I started writing this at 6 weeks postpartum and now it’s 10.5 weeks postpartum and I’m sitting down to finish it. (Edit she’s almost 7 months now and I still haven’t published this…hoping to get it done today!). At this point I can really feel the intensity of her birth and the whole pregnancy slowly fading. The things that were so traumatic are lessening and I’m forgetting the pain. Funny how we are designed. Mother Nature wants us to keep on producing offspring!
It’s been just about 6 (now 10, actually now 29 weeks) weeks since Evie’s ( we dropped one v from her nick name spelling) birthday and I’m finally feeling some kind of normalcy. I’ve been wanting to share her birth story with you for weeks now but I just couldn’t find the time, energy, mental or emotional ability to get it done. Here I am, finally light at then end of that crazy newborn tunnel (sort of).
If you were following my pregnancy journal/update blogs you’ll know Evie was frank breech position and that we were planing a vaginal birth with the breech team, Dr. Gaudet OBGyn and my midwife at the Civic. It’s called Trial of Labour (TOL) because the other option for breech babies is a scheduled C section. Basically I had the option of pre scheduling a C section or going ahead with labour with the knowledge that a C-section was possible. That’s really not much different from a head down baby. A C-section is always a possibility. With breech babies the risk is slightly higher and the rules around it are more defined. They are more strict with how long (among other criteria) they let you labour for before C-secion is required, how big the baby is and what they will do to augment, for example they want you to go into labour on your own without any medications, among other things.
Anyway on with the birth story! I had an appointment with Dr. Gaudet on Friday the 3rd. She did a very aggressive sweep (holy eff that hurt like crazy. Way more than the other sweeps done by the midwives or residents. She said let’s get this going). Because I was only 1cm dilated and I was approaching 42 weeks she put us on the wait list for an induction. She also booked me an appt for Tuesday the 7th to come back for another sweep and potential induction/water breaking. (Side note: if she wasn’t breech we may have not done any of this and let Evie come when she was ready. I also would have likely would have been birthing at home in a tub with a midwife. Who knows really but still that was my “plan” – oh life).
So that Friday night March 3rd I started having contractions. They felt like waves of light menstrual cramps combined with Braxton hicks contractions (tightening of the belly/uterus). They hurt in a kind of uncomfortable cramping kind of way. These went on all night. I was able to sleep through them but not well. I timed them at 10min apart, took some Tylenol and half a Gravol (as per my midwives instructions) and I went back to sleep thinking ok this is it! Baby in the morning (Hahah). They didn’t get any more intense or closer together and by mid Saturday they totally diminished. I was really discouraged and totally bummed out. We stayed in Saturday night and rested. I didn’t feel well in general and had light contractions all evening again but nothing intense. Sunday all day I was fine and everyone was teasing me that I’d have to wait until the induction. That basically she was never coming out. (side note – 41 weeks and 3 day is average for first time babes!). That evening we went to my parents for dinner. We figured a night of distraction would be good because just waiting around for baby is kind of frustrating in a way. Especially when you are that far along. I was so totally swollen and uncomfortable by then too.
Everyone was convinced Evie was staying put for ever (or at least another few days) so my family decided it would be a good night to have some wine and relax. A lot of wine. My hubby somehow got in on that idea and before I knew it everyone was drunk. Like totally blasted! ( except me) We were all having a great time laughing our asses off at who knows what and I started having contractions. Just light ones at first, coming when I would laugh. They felt like the ones I had on Friday at first. Then they got stronger but I was;t really paying attention because we were laughing so much. My sister noticed and said “are you having contractions?!” and I realized that holy crap, yes I was and they were fairly consistent. She started timing them and we realized they were 5min apart. She’s like, “um Mad, aren’t you supposed to call the midwife when they are 5 min apart?” I started timing them with my app and confirmed yes, they were 5min apart and 1min long. They had been going on for an hour or so. Oy! I got up to go to the bathroom and felt some wetness. Not like a gush but quite wet. When I went to the bathroom there was a lot of cervical fluid. Kind of like a runny nose and much more than what’s usually there around ovulation time. We were like, is this my water breaking!? I felt like it wasn’t but it was something for sure. I realize now it was my mucus plug shedding. Stuff was happening!
At this point it was close to 8pm and we decided we better go home and call my midwife. My hubby was too drunk to drive (can you believe it!!?) so I had to drive home having contractions which was pretty hilarious. He sat in the passenger seat trying not to barf (because he is a barfer when he drinks too much Haha!) and I drove home having contractions. The two of us deep breathing the whole way. It should have been recorded. That’s good reality show material! 😛
I’ll mention that he had actually abstained from drinking for quite a few weeks just in case I went into labour. Then peer pressure and delays and he caved and of course that was the night! Seriously. Ha!
