On June 20th at 8:56 pm, I became a mother.
“Babe, I think your mucus plug is in the toilet. Want to see it?” Those where the words that woke me from what I didn’t know then would be my last 8 hour sleep in a while, the morning of Monday, June 19th.
I got out of bed and took a look. I felt a trickle down my legs and I thought, Oh shit, it’s happening! I’m losing my waters! I peered into the toilet, while blotting my crotch with some balled up toilet paper. Yup. There is was. Exactly as it had been described to me on every podcast, in every book, and by every midwife.
Jeff stayed home from work that day. We called the midwives and they recommended that I put on a pad and check back in around lunch time. We did as we were told. The hours seemed to slow down as I anxiously waited for the right time to call. Finally lunch time hit, and I eagerly called in again. We were recommended to come to the hospital to have the fluids tested.
Because there wasn’t enough fluid for testing, Jeff and I were taken into an exam room, and the midwife on call proceeded to check to see how far along I am, while testing a sample of the fluids. I had heard horror stories of getting cervical checks. I thought to myself, Well this can’t be as bad as what’s to come! And honestly, it felt like nothing more than a rather aggressive pelvic exam. Now, I felt nothing out of the ordinary…. But as the midwife removed her hand, she warned and assured me that everything looks normal. What she didn’t warn me (or Jeff about) is the fact that her hand was going to be COVERED in blood. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was an obscene amount of blood. Like something out of a horror movie…. And I couldn’t stop laughing. Coping mechanism?
The tests came back negative for amniotic fluid, but at least I was 1 cm dilated, and apparently having contractions, though I couldn’t feel any of them. This kept my spirits up! We were sent home to relax, go for a little walk, and just enjoy these last few moments together seeing how labour was imminent. We called my sister, and she came later on in the evening.
Shit got real at 9:30 pm that Monday. Very. VERY. Real. My contractions started and they certainly didn’t feel how I expected them to feel. I was expecting sharp, searing pains. What I felt was intense pressure. Pressure that started in my lower back and radiated into my hips and hip flexors. The only thing that seemed to relieve the pain was for me to stand hunched over a wall ledge while Jeff firmly provided counter pressure against my hips.
After a few hours of this, we called our doula and she came to drop off the TENS machine. I wished we had called her sooner, because the sensation of the TENS in combination with the hip squeezes provided by either Jeff or my sister, and my deep, moaning breathing, made the contractions feel completely manageable.
The contractions got longer, around 45 seconds to just over one minute in length, but spaced out to about 5 to 8 minutes apart. This was all happening after midnight. From the pure exhaustion of the last few hours, I managed to fall asleep during those breaks. It was incredible. I would pass out on the couch. Get woken up from the pain, crawl onto my knees with my upper body resting against the back of the couch, and I’d sway and moan through the pain as Jeff provided counter pressure.
Around 4 in the morning our doula came for extra support. At this point I was labouring in the tub. The water felt amazing. The lights in the bathroom were dimmed, my support team was all there to encourage me to breath deeply, and drink water between contractions, and my birth playlist was softly playing in the background. The intensity of the contractions had made me particularly emotional. The song “All I want” by Kodaline came on and the tears started flowing down my cheeks. I gripped Jeff’s hand and told him that this is way harder than I thought it would be. He comforted me and told me I’m doing so well and that I’m so strong.
Our doula made the call to head to the hospital that Tuesday morning at 6 am. I had been labouring hard for 8 1/2 hours at this point. At no point did the pain change location. It was 8 1/2 hours of back labour. At this point the contractions were about 3 minutes apart and some of them lasted as long as almost 2 minutes.
The car ride was dreadful. I was kneeling on the back seat gripping on to the head rest, and loudly moaning through the contractions. I’m pretty sure I scared the SHIT out of a lot of the early morning commuters that day.
We go into triage and what seems like an eternity later (though really it was probably about 10 mins) the midwife came to check me. I was 3 cm. I felt disappointed but at the same time, I understood that early labour takes the longest. Going back home was not an option for me at this point. I refused to go back into the car without a baby in my arms. We stayed in triage for I can’t really remember how many hours before our room was ready. At this point there was a shift change and we met our midwife, Rosemary. She took mine and baby’s vitals and suggested going into the shower to manage pain.
At this point my modesty was out the window (truth be told, modesty went out the window with the bath I took at home). I stripped down totally naked, laboured through a few contractions, and made my way into the shower. It felt about as great as anything can feel when you’re like 13 hours into hard back labour. Still, it made the time go by!
