It’s been one month since the birth of my son Niko, and I finally feel like I can share the experience. Childbirth is beautiful, but the process before childbirth is messy. I want to share my experience with the hope that it will provide not only the truth behind the ugly parts of labor, but also encourage women to go into it with the idea that, YOU CAN endure an unmedicated birth if there is no medical reason not to, and most importantly; if that is what YOU want.
This will be my 100th blog since starting newnormal.me on March 7, 2016. I find it beautiful and serendipitous that this entry is about the birth of my son.
This blog has literally gone full circle.
The midwife placed him on my chest, and I heard him cry. He was so big. His eyes were open, and he was so warm. At that moment everything that had ever happened to me, the pain, the surgeries, the medications, the tragedy, the grief, the journey of uncertainty, the good, the bad and the ugly;
everything finally made a little bit of sense.
I was 40 weeks plus five days, and I was ready.
It was Sunday night, and the ultrasound was booked for Monday morning. The ultrasound was to ensure the baby was still doing okay and that there was nothing, like my fibroids, keeping him from engaging. I told Scott we should have a fire in the backyard. I said exactly this, “maybe he will smell it, and it will make him want to come out.” Scott and I both love fires so it made sense that our son would too.
We sat out there for about an hour and then went to bed. I took two gravol. I hadn’t slept in what felt like days, and I was exhausted. The thought of going into labor was terrifying because I barely had enough energy to roll my giant belly out of bed.
I woke up Monday morning at 6 am. I had the most intense cramp. I attributed it to having to pee and laying on my side for too long. Laying in any position was extremely uncomfortable, and if I didn’t roll myself over every few minutes like bacon, I would get sharp pains.
About ten minutes later I felt it again and then again about ten minutes after that. I don’t remember the exact pattern at the beginning, but I knew something was definitely different. I let Scott sleep until about 7:45 am and then said, “I think it’s happening.” His response, “Why, why do you think it’s happening.” I don’t blame him for being unsure because I had thought I might be in labor a handful of times before that so you really just never know if it’s the real thing or not.
The midwife advised us to go to the ultrasound anyway, just in case this was a false alarm. My contractions continued but I was still able to function, and the pain wasn’t much more than a period cramp. For someone who has endometriosis, I would describe it as a very minor period cramp at that.
During the ultrasound, we could see how squished the baby was. The technician said, “he is definitely getting ready.” Seeing him on that screen and knowing that we were likely going to meet him very soon was a feeling I can’t explain.
I have never wanted to meet someone more in my entire life.
Following the ultrasound Scott and I decided to go to Costco and then to the registries office to change our address on our driver’s licenses. I was still having consistent contractions, and they were definitely getting stronger and stronger throughout the day.
By 2 pm I was confident this baby was coming. My Mom was on the way from Medicine Hat to pick the girls up from school, and our midwife strongly recommended I try to rest because it could be a long night. I convinced myself based on the pattern of contractions; the baby might arrive by supper time. Boy, was I wrong.
I planned to labor at home as long as I could so we stayed in contact with the midwife, and I did everything I could to rest. This is much easier said than done when you have a contraction every 5-8 minutes.
I decided my bedroom was the most comfortable place for me to labor and the dogs were right there with me. The girls popped in a couple of times to check in, and they witnessed some of the more intense contractions later on as well. As I was in the zone on my exercise ball, Scott explained to the girls what was happening and why I needed to concentrate and breathe. I am not sure what goes through a 7 and 9-year old’s head when they see someone in labor. Regardless, they were excited.
It was around 7 pm my contractions became increasingly stronger. It felt like they were literally on top of one another and everytime Scott would hit the timer he would say, “omg that one was really really close.” I spent some much needed time underneath the hot water in my shower until I decided it was time to contact the midwife.
It was around 8:30 pm at this point and the midwife agreed to meet us at Rockyview Hospital to check my progress. She reminded us that if we weren’t dilated enough the hospital would not allow us to stay so we had planned to book into a hotel close by if this were the case.
As we were leaving our house, I hugged my Mom and at that moment had another contraction. This brings the saying, “you are never too old to need your Mom” to a whole new level. I am not sure anyone had a dry eye at this point. I remember her saying something along the lines of, “as soon as you see him you will forget all of this.” My Mom walked us to the car and sent us off.
The drive from High River to Calgary was the most uncomfortable 45 minutes of my life. Scott drove safely through the rain, and I assured him every contraction, that I was okay. I was no longer able to go through my contractions quietly, so I am sure he was wishing he was in his police car traveling lights and sirens to get me there faster.
When we arrived at the hospital, we drove right up to the front door. I am not going to lie, I thought this baby was coming, and so did Scott. Scott yelled out the window to the security guard, “where do we park, we are in labor”? The security guard pointed us to the drop off parking and told us not to worry about getting a ticket.
