I'm going to be writing his birth story in two parts; the reality of what actually happened and then my experience. Bear with me!
Jenn came to bed at midnight as Tuesday rolled into Wednesday. I woke up enough to notice the cramping and slight backache. I tried to shift positions. I got up to use the washroom. Nothing seemed to alleviate it, so after an hour, I went downstairs. I wanted Jenn to get some sleep because I somehow knew that the mild cramps were the start of labour. At 1am, I decided to make the girls' lunches so that it would be finished if things progressed quickly. I then decided to lay on the couch and try to get a bit of rest. I drifted in and out of sleep as the cramps and back pain would came and went. At about 6:30am, I went upstairs to let Jenn know what was going on. With nervous excitement, we talked about how today might just be our son's birthday.
The girls woke minutes later and we continued on with our morning as usual. I texted my doula, Adrienne, and our birth photographer, Calla, to let them know that it looked like things were starting. Adrienne suggested a hot bath -- if it was real labour, she said, the bath wouldn't stop it. The back pain and cramping continued when I got out of the bath. Jenn asked if she should stay home. I felt like I was probably ok, but asked her to hang around through breakfast. I ate despite not feeling like it. I knew that as labour progressed I would probably not want to eat. Periodically, I would have to lean over the counter to stretch out my back. The back labour had become uncomfortable, but was still totally manageable. I ended up telling Jenn that she could head to work and I would call when things started ramping up.
After dropping the girls at school, I came home feeling quite tired. I went back to bed hoping that I could get a little bit more rest. About 45 minutes later, contractions started in the way that I had expected. It would begin in my back and then wrap around to my abdomen. I tried lying down through the first one, which was tough. When the second one hit 10 minutes later, I got up and walked through it. They were quite uncomfortable, but manageable. After five more contractions that all came about 10 minutes apart, I texted Jenn and asked her to come home. It seemed like things were progressing. And then, just like that, the contractions were gone. However, the back labour remained constant.
My sister-in-law, Kelly, came by with my niece at about 11. Adrienne had suggested that I alternate rest and movement, so Kelly and I went out for a walk. Prior to heading out, I froze while on the stairs during a contraction. Jenn looked at me and said, "I think we should call Sarah." I quickly told her that I was ok. "I don't want to be delivering this baby!" She replied. Jenn and Kelly then joked about that happening. Kelly and I headed out to walk and she kept me distracted by talking to me about a variety of things. Once we were home, I tried to rest again. I remained in contact with Adrienne through the morning. She told me that she would come my way midday. At that point, I thought that I was doing ok and likely wasn't too far along since labour had not progressed as I would have hoped (despite being noticeably more uncomfortable). There was still no pattern to the contractions and they weren't lasting for longer. By 1pm or so, my mood had shifted and I was feeling quite down because labour didn't seem to be progressing. I was feeling frustrated, tired and uncomfortable. By 2pm, I started doubting my ability to handle natural childbirth, however, I never verbalized that to anyone. As the back pain intensified, walking through it became tough. I started leaning over our dresser breathing through the pain as best as I could. I remember Adrienne talking about relaxing my entire body through contractions. She had said that it is tough to dilate if your body is completely tensed up. Doing this is damn hard and requires a lot of focus. I did text my midwife, Sarah, around this time. However, I apparently downplayed things by starting the text with, "just wanted to give you the heads up that I'm having some mild contractions…" But, because I couldn't identify a pattern to the contractions and they weren't lasting for longer periods (and I was able to talk through it), she didn't think I was very far along either.
At around 2:45, Jenn came up to check on me just as I was throwing up everything in my stomach. This made me feel even more discouraged because I had done a good job of drinking a ton of liquids and I had eaten some food, in order to keep my energy up for active labour and birth. Jenn then went to pick up the girls from school. When they got back, she came to check on me around 3:45. At this point, the pain was extremely intense. Jenn could see it in my face and demanded that we page everyone immediately. She called my mom to come for the girls. She called Adrienne, who was going to come ASAP. I paged Sarah, the midwife, who called back immediately. At 3:57pm (according to my phone!), while talking to Sarah and standing in our bedroom, I could no longer talk through the pain/contractions and then without warning, the urge to push came on. Sarah told me to get Jenn. I yelled for her and Sarah quickly told her to see if she could see the baby's head. She couldn't at that moment. I remember freaking out because I felt like I was bleeding a lot. Fortunately, I wasn't. Sarah insisted that Jenn get me on the bed immediately. I remember yelling that I didn't want to lay down, but understood that it was best given the situation. I told Jenn that we needed towels on the bed so she threw some down quickly. I'm not sure what happened at this point, but we got off the phone with Sarah. She must have been running to get into her car. She had been at the hospital, which is a 15 minute drive in good traffic.
