Real Baby and Birth Stories from Real Women

Meghan’s Birth Story

Before giving birth, I tried to be as open-minded as possible about my options. I did my research, looking into homebirth, drugs versus drug-free, etc. I was open to the idea of an epidural – but not set on it unless I felt that I needed it.  We were prepared for the idea of a C-section if necessary – anything to make sure our daughter would be safe (we already knew she would be a girl). I knew a lot about risks and benefits of different choices, and prepared further by doing prenatal class and prenatal yoga. The yoga class was actually where I got the most realistic advice – they had speakers each week who gave us lots of helpful information.

My due date was Saturday, March 6th. I felt ready 2 weeks before – I was exhausted and uncomfortable and had had enough. I also had a bad sinus infection a couple of weeks before she was due, but felt better by my due date. At that point, I felt fine, had no signs of going into labour – despite trying everything I could to get things going (evening primrose oil, raspberry tea, walking, sex, spicy food, etc.)  I’ve learned since then that they’re no point in pushing it if your body isn’t ready.  All of my attempts only left me feeling exhausted, crampy, and intensified the heartburn.

I noticed that at that point of pregnancy, people are uncomfortable to be around you – you’re like a ticking time bomb. “When are you due?” they say. “Tomorrow,” you reply. And they just shift away from you, trying not to make any sudden movements. I remember watching the Olympic gold medal hockey game with friends, and us joking that the suspense and pressure at the end would set me off.

As I went past my due date, the midwives wanted to help get things going. I felt like the baby had dropped, but there was no progress in the cervix. I had a stretch-and-sweep on March 8th, I had some bloody show and had some cramping.  I thought this might be it, as I was having some cramping into the night.  When I woke up, the cramping was gone, but I asked my husband to stay home with me, as I had a feeling it was going to be the day.  Well, I couldn’t have felt more “normal” all day.  By the afternoon, (we had another stretch-and-sweep scheduled), I was starting to worry we had “wasted” one of his vacation days for nothing.  After the next stretch-and-sweep (which hurt a lot more this time), I had more bloody show and more cramping.  This time, the cramping didn’t go away.  We stopped for a sandwich on the way home, and it was a good thing we did, because it was the last opportunity. I was in labour.

An hour after that second stretch-and-sweep, at 4 p.m., I was getting contractions 5 minutes apart – I felt that they were bad, the limit of intensity that I could handle, but looking back… they weren’t. You don’t even know how it’s going to be.

The contractions were regular – we were timing them, but after that point the midwives said not to bother. When we called them, the office was still open, so we went in and they gave me a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) machine, which is designed to give tiny electric shocks, supposedly to ease the pain of contractions by distracting you. I tried it for a couple of hours, but didn’t really get any relief, so I stopped using it.  They also suggested I go home and take 2 advil, 2 tylenol, a gravol and a glass of wine.  I did all but the wine – I’m not  a big drinker anyway, and despite being told it was safe, I just didn’t feel right.

I wished there were a bit more validation for the way I was feeling. The midwives were just so laid back: yeah, it’s early labour. They’ve seen this hundreds of times, seen everything, so it’s no big deal to them, but you’re just thinking, “This is it!”

They gave me breathing techniques to try. Contractions were lasting 30 seconds, so I was to take three long slow breaths during each one. It worked really well as a distraction.

We got back home around 6 p.m. The midwives had said it was going to be another whole day, although I felt like I might deliver at any time. We tried to distract ourselves. We watched some TV, Wheel of Fortune – I’m a Wheel of Fortune nerd, and pretty quick to solve the puzzles. I would race to solve each puzzle before the next contraction. I tried sitting on the couch or the birthing ball; I also took a bath for a while. Ben (my husband) would pour a jug of water over my stomach during each contraction, which helped.

Part of me was wondering if it was even the real thing, since we’d been told it wasn’t going to happen tonight (and the night before, I was also having cramping that subsided on its own).  It’s a weird feeling when you want nothing more for it to be all over and have your baby already, but you’re also secretly wishing the contractions would just die down again.

We called the midwives around 11:30 p.m., and asked if there was something I could have for the pain. We walked to the hospital, a 2-minute walk along snowy and icy ground, to meet the midwives for some Nubain. They put the heart rate monitor on me; it was so uncomfortable and tight on my stomach during contractions. I convinced them to undo it, and I just held it in place. We were there less than an hour, and then Ben had to go get the car because the shot made me so woozy and out-of-it, time lost all meaning.

We got home around midnight, and then I was able to get some sleep. I would wake up abruptly with sharp contractions, then fall right back to sleep in between. Around 3 a.m. I decided it was too much, and we called the midwives. I was teary and in so much pain, so Ben talked to them – they told us to call back in half an hour. Next time we called, they said the same thing. The third time, I said, “We are meeting them there, I’m gonna start putting my shoes on.” I was starting to feel pressure at that point, so that was the deciding factor.

It was around 4 a.m. when we got to the hospital – we drove this time. Ben dropped me at the ER door (since it was after-hours) while he parked. The emergency waiting room was totally empty – I’d never seen that. The security guard took one look at me and said “Labour and Delivery? Right this way.”

I assumed I would have to be walking anyway, so I didn’t take the offered wheelchair. Then it felt like every few steps I was stopping for another contraction, and I immediately regretted declining the wheelchair. We beat the midwives there and waited for maybe five minutes, because the door to the Birthing Unit was locked, but five minutes feels like forever when you’re so impatient. Someone let us in just before the midwives arrived, and asked a few questions:

“So, when are you due?”

“Four days ago!”

