Wednesday, August 27, 2014

And just like that, life is forever changed.

It will never cease to amaze me how unique each and every birth story is. And how often you hear that things go differently than what had been hoped or expected. Well, our birth story is definitely not what we had planned, hoped, or expected. Rather than the natural homebirth we had planned, what resulted was a 52-hour labour: we laboured at home for 40 hours, making very little progress, then transitioned to Monfort hospital for an intervention-laden birth that I had been trying to avoid. Had you told me ahead of time how it was going to pan out, I would have been so upset, and yet, on the other side of it now, I feel so incredibly positive about the whole thing, and I realize that I did end up with the empowering birthing experience I was hoping for.

First of all, I was overdue by two weeks, which I hadn't mentally prepared for, and was very emotionally challenging. The waiting was hard. Digging deep to find patience every day, and trusting that things would happen in their own time was hard. Having the threat of induction looming over us was hard.

When I finally did go into labour I didn't believe it. We were walking over to our friend's house to go to a movie in the park (Gnomeo and Juliet!), when I began feeling some painful cervical spasmy-crampy type sensations (which I had felt off and on in the previous weeks), but I just dismissed them as cramps. Until they started developing into timeable pains that were about a minute long. I had Mark download a contraction timer app onto his phone so I could keep track, just to see if there was any sort of pattern. And sure enough, over the next several hours they kept up, and were spaced anywhere from five to nine minutes apart, so that by the end of the movie I realized I was in fact in labour!

And continued to have contractions for the next 40 hours... waiting for the contractions to be 4 minutes apart so that we could call the midwives. But that never happened — they remained spaced anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes apart...

Mark was a phenomenal birth partner, helping me through the contractions with hip compressions, swaying, and other various comfort measures; guiding me to maintain low moaning tones and deep breaths; and making sure I ate and drank between contractions, even though I had lost my appetite. We tried to distract ourselves with movies and midnight walks under the supermoon, but it was long and exhausting. The midwife came to the house twice to check on me, and it was so defeating to learn that I had only dilated to about 2 cm, though I was fully effaced.

After about 20 hours I developed a painful muscle-stitch spasm pain in the left side of my stomach—not unlike the round ligament spasms I'd been getting throughout pregnancy—except this pain quickly became unbearable (sometimes even worse than the contractions), and did not stop for the next 20 hours. And unfortunately, the only poses that gave me any relief at all (child's pose), are just the type of poses that slow down labour (because the downward tilt shifts the baby's weight off of the cervix). By Monday morning, I could barely stand the constant pain, and I suddenly felt very ok about the idea of going to the hospital. I didn't want to go through another full day and night of that. I wanted to have the baby that day.

The midwife met us at the clinic at 7:30 am, where we did a non-stress test to see how the baby was doing (perfectly fine), and how far I had progressed (3.5 cm), and to discuss our options. We could go to Monfort and (1) get some narcotics to help me sleep, and we could go back home and keep labouring at home, or (2) I could get an epidural, and probably pitocin, and have the baby at the hospital. It was at this point that the thought of going back home to "keep trying" became hugely unappealing, and I was suddenly very ok with a hospital birth and an epidural, which I had previously not wanted for myself at all. But imagining how the birth would go was very different from the reality of how it was going, and at that point after 40 hours, an epidural seemed not only reasonable, but compassionate and possibly wise.

So we went to triage at Monfort, where I was given Nubain to try and cut the pain of my side stitch, but unfortunately it didn't really stop the pain, just took the edge off and made me a little less miserable. They also started me on an IV, and had some blood work done (by the end of the night I felt like a pin cushion!). After we transferred to our room, I still had to labour through some very painful contractions before the anaesthesiologist was available to administer the epidural, and at this point I was less able to handle the contractions with control, and I began shaking and whimpering from the pain of the contractions combined with the terrible stitch pain. I was not a happy camper, and was very ready for the epidural by the time it arrived! And then, oh, sweet relief! It took away my stitch pain almost immediately, and then the pain from the contractions faded after a few minutes, and I was finally able to relax and get some rest.