Once Jenn helped me lie down, I asked her to give me my phone. "WHY?!" She asked. "I need to write to Calla!" (our birth photographer) I knew that if I didn't, I would regret it.
"Can you come to my house?"
"Things moved quickly"
"I think baby is coming."
Calla also jumped in her car and headed over immediately.
Sarah must have called back right when she got in her car because the next thing I remember was hearing her on speaker phone. I was told not to push but the urge was far too strong. The contractions were painful, intense and coming one after another without breaks. I remember feeling panicked with how quick things were moving. Especially with just Jenn and I (and the girls, who were downstairs). Jenn remained focused and incredibly strong for all of us. According to Sarah's notes, I was distressed! I definitely was, given that the baby was coming and she wasn't there. After a few minutes of pushing, my mom came running into the room just as the baby's head was crowning. Sarah told Jenn that she wasn't going to make it before the baby arrives. She told her to grab a ton of receiving blankets. She also told her that they would have to call 911. My mom called immediately. Around this time, Quinn came running upstairs in tears. The sight of the blood and seeing me in pain was clearly upsetting to her. Jenn ran out into the hall and reassured her that I was ok, but the baby was coming soon. She asked (begged!) Quinn to go downstairs and watch TV with Teagan. Thankfully Quinn agreed. Jenn ran back to my side and held my hand through contraction after contraction. I pushed with frantic determination, knowing that immense relief was coming as soon as he was out. Moments later, the baby's head was out and again, according to Sarah's notes, his body was out less than a minute later. Jenn stood waiting with a receiving blanket in her hands. Logan was born right into his Mama's arms! Thankfully, he screamed immediately and his body was pink. Sarah said to put him on my chest, skin-to-skin, and cover him in blankets. Pushing a baby out is the most painful, intense and amazing thing I've ever experienced. The relief once he was laid on my chest was equally overwhelming. In those seconds after birth, I remember looking down at him in complete shock over what had just happened. While I realize now that he was completely fine, I started to panic because it sounded like he was having trouble breathing. Sarah told us that we should get a clean cloth and wipe out his mouth, but she seemed to know that he was ok based on how he sounded over the phone. The 911 operator told my mom that she needed to find string to tie the cord. Sarah overheard my mom say this and yelled, "No! Don't tie the cord!" I wouldn't have let them given that I wanted to delay cord clamping. I don't recall much else, until Sarah came running in just minutes after he was born. Then came the fire department. Then the paramedics. Then came Adrienne, Tracy, my second midwife, and Calla. Calla immediately started snapping photos, pausing briefly to smile and say, "I knew it!" She then told me that I texted her exactly 10 minutes before he was born! I joked that she should have told me it was going to happen like this! The firemen respectfully stayed out in the hall since it was clear that things were under control. Before leaving, they fixed one of our smoke detectors that was hanging from the ceiling and wrote us up for not having a carbon monoxide detector (which we actually do have, but they didn't see because it was in our bedroom).
I was incredibly grateful that Sarah was the first to arrive because she was able to jump in and take care of Logan and me. Sarah clamped the cord and let Jenn cut it. The paramedics didn't try to take over (Thank God!), but did take my blood pressure and check my heart rate. At this point, my legs were shaking uncontrollably, which I was assured is completely normal post-birth. Sarah, then had me deliver the placenta, and told me that my bleeding was completely normal. After freaking out numerous times over thinking that I was bleeding too much, that was a relief to hear.
At this point, I think I asked my Mom and the girls to come back up to meet the little guy. The girls got up on the bed next to me and gently and lovingly gave their new baby brother some kisses.
I did end up tearing while pushing him out, so Sarah froze the area and stitched me up. She suggested that the girls leave the room at this point, but could come back in afterwards.
Everyone was strongly suggesting that I drink something with some sugar in it, so Adrienne brought me a glass of juice. It was also suggested that I eat. I really wasn't hungry, but knew that I should eat something. Lucky for me, my mom had made me some homemade, organic chicken soup. It was the perfect post-birth meal.
