Erica’s Birth, July 1985
Hard to believe it was 25 years ago that my first daughter was born. Some memories will come and go, others fade with time, but birth memories stay with you forever!
Pregnancy was always something I dreamed of and looked forward to, even as a little girl. And let me be clear, I really do mean pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong. I adore kids, the younger the better, but I always imagined that my true state of being is pregnant. My first birth story is a textbook one. It amazes me that we all read countless books on pregnancy and birth, and yet no one really seems to come close to that textbook scenario. Well, that is, until it was my turn.
My husband and I had been married for a few years and decided it was time to start a family. He was writing a final set of board exams in the States in late May, so, as planned as we always are, we felt the earliest we should plan for a child would be in July, the month he would receive notice on whether he had been successful in his board certification. Our first daughter was born on her due date, July 11. How’s that for planning (and incredible luck!!)? And I was right. I loved being pregnant, every moment of it!!
A week before my due date I began to experience Braxton Hicks contractions that kept me up most of each night. In the morning, just as I thought we were really getting somewhere, they would slacken, and then ultimately disappear. After 2 nights of this I noticed a bloody discharge, so I knew the mucous plug had loosened and that my cervix, at least, was paying attention to the “false” labour that was keeping me up at nights.
I was out walking our dog two evenings before my due date and as I picked up my pace to see what had enticed Elsa to dive into the woods, I leaked. Not a lot of fluid as I had expected from other moms’ stories of their water breaking, but enough to be wet and conscious of it. Every 2-3 steps brought on another burp of fluid. Surprisingly, I was spared a night of BH contractions and slept.
The following morning I headed into my doctor’s office. When I say doctor, I’m actually referring to a group of 4 OB-GYNs who formed a group fondly known as “40 fingers”. The idea was that throughout your pregnancy you would have the opportunity to meet each one of the doctors at least twice, then when it came time to deliver, someone who you knew and who was already familiar with your case would attend you. Believe me, I would have gladly opted for a midwife, but at that time there were very few and they were relegated to “a-legal”, or non-status. One of the consequences of this was that if you had to go to a hospital your midwife would be left at the door. My husband, with his medical knowledge, was not on board with taking this chance.
Back to the office: Dr H did an internal, said I was about 3cm dilated, and should check into hospital at noon whether or not contractions had started. I did as I was told. I started having contractions about 1pm, but they were nothing more than a nuisance. My husband and I walked the halls, sat in lounges, and otherwise tried to keep occupied.
At about 3:30pm Dr T (whom I had never met, so there goes their system) came into my room, introduced himself and told me he would be delivering my baby. His first question was “ What size shoes do you wear?” Hmmm, interesting question. Would he be buying me a new pair of shoes to welcome me to my new role as a Mom? No, that certainly wasn’t what was on his mind. He had taken one look at me, all 5ft 1¾ inches and 112lbs of me, and decided that a shoe size of 5 meant only one thing…… C-section. My husband and I were not privy to this decision until a nurse came in to take blood for cross-matching. D questioned her. She told him I was to be prepped for surgery, and when he told me, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I began packing my bag to leave. There were some words exchanged with Dr T and after we all agreed that, at that point, there were no indications of trouble brewing, bar (in his mind) my size, they would leave me be.
My contractions continued to get stronger and more frequent, but nothing that I didn’t feel I was on top of. I once had a dance teacher who likened labour to training for an athletic event. She told me that you wouldn’t decide today to run a marathon tomorrow and expect to complete it. She believed that the training dancers receive could put them at an advantage when it came to giving birth. Much of dance involves mastering your body’s ability to create and maintain strength and tension in one
group of muscles while simultaneously relaxing other muscles to float, effortlessly, feather-light in the air. This was the thought I held in my mind during labour. I focused on relaxing every muscle in my body and just allowing my uterus to do all the work. I really believe it helped me maintain my stamina throughout the marathon of labour. It is HARD work!
About 11pm, while D and I were walking the hospital corridor, I had such a strong contraction that my knees buckled and I was forced to hold on to the railing in the hallway. It was time to lie down. This time when Dr. T examined me I was 8 cm dilated, but he said I was still several hours away. I couldn’t find any comfortable position on the bed. Every movement brought on a contraction and all I could do was concentrate on my breathing and ride out the waves. I felt overheated during contractions and then shivered between.
By 12:30 am things noticeably changed. The contractions did not feel as desperate and I felt like the baby was being pulled out of my body. I didn’t feel a need to push. It was, as I said, as if the baby was being pulled out and all I could do was go with it. The pulling sensation was so strong that I felt air being sucked forcefully in through my nose and mouth and dragged through my larynx, which produced quite a grunt. I never remember crying out, but D told me later the grunting was quite evident!
This stage, although louder than earlier stages, was a relief after hours of labour. The nurse examined me and said I was fully dilated and ready to go….but she wanted me to hold back until they could get hold of Dr. T. I was wheeled into the delivery room and got myself on to the birthing bed (very new concept in those days). Dr. T arrived shortly, and I was given the go-ahead to push. Pushing was such a positive feeling for me. Sure it hurt, even burned, but it was energy and action and it absolutely empowered me. After 6 pushes Erica, 6lbs, 3 oz. was born….on her due date, after 13 hours of labour, naturally, drug-free, no episiotomy, no stitches…….and no new shoes LOL!!!!
