It was a cold September day. I had been running around visiting friends, and finishing up loose ends hoping that you would arrive soon (and that I would no longer be pregnant) After two or more weeks of false labor and constant contractions, on the evening of September 29th, I began to feel a little different. My contractions were coming and going, but for weeks this was happening so why pay attention to them now. Plus now I had some work to finish up before you arrived.
I couldn’t get to sleep, maybe this was the real thing (maybe it was the coffee I indulged in at 6:00pm - bad idea) So I began a night by myself, rocking back and forth on the ball and feeling each wave come and go. I didn’t want to wake my husband because we’d already had one or two false alarms. After a couple of hours, I was convinced, this was it. I pulled out my “what to do in labor list” and began checking of the things. Music. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” Rest.
Around 3am I woke up my husband and called our doula Vanessa. “Try to sleep” She said. So I lay there, unable to rest, but excited at what was finally happening. With appointments scheduled the next morning, I began excitedly packing only to be told not to come to see my doctor if I was truly in labor, but to wait and go to the hospital when it was time.
So, we waited. I tried to take a nap after a sleepless night and as I “napped” it seemed my contractions got further and further apart. Feeling defeated again, maybe this wasn’t it.
So we turned to the humor of old TV episodes and continued to hope that the baby would be coming today.
Contractions continued and it was time to call Vanessa again. In our living room, the three of us sat, silence falling at each contraction and good conversation (plus Netflix) in between.
They continued past lunch, we tried everything to get them closer together but they stayed 5 minutes apart all afternoon. Around 4:00pm we decided they were close enough to leave before rush hour. It became so exciting; we were going to have our baby!
When we arrived I insisted on the stairs. So I climbed up, so I could have my baby. Once there, things were still going strong, but only to find out.. 2cm, still (after a month) the nurse left and I burst into tears, we had to go back home. No baby tonight.
So we made our way back, now already 8:00pm, stopped for a burger and back to sitting and waiting. It was time to try and sleep again. In and out with contractions, by 3 or 4am, I was up again.
In the darkness, Vanessa and I talked. (She truly was our life saver, finding random blankets from our house and staying the night with us.) Day 2.5 of labor was upon us. I just continued to ride each contraction, still 5-6 minutes apart.
Stairs, the ball, squats, we had done it all. By mid-morning I decided I really wanted to clean the kitchen and I wanted to bake a cake. I was tired of all this. We woke up my husband to bring us cake mix and Starbucks.
We continued to labour on after he left. And this is where time stopped. I truly believe I was finally in active labor. I was completely mindless and remember very little about what happened from here on out, all I know was each wave and each contraction was intense but bringing me closer to baby.
I wasn’t convinced, I wanted to stay in my bedroom doing those motions until he or she arrived, but we packed up, leaving my PSL behind and we left. Yes! This was it! Active labor for sure! (Even Vanessa thinks so!) Contractions 2 minutes apart, this is it! Walking those stairs at the Royal Alex again, only making everyone more sure this baby was coming! Into assessment and no beds around for us this time, so we continued in the waiting room. We were making our way to the same bed as yesterday and we were sure it was going to be time.
2 cm… again.
I had never felt more defeated in my life. I was sure I was in active labor. “Come back when they are closer together” the nurse said.
Although on my perfectly crafted birth plan was to have no augmentation to my labor this was getting into day 3 (I didn’t ask for that in my plan either) I asked for my membrane sweep. There was no one who could do this at the hospital, so they told me I could go to my doctor to have one done or go home.
A much needed stop in the Lois Hole Healing Gardens, to cry and labor outside on the most beautiful day of the fall, and decide.
Doctor Mayo, my OB, had an office across the street; it was approaching 5pm so I needed to make my decision. Off we went, and even though it was only across the street it took us a half hour to get there, contracting in the parkades and the streets.
Luckily, he would see me. I tried to keep my contractions minimal in the waiting room, people quietly whispering around me and speculating whether or not I was in labour.
When he walks in to see me, he stops, looks and says “you’re in labor!” He tells me I should go back to the hospital and have this baby. I don’t want the Pitocin he suggests, but with a phone call we are on our way back to the hospital to be admitted. He wishes me luck as he wasn’t on call that evening and tells me I will have the baby tonight! We begin the “long” trek back across the street and up those stairs. I resist the stairs but Vanessa cheers me on and up we go.
Back in assessment, the nurses say that I will not be going across the hall like I’d thought, I was asked again to get Pitocin and I declined, so I am tucked in the farthest bed and I continue to labor. Was I not being moved because there is no room? Or was it because I will not accept pitocin? We will never know. “Fine!” I said “I will get to 10 cm and have this baby here!”
Clearly the sweep with the doctor had worked; I was now 1 minute apart and so intense. I moaned into my pillow for a few hours. “Why are you using the pillow?” Vanessa said, “They will get rid of your faster if you just let it out!” So she took it away and I’m sure I traumatized every pregnant woman in there, but I didn’t care. My natural birth was going great, even though we were officially more than 3 days in.
I started to make a mess of things, so they finally sent me to the other side. I had always heard you had to go from assessment to L&D in a wheelchair, many women protest this, but I was welcoming it with open arms. The nurse came to get me… no wheel chair and she was a very fast walker. It felt like the longest walk of my life, even though it was only down the hall, but I remember walking through the contractions, just to get to my room.
Finally there, I don’t remember much of the room, except being very excited it had a Lois Hole Garden view. This is where I would have my baby. It was already after 7:00pm on October 1st. Nurse Laura was the one who would be with me and she was instantly amazing. She so carefully reviewed my birth plan, let me know everything I could expect to be done or pressured to be done, and asked questions. She was very deserving of my nurse treat bag!