Logan lay covered and skin-to-skin with me for quite a while. He was sleepy but did manage to latch and breastfeed for a little while. Eventually Adrienne checked him out and give him his first adjustment (Adrienne is also our chiropractor).
And Sarah did his newborn exam and weighed him.
His temperature had dropped slightly so the midwives wanted him skin-to-skin with me again. They covered him with blankets and put a heating pad in between some of the layers. He warmed up in no time.
Sarah asked if we wanted a tour of the placenta. I didn't end up seeing the girls' placentas last time because I was feeling quite nauseous during and after delivery. I definitely wanted to see it this time. The girls were into it as well. Sarah set everything up next to me on the bed and gave each of the girls a glove so that they could touch the placenta if they wanted. We only have this picture right now, but as soon as Calla sends the rest, I will definitely add more!
Eventually, he was bundled up so that he could be cuddled…
…and meet his aunt, uncle and future partner in crime!
My Mom headed off to her place with the girls. They were going to feed them dinner and take them in for a sleepover. It was nice for us all. Jenn and I were able to get to know our newest addition and the girls were able to have my parents' undivided attention.
A couple hours after Logan was born, Tracy helped me get up to use the washroom. You've gotta go pee before the midwives can leave after birth! I felt like I had been hit by a truck walking to the washroom that first time. However, the discomfort wasn't as bad as it was with the twins.
While I was in the washroom, everyone stripped the bed. Our fitted sheet was immediately thrown into a garbage bag. We were all amazed and impressed to see that our awesome mattress cover completely protected our new memory foam mattress from the mess of birth. I haven't written to the company yet, but plan to!
Once I was back in bed, the little man was laid back on my chest to attempt nursing once more. He ate a little but mostly snoozed. The midwives, Adrienne and Calla headed out after an eventful few hours. Rob and Kelly had brought over food for us. Rob and Jenn ate downstairs, while Kelly and I (and the babies) chatted upstairs. My Dad also came down to meet his first grandson that evening. Once they headed home, Jenn and I turned off the light for our first night with Logan.
Coulda…shoulda…woulda. It's hard not to let your mind go there when something doesn't go as you planned and hoped. It's pointless and frustrating, I know. It all becomes so clear when you're out of the situation, sitting in silence. Looking back to February 10th and writing my birth story has been incredibly helpful and therapeutic. All the signs of labour progressing were actually there when I reread it (I'm sure you thought the same -- why did she not call for help sooner??). When you're in it, tired and in pain, nothing in clear. I think we've all been there, but my story is just a bit more dramatic than most.
Giving birth completely naturally (drug-free) was something that I always wanted to do for myself. When I found out that I was pregnant with the twins, I had to let some of my birth plan go. I was lucky enough to have a midwife, but had to deliver in the hospital. Finding out that I was pregnant with a singleton this time allowed me the chance to have the natural birth that I always wanted. Jenn and I decided that I would give birth at the new Toronto Birth Centre.
I tried to prepare myself well. We already had the midwives. We hired Adrienne as our doula. I listened to the hypnobirthing CDs that she gave me every night for the last several weeks of the pregnancy. I thoughtfully wrote a birth plan. I'm not naive enough to think that doing all of this and visualizing my ideal birth would actually make it come to be. I know that things change and baby calls the shots, but I never would have guessed that things would happen the way they did. I was completely caught off guard, which is why I'm having such a hard time processing my labour and delivery.
It's a great story. A story that everyone wants to hear. A story that will still be amazing to tell many years from now. I get that. For me though, it is way more than just a great story. As Adrienne pointed out to me, to most people that's all it will ever be because that's what I'll share. The wild story of an unplanned, unassisted home birth that ended with mom and baby being healthy. Grounds for a TLC show, eh?! Sharing my experience and my feelings is not something that I want to talk to everyone about. (Although I realize that if I do publish this post, you are reading it now. I feel ok with that though.) Once the shock wore off a few days after the birth, I realized how upsetting it was for me. It took me several more days to actually start putting what I was feeling into words. I cried frequently as I was sorting out my emotions. People called and texted their congratulatory messages. They asked how the baby was doing. They wanted to hear the whole story and sat there in front of me or on the phone with jaws dropped, exclaiming, "what a great story!", at the end of it. No one asked how I was doing. Like really doing, until Sarah came by a few days after his birth for our check up. "How are you?" She asked in such a way that I immediately knew what she meant. It was then that I realized that I actually needed someone to ask that. I'm not sure how I didn't burst into tears. I needed to talk about what had happened. I needed to process it now so I could move on. Sarah used the word traumatic to describe what I went through. It was to an extent. She assured me that it would take time, but it would be ok. Adrienne came by a few days after the birth as well. We spent 2.5 hours talking and processing, which she also needed to do too. I hadn't realized that our support team might need to process what had happened also. This was, by far, the most helpful talk that I've had. I'm incredibly grateful for Adrienne and her support through this process. I'm not sure that I would have spent the many hours writing all of this if it wasn't for her.
