(FYI: I’m saving most of my labour & birth photos to share in a slideshow. I wanted to include it in this post, but my technical support is out at a guys movie night thing this evening and I didn’t want to wait to post the story.. so the slideshow will be a separate post… and also – an explanation of his name).
He’s been here for 17 days now.
His birth day seems somewhat like a hazy memory, and I have hesitated over and over again on writing his story. In the days since his birth I would steal a moment here or there with both hands free to type, and I’d avoid writing and do something else instead. When I think back to labouring and birthing Canaan, I have mixed emotions. In so many ways it was a more difficult labour and delivery, and I wasn’t really mentally prepared for that (despite trying my best to be prepared for “anything” to happen). In other ways though, I am beyond proud of myself for accomplishing the great work of bringing him safely into the world in a beautiful and natural way. Here is our story…
I was 8 days (41+1) past my due date. I was beginning to doubt I’d ever go into labour on my own, and yet I was at peace. I had finally stopped feeling like a ticking time bomb, and had checked out a novel from the library to read before baby arrived. I got through the first chapter…
I had been having prodromal labour for almost two weeks without it turning into active labour. Add that to the fact that I had been medically induced with both previous births, and I was having a hard time trusting my body and my intuition.
Tuesday evening (June 19) I saw Jess for a regular appointment. We planned to try the verbena on Saturday morning when I would be 41+5, because once I hit that 42-weeks mark then I would have to have the birth in a hospital rather than the home water birth I wanted.
She asked if I wanted a membrane sweep. I debated back and forth because when I’d had it done in both previous pregnancies it had been extremely painful and not effective at all in bringing on labour. Jess offered to just check me and if my cervix was still completely closed and far back then she wouldn’t bother. Chris and I decided I should go for it, and to my great surprise I was dilated three centimeters already. She did the sweep (it actually didn’t hurt at all which was shocking to me) and that was that.
We left the appointment and began the hour and a quarter drive home, but first we stopped at Tim Horton’s for a cup of tea (we had left the kids with my Dad at home, who was here from Toronto). I was having more irregular contractions, but they seemed the same as the last few weeks. We had brought everything with us “just in case” but finally at 9pm we decided we’d better just head home to bed because there were no signs of it being “the real thing”.
Home we went, and at one point Chris pulled over as I was having a contraction that was painful. He asked if we should turn around, and I said no, there’s still too much doubt. It’s possible, but right now we don’t know.
We held hands in comfortable silence. The lingering summer sun began its descent toward the horizon and we drove the quiet road to Tiny Town here in the prairies, surrounded by flat farmer’s fields as far as the eye could see. I was aware of each breath and twinge of pain as they came and went.
We went to bed. Chris went to sleep, and I tossed and turned. I looked at the clock when I had a contraction, thinking this might be the real thing. Then 20 minutes would go by and I’d lose hope. At midnight I still hadn’t fallen asleep and I got up and went into the kitchen. I was hungry, and intuition told me I should eat something “just in case”. I warmed up a plate of leftover shepherd’s pie and ate in the dark and silent living room, mindlessly surfing facebook and my google reader, taking deep breaths as the contractions continued to come at random and spaced out intervals.
I decided to have a bath to see if they would stop. I got overheated (darn hormones!) and got out before I could give it a fair chance since they were spaced so far apart.
I went back to bed, lay down, and got another contraction. I woke up Chris and told him that I thought we should time these, to see if there was any pattern. From midnight to about 2:30am we laid in bed in the dark, facing each other with the ipod in between us. We fell asleep in between each contraction, and as I’d wake up with the pain of each one he’d record it on the contraction app he had found. They were 10-15 minutes apart, a minute or so long, and fairly painful.
By 2:30am I couldn’t sleep any more. I went back to the bath. After a while we decided to call our doula, Sara-Lyn, to see what she thought we should do. We didn’t want to go to the city if it was just a false alarm, but we didn’t want to wait too long, either!
She came over and we decided to go for a walk to see if we could get the contractions to intensify and come more frequently. I pulled on my yoga pants and fleece jacket and we went for a walk around the block with dew on the grass and crisp morning air, just as the sun began to rise and the birds starting their enthusiastic (annoying) chirping. It was about 4am. The contractions starting coming much more frequently but they didn’t last as long and they weren’t as intense.
At this point we decided that there was a good chance it was the real thing, so we decided to head to the city and find somewhere to have breakfast and reevaluate. We woke my Dad to let him know, and he called my mom, who booked the next flight out that morning. She wasn’t planning to be there for the birth, but wanted to come as soon as possible.
