I had a baby. For the first time. Giving birth was a crazy, wonderful experience.
There are many horror stories about birth out there, but I actually had a positive birth experience. So I want to do my little part and share my story so that if perhaps a pregnant woman happens to read my story she will be encouraged rather than terrified.
My water broke on Tuesday, June 17 at around 2:30am. I felt a “pop-pop” sensation in my belly as I turned myself to the left side, and then a small amount of water rushed out in my underwear. I felt strangely detached from this event even though it was the moment I had been waiting for. Even though I knew it was a sign that labour was imminent, I felt rather calm about it. I went to the bathroom to check the colour of the fluid – it was pinkish. Yep, definitely amniotic fluid. I wondered if I should page the midwife but decided to try to go back to sleep instead. However, it was really, really hard to fall back asleep because I kept anticipating contractions to start but all I felt were menstrual cramps, which I’d been experiencing on and off for weeks. Ian was sleeping in the other bedroom, but I didn’t wake him up to let him know what had happened. I wanted to make sure he was well rested in case I went into labour that day. We had been sleeping in separate rooms during my last trimester because of all my thrashing about in bed and the infinite amount of pillows it took in order to prop my pregnant self so that I could sleep comfortably.
Finally at 7:30am I paged the on-call midwife, who happened to be Jasmine, and she told me I was actually supposed to call her as soon as my water had broken because I had tested positive for GBS. Oops! Jasmine told me to meet her at BC Women’s right away so she could put me on antibiotics to reduce the risk of baby getting an infection. She also mentioned that it was recommended that I be induced within the next 24 hours, again to avoid the risk of infection.
I texted my sister-in-law Martha to come pick us up right away, and she drove Ian and me to the hospital (we don’t have a car). Even as amniotic fluid continued to leak out of me, it did not sink in that labour could start at any moment. Also I was worried about being induced. I didn’t know that induction was the protocol if my water broke before going into labour.
When we arrived at BC Women’s, the labour and delivery ward was pretty busy, so we had to wait for a while to get an assessment room. Some time after 9am I was checked in and got the antibiotics. Jasmine talked to us about options for induction. I really wanted to avoid a medical induction and opted to try castor oil to get labour going. All I was feeling were irregular menstrual cramps since my water broke. So on the way home from BC Women’s, we picked up a bottle of castor oil and a carton of pineapple juice at Safeway. I blended four tablespoons of castor oil with a cup of pineapple juice as Jasmine had recommended and drank it at around 11am. I hoped for the best. Afterwards, I tried to sleep but I kept worrying about being medically induced. Even though I had heard how effective castor oil was at starting labour, I was afraid that it might not work for me.
About two hours later, at around 1pm I started to feel strong menstrual cramps. Plus, I felt very nauseous. By 2pm when Jasmine showed up at our apartment to give me another dose of antibiotics, I was in active labour and the contractions were quite intense. I asked Ian to call our birth photographer Megan, and she showed up right away. I couldn’t even say hello to her because by then I was in hindbrain mode – I had crossed over to a more primal state of being.
As labour intensified, I vomited a few times, which was a weird sensation because I hadn’t thrown up since I was a kid. When the contractions finally started to feel very painful, I fired up the TENS machine to help cope with the pain. The TENS machine didn’t numb the pain but it did distract me from it. It gave me something to do when a contraction surged through me. Ian and Martha helped me keep my rhythm and breathe through my contractions, which I found harder than I thought it was going to be. They took turns warming the heat pad, which was very soothing on my stomach. I heard Jasmine talking on the phone. Later I learned she was trying to get me a room at BC Women’s as they were on the verge of being over capacity. Meanwhile Megan was quietly taking photos. Weirdly at this point it still hadn’t really sunk in that I was in labour. I was moving around our apartment changing positions to help me deal with what felt like the worst menstrual cramps of my life. I suppose because I was home things just kind of felt normal and natural.
At around 5pm I was 6 to 7 cm dilated and contractions were 2 minutes apart; it was time to head to BC Women’s again. I had no idea how I was going to walk over to the car as the contractions came over me. But somehow we inched towards Martha’s car, stopping every couple minutes as I breathed through each contraction. Fortunately we live close to BC Women’s so the car ride was just bearable as we went through rush hour traffic. Miraculously, traveling to the hospital and being in a new space did not stall labour. Things were progressing at full throttle.