We got a ticket 😉 In his defense, I think he thought Scott would be right back down to move the car. Luckily for me, Scott didn’t leave my side.
On the way up the elevator, the contractions were coming faster and more intense. When the elevator opened there were some people (can’t tell you how many or their gender), but they were waiting on the outside of the elevator. I was not ready to get off. I went through another contraction while holding tight on the handlebar. I usually try to avoid touching those bars at all costs when in elevators, that night; I didn’t care. The nice people waited patiently, and when I was done, I made my way to admitting.
Again, I thought this baby was coming fast.
The midwife arrived soon after we did and the first thing she did was checked my progress. For anyone who has had a baby, you know that this process is less than desirable. I was 5cm dilated. The midwife was so excited and congratulated us for making it that far at home.
Thank God this was the case because there was no way I was getting back in that car.
So far so good. Everything was going just as planned. It was around 9:30 pm, my contractions were less than two minutes, and they were strong. I thought for sure this baby was coming fast and was quite sure he would be born before midnight.
I wasn’t able to rest throughout the day, so at this point, I was exhausted. I don’t remember exactly what time it was when I found myself in the shower with hot water pouring on me with a feeling of defeat. I had very minimal breaks between the contractions and I remember looking at Scott saying, “I need a pep talk.” Shortly after that, I remember saying, “I am so tired. I don’t know if I can do this, I am so tired.”
Scott did what he was supposed to and provided me assurance that I could do it and offered me encouragement and positive affirmations every chance he could. At one point we were standing in the bathroom with my arms around his neck and our eyes locked as I went through another contraction. I remember the midwife saying, “I wish you could see yourselves right now.”
That alone gave me more strength to keep going. I knew I had Scott and that he had the midwife and that together, all of us as a team, could do it.
I felt powerful, confident, and ready to meet this baby. Everything was going just as I had hoped.
Until I felt the need to push.
The midwife checked my progress, and I was only 8cm dilated.
“Megan, you can’t push.”
My thoughts were, WHAT? How can I not push?
The baby’s head wasn’t where it needed to be yet, and without getting into too much detail, the midwife was concerned with swelling if I continued to push. I am sure many women reading this know how hard it is not to push when your body tells you to push. I did not anticipate or mentally prepare for this feeling.
Back in April my midwife and I had to attend Foothills Hospital to sort out some minor issues I was having, and I remember the woman in the room next to me who was in labor howling in agony. I remember the doctors continually saying to her, “hun don’t push, you can’t push yet.” I was mortified by what I was hearing, but my midwife reassured me in the best way she could by saying, “I know it doesn’t sound like it, but that woman is doing amazing right now.”
Part of the reason I wanted to attempt an unmedicated birth was that I wanted to have control over my body and I wanted to be able to bring my baby into the world in the most ideal way possible for him and for me. The minute I felt the need to push was precisely the time that I lost a lot of my control.
Or so I thought. The mind and body are two powerful things and with the help of a seasoned midwife; I was able to carry on.
To say I was terrified was an understatement but at this point, there was no medical reason for us to do anything differently.
I wasn’t sure how long this was going to go on. I was exhausted, my contractions were on top of each other, and the need to push was taking over. I didn’t know I could make the noises that I did and had I not had the midwife to tell me exactly what to do, exactly how to breathe, and exactly what words to say during each contraction to reserve my energy, I likely would have given up and asked for some kind of relief.
The midwife kept saying, “I am not going to make you do this forever.”
It went on for over two hours.
I had tried a million different positions and every time I said the words, “I don’t like this position, I can’t do this one”, my midwife would say, “ok, but you are going to stay in this position for at least two more contractions and then you can move.” I remember from our prenatal classes the instructor said that you should always give a position a few chances before you move to another.
To my surprise, the only one I wanted to be in was on my back. I never thought I would feel this way since your back defies gravity when it comes to giving birth, but I had exerted nearly all of my energy already by resisting the urge to push, and my back was the only position I could physically handle at that point.
I remember at one point the midwife looked at Scott and said, “do you see her eyes, they are completely dilated.” Scott agreed and later described to me again how big and black they looked. I was focused, determined, and completely drained. I was working entirely off of adrenaline.
I still wasn’t progressing.
The midwife finally said, “I have one more thing we can try. You are going to hate it, but it might work”.
She told us if I could get through doing my next few contractions in this particular position she was about to put me in; I might dilate.
I was prepared to do anything at this point so that I could start pushing. The position consisted of me laying on my back with my legs hanging down off the bed. Between each contraction, Scott would hold up my legs and rock them back and forth.
Neither one of us enjoyed it, and I was at a point where if someone had offered me drugs or a c-section; I would have taken it in a heartbeat.
No one offered it.