Then they began the pitocin to get the contractions going, and my body responded well and progressed through active labour while I was resting. And also important, Mark was finally able to get some rest too, after coaching me and standing by my side tirelessly for the previous 40+ hours. About 6 hours later, when it came time to push, I was well rested and ready for the physical challenge, and actually excited! It was finally time to meet our baby! Mark had one leg, and our amazing midwife Marie-Éve had the other, and with their amazing direction and coaching, I pushed our beautiful Fletcher into the world at 11:32 pm, after an hour and a half of pushing. It was hard, physical work, but I gave it everything I had, and I found it hugely rewarding.

It was such an incredible moment when his hot, tiny, wriggling body was placed onto my stomach—complete and utter disbelief and intense, blindingly love-filled joy. I started crying immediately, and since then, just looking at him makes me cry in love, gratitude, amazement, and disbelief. Mark and I made this tiny creature? He lived and grew in my belly? Unbelieveable! How did I ever get so incredibly lucky?! I am eternally grateful.

We enjoyed skin-to-skin contact for an hour or so, tried some breastfeeding (whoa, I'm a food source now!), then they weighed and measured him (6lb, 13 oz and 20 inches), and after about 3 hours, after I could show that I could walk and pee on my own (with the epidural you are catheterized), we were given the green light to go home. You're going to let me take this tiny human being home?! Am I ready for this? My goodness, nothing can prepare you—not even 42 weeks of pregnancy—for the huge weight of instant and irrevocable parental responsibility. I don't remember that first night at all, but I'm pretty sure we didn't sleep at all—just watched him all night long and kept checking to make sure he was still breathing (still do).

These first two weeks have been intense and overwhelming (this post sums it up perfectly)—life with a newborn is scary and so new—learning each other's cues and signals, and trying not to feel like you're doing everything wrong, and being so worried about every little thing! But we've had a couple of good nights now, and I think maybe, just maybe the shock of the newness is subsiding ever so slightly, and we are very slowly beginning to find some sort of groove (knock on wood!). We're all beginning to figure out this new life together, and it is good, but the sleeplessness is hard, for sure.

We are eternally grateful for the strong ring of support around us, and for all the help with meals and dishes that have been pouring in from our amazing friends and family. And also hearing about other's experiences with a newborn helps us negotiate the reality of this newness, and helps us feel that all our fears and concerns and emotions are perfectly normal! There truly is no transition period—as soon as that baby enters the world, it is full-on.

But oh, do I love him so much. I can't get enough of his little coos and gurgles and sleepy smiles (I don't care if they are just gas smiles, they're so effing cute!). The range of facial expressions he wears (both while asleep and awake) is amazing! From happiness, to furrowed brow, to calm contentedness, to seemingly profound distress, and back again in a flash! I could go on and on—there is always more to say—but since it's taken me two weeks to type this much, I should post it while I have a chance!

Thanks for reading!

So not loving life. Waiting for the epidural.

He's here! He's finally here!!

Well, hello there, little Mister. I've been waiting a long time to meet you.

My boys. The loves of my life.

So tiny!

I love how it looks like he's laughing here!


  1. I cried pretty much through this entire post!! You are so amazingly strong- and did such an incredible job Amberlea. You couldn't have anticipated how it was going to go, but you adapted and did what you needed to do- for yourself, and wee Fletch. Now you have this beautiful little boy- whom I already love from a province away. Thinking about your happy little family all the time! Missing you. Can't wait to kiss his soft little cheeks in person (they're soft right? they look SO soft;)

    -Katelin xoxo

    1. :)
      They are SO soft! I spend a good chunk of my day munching on them :)
      Can't wait to see you -- miss you tons!!

  2. Sorry to hear that the birth didn't go as planned, but it is great that you are feeling positive about it anyway. My little babe was a tiny babe too - 6 lb, 12oz.

  3. Congratulations! And congrats on surviving the first couple weeks. No one can prepare you for them can they? I had Marie-Éve at my birth too :)

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this Amberlea (in amazing Amberlea-style detail!). Reading this makes me feel closer to you (and makes me miss you all the more). xoxoxox