Long before I started writing about simple living, I had stolen a few moments while my daughter was napping to gather my thoughts about her homebirth and introduce her to my readers. She was about 8 months old at the time and didn’t sleep long enough for me to finish. So here we are, a year-and-a-half later, and I’ve finally had the chance to finish writing up the birth story of this little person who has been in my heart so much longer than I’ve been able to hold her in my arms.
A little under two and a half years ago, I was a very discouraged girl. With a huge belly, the baby room all set up and already home on maternity leave for a few weeks, I was convinced, as many pregnant ladies are, that my baby might just stay in the womb forever. The Acadian and I had taken advantage of those last few weeks to spend afternoons at the park, go out for dinner, relax in front of the TV watching endless episodes of Dexter while I crocheted all sorts of baby-related things. On that particular night, we set out to run a few errands. We ate dinner at Harveys – not something very common for us – but I thought some poutine might help cure my blues. Poutine is magical.
We spent a very uneventful night at home. But that all changed at about 12:30, not long after we went to bed.”Mario” I said (yes, Mario would be The Acadian’s real name), “something is going on.” When he asked what I meant, I told him that I thought I was having a contraction. Knowing that this could be a false start, we tried to go back to sleep. But 20 minutes later, I woke him up again, telling him the same thing: “ok, I think something is happening!”. Again, we just stayed in bed, this time a little more anxious. Then 10 minutes later, another little wave, and then another. “Ok, I don’t know for sure, but something is DEFINITELY happening!” I told him “We need to get up and get things ready!”
So I suppose that I should explain what I mean by “getting things ready”. In Canada, we are incredibly blessed to have the option to choose between hospital, home and now birthing centre birth, providing you meet the approval of your health care provider. My midwife had given me the go ahead for a home birth, along with a long list of things that we needed to have on hand and prepare for the big day.
As we removed our own sheets and wrestled with the plastic cover for the bed, The Acadian asked me “are you sure this is IT? Because if it’s not, we won’t be too comfy sleeping on this plastic thing all night.” I looked at him and said “I’m not sure, but there is for sure SOMETHING going on! And I would rather sleep on the plastic and be ready than scrambling at the last minute.” And besides, whether something was really happening or not, I didn’t think I would sleep much that night anyhow.
Once that was taken care of, I decided to sprawl out in front of the TV on the large cushion that belongs to our papazon chair. I had been jokingly calling it my “nest” over the last week since that is where I sat crosslegged with a bunch of pillows around me, since the couch had grown uncomfortable, and I was hoping that the crosslegged sitting would do something magical to make the baby come a bit more easily. I had a lot of time to think about these things while I was pregnant! And just to be on the safe side, we decided to put a plastic cover on that pillow too. Just in case.
We put on some boring movie on Netflix, I made myself toast and generally just had a low-key, happy freakout that maybe, just maybe, this baby was coming! I curled up on my big cushion and hoped that the boring movie might put me to sleep. But then, a weird thing happened. I felt a distinct “pop” in my stomach that reminded me of stories I had read about women’s water breaking. Like any paranoid pregnant lady, I immediately got up and headed to the bathroom to go assess the situation. Well, that’s what I had been planning on doing, but as soon as I got up, I knew for sure that my water had indeed broken, and I quickly did a little tippy toe peepee dance to get to the toilet. (FYI – no amount of peepee dancing will help you in this situation) I’m not sure what I yelled at that point, but whatever it was, The Acadian understood what had happened and marvelled at how I managed to get the floors so sticky in such a short amount of time!
I then had the most memorable phone conversation I have ever had sitting on a toilet. At that point, it was about 2am. I hadn’t paged my midwife yet, but once my water broke, I knew I’d better get on it. Even in the middle of the night, Nicole was relaxed and reassuring. She spoke to me calmly, but wanted to get the point across that this was just the beginning and that I could be in for many, many more hours of labour. When I told her that my pain felt like a 4 out of 10, she told me to visualize it more as a 0.4, because it was going to get a lot more intense. I was instructed to take some Gravol (to make you drowsy) and some acetaminophen (to take the edge off the contractions), and to try to sleep. I sort of thought she was nuts – how could I sleep through this? – but listened anyway. She also told us to call when contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasted a whole minute each after this has been happening for an hour. And then, as we hung up, she told me that if she didn’t hear from us my dinnertime (16 hours later!), she’d check in. Gulp. Perhaps the toilet was a good place to be sitting to get all of this news.
Back to the plastic-covered bed I went, with The Acadian, who was thankful to be getting a few more hours of sleep. I tossed and turned for a few hours. Contractions came and went, and I dozed in and out of sleep until about 6am. For some reason, at 6am, I decided I did NOT want to be in that bed anymore. I picked up the phone and called my sister to tell her the baby was coming. She was travelling 5 hours to be with us for the birth, and we had made a rule that I wouldn’t call her in the middle of the night to make sure she was rested up for the long drive ahead of her. I barely got a few words out when I threw the phone at The Acadian and reached for a bucket (also on the list of at-home-birth-must-haves). Turns out birthing babies makes me puke.