There was only a short wait before we were taken to our room. At that point I asked for the epidural when the discussion came up about pain. They suggested the bath, and I was open to that, but made sure it wasn’t just an either-or thing. They said they would call for the epidural to be prepared.  They also broke my water at that point, which was definitely not as bad as I had anticipated.  I was glad that I could still try the tub, since I had always heard that women weren’t allowed to go in them after their water had broken.  But I wasn’t complaining.

I was in the bath for probably an hour, but it wasn’t the relief I dreamed it would be. We did the breathing and the water pouring, but it wasn’t getting any better. I stuck it out for a while but it wasn’t helping, and things were progressing at that point. It was then that I started to get off-track with breathing and focus. I was getting less and less modest about clothes – on the way to the bath, I was in my robe and bra, then in the bath my bra got wet, so – lose that! By the time the bath was done, covering up just seemed like a waste of time.

I got out of the tub thinking I was going back to my room for an epidural. The midwives suggested that it might slow things down, and that other interventions might be necessary, and certain risks higher, etc. I said, “I know, but I’d still like to have it.” Then, when I went to the bathroom (I was feeling the urge to push, but I thought it was that other urge), they tried to talk Ben out of it. He was behind me 100% and told them that I had made my decision, and not to bring it up again.

They checked me when I got out of the bathroom, and I was dilated 9.5 cm (Ben remembers 8.5). They said the hardest part was over, now I would be working with my body, not against it – it’s the easier part, so there’s no point to the epidural. I finally agreed at that point.

Very soon after that, we started pushing. I had a few practice pushes first. I was mostly in the bed, but I could go in any position that felt right. The midwives had me sit on the toilet and push, but I eventually moved from there – it was the student midwife, S, who chickened out, as she didn’t want the baby to fall into the toilet.

I was actually pretty easygoing at that point; just on a mission. The pain was still intense but I had a job to do, so I would do what was suggested. (Afterward, they told me that during this time, the midwives would say something to me, ask me to do something, sometimes three or four times, and I wouldn’t hear it; then Ben would repeat it just once and I would hear that.)

It seemed like the contractions were less painful when I could do something about them – all of a sudden I had control of my body again. They just had me push the way I felt like pushing. They encouraged me to get 3 pushes on each contraction, but I was in control of when it happened.  I switched positions a lot – one position would get really uncomfortable, so I would change.

They checked the baby’s heartbeat every once in a while, and there was one side I couldn’t lie on because her pulse would lower. S asked me to be on the bed, which I was indifferent to. I was squatting on the bed or all fours for a lot of it. S said she could see the baby. I don’t remember what position I was in when she was born, though I think I was on my back because I don’t remember turning around afterward.

I could feel it was really painful – I think was feeling the tearing. Our daughter was born really fast, so there was a lot of tearing. Her head was sideways when she was born, so she had a side cone-head. They passed her to me right away. The first thing I noticed was how warm she was. I feel a bit bad about this – Ben teared up right away, but I didn’t. I was just like, “This is really nice!”

Five minutes went by, as I lay there and enjoyed her, then I said, “Still a girl?” and the midwives said, “It’s your baby, you check!” They didn’t take her away or even weigh her for quite a while, so we had time to study every little feature. She was a lot bigger than I imagined could have fit into me.  Ben and I described her (and still do) as Super Sweet.  When friends and family members held her for the first time, Ben would always say: “Careful – she’s super sweet!”  She was just so peaceful and cuddly.

They took her away to weigh her when I was getting prepared for stitches (a doctor was going to do them because too many were needed). It felt like forever I was waiting for the doctor to come, with my legs in the air, feet in the stirrups, stuffed with gauze, before he arrived. I could definitely feel the needle to numb the area before the stitches.

Nobody talked about what I tore, how much, or how many stitches I got. They didn’t even give healing advice until I asked – then they suggested making a donut pillow out of a towel, taking sitz baths, etc. We did get a tour of the placenta – it’s a bit scary, looks like a stingray.

As soon as the stitching was finished, I got up and had a shower and brushed my teeth. That felt awesome. Since then, I’ve developed a new appreciation for showers and clean teeth.

Our daughter was born at 8:26 a.m., and we were home by 7 at night. They had to check her head and all that. The midwives helped her latch within the first half-hour. Luckily for us, she latched no problem. Mid-afternoon, I dozed off and realized she was sleeping and Ben was sleeping – our first family nap!

One thing that was cool was being able to eat regularly again, including the things I hadn’t been able to eat during pregnancy – they were suddenly fine. I was ravenous and would eat anything.

We phoned people, had our parents in to visit, but were basically waiting for the head circumference measurement again – the nurses check a certain number of hours after the birth, to make sure the swelling has gone down. Then, leaving the hospital was really weird, especially because we were in the midwives’ care, so we were basically just using the room. I sent Ben to ask at the nurses’ station if we were okay to go. There was no official leaving procedure; it seemed too easy or too simple.

On the way home, where it had been icy on the way to the hospital, suddenly the snow had melted and everything was green. And it hasn’t snowed since – our baby brought the spring with her!  The car ride – albeit only about 45 seconds long – was very uncomfortable for me.  Sitting, belted in in a car was about the last thing I wanted to do on my sensitive area.

We had a bunch of visitors when we got home, but they were nice and didn’t stay too long, and everyone was bringing food.

For the first couple of weeks post-partum, there was only really one chair in the house that I could comfortably sit in, and things were tender for a long time after that.  Sitting in the car was probably one of the most uncomfortable things for me, and DRIVING was almost out of the question.  The first time I drove after she was born, I stalled before I even got out of the driveway!

Our daughter is a lovely, easygoing baby. Within the first few weeks we started saying, “So, we’ll have another one soon, right?” She’s so easy, she makes me want to give her a lot of brothers and sisters!

– Shared by Meghan Wadleigh from Ontario, Canada


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