I’m obsessed with childbirth stories.
Every new life amazes me.
The power and strength God put in a woman amazes me.
The beauty, the anticipation, the perseverance, the pain, the joy, the magic of life.
In our culture we sort of have this “fear” of childbirth… but I get giddy-excited about the potential joy of it.
Yes, it’s uncertain. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, sometimes it’s scary. But may that not overshadow the magic and joy of it.
I credit Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and The Birth Hour Podcast for helping me fall in love with birth. And every positive, real-life birth photographer, Instagram account and mother. I love it. I just love it.
After my first was born, I wrote about The 3 Best Things That Prepared Me for Childbirth. I talk about knowing how to relax. Understanding my options. Getting induced with pre-eclampsia. My experience with midwives, an OB, a doula, and so much more.
This post is for all the Birth-Story-Lovers out there like me.
The birth of our second son was nothing like the first – except for the joy of his arrival. So. Much. Joy. 🙂
While I’m a big, big fan of home births, a hospital birth felt right for us and I was planning to labour at home and birth in the hospital again. The first time around I was induced, so I had no idea what it looked like to labour at home and then travel to the hospital.
It was a Monday. At almost 4pm, I was washing dishes and taking some phone calls to tie up lose ends at work. I’d had a handful of cramps while washing the dishes, but nothing seemingly significant.
A week earlier I had dozens and dozens of Braxton Hicks in the span of 48 hours… so many that my husband asked if I as going into labour. I confidently told him I wasn’t.
I haven’t been one to ferociously track early contractions because… false starts are a thing. And why stress myself out? I figure when I AM in labour, I’ll know.
Back to Monday. 4:00pm.
It’s was a lovely regular Monday afternoon in June. My husband was at work and our toddler was napping. I hung up the phone and dried my soapy hands on the dish towel hanging on the stove. Then I had another cramp. Oh – that one was worth paying attention to.
Just for fun I pulled out my phone to time them.
The app told me to go to the hospital immediately. Ha!
After tracking 5 or 6 contractions, the pattern was like clockwork. Slow, steady and predictable. I relaxed and paid attention to breathing calmly. Oh, and I ate. I poured a glass of water, pulled out a loaf of bread and just started mowing down.
I sent my husband a text saying something like “hey, no big deal, but I’m having some consistent contractions… if you need to come, how far away or you?” with a screen shot of the app:
For some reason I thought the app was hilarious. Contractions had JUST started. How could I possibly need to go to the hospital??
But Justin knew – and he booked it home. I sent a similar text to my Mom who was planning to care for our 2-year-old and then reached out to my “Doula Deb.”
Doula Deb and I text back and forth a little bit, I laughed and told her I do NOT need to go to the hospital yet. But… that I did think baby was coming!
Contractions were mild, I could talk through them, I was calm and excited. Oxymoron, I know. Doula Deb was supportive and said I sounded like I was comfortable… but when I said;
“…well, every time I have a contraction I kind of feel like I need to poo.”
…her tone changed immediately. She strongly recommended I call the midwives ASAP. Apparently feeling like you have to poo is a thing, too.
After chatting with my midwife for a few minutes, she thought I seemed fine and comfortable and encouraged me to rest at home. But something in me thought that was a bad idea.
I had this gut feeling that this baby was going to be fast. Not sure why, I just did. And for some reason, staying at home seemed like a terrible idea. All I knew is I REALLY didn’t want to have a baby in the car. I expressed as much to our midwife and told her;
“I’ll labour on the lawn at the hospital until they let me in if I have to…”
After deliberating together for a few minutes, we decided that the best course of action was for me to meet my midwife at the hospital at 5:30pm. She was done her shift at 6:00pm.
My midwife said something along the lines of “I think you feel like you really need to see me. And when a pregnant woman feels like that, I trust it!”
So off we go.
We were en route to the hospital. Contractions were mild but still coming consistently. And I still felt like I need to poo every time.
I wasn’t nervous. I was calm. And excited. Here we go!
In our 20 minute drive, contractions got stronger and I got more excited. I told Justin pretty soon they were going to make me sick.
Side note: the regular way my body responds to a strong headache or cramp is throwing up. Couldn’t tell you why, but I’m sure some scientist somewhere could. A contraction making me nauseous was a very positive sign of progress!
We strolled into the hospital around 5:20pm. Me, very pregnant. My husband, calmly standing reading the hospital map. Before we stood there for 3 seconds, the volunteers at the welcome desk took spotted us and pointed us in the right direction.
I felt a little silly. I did not look like what I thought a labouring woman should look like. But, alas, there we were.
We got to the birthing unit and waited in the waiting area to meet our midwife. Good thing there was a bathroom there because I threw up! I came out and triumphantly announced this news to the waiting room!! Luckily, it was only Justin waiting. 😉
Eventually, we figured out we were supposed meet our midwife inside the birthing unit. We checked in by handing the nurses my health card. I paused and breathed for a contraction.
We moved into triage. The midwife and her student determined I was 6 – 7 cm dilated… I was “allowed” in. Yay! I was shocked we were already at 7 cm!!
The next 45 minutes or so I don’t remember in relation to time. Only in milestones. Rush, challenge, joy.
I have the time markers only because our Doula Deb wrote them down for us.
