Fair Warning: My birth story is so damn long that I needed to separate it into three parts. It's no quick read.
HOME (Sunday evening-Wednesday morning)
It was Sunday evening. My husband had just finished barbecuing burgers for dinner just in time to determine that my contractions were mild yet consistent unlike the Braxton hicks I had been experiencing in prior days. The back labour discomfort made me feel nauseous and left me with no desire to eat or drink much which was disastrous for this never ending marathon I was about to embark on. As my hubby and mother enjoyed a lovely meal, I managed to down a few spoonfuls of oatmeal and sip on some tea. We continued our Bates Motel splurge we were on as I shifted and lightly breathed through the period like symptoms that I remembered from my past menstrual cycles. Before heading to bed that night I went to the washroom and noticed that my bloody show had made its appearance. I couldn't help but feel excited. Seeing as I was approaching the two week overdue mark, I knew that time was running out and this probably meant the beginning of the end of my pregnancy. Soon enough I would have my baby girl in my arms (or so I thought).
Overnight my contractions progressed and started to get closer together. I maybe got an hour of sleep. Back labour and lying down do not mesh well together. It was so uncomfortable trying to rest which was frustrating because I knew rest in the early stages of labour were crucial. Finally around 5am I gave up and decided to time how long my contractions were and how far apart they were occurring. I had a feeling it might be time to call the midwife. Two hours later we did call because as I suspected I was eligible (you call when your contractions are just 4 minutes apart, at least 1 minute long and it's been that way for at least an hour). We packed up our hospital bags, I contacted my doula to update her and we made our way to the birth centre for a check-up. Although my contractions were golden on paper I knew that progress still had to be made. We weren't sure if we would be staying after our check-up. After the awkward and uncomfortable truck ride I finally found myself on the examination table. I was 2-3 centimetres dilated which was great but baby's head still needed to drop quite a bit. Our midwife gave us the choice of staying and being admitted to our room to try and get things to progress or to go home until things became more intense and/or my water broke. As much as I dreaded that truck ride back home I knew it would be best to continue to labour at home where I was most comfortable. Our midwife agreed that our decision was the wisest choice of the two but was confident that with the way things were progressing that we would be back in just a few hours. Joke was on us.
Shortly after returning home, my contractions started to slow down and become sporadic. All day long Monday my pulsing back discomfort went from being 4 minutes apart to 10 minutes apart and everything in between. Unfortunately I still felt nauseous and uneasy and had a really hard time fuelling my body with food and water. In my head I knew that staying nourished and hydrated was crucial but my body just struggled to comply. That night lying down wasn't even an option. I maybe was able to get an hour of sleep while sitting in my glider.
Tuesday was another repeat of Monday but with an increase in exhaustion. In the late afternoon my contractions became predicable and consistent yet again. Each contraction forced me to practice various techniques I had learned to help cope and guide me through each and every one. I used my birthing ball, I swayed, I slow danced with my husband, my mother massaged my low back, and I used different breathing patterns. I was so tired that I would find myself nodding off while sitting upright in between contractions. Although these techniques were necessary to disguise my discomfort I still knew deep down that things hadn't progressed enough. My amniotic fluids were still intact and it didn't appear that baby dropped at all. We called the midwife anyway for further directions as my contractions had returned to the 4:1:1 status. The midwife suggested a chiropractic adjustment to help open up the pelvis and encourage baby to descend. Lucky for me I have a good friend who happens to be a chiropractor so she came over for a generous house call. She performed some great adjustments in between contractions and left me with her best wishes. I noticed a significant change about an hour later. I could both see and feel that the baby had dropped a little bit and my contractions took my breath away. Around 11pm I had a decision to make. Things were consistent and had grown more intense. Should we make the call and chance going in or wait it out a little bit longer? Since I was desperate to try and get some sleep, I decided to wait. I also still had a feeling that things hadn't quite reached that ideal point yet. I took half a gravol (approved by my midwife) and tried to lie down. About twenty minutes in I was wailing in pain so I moved to the glider once again. I got no shuteye and was forced to practice every coping method I knew to get through the pounding and pulsating contractions. At 3am Wednesday morning, I woke up both my husband and mother (she was staying with us). It was time. The contractions were unbearable and I was in tears. I think both Walter and my mother wanted to shout "thank god." After watching me cope with the discomfort for days it was finally go time. Once again we climbed into the truck and made our way to the birth centre. I remember thinking to myself "I just laboured at home for the past 55 hours and with not nearly enough food and water to get me through the real deal. I am fucked."