So after the insane ride home he headed to the bathroom to get rid of all the wine in his belly (yup, he totally made himself throw it up) and I called the midwives. The on call midwife, Kristen answered and gave me some instructions. Basically work through this early labour on my own as we had discussed and call when things changed. Go figure that my midwife Saiya was off duty for the weekend until Tuesday. She wouldn’t be at the birth. There goes that plan. Another one bites the dust. (You can’t plan this shit I tell ya!)
My contraction were definitely getting stronger and very rhythmic but not so painful I couldn’t manage on my own. I sent my hubby to get some rest after he drank an electrolyte drink and ate a bunch of bread to sop up the wine. I took some tylenol/gravol, had a bath, used the TENS unit on loan from Ottawa Valley Midwives and basically dealt with contractions in my room in the dark. This got really intense. I had this strong desire to be alone in the dark and just work through contractions like an animal. It felt really instinctual. I also remember it getting more and more painful and thinking I never wanted to go through labour again. Reflecting on that is interesting because shit got way, way, way more painful! It’s a strange pain because you can time it and expect it and work through it but mother F it’s painful.
At 1am I could really feel that things had “changed”. Contractions were much stronger and intense and I couldn’t do anything but focus on breathing through them while they were happening. I called the midwives pager back and Rachel answered. She would come to our house and check my cervix so see where I was at in dilation (This is something I love about having a midwife). At 1:45 she showed up and checked me and confirmed I was 2cm dilated. TWO CENTIMETRES!! THAT WAS IT! I couldn’t believe that after all that time and pain I was only 2cm. Rachel said that it could really take some time and that if my water broke things may speed up. She checked baby’s heart rate and all was good so she was debating whether to stay the night or to go home and then come again when things changed again ( as in progressed more because 2cm is nothing – ugh). At that moment my water broke. A gush of warm fluid down my legs and all over the bed. Of course I missed the waterproof pad I had put down to protect the mattress. I looked at her and said ‘does that change anything? haha”
Rachel decided to stay the night at our place rather than drive home to come back again. She felt that I was doing better on my own with my breathing than with anyone distracting me so we set her up on an air mattress in the baby’s room (no guest room anymore!). I went back to my dark little nest and kept breathing through contractions. I had a rhythm going and I just kept at it. I couldn’t count or time anything or use the TENS at this point. It was all breathing. At about 3am I asked her to check me again. I couldn’t believe it when she said I was still 2cm! WTF? She said the good news was that I was 100% effaced so that was some progress but still lots to do. By this point it was really painful and non stop. Contractions coming much closer together, maybe 2 min apart, She and I decided I was still better doing my breathing alone in my room without distraction so I went back to that and I decided to change my position a bit. I had been on kind of a wide knee child’s pose and I shifted to more of an upright position. Holy crap that got thing going and way way more intense. The contractions came on strong. Waves and waves of painful cramp like sensations that take over your body.
At about 5am I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like I need pain relief and we needed to go to the hospital ASAP. It was this crazy feeling of like take me to the hospital NOW! My plan was to aim for a natural unmedicated birth if I could do it but that if at any point I wanted an epidural I would have one. At that moment I felt like I wanted that epidural. I woke Rachel up and she checked the baby’s heat rate again. Everything was still good and she could tell by my pain level I was ready to go the hospital. She didn’t bother checking my cervix again because they will do it when we arrive. I woke Juan up again and he ran around saying “ok we’ve got this, we’ve got this” while we got ready to leave the house. I was contracting every 2 minutes or so and with each contraction I would have to drop to the floor on my hands and knees and breath through them. The dogs were so worried about me and I was a mess. I ran around grabbing my bag and trying to pack some food while in between dropping to the floor in pain. It was intense! I couldn’t think and didn’t pack that well. Not as I planed it. lol
We got in the car and just as we were pulling out my neighbour saw us and wanted to say hi. Ha! Fat chance I could hardly breathe. I yelled at Juan to just go, go! We got to the hospital at 7am ( terrible traffic!). I sat on the edge of the seat the whole way while Juan told me the timing of contractions. He dropped me off at the front door to go park and Rachel met me there with a wheel chair, she asked if I could walk and I couldn’t. The contractions were so intense the thought of that long hospital hallway was daunting. I had leaked through a thick pad so there was amniotic fluid on my car seat. I had Depends underwear I was going wear for that very reason and totally forgot about them in the moment. Rachel rolled me up to the birth unit and I was happy to see Dr. Gaudet when checking in. I waved at her but I honestly was in such a fog at this point it seems crazy.