Rosemary observed me and said that it looks like I’m starting to push involuntarily. Thank the Lord, I thought to myself. Because I didn’t have much else left in me. About an hour later she decided to check me. I was thinking, this is it! I’m going to be pushing in no time, and my baby will be here. Much to everyone’s surprise, especially hers, my labour had completely stalled. I was still at 3 cm.
The disappointment I felt the moment I heard her say that number is indescribable. I knew I had to abandon my plan for an unmedicated labour. I asked for the epidural. No, at this point, I begged for it. I knew I would have nothing left in me when it came time to push, and my body was now going into shock. I was starting to shake and shiver, and I knew that something had to happen.
Within an hour I was hooked up to an IV and a very young looking anesthesiologist came to administer the epidural. I don’t remember his name, or what he really looked like other than I was tempted to call him Doogie Howser, but he was extremely gentle and got the job done within a matter of minutes. Three contractions later, I felt no pain. Rosemary did a final check, along with a membrane sweet and breaking my waters to help my body move things along. And finally I got a few hours of much needed sleep.
When I woke up, Rosemary had mentioned that she wants to do another check. She was very frank in letting me know that, in some cases, epidurals slow things down even more, and if there hasn’t been any progress, then synthetic oxytocin will need to be considered. I trusted her professional opinion and didn’t get my hopes up. With a big smile on her face she announced that I am now 9.5 cm dilated and that within an hour or two I will be pushing! This was the best news I had heard all day. I was smiling ear to ear! My body was finally doing what it was meant to do!
I started pushing around 6:30 pm on Tuesday. The epidural started wearing off and I could feel contractions on my right side. Fuck this shit, I thought. I topped myself up and waited for the meds to kick in. That wasn’t the best idea. I couldn’t tell when I was supposed to push. I mean, I felt a bit of pressure, but not enough to know how hard to push or when to start and stop. An hour went by. I tried a few different positions since my epidural didn’t completely numb my legs. I looked at Jeff and said, “This isn’t so bad! I don’t know why they say this is so hard!” Famous last words.
I started feeling the contractions. And the pressure. The pain from the contractions helped me determine how hard to push. I should clarify that the “pain” was only a fraction of what I had been feeling for 15 hours before the epidural. But it was enough to feel uncomfortable. Then the pressure started. Despite the epidural, I felt the most intense pain in my pelvis. I pushed, and I pushed, and I pushed. It felt like forever. I started getting so frustrated that I let out an angry grunt during one push. My nurse exclaimed, “GOOD! Get mad! That was the best push you’ve given us!”
Get mad? Don’t mind if I do. From then on, it was about an hour (I think? Time is totally lost when you’re in labour) of me grunting, and yelling, and going full primal with every push. At one point I even yelled “GET OUT!!!” Needless to say, for someone who’s normally quiet and a bit shy, this was a totally freeing experience. Rosemary told me to reach down and I felt his head! It was still inside me, but it was there. I knew that within a couple more pushes, he’d be here. So I channelled all of the strength I had in me, and I pushed as hard as I could, desperately waiting to feel the ring of fire, that I was told I would feel despite having the epidural. I never felt it, but I did feel everything opening, and even more pressure. Once again, Rosemary told me to reach down.
His head! I felt the entire top of his slimy little (though it felt like a cannon ball at that point) head! She had me give one hard push, then a few little pants, and another good push. His head was out! I felt INSTANT relief. I could feel her taking the cord and unwrapping it from his neck. Two more pushes and his body was out, at 8:56 pm on Tuesday, June 20th.
He cried instantly. He was a bit purple. He had a cone head (he had been stuck in my narrow pelvis for 2 hours and 45 mins of pushing, after all). He was covered in all sorts of fluids. He was perfect. Rosemary placed him on my chest and I felt his warm skinny arms reaching for me. We locked eyes and in that moment I fell in love. I wish there was a word with an even greater meaning than love. When I looked into my son’s eyes, when I felt his body against my body and finally outside of my body, I felt an ineffable emotion. It was love. It was elation. It was pure bliss. My boy, Sawyer, was here.
Little did I know the damage he had done to my vagina. Turns out, the reason for the intense back labour was because he had somehow shifted and wasn’t in the ideal position for birthing. Not only that, but his elbow was beside his face. That explains the long pushing phase. Rosemary presumes that one of the reasons why my labour had stalled was because I was severely dehydrated. I tried eating and drinking but it made me feel quite nauseous so it was hard to stay on top of. Lesson learned: for my next birth, I will be hydrating like mad.
Yes. That’s right. I will go through this again. It was the hardest 23 1/2 hours of my life. But that was it! And now I have the most beautiful baby boy to care for and love. Besides, no two labours are the same! And maybe my next one will be the serene, unmedicated, quick labour I had hoped for! But this is Sawyer’s story. And for him, I’d do it all over again.