Well, hello. I’ve been gone a while, and I kind of feel like crap about it. Not only because people actually read this blog, but because this blog tends to keep me sane. A lot has happened in the last few months, so this is going to be a long one. Bear with me, and be forewarned that if you’re at all squeamish about medical type stuff, you may have to skip over some bits. I also have no “shame”; there will be pictures of the actual labour. I put shame in quotes because I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed of.
By Christmas, I felt like I was getting huge. I was having a hard time not waddling when I walked, and the lack of sleep was really starting to get to me. Things in that department hadn’t gotten any better. The bigger I got, the more problems were stopping me from sleeping (and the worse my restless legs became). I was having a bath two to four times a night just so I could relax the lower half of my body. Eventually, my legs would sometimes twitch in the water, and those moments usually ended up with me a frustrated ball of tears.
My back hurt. one of my knees usually ached. Not both, just one at a time. The Little Man had his butt pressed up into my rib cage, making my heart burn so bad that I would wake up gasping not only for breath, but from the pain. His head? Right on top of my bladder. Oh yeah, I was having a hell of a good time.
Jump forward a two weeks. It’s January 9th, and I’ve gone to the OB for my first internal exam. At that point, I was 36+1 weeks along, and what do you know! It turns out I was already 3cm dilated. I’m not going to lie, I may have freaked out with joy a little bit. Dilated? Already? Let’s get this party started!
Sure, there was a ways to go, and you can sit at 3cm for weeks and have nothing happen, but I was confident. Things were going to start moving, and I was going to have my son. Maybe I shouldn’t have wanted things to get going so early, but I couldn’t help it. I was done, totally and utterly done. The fact that I wasn’t sleeping was really starting to take its toll, both physically and mentally. If it’s just me not sleeping, I can deal with it, but not sleeping and growing another person? No. No, thank you.
Now, over the course of the next week, I ended up in the assessment room of labour and delivery twice. The first time (and here is where it might get gross for some people), is because I had a rather large gush of greenish brown fluid. Now, never having done the whole labour thing before, I wasn’t sure if my water had broken or if my vagina was just being extra icky that day. I texted my mum about it, because that’s what I do, and she told me to go in and get it checked.
I have a huge complex about going to the hospital for no reason. This stems from having a chronic illness and hating the need to go the ER for any reason. Sure, I may be extremely dehydrated, but there are people who need the hospital resources more than me, right? This was applying to my L&D visit, too. Naturally, everyone who was working there, including my OB, kept telling me that that is exactly what they were there for. Pregnancy, after all, is not something that you should be screwing around with. My mum, too, kept saying that it was better to be safe than sorry. I really should listen to her. She is, after all, and expert when it comes to tragedy in pregnancy, so she would know better than most people.
I was subjected to another very uncomfortable internal exam (still 3cm!) and a swab. The swab was to check for the presence of amniotic fluid. If the swab turns blue, your water has broken. Mine did not turn blue. After a while longer of observation, just to be sure, I got to go home.
The next time, I started having sharp lower abdominal pains. This was seriously concerning. It didn’t feel like Braxton-Hicks, it didn’t feel like intense period cramps, it just felt like pain. The wrong kind of pain. Did I want to go back in for the second time in a week? Of course not. Was I willing to risk my baby by staying home? Absolutely not. The hospital is not that far from home and again, better safe than sorry.
I was having mild contractions, it turns out, but there was nothing to be concerned with. I had, however, dilated another centimetre, but I was still only in pre labour. The baby had a great heart beat, and after establishing that it was good and steady, and monitors came off and I got to go home. Again.
My next OB appointment was on January 16th, and I told Shawn and my mum that if nothing had happened before then, I was going to get her to do a membrane sweep. For those of you that don’t know, a membrane sweep is when an OB or midwife inserts a finger in to a dilated cervix and “sweeps” it between the cervix and the amniotic sac. This is supposed to bring on labour, usually within 48 hours. By that point, I would have reached 37 weeks, and I would have zero issue having the baby. No guilt, no remorse. Just relief.
Mum and I went out walking (inside, as it was the middle of January, freezing cold and icy as hell) as often as we could, but it didn’t do a damn thing. By the time my appointment rolled around, I had been having contractions at night that would wake me up if I managed to doze off. I was so exhausted by this point that it felt more like passing out than sleeping until a contraction would start up. Every 30-40 minutes I would be sitting up on the couch, breathing through the squeezing, or running myself yet another bath to make things a little more comfortable. The closer my appointment came, the more intense they started to get. Eventually, the discomfort moved around to my back, and while it didn’t feel particularly great, it was encouraging. Perhaps things were finally starting to progress.
