I get asked this a lot, especially by my pregnant friends. So here's the story for you all to read...
Around 2am on Tuesday, August 10th, I woke up to contractions. Took me a few minutes to realize that they were not Braxton-Hicks, that this was it: labour. I finally woke Oliver up around 3am--he assumed I was in very early labour & tried to get me to go back to sleep, thinking we should rest for the long day ahead of us. I absolutely could not sleep or rest at that point, so I paged my midwife, Laura. She talked to me through a contraction or two & suggested a shower, which would slow my contractions down if it was just pre-labour. The hot water was soothing, but after four contractions in there, I realized things were not going to slow down.
I needed to start timing the contractions but I'd actually had trouble doing that before I spoke to Laura because I was expecting my belly to feel tight & then relax in between them. I didn't know when to start & stop the online timer. It felt hard all the time, the only change was the pain of each one.
After about two more hours of pacing the house, sitting, standing, kneeling & timing contractions, they were around three to four minutes apart & mostly a minute long (the magical 4-1-1 rule) so I called our doula, Becka, who headed over to our house, & then the midwife again. Becka helped me keep breathing deeply through the contractions, provided massage, physical support & encouragement. I think she also spoke to the midwife on the phone about how I was doing. (A lot of details like that are difficult for me to remember because I was really starting to become focused inward, less & less aware of what was going on around me.)
We agreed to meet Laura at BC Women's. Oliver got our things ready, fed the cat & picked up a Co-op car to drive us to the hospital. I think he thought we still had a lot of time at this point, but as I was standing outside waiting for Oliver to lock up the house & unlock the car, I started getting the urge to push. I wondered if any of the neighbours heard me moaning outside--it was around 7am. Between intense contractions, I got into the back seat with Becka & Oliver drove us carefully to BC Women's. I remember thinking that the trip to the hospital often slows labour down a bit, so I stopped worrying I'd have the baby in the car & was able to relax (as much as you can when the strongest muscle in your body is squeezing for all it's worth every minute or two).
We got to the hospital around 7:30 & made our way in, pausing a few times for contractions between the car & the entry way. By this point I was getting pretty loud, 'moaning & toning' as our prenatal class instructor Aleks would say. I scribbled an approximation of my signature on a form & got my bracelets, then was whisked into the assessment area where my water broke, finally. The midwife checked to see how dilated I was. As she felt for my cervix she said, "Oh, hello, baby! Lisa, you're 10 centimetres!" The urge to push that I'd been trying to ignore on the way to the hospital was overwhelming. I was moved into a delivery room nearby on the main floor, rather than in Cedar, the 'fancy' ward upstairs because things were so advanced.
The next two hours are hazy, almost as if I had my eyes closed the entire time, though I know I didn't. I tried various positions--nothing was comfortable--but after trying sitting, squatting, kneeling, side-lying, standing & leaning on Oliver, Becka or the bed felt best. I know there were three different nurses with us at various times, but I doubt I could pick them out of a lineup now. I was totally focused on each contraction, visualizing how my body was opening up & how my baby moved as I pushed. Laura & the nurse spent a lot of that time crouched on the floor behind & below me, monitoring the baby's heartbeat intermittently, applying hot compresses, reassuring me that I was doing well & I was safe.
Just before 10am, I finally gave one last huge push, only realizing that his head was out when I felt my son's little body make a quarter turn inside me & then slide out. He let out a cry immediately & Laura passed him up between my legs & helped me get up onto the bed. I can't possibly describe the joy that I know Oliver & I both felt at that moment. Oliver even got over his aversion to all things blood-vessel-related & cut the umbilical cord himself.
The rest of the story is a bit less blurry in my memory, but I was so distracted by the fact that I was now holding my squirmy little Sprout in my arms, looking into his eyes, watching with amazement as he nuzzled around & started breastfeeding with surprisingly little help.
Delivering the placenta was a breeze, likely because I'd decided to go with an oxytocin shot in the leg when the baby crowned (didn't even feel the jab). Even getting a few stitches & learning that I had a second-degree tear couldn't distract me from the incredible high that I was on.
Sprout received his bracelets & then we were wheeled upstairs to a room in Dogwood, where the three of us stayed the night. We could have gone home that afternoon, but decided we might as well take advantage of the helpful staff, healthy meals & other services at BC Women's.
I had hoped to try a water birth, but I feel truly blessed that I had a quick labour & that I was able to manage the pain without any drugs at all. Throughout the entire eight hours I felt safe & supported by my midwife, doula, nurses & of course, Oliver. I have heard many 'horror stories' of birth: stressful, frightening, disappointing, alienating & even tragic experiences that left the mother scarred. I really want to put my story out there, particularly to mothers-to-be, as a counterpoint.