I did a few contractions in that position, and then my midwife said, ok I am going to check your progress. Somehow, I had gone from 8cm to 10cm just like that.
Clearly, our midwife knew what she was doing. She knew I was going to hate it, but she walked us through and encouraged me the entire time. The aggression she had in her face made it feel like I was in some kind of boot camp, but it was exactly what I needed.
At this point, I started pushing, it was time to bear down, and I couldn’t be more relieved. I honestly thought this stage was going to be fast and I couldn’t wait to meet our little man.
After each contraction, I would take my eyes off the midwife and look back at Scott for reassurance.
I was getting about 30 seconds if that between each contraction and I used the breathing techniques I learned from powerlifting to push as effectively as I could.
The midwife made the call to have one of her colleagues come in to assist with this part of the labor, which was normal and part of the protocol. It told me the baby would be arriving soon.
Boy, was I wrong again.
Once again, things were not progressing enough, and the midwife was becoming concerned as the baby’s head was not where it was supposed to be, and no matter how hard I pushed, it wasn’t changing.
I don’t remember what time it was, but she said to me, “I am going to give you one last push. If you can bear down and give me everything you’ve got, it might work. If it doesn’t work though, we will have to try something different.
I later learned that different meant medication and then likely a c-section. The midwife didn’t tell me that in the moment.
I had no idea what was happening, and I still have to ask Scott for the details because I only remember bits and pieces of the conversation. I was too focused on my part of the birth, I didn’t have the energy to worry about anything else, and I had complete trust in my midwife to know precisely what to do next.
I told myself, this is it. This is my last chance to get this baby out on my own. Well, sort of on my own. The midwife planned to do a lot of manipulation with the baby’s head while simultaneously yelling at me to bear down and push as hard as I possibly could.
I was prepared to do whatever was next if “this” didn’t work. I had been pushing for over an hour and not progressing so I knew if the midwife said we needed to do something different, it was time to do something different. I mentally prepared myself for this possibility all through my pregnancy, so I was 100% okay with doing whatever needed to be done to get this baby out safely.
What happened next was the most painful experience of my life but when I heard the midwife at the end say, “you did it,” I knew I could get through no matter what was coming next and this baby was going to be here very soon.
I continued pushing for probably another hour or more, and my contractions were right on top of one another. I think I asked, “is he almost here?” every single contraction.
As soon as I knew things were progressing and all I had to do was push, I was ready, and I gave it everything I had. Scott right there beside me, holding my hands and legs and watching as our baby was entering the world.
To be honest, I didn’t think he would be able to watch everything, but he did. He was right in there with the midwife and getting me through each contraction, just as I needed him too.
That very last push was one I will never forget. I was focused and ready, and no matter how painful it was I knew I was getting close. I didn’t think this was the last one so when I felt the baby come out I was not only surprised, but I was so relieved.
The midwife placed him on my chest, and I heard him cry. He was so big, his eyes were open, and he was so warm. At that moment everything that had ever happened to me, the pain, the surgeries, the medications, the tragedy, the grief, the journey of uncertainty, the good, the bad and the ugly;
everything finally made a little bit of sense.
I looked up at Scott, and he had a face full of tears. All I kept saying was, “you’re finally here.”
The amount of relief I had is unexplainable. It had been just under 24hrs since my labor started and I could not believe I was done.
After long intense deliveries there is risk of hemorrhage so my uterus needed a bit of assistance between delivering the baby and delivering the placenta. My uterus was just as exhausted as I was.
Adrenaline is an amazing thing.
I am so incredibly fascinated with what my body was able to undergo that day and although Scott and our midwife will not take any credit, they deserve it. I had the most amazing team in those two and had they not been there it would have gone way different.
Scott and I still talk about how powerful our midwife was and how amazed we were in her ability to get me through each moment of that labor; even when things weren’t going well. Scott also got me through it too, and I truly believe the job of the coach is so incredibly important when trying to manage an unmedicated labor. Scott has taken every opportunity to tell me how proud he is of me and I genuinely believe he was just as shocked as I was that I made it through. But like I said, without him; I would have given up on my “plan A” right after we got to the hospital and without the midwife, he probably would have been okay with that.
Niko was born at 5:07am on September 25, 2018, weighing in at 9lbs 2oz and just over 20inches. He had beautiful big bright grey eyes and a cry that was music to our soul. The emotion I had when I held him for the first time is indescribable. I knew how blessed we were and I knew just how special Niko was. I couldn’t believe he was mine.
I still can’t, one month later.
I have held so many babies that belong to friends and family over the years, and I had very little hope that I would ever hold my own. I love those babies and I have another Neice as of Monday that I can’t wait to snuggle, but the feeling of a warm, healthy baby in your arms and that baby being your own is an incredible feeling and a gift that I will never take for granted.
Happy one month birthday my sweet Niko. You are loved more than you will ever know.