The membrane sweep itself didn’t really feel like much. I know a lot of people say that they’re really unpleasant, but after having and IUD put in and removed, I barely noticed anything other than an ordinary cervical exam. I was still 4cm dilated and 80% effaced (that describes how thin the cervix has gotten, FYI), so it felt, at that point, that all the walking and bouncing on my exercise ball had been for naught.
With the membrane sweep accomplished, I wandered over to the hospital, which happens to be across the street from my OB’s office, so I could catch a ride back home with my mum. I think she could tell that I was feeling a little defeated, so she just kept talking about letting the sweep do it’s thing, and reminding me that I was only 37 weeks, so not having the baby immediately wouldn’t be the end of the world (even if it felt like it).
By the time we got home, I was having pain that made me want to crawl into the tub and never get out. I left mum at her house to eat and relax while I retreated to our house to let the hot water flow. It wasn’t long before I was texting her and asking for some company. The pain was getting worse than it had been up to that point, and they were coming closer together. I hadn’t had anything resembling a membrane rupture, but that doesn’t always happen. (Apparently, I was born with the membrane still intact over my head.) I was just sitting in the tub, feeling the contractions getting worse and worse, closer and closer together, and debating whether or not to go to the hospital.
Shawn was still at work at this point. I don’t quite remember when we decided to get me out of the tub and start packing my things (my hospital bag wasn’t finished yet, as it was on my to-do list for the following day), but when that started, I call him and left him a message saying that it was probably go time and he needed to get home ASAP. By the time the three of us were ready to leave, the contractions were two minutes apart and running from my abdomen and into my back. This was it. The baby was coming.
When we got to the hospital, it was apparent right away that they were insanely busy. It took a while to get an assessment bed, so we just parked ourselves out in the hall with my on my ball and my mum taking pictures. Some people think I’m nuts, but I actually wanted pictures of the whole process. I might only be going through this the one time, so why not document it?
Let me tell you something about labour pains: I didn’t find the abdominal pain to be that terrible. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it was unpleasant, but it’s not something that I would have been unable to handle. However, no one prepared me for the horror that is back labour. If your baby hasn’t turned to face the right direction or if they happen to be in a funny position, this will make the contractions move in to your back. This is excruciating. I have had pain as bad as this with my migraine disease, but I haven’t had anything the same as this, and I think that’s what made it so horrible. Migraine pain, while awful, is something that I know how to deal with. This was a whole other animal, and it scared the shit out of me.
The original plan was to go it without drugs of any kind. I didn’t want morphine. I didn’t want an epidural. I wanted to do things naturally. After several agonizing hours of back labour, however, I consented to some Tylenol #3. Here’s the thing, though: my cerix was refusing to dilate any more, and once the T3 had mellowed me out a bit (it still hurt like hell, but it was more manageable), my contractions slowed down. They slowed down to such an extent that, you guessed it, we got to go home.
I was devastated. After almost 6 hours of labouring, I was sent home again. I think I would have been able to tough it out without getting discouraged if I hadn’t gotten a taste of the process and how things were going to go. As it was, we went home, and I ended up in the bath, in tears, again. Mum and Shawn took the next day off and we went out and did a lot of walking. Again. It happened to be productive walking, though, as we decided to grab some baby things that we were still missing. Hey, even though I had given up on having the baby any time soon, he was still going to come eventually, right?
That Sunday was our baby shower. I say “our” because we decided to make it co-ed. Only one of Shawn’s friends was able to make it, which sucks, but it was still a decent time none the less. We got to show off the fabulous room we put together for the Little Man (it was finished on New Year’s Day, and a post on that will be coming soon), and there were lots of yummy things to eat. My dad made both chocolate silk and banana cream pie. How can you go wrong with that?
My grandma was convinced that I didn’t look any bigger than I was at Christmas. One of my aunts assured her that I was indeed bigger, and she didn’t think I was going to make it until my due date. My grandma sometimes forgets that she only has one real eye. I also think she didn’t want him to come early because they were leaving for Mexico the day after the shower and she wanted him to come when they got back. Because I was so downtrodden about the whole thing, I was convinced that she was right. No matter what I wanted, the Little Man was not coming out until February.
