I recently asked over on my Facebook page if Mamas believed they had done something or experienced something to bring on their labour. I got lots of cool and varied responses, from different types of food to acupuncture to more deliberate medical interventions. As for Little Miss Cub, before going to bed on Saturday I went for a long walk with Cub and Papa Wolf, I had a relaxing bath while watching an episode of X-Files (as a side note, re-watching X-Files episodes was also a big part of my last weeks of pregnancy with Cub) and then I complained to Papa Wolf that I could not seriously envision a whole other week pregnant. I think she got my message.
Little Miss Cub was super low, this much was very obvious not only from Friday’s ultrasound but from my general discomfort. That night at 1 am I woke up to my contractions. At least three or four times in the past two weeks I’d been convinced that labour was starting for a variety of reasons, so I was naturally skeptical. But the feeling of a “true” contraction (compared to those sissy ones I’d been having before) was unmistakable! I started timing the contractions and just generally getting myself mentally ready. I’m very pragmatic in labour: get bags ready (they were pre-packed so pretty simple), call Cub’s babysitter, get Cub’s bag ready, call the midwife…. My midwife was conveniently already at the hospital on another delivery (convenient for me, at least) and so she told us to meet her there. If you’re familiar with Calgary, we went to Rocky View.
Papa Wolf gently woke Cub, telling him he was going on an adventure (he apparently said “Okay.”) and Cub had the presence of mind to point out that we had forgotten his shoes once we were in the car. His babysitter was waiting for us with open arms and Cub went to her without issue (phewf) and away we went to the hospital which is super close to our neighborhood anyway.
Awesome parking spot secured, in we went with my Sherpa (Papa Wolf) lugging my labour and postpartum gear. Frankly, if I wasn’t having the home birth I wanted, I was going to make the hospital birth as homely as possible. When my midwife examined me upon arrival, I was at 5 cm and still able to manage contractions, plus there wasn’t actually a room available for us yet, so she sent us to walk. The deserted cafeteria became my contraction management walking circuit. Note that black is slimming- my belly was actually huge!
We returned to my midwife once more, and I was at 7 cm after my 45 minutes in the caf. We stuck closer to the ward for the rest of our walking, up and down the hallway outside the delivery rooms. A big shout out to Rocky View for having such a nicely decorated hallway, full of gorgeous professional photos of patients and their babies, plus super fun black and white pictures of their staff! The hallway march ended after about 30 minutes, once I could no longer walk through the contractions. Thankfully by this time we had a room! I climbed gratefully onto the bed and demanded my Coussins Etc. maternity pillow for which I’d ordered the waterproof cover. I latched onto the pillow for dear life, lying on my side for more contractions and some awesome moaning. My only complaint was that the ward had no microwave for my rice bag to be heated!! I breathed and visualized through my contractions with Papa Wolf’s support, and my midwife simply told to push whenever I felt the urge. The second midwife also arrived and so it was just the four of us in the room. (I recall it being more like a house party in my room when I delivered Cub !). Just like with Cub I used a visualization that used to help me with my anxiety disorder: there’s just this particular, imagined stream, lined with trees that I see in my mind’s eye. For my anxiety, I would see my negative thoughts as leaves floating down the stream, and in labour the leaves were the waves of pain. Cheesy, no? If someone had told me to do this to cope with labour I would’ve laughed in her face.