They got me into a labour and delivery room right away and did a cervical check. 6cm! Woohoo! I was surprised. It was further than I’d expected and good news. Dr. Gaudet informed me that she wouldn’t be there all day she was just heading out to clinic, but that I was in good hands with Dr. Campbell. I have to say that was disappointing because I actually tried hard to get there on a day she was working and I just missed it by one. I know that sounds nuts but it’s true. After everything we went through with being breech I was just so hopeful she’d be the one to help me get that baby out, she had such confidence about it. Such is life and the way our medical system works.
Things moved pretty quickly from here. The nurses got my hooked up to an IV which was really brutal. They could not find a vein and it took 6 pokes to get one. That was rough. Plus it was in my hand and was so painful for the entire time. I was trying to avoid all that crap altogether by going with midwifery care because they tend to avoid the IV if they can, but again, such is life. I tried hard not to focus on that stuff while it was happening. I need to focus hard on managing my pain. I only felt good sort of upright like I had been all night so I kneeled on the bed.
Dr. Campbell came in and explained that with breech babies speed is the name of the game. I had to get that baby out asap or I’d be having c section. I asked his opinion about an epidural and he said it’s helpful for when he has to dig around in there (um yeah ouch) but that it was up to me. Then he left. (sometime they strongly suggest it with breech birth because it’s easier to go straight to C-Section but Dr. Gaudet also had the opinion that I may be able to feel more and therefor get baby out faster without one.).
The Labour and Delivery nurse we had was absolutely frigging amazing. Her name was Heather McFadden and I’ll never forget her. Incredible and I’m thankful for her. Rachel our midwife was there (not Saiya, my primary- it was her day off remember. Funny enough I had been assigned to Rachel from the start but they moved me around so go figure) and my hubby. Because Ottawa Valley Midwives doesn’t have privileges at the hospital, Rachel was really there as more of a doula role.She wouldn’t be allowed to treat me or the baby. (Another kind of annoying thing about how it all unfolded but I just had to go with it.) She and Juan worked together to make sure I had what I needed, which was literally water and lip balm. I drank over six litres of water at the hospital and they must have applied my lip balm a thousand times. They also put cool cash cloths on my neck and back. I was so hot and this helped a lot. Other than that I didn’t want much. I didn’t even like being touched. Heather coached me mostly through the contractions and also monitored baby closely.
Later on my family arrived too. My mom felt it important for all my sisters and my dad to be in the room for some reason. I was out of it so it was ok with me but I told them no talking haha. I didn’t want any distractions, that’s typical for me and how I work. In retrospect I’m not sure if they needed to go through all of that. It was really intense! I’m gad they were there though, I don’t have to explain any of it to them, they know exactly what we went through! I just hope they aren’t too traumatized, they saw and heard a lot of me. 😉
So once I got all hooked up (contractions are still going on the whole time so I was out of it and really uncomfortable) I got coached back into position where I was facing the back of the bed on my knees. I’m telling you that at this point things were so painful. I’m not saying it to scare you but I really was shocked at the pain. Not so much shocked because I expected pain it but amazed that mother nature would have it this way.
At this point I asked again about an epidural but I wasn’t set on it anymore. I was more like asking the opinion of the nurse, and midwife. Everyone just said you are doing so well, keep breathing and so I did. In retrospect I think they knew I wanted it that way and because I wasn’t demanding it they coached me through. I’m happy with that but not so sure I’ll do it again that way lol. I was totally internally focused. My breath was everything and I had to manage contractions with it. The time went by really fast. I didn’t really ever know the time unless someone said it but I remember thinking wow it’s 10am already. I had gone from 2cm to 6cm pretty quickly. I can’t quite remember the timing on the rest but I went to 8 then to 9 and Juan was calling my family to hurry up or they’d miss it. We all thought baby was coming. Then I got stuck at about 9.5 for a while. This was the most intense and most painful part. My body literally was screaming to push. The urge was so intense but they wanted me to wait until I was full 10cm. In a head down birth this can happen and the midwifery care philosophy usually says push anyway but with breech babies in the hospital they want you to be absolutely fully dilated because there is a risk that bum comes out and then head can’t fit. That’s scary. At this point I was making the most insane animalistic sounds trying to work through the urge to push. It’s an insane feeling.