THE BIRTH CENTRE (3:30am-9am)
3:30am on Wednesday, May 18th 2016 we arrived at the birth centre. We proceeded to the exam room to check up on our progress. Our doula had been called and finally received the confirmation that active labour was finally here. My examination revealed the best news I could have ever received. I was fully dilated. In that moment I was so happy I waited it out at home and that I trusted my body to tell me when it was the right time to come in. Fully dilated! That meant that I’d be holding my baby girl in no time…
We were shown to our room and invited to hop in the shower as they prepared the birthing tub for me. The room was large, clean, cozy, and intimate. No medical equipment was visible (but it was present-it's all hiding behind cupboards and pantries). Our bed was made for two and we were the only birth in process. The building was empty, quiet, and peaceful. I hopped in the shower and my husband ran a warm shower head back and forth across my back and hips. When the tub was ready I climbed in eagerly. My midwife told me that if I had the urge to push to go for it as I was fully dilated. I nodded and hoped that I would feel that urge soon.
My doula arrived and immediately got to work. With every contraction she would apply a firm, downward pressure on my hips and it was intense. I could feel changes happening in my body with this technique. I could feel my hips opening. I could feel pressure as the baby dropped even further down. I had a couple of urges to push so I did, really trying to focus on how I moved and used my body to help guide my daughter down and out.
After a few intense contractions and practice pushes, things really slowed down. My contractions got further and further apart. I was so relaxed in between them that I would nod off with my head resting in my arms over the edge of the tub. I remember being so distant and at times, distracted (I remember thinking about Bates Motel ha-ha). I'd look at the clock and become so disappointed that hours were going by and nothing was happening. I would glance up and meet the eyes of everyone present in the room. The midwives, my doula, my husband and my mom were all watching and waiting. Their gazes expressed both pity and encouragement at the same time. No progress was being made and I knew it. I was getting so discouraged. Hours and hours had gone by. Around 7 in the morning I decided to get out of the tub. I was clearly way too relaxed and thought I needed to force myself to feel uncomfortable in order for things to pick back up. I transferred to the birthing ball. Almost immediately my contractions started to intensify. Consistent urges to push came on so I would get off the ball and squat on the ground to push. For an hour all that happened was me ridding my body of all it's built up waste (aka shit). Around 8am my water finally broke. It was such a strange feeling. I was squatting and bearing down and the surprising burst occurred. I looked down and saw that my water was tinted brown. Shit. Literally. There was meconium. I had many instinctive "feelings" throughout my pregnancy journey and they were all wrong expect for me knowing deep down that I would have a meconium issue. At least it didn't come off as a huge surprise. Unfortunately meconium does present as a complication. For the baby's health and safety it is advised to be transferred to a hospital in the event that neonatal care is necessary. So I changed back into my clothes and we packed up our things to head to the Women's hospital. I wasn't angry or heartbroken about the transfer. Like I said I had a feeling meconium would be an issue for our birth story but I was frustrated that this labour wasn't over yet. I had walked into the centre 7 hours prior and was fully dilated and I still had no baby. I was running on empty and now that my water was broken the urge to push with every contraction was uncontrollable. Yet I somehow had to make it to the hospital by resisting these urges that were now coming every 3 minutes.
THE HOSPITAL (9:30am-2:16pm)
After the most uncomfortable truck ride ever-we made it to the hospital. Both my midwife and doula were meeting us there. As soon as we got there it was a gong show. I was bounced from admitting to triage all while trying not to drop a baby on the floor (or so it felt). Many questions were being asked repeatedly by every person I came across and the contractions were so powerful and frequent that I couldn't even speak. After some chaos I was finally put into a room. Once my midwife arrived (I was still able to be under the care of a midwife not an Obstetrician) the monitors were slapped on and I was finally able to do what my body was meant to do at this time: push.
I tried different positions and no real progress was happening. My midwife had called in a co-worker for some double duty help. With an internal check it was revealed that baby's head position wasn't ideal. Her chin was tucked and she was stuck at the pubic bone. This is when some cirque du soleil shit went down. I tried many techniques and positions recommended to try and get that baby to inch over my pubic bone. After a couple of hours of hard efforts and more pushing I took a bathroom break and asked Walter to join me. We entered the washroom, closed the door and I looked at him in despair. "I'm done" I said. I literally had no energy left to keep my head up, my eyes open and I was spent. We were not getting anywhere and it was time. I needed to hear other options. I was ready to get an epidural just for the chance to sleep. I even accepted the idea of a C-section (which I was starting to think would be the outcome). Anything to get rest and/or this damn baby out. Sadly, I had nothing left in me to care anymore. Walter looked relieved. I could tell it was torture watching me try so hard and getting nowhere. Hearing alternative options meant a consult with an OB and probable transfer of care. So the midwife exited the room in efforts to find an obstetrician for us.
Within no time a man walked in and explained that he needed to do an internal exam to see where we were in order to determine which options were appropriate for our case. He didn't waste any time. He was forceful and thorough. With his examination, he revealed that a lot of meconium was still present and we needed to get the baby out ASAP. He said her head was right there but help was necessary in order to get her out (which was beyond obvious at this point). The plan of action was that I muster up any energy I possibly could to try pushing for one more round as they used a vacuum suction simultaneously to bring my baby into this world. I appreciated the prompt plan and the chance to deliver vaginally. He left to prepare the room and I fumbled around trying to find anything that could give me energy. I downed a bottle of Gatorade and had some candy. I shut my eyes and tried to mentally prepare for this battle that my body was so not prepared to fight.