While on my side I started getting really in the zone. I felt very powerful and much more conscious of my body’s process than with Cub. Frankly, there was no way I was planning on labouring for hours: this was my way or the highway, this little girl was going to come out and fast! There was plenty of moaning and I was very conscious of my efforts to push. My midwife reminded me not to push with my voice, which was a good tip! I felt very compelled to get up on my knees, and of course my midwives were happy to let me use whatever position felt right. With the hospital bed in a fully seated position, I got up on my knees. I draped my body pillow over the top edge of the bed and leaned over it. My husband held my hand (I think?!) and rubbed my head. Gravity, I kept thinking. Gravity was going to help this baby out. I think I maybe had three contractions in this position. My midwife says she was writing her note “5:40: feels urge to push” when my water broke and the other midwife said she could see the head. Two more pushes and she was out at 5:45. We delayed cord clamping so she was on my belly with the cord pulsating for about 15 minutes. Baby weighed in at 6 lbs, 14 oz. Because the ObGyn I consulted wanted special follow up on the baby to watch for any withdrawal symptoms due to my antidepressant dose, someone from neonatal also came in and examined Little Miss Cub after the cord was cut by Papa. Honestly, waiting for the cord to be clamped was so cool: with my first I’d had the sheet draped over my legs and I had no idea what was happening on the other side. (And I didn’t think I wanted to know.) This time, they helped me get back onto my back and I was almost seated, so I saw the cord, I saw the blood, and it wasn’t horrific at all. I saw myself deliver the placenta: the human body is so amazing! Once the neonatal person had checked Little Miss over, she was back on my chest and nursing away like a champ. My midwives did all the requisite paperwork associated with a hospital birth and then helped me to have a shower. We moved over to the postpartum ward where we had hoped for a private room. We ended up with a shared room, but with no roommate until just before discharge, so hey, we basically got a private room…. with an absolutely stunning view of our new city. Calgary weather patterns are absolutely fascinating, and my hospital window was a frontrow seat to them during my stay!
I sent Papa Wolf home to nap and then pick up Cub, and I chilled with Little Miss (as much as one can chill in a hospital bed…) until Papa came back with Cub. Seeing my kids meet each other was AWESOME. Cub was curious and sort of excited. His sister had brought him presents (no wonder my belly had felt so cramped!) and he had a present for her. I lied and told him all the buttons on my bed were broken. I feel like this was a wise decision. Can we just take a second to discuss the relic of a TV in the corner?
Cub and Papa came back just before the end of visiting hours (I was getting pretty lonely!) and then it was time to survive our hospital stay overnight. One of my nurses told me baby would probably sleep a lot the first night and then have a nursing marathon on night two, so I should try to rest. But Cub did the marathon on his first night, and turns out his sister was no different! Plastered in my hospital room were warnings not to fall asleep in bed with baby, which is pretty much impossible during an all-night nursathon. This is probably my only complaint about having to birth in hospital rather than at home: the sleeping arrangements. The beds are certainly not designed for co-sleeping, and generally I got the vibe that co-sleeping was not something being promoted. On the bright side, skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding seemed well supported!
So the whole reason I had to birth in hospital rather than at home, as I’d hoped, was because they wanted to monitor Little Miss Cub for withdrawal symptoms due to my dose of Paxil (an antidepressant). They were very thorough, and quick to call an early end to all their monitoring when it was clear she was doing fine. The nurses had a special withdrawal checklist, for example, but the pediatrician was satisfied after it was completed just twice. She had her blood sugar monitored before I nursed her, and again this was only done twice before the doctor felt it was unnecessary. Completely unrelated to possible side effects of Paxil withdrawal or exposure, however, the did note a slight irregularity in her heartbeat. They had me listen in, and sure enough, every 30 seconds or so you could hear her skip a beat. Nobody was particularly alarmed, but the pediatrician ordered an ECG to get a print out of her heart beat. This did show the skipped beat, so for the following day she ordered a second ECG and an echo of the heart (to make sure her heart’s structure was normal). Papa Wolf was really freaked out about all this, and I really felt it was benign. Luckily, her heart is in perfect shape and the little abnormality in its rhthym is likely to fix itself. We will get it checked again in 6 months. Because of the extra heart tests, we didn’t get home until 6:30 pm on Monday. Since I had been told to prepare for a 48-hour stay, I was very, very happy to not have to sleep another night at the hospital!
I think I’ll end the birth story there. I can honestly say that aside from location, I really had the birth I wanted. I wanted to be mobile to get through contractions as long as possible, I wanted to deliver in whatever position my instincts told me to, I wanted to feel totally involved and aware of everything my body was doing and witness it as much as possible. I promised myself I’d have a good look at the placenta, and I did: it was fascinating. I can’t believe what a difference birthing with a midwife made to the overall experience, though I know it is important to also factor in that it was my second birth. If ever, in the highly unlikely chance there’s another birth in my future, I will definitely choose midwifery again!