We drove to the city with loud upbeat music, contractions every ten minutes, and the sunrise out the window. I laboured on my hands and knees during the more painful contractions. My sweet husband had thoughtfully taken out one of the middle seats in our van so that I’d have room to kneel and move if necessary (and if you are a police officer, I’m definitely kidding. I totally wore a seatbelt at all times while the vehicle was in motion…).
In between contractions, I gazed out the window at the pink and orange sky, thinking about the profound work that I was about to do, wondering if the world would feel the slight breeze of change as I brought a brand new living soul into it. A calmness and peace washed over me with shoulders squared and ready.
We arrived in the city and went to Denny’s and I ordered eggs benedict. Sara-Lyn got a free breakfast because it was her birthday. Mine came with fried onions and peppers, which I normally love but at that time they were completely detestable to me, so I scraped them off to the side with a scrunched up nose and a brief thought about how strange that was. I got about halfway through my breakfast when things started to intensify. I told Chris it was definitely time to call the midwives, and head to Lisa’s house (our birth location). He still wasn’t sure and was a little hesitant, and I told him (as nicely as possible!) that everything I said from now on was based on my body’s intuition. I wanted to be somewhere private to deal with the intensifying labour. I said I’d like to go NOW, and I’ll take my eggs to go, please…
We headed over to Lisa’s house, went in and got settled downstairs. Contractions were still pretty spacey and random, but getting quite a bit more intense. I got into the shower for a few minutes, sitting on the exercise ball. It felt amazing, but I didn’t stay in long because we needed to be sure to have enough hot water to fill the birth pool.
It was nearing eight in the morning, I believe. I began to focus on labouring and lost track of time until after the delivery. My contractions were still kinda lazy, so I began to work for them. I walked back and forth from the bedroom to the stairs. I put one foot up on the second step, and did squats. Inevitably every time I did this, a contraction would come 30 seconds later. So I kept at it in hopes of meeting my babe that much sooner.
Sara-Lyn held a wrapped hot water bottle to my lower back during contractions, which was perfect. I would support myself with one hand on a wall and one hand holding my belly. My eyes drifted closed as I entered “labour-land” more intensely, and I vocalized my way through with low toned moaning.
Somewhere along the way one of my midwives, Jenn, asked if I wanted her to check me. Apparently I was about 7 centimetres at that point, and Jenn also tried to push the baby’s head up a bit so that he could turn, because he was not in the optimal position for birth (he had been posterior or transverse at every appointment). I say “apparently” because this part was from Chris’s memory. I was not really thinking straight at that point – I was beginning to get exhausted.
(Also? Going through one or two contractions while on my back demonstrated to me the sheer insanity of forcing women to labour on their backs. It was easily ten times more painful that way, not to mention the fact that my labour probably would have stalled without the walking and squatting, and I very well could have ended up with a c-section.)
I had been labouring for several hours and had also missed an entire night’s sleep, and my contractions were still kind of lazy and needing me to work hard to bring them on. My midwives and doula were beginning to get concerned with my energy level, so they convinced me to lie down on the bed and have a brief rest. I managed to fall asleep in between contractions 3 times, for about 7 minutes each. Chris says I even snored a little, but I find his claims dubious at best.
I was then presented with a rousing pep talk, which was definitely not my favourite thing, but I knew that I needed to get things going so I could finally meet my baby. They graciously shoved a glass of Gatorade and a cookie in my hands, and I managed to get them down, mostly out of fear of what would happen if I couldn’t summon the strength to continue.
(This baby was without a doubt planned for and loved from the very beginning, but I do recall stating somewhere around this point in labour that this “having another baby” thing was “a stupid idea”. It makes me laugh to think back on, but I was perfectly serious at the time.)
The game plan was now to go hang out in the bathroom. Apparently many labouring women find their contractions to be more effective while sitting on the toilet, because the pushing muscles “down there” are more relaxed. All I knew was that I had gotten a contraction every time I went to pee (which was a lot since my doula was pumping fluids into me every chance she got). So, we tried it. Contractions continued to intensify.
Jenn suggested using the rebozo shawl around Chris’s neck for me to grab onto and do squats while hanging on. We did that which brought on more intense contractions, and they began to come closer to together. As I moved into transition (finally!) I began to “go primal” as my husband described it. My inner warrior-woman came out and I let out loud low-toned moaning yells with each contraction. When I looked at the video a few days later I was slightly horrified to find that I sounded somewhat like a cow bellowing. I guess birthing a baby sometimes requires some noise…
We moved into the birth pool (my favourite place) and I instinctively went into the hands and knees position. My forehead rested on the edge of the tub and I rocked back and forth during contractions. Chris was with me in the tub, helping to pour warm water over my back and being a steady presence of support and strength. Sara-Lyn was by my side giving me sips of water and wiping my face with a cold cloth.
