My labour started around 7pm. I’d spent about an hour earlier bouncing on the birth ball and reading birth stories from Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth while watching my girls play. When I thought about it, I did some nipple stimulation just to see what would happen…I’d had some stronger stretchy pains in the truck to and from downtown. We’d gone for lunch at Salad King just because I wanted to and felt like that wouldn’t happen again for a few months.
After dinner I had more strong stretches but still irregular. Just in case, Mark & the girls reinflated the birth pool, I left a message for Dixon and changed bed linens while Mark crushed ice and froze grapes. We moved our laundry basket of dark towels, blue pads, IV supplies and sealed olive oil downstairs. Clothes and diapers for baby were already on the main floor along with receiving blankets and a heating pad. The girls were over-tired and so we put them to bed telling them new baby may or may not come today & that Dixon would wake them up if I was giving birth. They fell into a deep sleep within fifteen minutes and stayed that way for 11 hours.
As we were settling the girls, I had a really powerful, long lasting contraction. And then another medium one at 8:15 and then around 8:30 I had one so strong I had to stand up and breathe deeply through it, involuntarily pushing and it lasted a minute. That was when Mark told me I should page the midwives. I wasn’t certain given the randomness of it all but the fact that for the last 45 minutes I’d felt like I had to poop but didn’t and that I was feeling “pushy” I knew it wouldn’t hurt to call. I just didn’t want to get everyone and everything in place and be told I was at 3cm and not very thin and that this could go on for days…which would have been fine, I just didn’t want to think it was time and then be disappointed, better to underestimate how far along we were. But I called Amy and we went over details and she was positive, excited, and asked that we just stay on the phone for a few contractions. The first two were no problem, the third I had to put down the phone, grip the table while Mark pushed on my tailbone, and moan through while saying that I was pushing but knew I shouldn’t be. Amy gave me strict instructions to NOT take a hot shower and to NOT stimulate my nipples but to go lie down and drink some water until she got here. Mark started filling the pool, Dixon called back and said she was on her way, I lay down and just kept thinking “open” while listening to our baby having mix on the iPod from when we were having L.
Amy arrived around 9:30pm, asked if she could check me and we were pretty excited at being at 8cm! I’d been secretly hoping for 5cm, but 8 – really? A few strong pushy contractions and I was at 8!!! My waters were bulging so baby’s head was still high and once they broke I’d go down to 7cm but contractions would become steadier and we would progress. So I walked up and down the stairs, drank some juice and water and watched the midwives make Mark run around looking for something to hang the IV on…something they had failed to mention as a result, the IV was started at 10:30, with the wrong kind of lock, I climbed into the birth pool where I was comfortable and wouldn’t have to see a clock. Before hand, I’d leaked some fluid on the floor which tested as amniotic fluid but may have been pee. Mark rubbed my back, Dixon took pics, and Amy checked heartbeat. She suggested we break the waters fully to keep things moving and we agreed thinking that it would help, I was doing well, and waiting would only make me tired. I was on all fours, not stressed about the contractions, Mark feeding me grapes and ice chips and making me laugh by saying “Loose lips mama”, and kissing me.
And then…there was meconium. Thick, abundant green, sticky sludge that was passing over our baby’s face and nose. Our baby who was still at +3 while I was at 7cm but pushing through contractions now. And Amy told me we had to transfer to the hospital. I knew all the reasons why – respiratory therapist to intubate if necessary with the neonatal expertise as opposed to EMS just doing it quickly to save a life but not thinking of later consequences; avoiding pumping oxygen through a face mask which would further push down any inhaled meconium; avoiding meconium aspiration syndrome which is life threatening and results in prolonged hospital stay. But I also knew that because of the GBS positive screen they wouldn’t let me come home and that not only were my girls going to miss the birth they had been preparing for since August with me, practicing sounds, letting us know about wanting to cut the cord and hold new baby’s hands, wanting to tell us if it was a girl or a boy…but that they also couldn’t get to see her right when they woke up. But I couldn’t refuse a transfer based on emotion and I couldn’t let myself ask for them to be woken up to come with us.
And if I had thought to be so selfish, they would still have missed the birth and Mark would have too for even though Dixon offered to drive our truck there, she didn’t know where to go, The girls would have had to be woken up (a task unto itself!), dressed into coats and boots, buckled in and driven then parked, unbuckled, and walked through the hospital to labour & delivery and get past the nurses to our room. Meanwhile, I had our baby within 15 minutes of getting there.
I wish I could say it was a blur but the memories are quite acute. I remember struggling to get half dressed, telling Mark where the hospital bag was, I remember crying about having to leave my girls but refusing to put them through the trauma of possibly having to see a medical team intubate their new baby. I remember walking to the ambulance and praying it was no where near the time when my parents would be driving to/from church. I remember being petrified of being wheeled on the gurney and I remember Mark turning ghost white when they told him he couldn’t sit with me but had to sit up front, I remember telling them not to use sirens until we were well away from my house and I remember Amy trying to explain that yes labour was imminent and no that wasn’t why we were transferring and no it wasn’t ok for the attendant to catch the baby the whole point was to be near a neonatal specialist. I remember panting through pushes to not give birth in the ambulance and I remember just feeling exhausted and not wanting to do it anymore when we were finally in the room. I was sad. And then they sent Mark away again to do paperwork even though Id been preadmitted.