Monday night was miserable. My mum had brought home one of the amniotic fluid swabs because I was 110% not going back to the hospital until I was sure that it was time. If there was no fluid, we were not leaving. I swabbed before going to bed that night, and it didn’t turn blue, so there was no leak. I wasn’t really discouraged by this at all because it seemed so typical of how things had been going. I decided to hang on to the swab, though, just in case I needed it. The rest of the night was pretty standard: twitchy legs, a lack of sleep, contractions and a lot of peeing. I wasn’t expecting anything exciting to happen.
And then it did.
At about 330am on Tuesday, January 21st, when I was on my millionth trip to the bathroom, I had a really strange feeling. Imagine, if you will, that someone has pushed a very full water balloon up your vagina when you weren’t looking. This balloon then decides to drop a little bit before bursting all over the place. This is what it felt like when my water broke.
When the dropping sensation happened, I was sitting on the toilet. Something compelled me to stand up, over top of the bath mat, and I’m glad I did. A lot of clear fluid came rushing out, and all I could do for a few minutes was stand there and stare at it. I was almost certain that I knew what it was, but after all my false starts and weird goings on I needed to be sure. The text I sent my mum said, “I think my water just broke.” I then proceeded to grab the swab from the counter. Lo and behold, the base of it had turned blue! I guess I had been leaking, but not enough to get an instant reading. When I ran the swab through the fluid on my bath mat, it instantly turned blue. Success at last!
Mum came down and just as she was taking a look at what was already there, I oozed some more, this time with a little bit of pink show. I had thought show was supposed to come first, but hey, I never do things the right way. We woke Shawn and headed back to the hospital. We didn’t need to bring a lot back with us because most of the essentials were left in my mum’s office, just to make things easy.
(But what about your mucous plug? I know that’s what you were thinking. I just know it. It started coming out in large gobs from about 3.5cm or so. Let me tell you, that was not a fun time. Having to look at the toilet paper when you pee and seeing what looks like an enormous booger? Gross. Having do this multiple times over the course of a week? Even better. I’m also going to stop here and say that I never thought I would get so used to smelling the things that came out of me as I did towards the end of my pregnancy. Certain things are supposed to have certain smells (or no smell), and I needed to know what I was dealing with. Amniotic fluid doesn’t smell like much, just FYI. Mucous smells like, well, mucous, and looks just like snot. It’s not something I ever want to have come out of my vagina again.)
When we got to assessment this time, they swabbed all the lovely stuff I was still oozing, and the result was the same as what I’d gotten at home: blue. This time, I got a real hospital bracelet! That’s right, they were not sending me home this time. I was having a baby. When I got there, I was 6cm and my contractions were just over three minutes apart. The shitty thing? They were still in my back. It was awesome.
Luckily, it wasn’t long before we got ushered in to an actual birthing room. These rooms are great. Each patient is assigned a nurse (the 1:1 ratio is so nice), there is a birthing bed, a chair that pulls out in to a single bed for birth partners to get some rest, a bathroom with a tub/shower combo, and tons of room to move around. I was in that shower as fast I could get there. The only thing that was going to help my back pain, aside from drugs, was a steady stream of really hot water. My water had broken, obviously, or I would have been in a bath like that. I’m not willing to risk infection, no matter how small the chances, so the shower it was. I popped on my bikini top (mostly to cover my gigantic nipples from the world for as long as possible), grabbed my big purple ball and got to it.
The water was wonderful. Shawn sat just outside the tub, either holding my hand or directing the stream. My amniotic fluid kept coming out in regular gushes, and let me tell you, it feels disgusting. There is nothing quite like being sat on an exercise ball and feeling fluid rush out of you every few minutes. (Sure, this had been happening since the walk in from the car, but something about the ball gave it an extra squick factor.) There was some concern that I was going to burn myself, but I have a stupid high tolerance for heat. I blame my use of heat packs for my migraines for that, added to the insanely hot water I had been putting my restless legs in. Eventually, even I knew that my blood pressure could be going wonky from the heat, so I got out and hopped back up on the bed.
These beds are great. They are designed for any and all types of birthing positions. I could move around, reposition and try to get comfortable as much as I needed to. It was easy to get my cervix poked at (I went from 6-8cm in a hurry!), and if I needed the fetal monitors on, it was easy to do.
