to us by our midwives and it was Healthy Birth Choices. We loved it!
- I also watched a whole bunch of birth videos. At first I thought it would scare me or gross me out and some of them did a little (gross me out), but actually what happened instead was I started to see the beauty and strength in childbirth. So I kept watching. I will say that the videos you see are a very small portion of what actually happens, usually just a few minutes before, during and after birth or a time-lapse that sort of makes you think things went really quick – not the case in many first time deliveries. After my delivery I thought back to some of the videos where the women seem totally calm and not at all in pain and pull their own child from their bodies and it made me feel a little like I failed and I wasn’t as strong as these other women. Postnatal hormones and mom guilt can do horrible things to your brain. Two months later I can now say – I did NOT fail and I am incredibly strong, we just didn’t have the same story. So, I personally still found the videos to be helpful – it somehow created a sense of peace in me.
- Try NOT to get worked up about the delivery. Stress and anxiety candy horrible things to your mind and body. I told myself very early on that the delivery was going to go the way it went and it was out of my control. We focused on educating ourselves so we could try to make the best decisions while it was happening to ensure a safe and healthy delivery. Making peace with that notion was the best thing I could have ever done. I was very calm throughout my pregnancy leading right up until my labour started. During labour things definitely change, but I can say without a doubt that I wasn’t filled with anxiety, stress or fear. I trusted my caregiver, I trusted my body and I trusted the process and so did Clint. That helped immensely.
- If you’re going to read books, I would stay away from thing like What to Expect when you’re Expecting (seriously the worst). I would recommend Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Keep in mind this is my personal opinion, so take it for what it is knowing that I lean in the direction of natural childbirth. There are just so many books and so much information out there it can be overwhelming and most of it is shit!
- Doing kegels and pelvic floor exercises when you remember. I didn’t do them all the time, but I tried to do them often. I can’t honestly tell you if they helped or not – because I have nothing to compare it to; but since I can do them at the same time I’m washing dishes, eating dinner, or watching a movie – there’s no reason not to. The way I see it, if there’s even the slightest chance that it would help me not pee my pants after giving birth, it’s totally worth it. And for the record, I still have pee’d my pants since giving birth, but not a lot so I think I’m still winning!
- Talk to your partner and make sure you understand one another. Clint and I talked a lot about our birth and what we wanted. We had a birth plan that we created together, with a clear understanding that things will almost without a doubt change at the time. But that was ok, because he knew exactly what I was ok with and what I wasn’t regarding my care. He knew what kind of emotional support I needed and he was prepared to offer ongoing physical support and figured out that part at the time. This was hands down the most important thing. I don’t know what I would have done without him. His support was kind, gentle, strong and unwavering through 50+ hours, and it (combined with my midwife) is what got me to the place where we could have a safe and healthy vaginal delivery – I believe this to my very core. There were other things we wanted during our birth, but for us a vaginal delivery was the most important and we succeeded together in making it happen. And for those mamas out there that had things go completely not the way you wanted don’t take that the wrong way – I know there are circumstances that are out of our control and we were VERY lucky that things went close enough to the way we wanted them to be able to accomplish this. It isn’t always the case. In fact I would say with childbirth, it is rarely the case. And at the end having a healthy baby enter the world is the most important thing, regardless of how they got there.
That brings us to the delivery part, yikes. I’m still not sure how much I’m going to share, but here goes. Our due date was February 19th, 2018. I knew that the chance of having a first baby on the delivery date was pretty small so I figured if we had her by the end of the month we were doing pretty good.
My labour started intermittently on February 18th, but it was early labour and wasn’t doing too much. It kicked in steadily on February 20th, and then went in to high gear on February 21st. Labour was described to me by a number of people and sounded different each time. I still find it impossible to accurately describe. But the best description I did get was – like that feeling in your stomach and your bowels when you have food poisoning. You know, the intense pain that you get before you literally shit yourself? Well it’s similar to that times 1000 or so. But unlike food poisoning, the moment is not fleeting; each contraction might be – but knowing another one is coming and another one and another one, for what was in my case over the course of more than two days is something that is incredibly difficult to reconcile both mentally and physically.
During this time there were moments where I felt strong and powerful, like I could labour for hours. Then as many many hours went by, I felt weak and like a failure for feeling like I didn’t have the strength to go on. Our little peanut was turned facing the wrong way (sunny side up as they say), and back labour is a real thing – one I don’t wish on anyone. We wanted to have a home birth and I was intent on making it happen. For 48 hours or so I did. I stayed home and laboured through contractions that went from 10 minutes apart, to 7 minutes to 4 minutes to less than one minute apart for what felt like more hours than the average work week; and yet I still only dilated from 4 to 7 cm. During that time, Clint was AMAZING, so amazing there are no words to describe it. He was my everything and the reason I made it through this experience feeling the beautiful parts more than the painful ones.