Kirsten’s Birth, March 1987
Eleven months later I found I was pregnant again. Busy with a one-year-old and already knowing what to expect, the nine months disappeared. March is a fickle month. At the end of the first week we were treated to a beautiful, welcomed sunny day and record-breaking temperatures of 17 C. I woke feeling crampy and antsy. It was a Saturday and I didn’t want to miss such a glorious day, so we headed down to the farmer’s market and did the weekly shopping around town.
By noon I was in full labour. My mom was coming from Montreal to help with Erica, and I was trying to get the curtains finished for the guest room before she arrived. Some desperate sewing happened that afternoon!!!
By 4pm my contractions were about 2 minutes apart and strong enough that I had to stop whatever I was doing to breathe through them. A girlfriend had agreed to look after Erica when I went to the hospital, but after phoning several times and getting no answer it was clear she wasn’t home (no cell phones in those days – ha ha!). For the next 30 minutes D and I scrambled to get someone else to help out. We finally arrived at the hospital at about 5:30pm. The contractions were coming on top of each other, and I really had to concentrate when it came to walking.
Dr. C was waiting for me, and immediately did an internal. He said I was 8cm dilated and that my membranes were still intact. Without any discussion he ruptured the sac, saying things would go faster. Huh? Faster was certainly not what I thought I needed! Within 5 minutes I felt that pulling sensation, but Dr.C had left thinking it would still take me several hours to deliver. The nurses acted immediately and wheeled me into the delivery room. This time I only just made it onto the bed and Kirsten was born at 6:10pm, weighing 6lbs 14 oz. . Dr.C was somewhere else in the hospital.
So, can I push now?
Brianna’s Birth, August 1991
Third time is the charm. Three years after Kirsten’s birth I finally convinced my husband that our family really needed three kids. So far, I have told you of the amazing experiences I have had in childbirth. I have not had anything to caution or steer anyone away from. This time I do. NEVER agree with your husband, 7 months before your due date, that it is a fine idea to build and move into a new house 2 weeks before you’re due.
No one told me, so on a sweltering July morning, after weeks of packing, I found my very ripe body trying to manoeuver all the belongings from one house to another. The day began with the moving company backing the off-loading ramp right through the front door of our new house, completely destroying it. The air conditioning did not work and the contractor had failed to ensure the phone lines were hooked up. That night I watched my belly tighten in contractions. All I remember saying is “please not now, please not now”. Someone listened and took pity, and the contractions stopped within a few hours.
Three weeks later (1 week past my due date) I was again out walking our dog in the evening. I was walking a lot then, trying anything I could to start labour. As it was with Erica, I felt a sudden wetness and knew my hours being pregnant were numbered.
I had a hard time settling that night but I didn’t feel my first contraction until 8am the next morning. We told the girls that the baby would be born that day, and otherwise tried to continue as any other day. At noon I made the kids lunch, stopping to breathe through contractions. At about 1 pm my contractions were coming every 2 minutes and a tightness had settled into my lower back. This was different from my other 2 labours, but I had carried this baby very low (the tendons in my pelvis had loosened so much that my left hip would regularly click in and out of place, and I felt like I carried the baby between my knees for the entire third trimester).
We decided that we should start making arrangements for a friend to pick up the girls and for us to head to the hospital. Erica was adamant that she bring her Lite-Brite set with her and I knew it was still packed in a box somewhere in her room. As I searched through her closet I felt that transition between hard muscle contraction and the pulling sensation which announced, for me, imminent baby exit. I puffed on my hands and knees and yelled for D. My only question to him: did he want the baby born on the floor in the kitchen or in the bathroom?
He choose option 3 (not a viable option for me at that point), we would head for the hospital. He literally plucked Erica and Kirsten up and threw them over the fence to neighbours we had just met (leaving instructions with my friend to pick them up there rather than from our house). D and I got into the car but somehow entered a scene taken from a comedic film in which he repeatedly put his keys into the ignition but nothing happened. Panic (on D’s part) ensued as he frantically looked through the house for another set of keys. I, meanwhile, concentrated on my breathing, was very aware that I couldn’t sit down, and that I would have been much more comfortable on the kitchen floor.
We got the car to start, hit every red light, and finally careened into the Emergency Drop-Off parking spot at the entrance to the hospital. I tried to time my getting out of the car between contractions (gruuunt…that pulling sensation was all I was aware of) and managed to take 3 steps towards the door when I felt a distinct popping sensation. Too late, the baby was crowning NOW. D hustled me, I don’t know how, to the elevator… forget checking in. The doors opened. I could feel the baby’s head. The elevator was, of course, full. We got in and the elevator descended to the basement. Oh NO!!! Everyone apologized. We headed for the 4th floor. Doors opened. D yelled for help. Two nurses grabbed me under the arms and pulled me into a room. I was trying everything to hold the baby in. Hoisted on to a bed. I was vaguely aware that some idiot was trying to tie a fetal monitor around me. They’re all too late. I grunted one more time and… Brianna made her grand entrance. The doctor arrived 15 minutes later. Half an hour after that I was up, having a shower, thinking how much easier things would have been if I had just stayed at home!
Cherish every moment you have with your children, especially the difficult ones. It’s in those challenging times that you learn more about the world and yourself than in any other situation in your life.
Shared by Lorraine from Ontario, Canada