Okay. I had every intention of not letting the back labour get the better of me this time. I really did. Not only was it making me was to curl up in a tiny ball (not that being in this position helped at all), the baby started having sporadic decelerations in his heart rate. It wasn’t really anything to be concerned about, and tickling his head via internal exam did a decent job of stimulating him and getting is back up. I was concerned that the amount of pain that I was in was causing the baby some distress, and I thought that both of us would be a little more comfortable if I accepted something for the pain. Nothing oral was going to do the trick, and I eventually caved to an epidural. This is where the first backfire comes in.
I told myself that I never wanted to have an epidural. It’s not because I see it as a weak thing to do. It’s not because I think that it will adversely effect labour, or that I was worried about side effects. It’s just not something that I wanted. That being said, I don’t think that I “caved”. It turned out to be the best thing for everyone in the long run. Let me continue.
The epidural went in at around noon. I’m honestly surprised that I was able to stay still enough for them to get it in while still having contractions. Maybe it was the motivation that, hopefully, some relief for me and the baby was on the way. No matter the reasoning, it got put in successfully. I now know the reason so many women opt to get one. I could still feel my contractions, move my legs and toes, but the pain was drastically reduced. I was able to rest, and it looked like the nerve wracking decels had come to an end. I think everyone was breathing a sigh of relief at that point.
Two hours later or so, two different people checked my cervix (again), and said that I was at 10cm. I was given the option to start pushing, or give it a little bit to make sure everything was in a good position. I opted to start pushing. I was getting really excited at the thought of actually being able to hold our son for the first time. I was also getting excited to watch the whole process. Yes, I’m one of those people who wanted to have a mirror so I could see the whole thing go down. My mum was very amused by the mirror they brought in. It had come from the old building, and she was pretty sure it had been around longer than she had. That’s impressive. When I actually started pushing, it was really interesting to see which muscles I was engaging, how they were working together, and that I was actually doing a good job. Sure, everyone was telling me that I was pushing just where I needed to, but seeing it was great. No, I didn’t really need the close up view of my Amazon bush or my hemorrhoids, but hey, it was all part of the experience.
The actual act of pushing was intense, even with the epidural. I could still feel the contractions coming on, but they had me hooked up to monitors just in case I got extra frozen. This turned out to be a very good thing. After going at it for a while, we started to see decels in the baby again. It was nothing drastic, and he was able to get his heart rate back up on his own for the most part, but I still wasn’t happy about it. This just meant that he needed to e very closely watched, and we continued on with the process of trying to get him out.
After two hours of pushing without really getting anywhere, something truly terrifying happened. Shawn was taking a break (and a nap on the handy pull out bed), and my mum had stepped in as my main birth coach. I started to push at the beginning of a contraction and told to stop. The baby was having another decel, and this time, his heart rate dropped all the way to 85. This is not a good thing. It took a good two minutes of tickling him on the head to get it back up to normal, and it was at this point that I knew something was not going as it should. Something was causing his heart rate to dip, and it was starting to get dangerously low.
I had another internal exam after the baby had stabilized, and what we thought had been a full dilated cervix was actually only at 8cm. It had felt fully dilated because I had a wonky cervical lip that had been throwing everyone off. Two nurses and one OB missed it, and I can’t fault anyone for it. It’s something that happens. It also turns out that my son had his head tilted to one side and resting on his shoulder. With his head not properly engaged, my cervix wasn’t making any more progress. This is also what was causing my intense back labour. Fantastic.
I had a choice to make. We could wait and see if things were going to sort themselves out, or I could go for a c-section. Neither of these options appealed to me. Waiting meant risking the baby’s heart rate dropping again, and needing even more stimulation to get back up. Having a c-section… well, it was on my list of things I did not want unless it was an emergency. Things hadn’t gotten viciously emergent, yet, but there was a strong chance that they could. So, did I choose an “elective emergent” section, or risk waiting until they had to call a code pink for me?
I was exhausted. I was coming up on fourteen hours of labour at this point, nothing was going according to plan, and I didn’t know what to do. I ended up in tears with my mum, husband, and nurse telling me that I couldn’t make a wrong choice, and that having a section wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t like I hadn’t tried to do things they way I wanted to. Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t work out. Between my exhaustion and the risk of the baby having his heart rate drop and not be able to bring it back up, I finally opted for a section.
