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Thursday, August 12, 2004
I'm Free, I'm Free!

Yes, today, at 11:24 am, my son was Free Years Owld.

And so with that, Michael's Birth Story:

As I write this, I realize how truly unprepared I was when we became pregnant. Having a baby was just something that happened to women. Amazingly as the months progressed, I became much more aware of the significance and beauty of the experience, and of the need to make the birth my own experience. I am currently pursuing training as a Childbirth Educator and Doula so that I might give other women in my position the chance that I had: to view knowledge as their own personal power during childbirth and beyond.

As naïve expectant parents, we enrolled in a weekend labour preparation program when I was 37 weeks along. Wide-eyed and hardly daring to breathe we watched the labour video playing larger than life on the screen in front of us. Immediately following the video, 5 women in the class - including myself – changed their minds. There was just no way we could do that!
Our instructor, Kathy McKelvie, was a vivacious and perky woman, who just happened to be a Doula. Over the two and a half days, she peppered the class with mantras; “A shower is as good as a narcotic ever thought of being!” “Dads - You walk into the maternity ward and what do you ask for first? The birth ball! She’ll want it!” “Rectal pressure? Hit the call button!” Doubting my ability to handle pain I would stay after class and ask her questions like how many women actually faint during labour, how many really call their husbands those names? She encouraged me and told me that giving birth is a great experience, there is nothing like it, especially when there is very little intervention and you can truly work with your body, that I would be able to do it, just as millions of women have done. The only thing we would most likely do in error, is go to the hospital too early – just about every woman does this with her first birth, especially if it’s an intended hospital birth. Ken looked at me as if to say that would be me for sure. No way, I thought, I’m smart enough to know when to go to the hospital. (Every mother say it with me now: “She thinks she’s so smart!”) Kathy had us consider birth plans and then gave us this list: Natural birth, pain free birth, short birth, Cesarean section, no episiotomy, no vacuum, no forceps, boy, girl, healthy baby. Then told us if we could choose only one outcome from our birth, which one would be most important. Of course we all chose healthy baby. In reality each of us would have a different experience, but when it was all said and done, no matter how we had gotten to the other side, what we wanted in the end was the same. A healthy baby.

I am a controller, but this prospect no longer scared me at all; I was calmer than ever, because I was at peace with the future, I wanted to control my experience, but knew that in reality I could only control how I managed the experience of my first labour and delivery.

My doctor had seemed ambivalent throughout the pregnancy. I knew that I was due at the beginning of August and she felt it was closer to the end of August. Counting back the weeks, I countered, there is only one week in which I could have conceived as my husband was out of town for three weeks. She still disagreed - and I let her - the fewer times I had to trudge down to her office the better. I would wait 45 minutes and see her for about 8 minutes and leave. Hardly worth the effort, except I was able to hear my baby’s heartbeat each time. That made the difference.

My first due date passed and I knew that it would be any day. My baby had dropped over 3 weeks prior, finally releasing me from ‘round the clock kicks to my right ribcage. Co-workers and friends alike had been predicting the sex and weight of my baby for months. Some were “never wrong”; others “had a gut feeling”.

Thursday, the day of my last appointment, I awoke around 6:30 am with a peculiar pain in my belly. I lay frozen for a moment, wondering if that could be a contraction. I tried to fall asleep again and was woken minutes later by another one. Did I have something bad to eat the night before? My girlfriend, Tanya, and mother of one, was taking me to my doctor’s appointment that morning. I didn’t mention the pain to her just yet. Minutes after hitting the highway I felt another tightening around belly button height. I must have grimaced as I put my hand on my stomach. “What are you feeling?” she asked, and when I described it to her she said it sounded like a contraction. We looked at each other and smiled. It had started! She told me to keep track of how far apart they were and to let her know. Upon arriving in my doctor’s examining room, I said “so Dr, are you on call this weekend? “Cause I think I’m going to have this baby!” Of course she was a little skeptical and went about her duties, measuring and listening. I wanted to shake her and convince her that this really was it; I wasn’t just trying to will my body into labour.

Tanya and I walked in malls, up stairs and even up and down hills at a friend’s farm, looking at their horses. Contractions were quite regular, but 15 minutes apart. Tanya finally dropped me off at home and told me to continue to monitor the times. I called my husband and told him, but assured him that he needn’t come home. But I did phone friends and family to let them know that things had begun. I was quite content to sit around and write times down for most of the evening. Finally around 10pm, I thought, surely this is enough, I should be somewhat dilated. So we drove the half an hour to the hospital and after hooking up the monitors and examining me, they declared me a whole 1 centimeter dilated. Back home we went. I didn’t sleep well as the contractions were strong enough to keep me awake. My husband went to work as usual the next morning and I kept up the walking. I trucked around everywhere; feeling like my belly was just going to fall off of my body it was so heavy. When Ken came home, we went into town and walked around a local park, drinking gallons of water in the 30 degree heat. That night, exhausted and unable to get any sleep, and a little worried about not feeling the baby move, we made another trek to the hospital. I needed reassurance as the baby hadn’t been nearly as active and surely I had dilated further. The nurse declared me…. One centimeter. Crap! Home we went, hubby raised and eyebrow but said nothing.