Finally, the urge to bear down began to come over me. I could feel my entire body directing every ounce of strength to the muscles in my midsection, and with each contraction, I pushed. It was not a conscious decision, and I could not have pushed on my own if someone had tried to tell me when to do it. My body literally took over and simply did what it needed to do. No one really spoke much or tried to tell me what to do, for which I was so grateful.
As I was in the water pushing, Jess suggested to me that I could reach inside with a finger and feel the baby’s head as I pushed, and feel it moving down the birth canal. I did, and it was an amazing feeling. I got a surge of adrenaline and energy as I yelled and pushed and sweated through each contraction, and I could feel the head move down and closer to birth.
Every fiber of my being burned with determination. I was not aware of a single thing in the room other than the fire I felt. I was in another world, deep inside, experiencing childbirth in all its incomparable grit and glory.
After (what I later learned was) about 25 minutes of pushing, I felt the unimaginably perfect feeling of his head slipping from my body with groaning and the inimitable moment of bringing forth new life. His body quickly followed, and Chris caught him in the water behind me. Jess just helped ensure the baby stayed under the water so that they could pass him through my legs to my waiting arms (in a water-birth, once the baby comes above the water he cannot go under again).
I reached down and lifted my baby up out of the water and onto my chest as Chris sat back and sat me on his lap to make sure the baby was above the water level. The bag of waters was broken just as he came out and the membranes were still covering large parts of him (Aliza came out in her bag of waters as well). The midwives helped pull them off, and covered him with a towel on my chest.
My eyes took in my third-born child for the first time amidst a blurry transition from pain and groaning to bliss and pure perfection.
I heard my husband’s voice cry out “it’s a boy!”, and we laughed and marvelled at him together.
We sat there in the water enjoying him. Where there were two, there were now three, and we sat together in intimate meeting and bonding as a new mama and papa once again. It was 3:25 in the afternoon on June 20, 2012. It was the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.
Our blissful bonding was suddenly interrupted at this point when the perfectly clear water (I hadn’t torn at all) was marred by a rapidly-spreading large cloud of dark red.
“We’ve got to get her out of the pool, now.”
Everything is a bit of a hasty blur at this point. The cord was clamped and cut (scissors quickly handed to Chris to do the cutting), the baby was lifted away from me and Chris stepped out. He took the baby, and I was helped out of the tub and onto the bed. Jenn asked if it was ok to give me a shot of oxytocin to stop the bleeding, and a dose of Shepherd’s Purse under my tongue. They massaged my belly to encourage my uterus to contract, and the placenta to deliver. After a few minutes the placenta came out, along with a few more bits of membranes, and the bleeding slowed. The baby was handed back to me (Chris had been holding him skin-to-skin) and everyone breathed easy again.
They estimated that I lost almost half a liter of blood in that initial gush. Not quite enough to be called hemorrhaging, but enough to warrant an abrupt end to the blissful and relaxed bonding time in the water.
That interruption was a great disappointment to me, in retrospect, but not something that anyone could have prevented. I think some of my mixed feelings about this birth are related to the mourning of that loss. It was the thing I was most looking forward to – just relaxing for an hour or two as a family as we got to know him and love him and have him on my chest, skin-to-skin. The interruption was only a few minutes, realistically, but it impacted me quite strongly. I don’t know that I can even fully explain it to anyone else, but there is a deep sense of sadness there, which has been difficult to process as I’ve written this story. It is what it is, I guess.
The ending of the story is a happy one despite a minor interruption in plans. I am grateful that I was able to labour in exactly the way I had hoped for in a peaceful location that was the next-best-thing to being at home. I loved every second of having midwives (especially Jess and Jenn, who are just incredible), and I had a fantastic doula that guided me through labour in every way that I needed.
As I (finally) type these last words here in that same darkened living room late in the evening a few weeks later (which feels like a lifetime ago), I see a bit of my heart sleeping there beside me on the couch. He’s nine and a half pounds of pure loveliness, and I’m utterly blown over by the way my heart beats out of my chest with love for him. I believed in love at first sight when I first looked into Isaac’s face that warm afternoon in September nearly four years ago. Now with my third babe, at just over two weeks in, he’s already firmly entrenched in all of our affections.
We’re a family of five and it couldn’t feel more natural. What a stunningly beautiful life I have.
Welcome to the family, Canaan Maverick. You couldn’t be more loved.