One of the hardest parts of all of this has been the fact that I went through my entire labour alone. I feel upset and even angry with myself for preparing so well and putting together a great support team, only to go it alone. Looking back to that day now, I should have had Adrienne come over at 1pm, when she said that she would. (shoulda…useless now, I know) At the time, I remember thinking that I was likely not very far along because I felt like I was physically able to handle the pain. So, I told Adrienne that I was ok. What was difficult for me to realize while I was in it, was that I needed the support emotionally. I know that I handle physical pain quite well, so I likely was further along than I realized then. I am also the type to not verbalize physical pain because I feel like makes it that much more difficult to manage. I dig deep and push through. This was labour though and not sports, so I probably should have changed my tactics. Labour and delivery is a completely different breed of pain. Throughout this process, I've tried to find the positives. I'm proud of myself for going through labour and delivery naturally. I'm proud of myself for actually handling the pain of labour so well, despite my intense self-doubts during that afternoon. Asking for help has never been my strong suit. Treat everything as a learning experience. I've certainly been reminded to ask for help and to do so even when I don't think that I need it.
As I said earlier, it has been tough to write this and clearly see the signs that should have triggered me to ask Adrienne to come over much sooner. Had she been there, she could have helped me through that emotional low and provided support and reassurance. She definitely would have known when to call Sarah. Shoulda, coulda, woulda...useless, but deserves acknowledgement. So, what are the positives. In our prenatal visits, we talked about how to physically and mentally handle contractions. Adrienne also gave me a hypnobirthing CD, which I listened to every single night for weeks leading up to Logan's birth. The techniques Adrienne taught me and the positive affirmations from the CDs, helped me get through the contractions quite well apparently.
The urge to push came on suddenly and (at the time) seemingly out of the blue. It was initially terrifying. I kept saying, "I don't know what's happening." I also felt like I was bleeding excessively. I realize now that some of that fear was due to the fact that two friends of mine who gave birth recently hemorrhaged and bled quite a lot. I'm grateful that it happened when I was on the phone with Sarah. I wasn't thinking clearly and was panicked and distressed. She got me to call for Jenn immediately. Having Jenn next to me and Sarah on the phone helped, despite how I might have sounded at the time. I was terrified but deep down knew that everything would be ok with Sarah guiding us through what we needed to do. But, given the speed at which everything happened, I really wish I had had Sarah and Adrienne there. While my body knew what it had to do, I know that things would have gone more smoothly and I wouldn't have been so frantic had they been there to reassure me and help me breathe properly. But, on the positive side of things, everything turned out perfectly, all things considered -- Logan came out easily, there were no issues with the cord around his neck (another fear I had), he was screaming and pink and I was physically ok. And, Sarah arrived in time to deliver the placenta -- for that, Jenn is forever grateful!
I have several other positive reflections from that day.
- While seeing and hearing me give birth was scary for Teagan and Quinn, the excitement (for all of us!) of meeting their baby brother minutes after birth overshadowed the fear. I had wanted them to meet him shortly after birth and for that to be captured in Calla's photos.
- I had also wanted my Mom to be at the birth. I know that it was somewhat traumatizing for her to come in and see me like that just as the baby's head was crowning, but I'm still grateful that she was there.
- Giving birth at home was convenient! I didn't have to leave the comfort of my bed. We didn't have to bundle our newborn up just hours after birth and head home. I highly recommend it -- WITH a midwife present, of course.
- Jenn and I shared something so unique and special that we will forever cherish. Having your partner deliver your child is not something that too many people have experienced.
- I am incredibly lucky to have Jenn. She was terrified on that afternoon as well, but she stayed strong and focused for me (and the girls). She managed to calm a scared Quinn in the midst of it all. She was truly my rock on that day.