Of course family and friends that I had alerted at this point were starting to phone and inquire about my progress. All I could tell them was that yes, I was having contractions, no the baby’s not ready yet.

Saturday morning there was a festival downtown, so a group of us went down. I, water in hand, stayed out of the large crushing crowds, but sat under a tree and counted contractions. They were much stronger now, but still 7-12 minutes apart, not exactly regular. That night Ken, assuming by now that I was just a big baby, decided to go out with his sister for a couple of beers since she was in from Europe. I agreed that I was probably not any further along, so he might as well have some fun while he could. I lay on the couch switching sides with each contraction, unable to find comfort whether standing, sitting or walking. I phoned Ken around 2 am and he was already on his way home. When he walked in, I said that enough was enough. It had been close to 72 hours of contractions and I was fed up. I kept crying, not from pain, but from frustration, lack of sleep and annoyance that he thought I was somehow faking this. Obviously I could still “walk and talk through contractions” so it was not yet time to go to the hospital. (Another good mantra from Kathy) But still I asked him to take me in for a third time and if I still weren’t dilated enough, I would stay at my mom’s who was nearby. So we drove in silence to the hospital. I’m quite sure he was tired, it was close to 3 am, but I was even more so. When we arrived at the maternity ward I stood at the desk on the verge of tears. When a nurse asked me what was wrong I said, “ I have been having contractions for almost 72 hours, we’ve been here twice now and you need to either make them go away, or make the baby come out!” She was very sympathetic and took us to an examination room, hooking me up once more on the monitor. After examining me, the nurse said, congratulations, you are 4 centimeters. We could stay!! Ken held my hand; I think it was the first time he realized that I was truly in labour. And I’d been able to walk and talk through all of the contractions to that point. Immediately I lost the desire to “make him come out now” as I had somehow felt validated as a truly labouring woman. The baby would arrive on his own time now.

We were admitted at 4 am and transferred to a birthing room where we met our labour nurse, Nancy. I think Nancy was a gift from God to us. I would have had a much different experience if it weren’t for her support and guidance. She immediately found us a birth ball and brought towels for the shower. She had a very calm demeanor that reassured my husband and I that we could definitely do this!

The moms and Ken’s sister had arrived and were in the small waiting room. I thought we should probably go out and say hello. I can’t say that I was exactly the cheeriest or most thrilled to be standing in the waiting room. Ken was miserable, as he was so tired and grumpy. And his mom didn’t help by telling me to make him “smartin' up”, that just made him angrier. Mom snapped one last picture of me, I didn’t exactly pose for it, but looking back I wish that I had savoured that last little bit with my child inside of me. My impatient side of me had taken over and inside I was going crazy with the desire to hold my baby. We returned to walking, but Ken was dead on his feet and, truthfully, I didn’t really care either way, so we returned to our room.

Shower after shower, my husband became more confident, I noted, in helping me. We used positions our teacher had shown us in the shower, I sat on the bench between contractions and stood with water on my back during them. It was serene and peaceful; I could even smile and converse with Ken. I don’t have a clue as to what we talked about, but I remember smiling. After what was to be my last shower, Nancy wanted to check me again and found that I was over 9 cm with just a little lip of my cervix left to be dilated. As she was checking, my waters broke. Yeah! I thought to myself and smiled. The sensation of a small pop deep inside and then rushing out is not to be missed, I giggled. There was micconium present, quite a bit, but I was reassured that special nurses would be attending the birth to ensure the baby was breathing just fine despite the micconium. I knew even before Nancy told me, that things were about to get even more intense. There was still that lip left to dilate and with my permission, Nancy moved it aside with her finger as I gave a little push. Pretty soon after I was well into the transition phase. All color drained from my hands I noted to Ken. They were completely white! I couldn’t see any creases at all. That’s nothing, he said, you should see your face! We laughed, but it was cut short by another contraction. I realized that I carried my tension and pain in my hands. I fought to keep them loose and lucid. Focusing on my hands and deep even breathing throughout the contractions, I was able to keep myself under control. As I was having back labour, the best position was on my right side with Ken applying counter-pressure with each contraction. His arms were so tired! Another really effective position was with the head of the bed raised, me on my knees leaning over it, facing the wall. Sure my big bootie was right in everyone’s face, but who cared at that point! I remember Nancy telling me how great I was doing, how she had just been at the nurse’s station bragging about this awesome 24 year old woman she had under her care who was doing this without medication. It was unheard of at the Rockyview with their 80% epidural rate. My next child would be so easy, she said. You’re right, I retorted, because the next one’s adopted! At around quarter past 9 that morning, I had the distinct feeling that I had to push. I said this to Ken. We looked at each other and both said, Rectal Pressure! Another mantra that made us both smile in the midst of labour.

