My Birth Story
The day has finally come! I can't believe I am sitting here right now with a sleeping baby next to me. It feels so surreal. Looking at his peaceful little face I can't help but think...wow, so you were the one that would get hiccups in my tummy all the time? You were the one that would stretch his legs out every chance he got? You were the one I saw at that 4D ultrasound?
I mean, it definitely all adds up...he still gets the hiccups all the time, he loves to stretch his long legs, and he loves to have his hands by face like he did in that ultrasound. It's still just so surreal.
But today I want to tell my birth story. In short, it was incredible and I wouldn't have had it happen any other way. I really wanted to give birth at the Toronto Birth Centre which is entirely midwife run. I really wanted to minimize the chance of medical interventions, I wanted to test my own strength and pain tolerance without the option of an epidural, but ultimately I really wanted to have a birth photographer present and at the time, the birth centre was allowing 2 support people instead of only 1 which is what most hospitals in my area currently allow due to the pandemic. I was told by my midwife team that there was a chance they wouldn't have someone available to go to the birth centre as opposed to the hospital that they more frequently attended due to new self-isolation rules in case of possible contact with COVID so I was trying really hard not to get my hopes up.
My due date (February 11th) came and went and I was getting a bit nervous about going too long overdue. The more overdue I went, the higher my chances of having to go to the hospital instead of the birthing centre. Luckily only 2 days later (February 13th) in the early hours of the morning, everything started happening.
Around 1:00 AM I woke up to pee as usual and went back to bed. A few minutes later I flipped over in bed and felt a big popping sensation in my pelvis, it was almost audible. At first I wasn't sure if it was the usual popping sensation that would happen in my pelvis and hips whenever I moved or if it was something different. Then I felt a trickle and I knew I had to go straight back to the washroom ASAP. Let's just say that as soon as I got to the toilet, the waterfall started and I knew without a doubt that my water had broke.
I woke up Peter to tell him and it didn't take long for my contractions to start. They started off feeling like minor menstrual cramps along with my belly tightening, almost similar to the way some of my Braxton Hicks contractions felt in the past. I started timing them and wondered if I was already dilated at all. I had no idea because with midwives, the amount of checking done is pretty minimal unless it's asked for so I was never checked to see how dilated or effaced I was before this point. I started timing the contractions and even though they were not super intense, they were each lasting around 30-40 seconds and right from the get-go they were anywhere from 2-5 minutes apart. This went on for about an hour and then I decided to call my on-call midwife because the spacing of them was making me nervous.
My midwife said it sounded like things were well on their way and that she wasn't too concerned about the spacing at that point, but to call her back once they started getting more intense and I couldn't really talk through them. I think it was only another hour later that they did start getting more intense, and they were more consistently 1.5 to 3 minutes apart (3:00 AM) so I called her back and she suggested to wait it out a bit longer. Things started getting way more intense very quickly so I called her back about 25 minutes later and told her I'd feel much better heading to the birth centre now because I was starting to panic a bit and she said she would meet me there. Part of why I was so nervous was because the birth centre was about a 30 minute drive away and it felt like things were already progressing so quickly that I was scared of being one of those people to give birth in their car. Peter also gave our birth photographer a call to let her know we were on our way. Typically she would show up once I was at least 6 cm or more so we were told to call her back when that was the case.
We arrived at the birth centre somewhere between 4:00-4:30 AM and by that point I was pretty much 100% focused on breathing and my eyes were closed 99% of the time so I really didn't get a chance to take in the birthing centre. I asked my midwife if she could check me and it took me a while to even get to the bed and get situated because I really didn't get much of a break between contractions and I found the best position to be standing while leaning forward onto something. She finally checked me and I was 9 cm dilated! The first words out of my mouth were "Peter, call Jenn!" (our photographer). Luckily she didn't live far so it didn't take her long to get there but for a bit I really thought she was going to miss it which would have been so sad. I couldn't believe I was dilated to 9cm already after only a few hours of labour and I am SO glad that I listened to my body and left when we did because dealing with the intensity of the contractions I had at that point in that car would have been torture.
After getting checked I hopped in the tub and laboured in there on all fours for a couple hours. I was super focused on breathing and making low moaning sounds to cope with the pain. I told my midwife it felt like I needed to push but the photographer wasn't there yet and it felt like I was giving everything in my body to hold him in. Luckily she finally arrived and my midwife said if my body was ready to push then it would feel good to do it. If it hurt more than it meant my body wasn't ready yet. She also encouraged me to not make any sound when pushing and to focus everything into my bottom. When I say that I was skeptical that it would feel good to push...that is an understatement. But it was so true. I don't think "good" is the right word but it took most of the pain of the contractions away when I was pushing. It was wild. I also shocked myself by even being able to remain completely silent while doing so. I was pushing for a while in the tub and my midwife said his head was turned slightly which is what was giving me a hard time, and it felt like my pelvis was tilted slightly so she encouraged me to try pushing on the bed.
After moving to the bed it was another couple of hours of pushing until Xavier finally came into the world at 9:45 AM. The worst part about the entire labour for me was actually when I started getting foot cramps in the tub and then later full leg cramps near the end of pushing and after the delivery. I have always been prone to foot and leg cramps and once I start getting them, they continue to come back over and over again so I knew as soon as the first foot cramp hit that I was in for it. When I was pushing on the bed, I was holding my own legs back majority of the time so I was really using a lot of upper arm strength (which I definitely felt 2 days later) and I was unable to fully relax my legs when I wasn't pushing because my feet would keep sliding down the bed. Eventually I had Peter and the student midwife hold my ankles to keep my legs from sliding so that I could relax the muscles in my legs a bit and avoid further leg cramps.
The only part of the labour that I got *loud* was during the ring of fire when he was crowning and on his way out. Luckily it only lasted less than 30 seconds and even looking back at the video we recorded of the birth, I didn't even get that loud. I felt like I was being way louder than I was but I guess it was because in comparison to my silence for the rest of the labour, I felt like I was screaming lol.
When Xavier was put on my chest for the first time I think I was in shock. It took so long to get this point that I couldn't believe it was real and I couldn't believe that I had just given birth to him with zero pain relief. I honestly didn't think I'd be able to do it and I was so proud of myself. He had the CUTEST little cry I have ever heard in my life. Peter cut the cord and after I had some skin to skin with him and latched him for the first time (which he was a natural at), Peter had some skin to skin with him as well while I got stitched up because I did unfortunately have several second degree tears. I'm not surprised considering I was pushing for so long.
And that was that! They did some initial assessments on Xavier which he passed with flying colours, there was never a moment during my labour that he was in distress or that there were any issues with him which I am so grateful for. He weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces and measured 51cm long.
After they finished that and cleaned him up a bit, we spent a couple hours doing skin to skin, I got to eat some snacks that the Birth Centre provided, and my only requirement before being able to head home was to pee. Once we did that we were able to head home just a few hours after the birth and we were home by 1PM. It felt really surreal to be sent home so quickly because I was so used to hospital expectations of being there for at least 24-48 hours. I barely had time to video chat friends and family but it was nice to be home and get settled even though it was a little bit nerve wracking suddenly having a tiny human to take care of.
Xavier is 3 weeks old now and we've settled into a bit of a routine. Peter has surpassed my expectations and has become the best daddy ever, being so helpful during my recovery, spending his time researching how to take care of a baby and just being a complete natural with him. I couldn't ask for a better partner and I can't wait to continue our journey as parents together.
Here is our birth video:
All photos and video taken by Jenn Inkol: https://www.jenninkol.com/