Our walk down the beige halls and tired walls to the delivery room was a memorable one. On the way, I had a strong contraction – strong enough to stop me in my tracks and make me throw up in a bowl. In my mind I knew this is great!! On the outside I probably looked like I had food poisoning. Deep breaths of peppermint oil helped the nausea pass faster. *pro tip right there*
We arrived in the delivery room. Massive windows that seemed to reach the sky overlooked the city. The sun was starting to sink and the room was brimming with light and anticipation. Poetic, yes?
The nurses and midwives left to let me settle in, Justin and I had peace and quiet, with our supportive doula in the wings.
I stood in the huge window, paused to appreciate the energy of the sunlight, and ride the waves of contractions. But not for long, because they changed FAST. It was as though – without warning – body just started to push!! I hadn’t experienced that feeling in my first birth, but it was quiet sensational. There was no mistaking it. My whole body was just instinctively doing what it knew it had to do – bear down – and nothing was gonna stop it!
Except that I had to stop it! Haa!!
Nothing in the room was ready yet – the medical team was still out in the hallway filling out paperwork! But baby was coming fast.
Justin rushed into the hallway and in his calm, sensical sort of way, he informed the team that I was ready to push. At first they thought they didn’t hear him right.
He repeated “she’s ready to push!”
He describes the moments after that as panic. Physical running. Apparently they were all shocked.
I wasn’t, though. Shocked, that is. I had been saying “I think this baby might come fast” for months.
And so I had to try not to push. It’s a rather hilarious/ridiculous endeavour to request of a birthing mother. But once again, the doula saves the day.
“Blow bubbles into this cup through this straw.” She said. And it worked! It’s hard to push down and blow out at the same time. To give the midwives and nurses a few extra minutes to set up the room, I blew bubbles. 100’s. Maybe 1000’s. Felt like millions.
And I kept asking “Can I push now??”
And then my water broke in one big dramatic splash. Pretty soon I wasn’t going to care about the answer to that question, and I was just gonna do it.
The bed was ready! It was folded up at almost a 90 degree angle and I could kneel on the bed and lean over the back. Once my sweet midwife got a quick IV in my wrist between contractions, I got the all clear to push! (IV was an important thing for me since I have a history of haemorrhage – all good. I wasn’t worried. I was in the right place and the right Hands.)
Being able to push is a good feeling. Cooperating with contractions was a good feeling. It was time to meet this baby!
But man, pushing is HARD work. Like, maybe the hardest I’ve ever worked, next to running a half marathon. But that’s different.
While I was kneeling, leaning over the back of the mattress that was folded up like origami, I noticed it. The sunlight.
The sunlight was beaming into the room and it was covering every inch of me. From my shoulders to my pinkie toes and wrapping my big round belly. All I could see was sunlight.
It was as though, for a moment, I felt the God of the universe put His hand on my shoulder. Magic.
The team was monitoring the baby’s heart rate which would slow in the position I was in, so they encouraged me to turn on my side and I agreed. (Baby’s head being compressed and moving down quickly can cause low dips in heart rate, but there wasn’t a big concern since the rate increased relatively quickly once each contraction ended.)
I can’t even tell you how many pushes until baby was out…
6:22pm – Baby Meets the World!
The last couple pushes were the hardest. They were the most difficult and the easiest all at once… because I was sooo close to meeting this baby!
One final push, the baby was born, Justin announced “It’s a boy!” and our lives are changed forever.
This fresh, new, squishy little body wiggled around and cried on my chest, and oh the joy! We had a feeling he was a boy… and Levi had been the only name we agreed on. We looked at each other and said “I guess this is Levi?!”
At first, we weren’t sure if his name felt right. It was so new to our tongues. But as we heard others use it, it was perfect. Levi had joined us, and that’s what his name means; “joined, attached.”
I was given the gift of time with Levi. Time to snuggle, time for him to decide to latch, time to look him in the eye. Not taken for granted. We are so thankful.
After precious bonding moments, the midwives scooped Levi up and weighed / measured him. 7 lbs 9 oz, just over 20 in.
I got up and had a shower, enjoying the warm water and the bliss of oxytocin (the magical birth hormone).
I dried off, put on jammies and sat in the wheelchair about to depart. That’s when they handed me our newborn baby boy, fast asleep, swaddled in a white blanket wearing a little “I <3 Barrie Midwives” hat.
“This is our baby?!? He’s soooo cute.” I remember thinking.
The explosion of love, pride and glee was immeasurable.
Not to mention, I just pushed a human out and felt like a rockstar.
Not every story is this quick. And I’ll admit, my first birth was much more difficult. But both births are highlights of my life. Whatever obstacles or challenges you might face in your birth, may you feel supported and strong, and may you be blessed with health.
The Extra-Sappy Ending if You Want to Keep Reading
Levi is 7 months old now. His eyes are turning out to be a brilliant blue. Neither Justin nor I have blue eyes, but we must both carry the gene.
For a baby, eye contact is everything. There is no uncomfortable length of eye contact. Levi will just stare at me.
As I stare into those baby blue eyes, I feel like Alice falling into Wonderland.
Head over heals without control, my soul connects a deeper reality.
I see the sun, the moon, the stars.
I see galaxies. Complexity. Simplicity. Marvel.
I see the spark of life. That fire, that flame, that energy that moves through all living things.
I feel like my soul sees the Origin of Everything. That life-source we cannot create nor destroy.
When I stare into those baby blue eyes, I see God.
Thank you God for the blessing of this new life, however long You give us with him.