I was transferred to a big scary looking surgery room. Equipment crowded within the four walls and a bed was positioned smack centre of the room. I was placed on the bed and my legs strapped into stirrups. Luckily the OB allowed for both my midwife and doula to be present so the room was full. Surrounding me I had my husband, the midwife and doula, a nurse, the OB and a student. At first it was overwhelming. All eyes on me. Different voices coming at me in every direction. Both familiar and unfamiliar faces greeting me with support and guidance. Everything was muffled and I couldn't concentrate on anything. The pressure of directing my energy all to the perineal was so much harder than it seemed. I had to be constantly reminded to let the tension in my legs go. To relax my neck and shoulders and to give my all even though I had nothing to give. It didn't take long for us to get down to business. With each contraction I was to push with all my might as they tried to suction her out. Two vacuum attempts had failed since the suctions just would not stick (probably because of all of Eliana's hair). Because we were running out of precious time, the OB ordered for an anaesthesiologist to proceed with forceps.
I could tell by the reactions of both my doula and midwife that this was not an ideal situation. I know a lot about pregnancy, labour and delivery but I didn't know how the vacuum and the use of forceps differed so much-I honestly thought they were equally invasive interventions. I had questions but I couldn't find the energy to verbally communicate a damn thing. And if I'm being totally honest, I didn't care enough at this point. Whatever it took to end this never ending marathon-so be it. However while we were waiting for the anaesthesiologist my contractions were of course on schedule. There was no resisting the urge to push and I wasn't being advised to. I started to bear down for the billionth time and I received great praise and hope. The OB encouraged me to keep going because I was so close. He said he wanted to try the vacuum one more time. He looked me straight in the eyes and told me that I can do this. For the first time since discovering that I was fully dilated at the birth centre-I felt hopeful. The company surrounding me no longer felt overwhelming. I had my doula holding my thighs up as I could no longer do it on my own. My midwife was holding my hand and stroking my arm. I could tell they were so excited that we might have the chance to forgo the forceps. The nurse whom I'd had just met was egging me on and making it feel personal by cheering my name and saying it as if she'd known me for my whole life. My husband was at my head and had his hands on my shoulders. He didn't have to say anything-I could feel his final bit of adrenaline with his touch. I pushed through one more contraction and her head finally emerged. Because of her position, we got stuck at her shoulders. The OB said a minor episiotomy was ideal to get her out once and for all. I nodded knowing that after that cut my baby would finally be here and that's all I cared about. The next thing I remember is hearing my darling baby's cry. She was taken to the corner of the room to be checked and suctioned but her cry was ALL I needed. I look at my husband who had tears streaming down his face. I looked at my supporting women surrounding me and noticed even my midwife and doula crying. It was such a long ride for everyone that the emotions couldn't be contained. I remember saying "I did it" and getting praises for doing great.
Once Eliana was brought to me I was in awe. Although she's exactly what I expected (a full head of hair, beautiful eyes, and a replica of my husband) I was still taken away by her delicate presence and her mesmerizing features.
After the longest labour of life, Eliana Morello Urbina was born at 2:16pm on Wednesday, May 18th, 2016. She weighed 9 pounds even and measured 21 inches long. She was everything I had dreamed of and more.
After revisiting my birth story several times I realized that as off track as it was it held a lot of unforgettable positive moments...
I did ALL of that without any medication whatsoever (and I'm not putting down those who do-but I am happy that I went without). I never considered anything for pain management-the only reason I flirted with the epidural was in hopes that I could get any bit of SLEEP.
My midwife and OB worked together to deliver Eliana and learned from each other during the process and during the after birth procedures. There was no hostility or high and mighty egos-just two professionals taking the opportunity to grow. It was very inspiring to watch.
I had a strong feeling that I was close to fully dilated if not already there when I decided it was time. When it turned out that I was right I felt very in sync with my own body. In fact, I felt very connected throughout the whole labour and delivery. I knew what was working and I knew what wasn't. I felt very empowered to have had that raw and organic connection with my body. I trusted myself and in labour, a situation where you can get blindsided at any moment-that trust is almost all you've got.
And lastly, everything that I thought I cared about going into the labour process really didn't matter in the end. There was no immediate skin to skin (she had to be suctioned), no delayed cord clamping, my husband didn't get to cut the cord, I didn't see my placenta, I didn't have a water birth, interventions were needed, I ended up with a second degree tear and NONE of that mattered. Those things did not even cross my mind at the time. I went in aware that anything can happen during labour. I went in with an open mind and no written birth plan. I knew what I hoped for but I knew not to obsess over those hopes. It was the smartest mindset i could have had. I can't even imagine the impact of the disappointment that my twists and turns would have caused otherwise. I know I did my best and I gave it my all. All that mattered and all that still matters is that Eliana made it here-happy and healthy.