I continued my many positions for hours before we met our sweet doctor for the night. It was time to think about breaking my water. Another augmentation I didn’t want, but had to be done. I was 5-6cm by now and yes, it was time to break my waters!
For hours water poured out! (I had a condition in pregnancy called polyhydramnios) My stomach halved in size and the nurses were obsessing over each contraction and how you could see the body shape of the baby perfectly in my belly.
Ball, bed, toilet, shower, repeat.
I remember very little from the night, only reminding myself at each contraction “we must be close, only 1 minute long, one more closer.”
Another check and I was only 7cm… why! So we continued into the early hours of the morning.
Only to find out upon every check, 9.5cm… 9.5 cm for over 8 hours. What was going on?
“I am pushing him out!” I cry out and the nurses tell me to hold back, it’s not time. How could it not be time, each contraction he was being pushed without my control. Here is the only part of my labor I recall saying “I cannot do this” and Vanessa looking me dead in the eyes, telling me that I can. Hunched over the bed, not truly believing I could and the room a blur I continued on.
At another check and another 9.5cm, it was found that my baby was stuck.
“I can turn him without an epidural” the doctor told me “but I won’t because it’s inhumane and it will hurt.”
The decision I never wanted to make was on my plate. I never wanted to face this moment and here it was. I’m 9.5cm, yet feeling so far away. Darting my gaze frantically between Vanessa and my husband, Brant, throughout contractions, I was searching their eyes for my answer. I knew what I had to do but I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Even nurse Laura, who had now been with me her entire shift, getting ready to leave, sat at my bedside and assured me I was doing an amazing job and I would have that baby soon.
She offered her congrats before heading out and with the strength of my team; it was time for the epidural. Besides all the negatives associated with the epidural for baby, I was also just downright scared to get one. How would I stay still? My contractions were too strong and close, but I just remember staring at Brant through the tears as it was quickly completed.
Reprieve and sleep. My head cleared and I could see the time it was. 6am… Friday? This all started on Tuesday! I counted the hours in my head; we were now 56 hours in. Now that I have the epidural and they told me that it’ll relax me enough for that last 0.5 cm, it MUST be soon.
Doctor Mayo checked in and told me he was going to be there for the next two days. “I WILL deliver your baby” he said as he left me still at 9.5cm.
Later on, still at 9.5 and contractions slowing, it was time for Pitocin. So we played the up and down game of Pitocin and epidural for a few hours. By noon, it was time to push. I remember looking up at the clock as soon as they said I was 10cm, 12:00pm. “Most people push for 2 hours” I thought, “I will have this baby 1:00pm then!” I was so happy.
Pushing, pushing, pushing… another look at the clock and it was 1:00pm “Okay, by 2:00pm” More pushing, more hope since he was coming down and the heartbeat was great. After we passed 2:00pm time just didn’t exist anymore. I didn’t care, I just wanted to meet our baby now.
Sitting crunched up, pushing every minute for 5 hours, Doctor Mayo was back to check in after 5:00pm he asked “Can you keep going?” I again searched the faces of Brant and Vanessa, all of us exhausted after almost 4 days of labor, but I said “No I can’t, I’m too tired” He asked me if I wanted the vacuum (a horror a terrible nurse from earlier told me about) Yes, it was time, I wanted to meet our baby.
Once I had confirmed this everything became a flurry. Lights blasted on, more nurses showed up, a resident introduced himself in between my legs, as I was pushing. It was like it was show time! And it was.
Doctor Mayo pulled our little baby out so slowly and carefully. “Touch the head!” someone said, when I did I just looked back and Brant and wept. This baby was real and almost here! At some point during all this in burst Nurse Laura “YOU’RE STILL HERE!?” she cried out, 14 hours later she was starting her next shift and finished off what she started with us. After a few more pulls, Doctor Mayo took off the vacuum and said “you push the rest of the way” So I did and I had the ultimate satisfaction of pushing my baby into this world.
No one yelled out the gender like I always imagined, I searched for what it might be and I said “a boy!” we were right all along.
No skin to skin or cord clamping, because well… after 5.5 long hours, he pooped. In some of my prenatal talks, I remembered someone saying that when they take them to heating table it’s only 10 feet away but it will feel like over 100. And it did. I continued to cry, not just because I wanted to see my baby but also from joy, accomplishment and just knowing he was finally here.
Doctor Mayo quickly explained why we couldn’t do any other things from my birth plan before rushing to another birth. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember he was fantastic.
When they brought him to me, I got my skin to skin and we sat and cried and stared at him, our beautiful boy. I don’t even know how much time passed during those moments, the three of us so close together; it was the most special moment of my life.
Oliver Gray was born on October 2nd, 2015 after over 72 hours of labor at 5:22pm. And he was worth it all.
I didn’t get everything I wanted in my birth, in fact I pretty much got everything I didn’t want in regards to my birth plan. But I don’t look back on it with any regret. If I hadn’t taken those steps, Oliver may have taken even longer to arrive. Something could have gone terribly wrong and happened to me, or worse to him.
I planned one thing no one really knew about, knowing I needed to be flexible no matter what. My flexibility is what got him here and I’m so proud of this birth story. These were some of the most intense moments of my life and he stayed my little champion the whole time, just like he is now. I would do it all again for him and wouldn’t change a thing.
Special thank you for sharing your birth story with us.
Past Full Circle client, Liz Driedger whose doula was Vanessa.
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