After about 40 or so hours the midwife suggested that we go in to the hospital to help manage the pain, I refused because I really thought after this many hours she had to be coming soon and we were so close. Many more hours went by and my strength was dissipating, I felt weak and exhausted both mentally and physically. Reluctantly we went into the hospital (we were at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary). One of the best things about a midwife is that we don’t have to deal with the hospital directly, our midwife took care of everything and we were able to focus on our labour and delivery. Believe me she was with her weight in gold just for that. The hospital experience was NOT great, but that’s for another time.
My midwife tried to get me through my labour naturally, as I had made it very clear I did NOT want an epidural. However with my contractions so close together and lasting for so long – I was unable to relax my body enough to finish dilating to 10 cm and to provide enough oxygen to our baby as she got squished into the birth canal over and over. I felt intense guilt.
I tried nitrous oxide to help get through the pain of the last couple centimetres and it was a no go. I only have my experience to go on, but I HATED it – it was the most awful moment of my labour process. It did not relieve my pain in any way, but it made me feel like I was completely wasted. Things were blurry and unfocused, I felt nauseas like I was going to vomit at any second, and like I had no control at all. From my personal experience I would not recommend it. The being said I know other moms who felt the opposite. They loved it and felt it did help them with the pain. So I guess it’s maybe a personal or situational thing.
Realizing that I was not getting anywhere and feeling a little scared that she was becoming distressed after all this time, Clint and I decided that an epidural was the best option. I can’t tell you how much it pained me to make that decision, it was crushing. But after all that time, I was pretty sure that if things kept going the way they did I wouldn’t have had the physical capacity to push her out.
The anesthesiologist that did our epidural was amazing, and immediately put my fears at ease an our midwife was there the whole time. Once I got the epidural, Clint and I both managed to sleep for a couple of hours. I still felt the pain of every contraction – the epidural just made it more manageable. My body relaxed a little, the baby flipped over to face the right way and I dilated to 10 cm. It wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds, but it all happened within a couple hours. I woke up and shortly after spent 45 minutes or so pushing our little bean out the way we wanted. This part of the labour and delivery process was incredible. Painful yes, but at that point, the pain came with the definitive knowledge that our baby was coming and it truly makes every painful, scary, intense moment so worth it. Feeling her make her way through my body to join us in the world was the most amazing thing, it’s so hard to find words to describe it.
And so leaving her mark as the strong, stubborn, feisty little baby girl she is turning out to be, she took a huge shit inside me, and swallowed a bunch before making her way out to the other side. She was born on February 22nd, at 10:54 AM weighing 6 lbs. 6 oz. That moment that she was born is ingrained in my head forever and yet I sometimes find myself forgetting the exact feeling. Surprised, amazed, in love, relieved, scared, ecstatic. I remember seeing Clint’s face, his tears, and his heart explode as he watched her come out; a moment I will never forget. The minute they put her on me everything else disappeared.
Birthing our baby girl was and will continue to be the most beautiful thing I’ve accomplished. What our bodies are capable of as women is nothing short of astonishing. I will forever be in awe of what I did.
I wanted to write about recovery after childbirth, I have a few tips and tricks. But the post has turned out to be quite long so I will save that for its own post.
The last thing I will say before I sign off for today is about capturing the labour and delivery. We had really grandiose plans of taking a time-lapse video on my iPhone, taking photos with my good camera set up on the tripod and so on. So like me and my Type A personality to think we could do it all. And as you can imagine, it didn’t go so well. Once labour started, we forgot all about it and we didn’t really have any free hands. I was too busy ripping my headboard off the bed and Clint was too busy putting pressure on me, So we didn’t take any photos or video when we were at home; and then when we went into the hospital, we were so focused on the delivery and there was so much going on that it didn’t happen there either. Clint was watching the baby come out, I was pushing the baby out and the midwife was catching the baby – so there really was no one to take photos or video. I mean I guess Clint could have – but he was so into the moment, it would have taken away from his experience. If i could have done one thing differently, I would have hired a photographer to capture at least the moment Luna entered the world. It might seem weird at first having a stranger around for something so intimate, but birth photographers are professionals and this is what they do. They know how to be out of sight, out of mind. We have some photos from moments after but it would have been amazing to see her with the cord still attached and on my chest. But, things went the way they did – so instead we will cherish the moment it happened in our minds.
And on that note, here are a few poorly taken photos of the best moment of our lives.
Don’t mind the dazed and confused look on my face. I look horrible, but I’m ok with that – I just gave birth and I was in awe and totally out of it at the same time.
Minutes old and they are already staring at each other. A sign of the incredible father daughter bond to come.
The most precious thing I ever did see. I think I love this picture more than anything, because she is so sweet and chill as she still is. Except when she’s awake, haha!
A face I was instantly and forever in love with.
She’s so tiny here, I’m still shocked. She has grown so fast already. I’m glad I have these t look back on. I cherish every moment of this time and I truly will forever.
Thanks for listening.
Till the next post.