When we arrived at the hospital Martha went in and brought over a wheelchair to me, and I was appalled by what I saw. The wheelchair resembled a shopping cart. It was made out of wire mesh with no padding. It was extremely uncomfortable to sit in, and I would have preferred to walk instead of riding on the damn thing but I couldn’t talk. Also the whole time as I was being wheeled around I was thinking I need an epidural but again I couldn’t vocalize my thoughts. Even though I wanted an epidural I had some misgivings about it – I was afraid it would stall labour and I just wanted get the thing done. So I’m glad I didn’t say anything about the epidural. I had overheard that Jasmine was going off duty at 8pm and I didn’t want to face a midwife change during labour so I was determined to get the baby out before then.
As soon as we arrived at our hospital room, the bath was started. When it was ready I stripped my clothes off and jumped into the bathtub at around 6pm. When you’re deep in labour you have no qualms about being naked. You’re just like any other animal, doing what we females have been doing for millenia. I did throw on a tank top though because of the photographs that were being taken – no one wants or needs to see pictures of my naked self in labour. As soon I was in the bath I felt so much better. It provided the best relief by far. If it weren’t for the bath, I would have probably asked for an epidural.
At around 6:30pm I felt the urge to push. I found “toning” very helpful during the pushing stage. I literally “moo’d” during contractions as that seemed the most helpful in getting me to relax down there. I was also screaming my head off every time I had to push. I didn’t scream because it was painful but because of the effort I was exerting to push. Jasmine quietly advised me that I would have a sore throat afterwards if I kept screaming like that so I tried to scream “inside.” Eventually I discovered that doing “horse lips” really helped with the pushing. Turned out that pushing wasn’t so painful as it was exhausting.
Fortunately during the pushing stage the contractions were less intense and frequent, or at least it seemed like it. I worried that the baby would be uncomfortable being squished through the birth canal so I was relieved whenever I heard his happy heartbeat when they checked him with the doppler periodically. And so I continued to push and push. I began to feel frustrated that baby wasn’t crowning yet. Seriously it felt like I was taking the biggest dump of my life. With each push I wasn’t sure how I was going to muster up the strength to do the next push. While pushing I was spontaneously changing positions now and then, hoping that a new position would get things moving faster. I think my body knew what it needed to do in order to birth this baby.
At around 7:30pm the bath water had to be changed and I was told that I’d have to get out of the tub. I thought “Are you kidding me?!” It was going to be impossible to do. I noticed that the bath water had become murky. Even though every fiber of my being wanted to stay, somehow I managed to find the will power to get out of the bathtub. I was also reluctant to get out because I was hoping to do a water birth. I sat on the toilet while they cleaned the tub and refilled it. Sitting on the toilet really intensified the pushing, and I wanted to get onto my hands and knees to get some relief. Also I was slightly concerned that baby would be born into the toilet. So I dropped onto the bathroom floor onto my hands and knees, but everyone encouraged me to walk over to the bed which was just four feet away – it felt like miles to me. Again, I somehow managed to walk to the bed and immediately got onto hands and knees. I really didn’t care that I was going to give birth with my ass in the air.
By this point, baby’s head was crowning. I started to feel the “ring of fire” that I had read about and dreaded while pregnant, but surprisingly it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. I was actually relieved because it indicated that we were going to meet our baby very soon. Ian stayed by my side as he wasn’t allowed to be at the “business end.” Everybody in the room kept telling me how close I was and to keep pushing. I seriously doubted my ability to continue pushing but somehow my body managed to do it. After pushing a few more times the baby’s head was born at 7:52pm and the rest of him slurped out at 7:53pm. Arthur Jacob weighed 8 lbs, his head measured 37 cm, and he was 53 cm long. Everyone was surprised by how long he was.
Jasmine handed AJ to me. I picked him up and laid on my back. Then I took my top off for skin to skin contact. I was completely stunned that the deed had been done. No more pushing! Ian and I looked at our baby in wonder. AJ was initially quiet and then started to cry. I told Ian to sing him a song, hoping it would soothe him, so he sang “Rubber Duckie” and it worked. When the umbilical cord stopped pulsing Jasmine asked who wanted to cut it. Ian didn’t want to do it so Martha did it. Soon after, I birthed the placenta, which involved more pushing to my dismay but I got through it. It was easy peasy compared to birthing a baby with an above average sized head.
I couldn’t have asked for a better support team. Ian helped me keep my rhythm, reminded me to breathe, said words of encouragement, and moo’d along with me. Martha, my sister-in-law, who is an ER nurse, was also a tremendous source of help in countless ways. Jasmine, the midwife, was awesome and gently guided me throughout the whole journey. Megan, the birth photographer, not only documented our birth, but she offered her support, encouragement, and guidance throughout the whole time she was with us. The nurses at BC Women’s were terrific. We feel very lucky to have been accompanied by such great people during our birth journey.
All photos by Megan Taylor.