And I’m so grateful my girls slept through that and that I had a warm caring person at home with them who offered to bring them after the birth if we wanted. But I knew I wouldn’t ask that unless it happened much closer to morning. I wouldn’t have wanted them to see me being rolled into the ambulance. Mark says it was incredibly hard for him to have to see that and he knew we were going to be ok and that he was coming with me.
As soon as Mark was by my side holding my hand, my contractions came on stronger again and Amy asked if she could check me during one and she did and there was blinding pain. It was Amy widening my cervix. This was to allow our baby space to descend over the next few contractions but then much to everyone’s surprise our baby started crowning. Our backup midwife didn’t even have her gloves on yet! At first I thought Amy was still checking me and I begged her to move her hand but then I realized it was our baby. I had to push her out slowly, as there were no warmed oil compresses ready for me. And after her head was born I had to pull up my legs and push with everything as her shoulders were sticky but not dystocia. Later, Amy would tell me “You birthed so beautifully. You had incredible control on your pushing; I’ve only seen that with an epidural. And you showed such strength pushing her shoulders out. She came into position so quickly it was unexpected. Your girls would have missed the birth even at home from how fast she was born.”
At 12:01am on Sunday morning, our 8lb3oz, 21 ¾ inch long baby girl C was born. She yelped, opened her eyes and roared. The RT apparently walked into the room, heard her yelling, saw her squirming and deemed her healthy and left. C was placed on my chest as soon as she was cleaned up a bit. I held her to me and Mark held me and we stared at her, kissed her, kissed each other, and stared some more. C was tired after all that yelling and hungry! She was rooting as she lay against my exposed skin; and when I moved my nipple closer to her mouth she latched like a champ and started suckling and swallowing immediately. While we may not have been at home, C knew “home” and reminded us what it was all about as she gulped noisily nestled against me, gripping Mark’s finger.
It was so difficult watching Mark leave and keeping a smile on my face. Our first night apart in six years. I wanted him to be able to hold our little girl her first night, but it technically wasn’t night and she stayed in my arms as I scowled at the night nurse who tried to get me to put her in a bassinet from the 70s and told me she would be safer there- out of arm, away from my heart, my warmth , my breathing, and my smell just a few hours after being thrust into a cold, spacious, loud, smelly, bright world, Really? And it would help us bond, help my milk to come in and prevent my getting depressed how? So C napped in my arms, suckled when she wanted to and soothed me with her softness and delicious smell. I napped on and off but the baby crying all night beside us from being alone in a bassinet kept me awake as did the paging, and the nurse checks. The nurse who examined C and I worked on rote. Not computing we’d just had our vitals taken and a physical once over; nor that reaching to push my breast into position was highly uncalled for as I’d said Id successfully breastfed two girls and that C had already latched and nursed twice
I texted Mark just after 7; the girls woke up and called me at 8 – I had a cheerful voice because I was happy to hear from them. My heart was aching for them but in reality, they didn’t have a concept of how long I had been away from them with C – it could have been all night, or it could have been just an hour. They packed up a bunch of stuff, picked up McDonald’s because apparently all $240 for a room in the hospital gets you for breakfast is Cheerios, a slice of cheese and a cup of tea. Clearly, I skipped the Cheerios, downed the milk, and ate the cheese. At ten my family arrived and clambered onto the bed, saying “hi new baby”. We both got hugs and kisses and smiles. Mark had told them about the birth, I told them a bit too. They held their sister, kissed her, snuggled her, and me too. They spent about 6 hours with us, sharing in my crappy lunch, going for a walk to get me ice water, going to Tim Horton’s, and watching a movie on the netbook. All the things we would have done had C and I been home and in bed.
After they left, I felt empty again, hollow from the loss of our planned home birth and bonding in bed together trying to remind myself that we HAD just bonded in bed together.
Twenty-four hours later we’d finally be truly home, in our bed together – all five of us by dawn. I thought it would be hard to fall asleep but after a hot shower, hot food, and a Strongbow, I settled down with our baby between us; our girls asleep on a mattress on the floor in the same room, and slept for five hours straight – which felt like twelve. I’d never been happier to wake up before the sunrise and be able to watch all three of my girls wake up and greet each other and the day with love and excitement.
It's been seven weeks and one day since C was born and today was the first time I've been able to write, read, and talk about being in the hospital without tearing up. I'll never get that chance again, to have my girls at a home birth for their sibling. But that's not a loss they feel, and it's one I have to get over because ultimately, I made the right decisions for all three of our girls and unless you've been there, you can't tell me otherwise. But, I'd love it if you could agree with me, because, I really do need that.