Dr. Campbell came in and told me I needed to hurry up or I’d be having surgery. Sheesh. I really focused on visualizing my cervix. With each breath I visualized it opening. I used a lot of the hypnobirthing advice I’d read as well as breathing from my yoga practise. That worked and all of a sudden they checked me and I was 10cm. Everyone was so excited and I could start pushing! (side note, when they checked I really couldn’t feel much. Endorphins at work!)
They got me into a reclining back position for pushing. I was aware in my mind that this wasn’t ideal for breech but I was in a trance almost and just did what they asked while focusing my breathing. As soon as that happened on my back things slowed. My contractions slowed and that urge to push went away. This was so utterly annoying because I lost my momentum. ( I just thought that maybe it was my body’s way of a rest though. Transition.) Rachel suggest a squat position so they set up the bar on the bed and I tried that for a while. Finally things came back strong and contractions were really long. Like two minutes long each. I remember the nurse saying something about how crazy that was. She also asked if I was a yoga instructor because of my breathing haha. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I followed Heather’s guide and pushed into her hand and a warm cloth. With all that pushing I was pushing on Baby and her poop was coming out of me. So much of it. She kept pooping the merconium which is really common in breech birth because their legs are pushing against their bellies and they are bum down in your uterus. Everyone was talking about how much there was. Go figure, that would be my baby – poop happy. hahah. I also remember seeing them get the baby bed ready and warm.
I pushed and pushed and no baby. She would not budge. All the while her heart rate was fine in there, she just wasn’t moving down. After 90 minutes of pushing the team around me got a bit more intense. I was pretty focused and I wasn’t so clear on what was going on but I guess they knew there was an issue. Pushing for that long isn’t good and Evie really wasn’t moving down. Finally at about the 2hour mark Dr. Campbell told me my time was up, C section it was.
I remember feeling shocked because I had really thought I’d be delivering vaginally the way things had been moving along so quickly, I don’t think I really realized I was stalling. I was just pushing and pushing but not aware of the time. We all really tried really hard to birth that baby vaginally and they even let me go over the allotted push time for breech babies. It just wasn’t going to happen.
I was disappointed but what can you do. Ultimately my goal was to avoid an unnecessary C-Section, unnecessary surgery, which I did. This one was very necessary. Evie would not be here without it so I’m very grateful for it.
So then the next issue was I had to wait for the OR and this part was brutal. I wasn’t an emergency, baby wasn’t in any distress so I had to wait. I waited an hour at least and all the while still having contractions but not being able to push. I was so out of it and so, so tired. I remember my family talking to me and Juan and Rachel being hungry. My mom got upset that I was in pain while waiting so the nurse ran off to get some Nitrous gas. I tried it but hated it and just went back to focusing on my breathing. I had actually changed positions and was in sort of a reclined side lying, hands under me proving me up weird position that helped ease contractions and I just stayed that way. If I moved it would bring them on so I didn’t dare.
I had to sign some papers about the risks of surgery, recovers and waiting 18 months before delivery another baby (risk of uterine rupture). Somewhere around 2:30pm they wheeled me off to the OR. I remember feeling so emotional and trying really hard not to cry as they wheeled me to OR. Tears were streaming down my face though. Juan and Rachel went off topper for surgery. It was really tough.
When the anesthesiologist saw me he asked if I’d had an epidural and was shocked I hadn’t. He said I seemed really conformable for someone who hadn’t but I think that was because I was still so focused on breathing and my contractions had eased a little plus I was totally exhausted. My nurse told him where to go. She was really irritated because she knew what I’d been through lol .
I remember having a hard time trying to get in position for the spinal. He wanted me to sit evenly on both butt cheeks and fold over so he could access my spine. Are you kidding? I have a huge belly, a baby about to come out and I’m about to have a contraction. OMG, actually I though I was going to die. Thankfully Heather helped me into position and held me while her injected the drug into my back. Just as my contraction was about to peek, the freezing took over and I couldn’t feel anything anymore. Such TOTAL relief. Modern medicine at work here.
I remember feeling completely and utterly exhausted at this point. I could not stay awake. I told the nurse I was so tired and she said that I would want to be awake for my baby so to have a little power nap while they got set up. Good advice!
At some point Juan and Rachel came in and we were ready to go ahead with the surgery. I felt lots of tugging and pulling in my abdominal area but no pain.
My connection with my hubby at the moment was so amazing. He was so sweet and positive and excited. It was a really beautiful and tender moment for us.