Sure enough, when Nancy returned, she checked and the baby’s head was fully engaged and dropping. It was 9:25 am when she gave me the go ahead to give the first push. This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy! I know we used the birth bar, the ball, the stirrups, the birth stool and even all fours. The first time I tried the stirrups I thought my hips were going to dislocate! My legs would start shaking and I thought they would cramp. I really liked the stool. Ken sat behind me and I sat between his legs, facing out. I wound my arms around his legs and bore down for all I could. I remembered at this point, our teacher telling us about how we my pass a little, well, you know, as we pushed and how it didn’t really matter. I wondered if I was - cuz ya know ya can’t tell! - and I was surprised that I didn’t really care! I just knew one thing, I was in labour, giving birth as natural as I could. I know that I only really opened my eyes to change position. I would feel that contraction building and my body told me that I needed to push. I didn’t bother with counting to 10 to keep pushing, I just pushed until that contraction subsided and then I either lay back or leaned on the closest stable object in a total state of limp exhaustion. I remember thinking, this is so damn hard!!

After pushing for an hour, I asked Nancy when they might consider some sort of intervention. Oddly I was thinking about a C-section, not forceps or a vacuum. As if they would skip right to surgery! Thank goodness the doctor I had been going to for 9 months, who I’d thought of as totally uncaring, was on call that night and at the hospital. She knew my desire for an intervention-free birth and held off calling in any specialists.

After an hour and a half, I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. I told Nancy and Ken that. They both reassured me that I could indeed do it. Nancy said no one left that room not pregnant, I’d be no different. She realized that I was becoming a little frustrated and asked me to start getting a little mad at myself for the length of time it was taking me to deliver. Use the energy from your anger to push, she instructed. That gave me the little boost I needed. Just after 11 am, she began putting warm compresses on my perineum; little did I know this would save me some serious pain. She explained that it helps to make that area stretch easier; there’s less of a risk of tearing. At this point, though I didn’t know it yet, my baby was about an inch away from the world. I heard nurses calling for my doctor, there seemed to be a lot of activity happening down south there, everyone was having a boo to see how close I was. Not that I cared at this point, but I should’ve charged admission. Soon enough my doctor arrived, dressed the part with the little hat and gloves, perkier than I thought she should be after this all nighter (she’d delivered 6 other babies that night!). The nurses from the Special Needs unit were there incase of any breathing problems due to the amount of micconium in the water. That reassured me more than anything and really signaled that things were about to happen. I did feel quite a bit of discomfort for a moment down in the nether regions there, but didn’t realize that he had crowned until the doctor asked if I wanted to feel the baby’s head. Now that’s an odd feeling – you reach down and feel something very similar to a soft, wet coconut protruding from a place that you wouldn’t think could accommodate a coconut! But it made so happy I laughed and cried at the same time. We were almost there. During class, Ken had said that he wasn’t looking down there for nuthin’! I agreed that he didn’t have to; he could stay at my shoulder. I was surprised again when he raced around to look over the doctor’s shoulder. His expression was priceless, I can’t even describe it, but he just said “whoa!” with his eyes wide and mouth open. Can’t say I’d really like to see it from that end, as amazing as it might be!

Next thing I know they are telling me to stop pushing, but only for a moment while they suction my baby’s mouth and nose. One last one they say and I am pushing, waiting for this glorious “slpoosh” you are supposed to feel if you are giving birth naturally. Then there it was. It is one of the best feelings, all of this pressure and then a big wet splooshy release. I’ll admit, writing it doesn’t sound near as cool as feeling it! In one wonderful and beautiful moment they announce that it’s a boy and heave this wet, shiny creature onto my belly. I look down and all I see is one great big mouth yelling for all he’s worth, “Here I am” he seems to be saying. He’s so shiny, not at all gross looking, none of the white stuff, as he’s overdue (I restrained at this moment from pointing that out to my doctor!) and just the slightest little elongated head from so long in the birth canal. It was 11:24 am Sunday morning.

Ken was crying and shaking as he kissed me and told me how proud he was of me, and that he loved me. He cut the cord and the special needs nurses took him to check him over. Nancy had been right when she’d told me that no matter how tired I was of pushing, I’d wake up immediately after the baby was born. So much adrenaline was going through my body I was quivering and quaking in the bed. Ken and I hugged and kissed, I don’t think I have ever felt so happy and so right in this world. Even Nancy was crying, which really touched me. How many babies she must see come into this world and she still cries. Only now do I understand that.

The nurses quickly swaddled our new baby, Michael, and handed him back to us. I can still remember looking down into his deep, inky blue eyes. He blinked and blinked as he adjusted to the light and the new sights. He was so quiet, just listening to our voices. Within minutes he was latched on to my breast. I knew at that moment that my world was in much sharper focus than it had ever been before.
  The Writing Mother
  posted at 7:16 PM

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Kira said...

Oh, that's so BEAUTIFUL! I love birth stories, and yours is a fabulous one. Thanks for sharing it.

At 1:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo!!! You are an amazing Mom. Thanks for sharing a beautiful story of your child joining this world. Happy Birthday Little one!

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Tiff said...

Great birth story and how nice to have it written down for the future. :)

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Teresa said...

I'm labor & delivery nurse as well as previous doula and birth education instructor and that's the most beautiful birth I've ever read! Thanks for the story. It made me smile.

Teresa @ www.myknittingpassion.blogspot.com and www.naivemom.blogspot.com


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