It was another hour before we were actually prepped to go in. I was really lucky that I already had en epidural, because I don’t think I would have done well trying to get one put in with how anxious I was feeling about the whole thing. Seriously, I was terrified. I was terrified when I had to have asleep surgery. This time, I was going to be awake while they sliced me open and rooted around to get my baby out and to safety. Yes, I knew that’s what having a section entailed, but that didn’t make it any less intimidating. Because I had been so convinced I wouldn’t need one and wasn’t going to have one, this was one option I really didn’t prep for.
They wheeled me in to the OR and got me draped, prepped and topped up. The anesthesiologist was great. I think he could tell that I was horribly scared, as he kept talking to me about non-baby related things. I could heart my heart rate on the monitor, and made a conscious effort to slow it down whenever I heard it start to get too fast.
I also knew that they were going to start before they let Shawn come in, but that wasn’t helping me. I kept trying to not think about what was happening below the sheet and just focus on staying calm. The doctor who was going to be performing the surgery came in (luckily, it was someone I knew) and told me they were going to get started. Shawn still wasn’t there, and I was starting to panic again. Then, right before the tears started coming, there he was. He was gowned and covered in a mask, but his eyes were as reassuring as ever.
A c-section is one of the weirdest things I think I will ever feel. When they were making sure I was frozen enough (for lack of a better term), people kept slapping my legs. I could feel it, but it felt more like I was feeling it happen to someone else. The actual operation felt like a lot of tugging and pressure, but not much else. I’ve never felt such a weird disconnect from my own body before. It was definitely an interesting experience, but it’s one that I could have gone without.
In a remarkable short period of time, they brought our son around the curtain for us to see. He had barely cried at all when they pulled him out, so seeing him, in the flesh, was a bit of a shock. I started crying right away. The first thing I said, when I looked at Shawn, was, “He’s perfect!” And he was. Shawn was crying too, which doesn’t often happen for happy reasons, and that made me more emotional than ever. They checked him out and brought him right back to me so I could have some skin on skin time and try early breast feeding. The last thing I really remember is being wheeled out of the OR with the baby on my chest and Shawn by my side, my parents both rushing up to the stretcher with huge smiles on their faces to get a look at their first grandchild. After that, I was pretty much dead to the world.
Finn Malcolm was born at 703pm on January 21, 2014, two weeks and one day early. He was exactly 8 pounds to the ounce (thank goodness he was early!) and measured 21 inches. Oh, and I think I forgot to mention: January 21, 2014, was my 30th birthday.
That was definitely not what I had planned for my 30th birthday. The plan was actually to get on our Harry Potter gear, grab our wands, and head over to Harry Potter: The Exhibition at Telus World of Science. Instead, I got to have the most interesting and exciting birthday of my life. I don’t think I’ll ever manage to have another one like it, not that I’m going to try for a repeat. There were several people who said that I jinxed myself because I kept saying I didn’t want to have the baby on my birthday; I wanted this birthday to be all about me. So much for that! It’s never going to be all about me, ever again, and you know what? I’m perfectly okay with that.
I think the biggest thing I learned was that no matter how much you plan, hope or are filled with determination, sometimes things just don’t end up going the way you want. They backfire. That is certainly what happened with me and my birth. For several weeks after everything went down, I had moments where I was really upset that I needed a section. It was mostly when I had a moment where I couldn’t do something by myself, where my pain was getting the better of me, or when I was really wanting to sleep in my own bed but it was just to high to get in to and out of in the middle of the night. My birth experience was not what I envisioned, but that’s okay. The outcome was exactly what I wanted: Finn and I are doing perfectly well. As a matter of fact, he will be two months old tomorrow, and he’s already reached a whopping 14 pounds!
I do need to give a huge thank you to everyone at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. I received exceptional care the whole way through, from admitting and prenatal visits, to labour, delivery, and my three days of postpartum care. I couldn’t have asked for better people to be taking care of me, or a better place to have gone through the entire experience. If we decide to have another baby (and right now I’m leaning towards No on that front), we will be back.
I will probably write more about specific details of the last two months, as a lot happens when you have a wee one to look after. If you read this all the way through (and didn’t just skim through the pictures) I appreciate it. This is what happens when you have a baby and major abdominal surgery at the same time. You get behind in everything. Something gives me the feeling that is not going to change.