I’m a little blurry about what happened after that, but I got my butt into the living room and curled up onto my big pillow. I moaned for the Acadian to come find me. He may or may not have been there already. I do remember him looking at me nervously. I kept telling him to call the midwife. He asked me what I wanted him to tell her (after I made it clear I was in no shape to talk), and I remember gesturing wildly and saying “THIS! THIS!”. Oh yes, super clear instructions indeed. While he spoke to her, I remember moaning “tell her I’m freaking out! tell her to come now!” and being upset that he didn’t use those precise words. When he hung up, he told me he had to time the contractions for an hour to see where we were at so he could give her an accurate update.
That next hour went a little something like this:
The Acadian: Another one?
Me: Uh huh (through heavy breathing)
The Acadian, hearing that the heavy, whistling breathing was starting to simmer down: done?
Me: Uh huh. Can we call now?
The Acadian: No, not yet
Me: How much longer? (knowing damn well that it would still be long)
The Acadian: Well, not for a while still
The Acadian: Another one?….
I’m not sure if it was my pestering or the fact that he realized that contractions were getting to be about 3 minutes apart, but he finally called her again. To my relief, she told him she’d be there right away. Not that it helped the pain from the contractions at all, but I did feel much better knowing she would be there soon.
It was about an hour or so after that call that the midviwes arrived. We were very lucky to have three midwives assisting us – one to care for me, one for the baby and a student midwife (who actually performed many of the midwives duties that day as part of her training). When Nicole checked me and told us that I was 9cm dilated, I was immensely relieved. Up until that point, I kept panicking at the thought that this might just be the beginning and wondering if I was completely insane for having opted for a natural birth. Knowing that most of the labour was now behind us and that the baby would be here soon was very encouraging. But still, with each contraction, I would call for The Acadian to apply pressure to my back. I still don’t think he knows how much that helped me. Among things that are funny now but that weren’t at the time though: at one point, The Acadian, wanting to be a good host to the amazing midwives, went to the kitchen to make some coffee. Of course, I started a contraction while he was in there (cause they were coming like, every 3 minutes). When I yelled out “HAND!” (or “main” in French – I don’t really do English when I’m under that kind of pressure!) and he told me he’d be there in a minute, I didn’t take too kindly to the delay. Thank you, my dear Acadian, for rushing back over to me! (and for making me coffee many mornings before and after that day).
About two hours after the midwives arrived, they told me that I could start pushing if I wanted to. You know how they say you’ll just “know” when it’s time to push? Yeah, it ain’t like that for everybody. In fact, there’s nothing about birth that is the same for everyone. I will say that if there’s one thing that all the “push yourself” self-talk from my Crossfit days came in handy for, it was this precise event. As much as you really want to push the baby out, it hurts!
After about 50 minutes of pushing, little Ms. Dee was finally born. The Acadian tells me he caught her, but I was in such a state of “holy shit” that I don’t remember all the details. They placed her on my chest, and I’ll never forget the look in her eyes; they were open as big and wide as a newborn baby’s eyes can be, and she was staring straight at me with that same “holy shit” look in her eyes too. I’d try to be more eloquent, but “holy shit” sums it up perfectly
I’m a little fuzzy on the next few moments. I kept holding and examining Dee while the midwives checked me and made sure everything was alright with the both of us. They helped us get into bed and helped me get comfortable trying to breastfeed, which is pretty much the weirdest thing ever when you’re doing it for the first time. You know, other than squeezing a baby out. Dee took to it pretty well, which I was relieved about. She also peed on me, which kinda figures since we didn’t end up putting a diaper on her for an hour or two.
One really cool thing about Dee being born at home was that the whole baby exam was done a few hours after her birth on our bed. So we were right there and had already spent a few hours with her before she was weighed and measured. The midwives also made me some breakfast, so I got to eat some runny eggs (my FAVORITE which I had to avoid my entire pregnancy) in bed and have people hold up cans of coconut water with straws for me to drink out of. Fancy! My sister arrived around that time too, and it was nice to be able to celebrate with her right there in our home.
The midwives left our apartment about 3 hours after Dee was born. We weren’t feeling super confident about our abilities as new parents, but I think the fact that it had all taken place at home and that we didn’t have to travel anywhere made us feel a little calmer.
Looking back on the experience now that a few years have passed, I’m so glad that we chose to do things this way. And we still have our big papazon chair with the huge green pillow. I’m not sure why, but it’s one of Dee’s favorite places.
Do you have a birth story you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a link in the comments – I would love to read it! And if you’re curious about the idea of homebirth and have questions, go ahead and ask! I’ll do my best to answer.
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