It seemed like forever before Evie was born. I was so nervous hoping everything was ok and waiting for her. So emotional. I was literally trembling and whimpering. Finally I heard my baby girl cry. What a moment!
They clocked it at 3:10pm. 21 hours of labour. She weight 7lbs 6 ounces, 20 inches long and was all bent out of shape from being stick in my uterus in a wacky position and wrinkled AF from bring in there so long. Haha. Beautiful baby. Dr. Campbell confirmed her positioning and said that she was wedged in a way that he would not have come out. We absolutely had to do that section.
This was by far the most intense moment of my life. Beautiful and raw and vulnerable. The whole experience was also the most painful and longest experience in my life. It’s such a strange pain though that I really handled only by breathing deep and focusing inward. Zero distractions. Nothing but me and my mind. Total support from my man. Surreal.
Evie was taken off to get checked over, her little breech baby legs sticking straight up, and given it K shot which I approved of. I disallowed the antibiotic eye drops. weighed her and all that stuff. Again not how I pictured it with my home birth but whatever, she was healthy and safe and me too. Juan got to hold her and love on her while they closed me up. Once I was ready for the recovery room Heather unwrapped Evie and out her on my chest for skin to skin. It was incredible. I put her to my breast and she nuzzled and latched right away. So much emotion. Incredible. We dealt with actual breastfeeding things later on but in that moment she suckled and nuzzled and slept on me. Heather told me to let anyone else hold for a few hours. I was grateful for that advice. We had been through a pretty traumatic time getting her here and I didn’t want to share her just yet.
The next 24 hours were a blur. My sisters and parents came, Juan stayed. We spent the night figuring out what to do with this new baby. The nurses were amazing. I was so so so swollen it was insane. Partly from surgery and partly from drinking all that water and not peeing once during labour! I even tried. Crazy. I was there two nights for recovery and then sent home. What a ride home! Crazy feeling leaving with a tiny newborn ( plus I could hardly walk lol).
I know you might be reading this and think, why didn’t she just have a scheduled C-section. I’ll tell you, that would have been a hell of a lot easier and quicker in the moment. I would have been feeling better for recovery too, not as drained. But all in all I’m glad I tried my damnedest to give birth vaginally. I went through the whole experience, laboured 20+ hours, most of it at home, got to 10cm dilated and pushed. I wanted to experience that. I just wanted to. Without pain meds too. That’s what I wanted and my doctor felt it was safe and a good option for us to try with just as good a chance as any for vaginal delivery. I wanted and so I did.
I wanted to avoid C-section because it’s a major surgery, among other reasons. That comes with risk and recovery. The potential complications were just as much a concern as the complications with delivery her vaginally breech. Unfortunately after all of this I ran into those complications. I think I’lll save the whole story for another time but essentially I was discharged on Wednesday and ended up back in the hospital with Evie the next morning. My incision was bleeding and they had to re open me, find the bleeder, cauterised and sew me up again. I was there until Saturday that week. This was, unfortunately a really bad experience for me and I don’t want to link it to her birthday so I’m going to separate it out as a part 2.
(Just for any one reading who plans a c section (or any birth), have clear plan/instructions for afterward from your care provider on what to do just incase you have complications! )
I wish my story was more in line with all the beautiful stories I read in Ina May’s book, more inspiring and positive but the reality is it isn’t. This is the rawness of it. I am disappointed with not being able to push her out but I’m also so happy to have gone through it all so I can share it. Evie is safe and healthy and so am I and that’s important. It’s the most important but it doesn’t mean having a C-section doesn’t bother me because it does a little. That’s the truth. I can’t say otherwise. It’s something I still need to work through.
The section itself wasn’t painful, afterward was though and recovery for me wasn’t a joke either. Especially with the extra surgery, it did take 6 weeks like they said it would. I’m still recovering at 7 mo but we all need recovery after pregnancy, vaginal birth and C-section. I’ll talk more about this too.
The memory of the labour pain is fading and the more I fall in love with Evie, want more babies and forget the pain the more it fades. BUT I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was incredibly intense and painful and in the moment (and about 5 weeks after) I would have told you I’ll never do it again. At 3 months I wasn’t sure, at seven months I say yes. Maybe. Maybe yes. Probably and maybe with an epidural next time though. Funny though as I write that now, at 7 months, I think, nah I can do it again with no meds…why? Why do I want to? Weird. Also, another C-section vs VBAC is a whole other discussion….another blog post.
The most incredible thing about all of it is that we grow and human and give birth to one. At 7 months old she is the most beautiful human I know. I adore her and would do it all again in a second for her.