I had a very easy pregnancy.
Other than the usual first trimester fatigue and nausea and a long baby who kicked me in the ribs a lot, things went very smoothly. Because my pregnancy was so smooth I was lucky enough to be able to have midwives as care providers and to be able to choose my birth location.
I loved my midwives. They knew I wanted a natural birth, wanted as few interventions as possible. They were extremely supportive
My husband and I decided to give birth at the Toronto Birth Centre; it’s like a spa. The biggest draw was the bathtub. We don’t have one in our apartment and the ones there are huge. I had been to births at the birth centre, and they had all been lovely.
I went into labour very early in the morning on December 26.
I woke up around 2am starting to feel contractions. They weren’t very intense, but they were regular. I timed them for a bit, then dozed off. Around 5am I let my husband know that this was labour… not a rush, but just so he knew. We both dozed off again.
I spent the morning doing as much of my regular activities as I could. We had breakfast, we walked our dog, we had lunch. All the while, contractions were steadily increasing in intensity and getting closer together.
By around 4pm I knew it was time to call the midwife.
We were at the 4-1-1 mark (contractions coming every 4 minutes, lasting 1 minute and that had been going on for at least 1 hour). I remember hoping that I was in active labour, because I’ve been to so many births, I thought about how embarrassing it would be if I couldn’t even tell if I was in active labour.
Well, I was. When she checked me I was about 4-5 cm dilated!
So, around 6pm we decided to move to the Toronto Birth Centre.
I got into the tub immediately, and it was glorious, all the pressure just lifted. Goodbye, gravity.
Really quickly after we got settled there, my contractions really picked up, and I mean really picked up. 2 minutes apart and lasting 90 seconds, as in only 30 seconds break in between each one.
This MUST be transition, I thought, it’s not going to last long.
At 10:30pm my midwife asked if I wanted another cervical check. Sure, let’s see the progress of all this work.
I was only 6 cm dilated.
I was totally discouraged. I was so sure that I was in transition and would start feeling the urge to push any second.
My midwife offered me nitrous oxide - laughing gas. It wasn’t in my birth plan, but I needed a break. I had been working so hard. So, I accepted.
It was unbelievably helpful.
It gave my mind a break from all of the work that my body was doing. I used it for almost 4 hours, 2 tanks worth.
I had another cervical check at around 2:30am. Only 7 cm. But then my water broke during the check, afterwards I was 8 cm.
Things are moving.
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At this point I was beyond discouraged. I was moving back and forth from the bed to the tub, totally unable to cope. I remember thinking that I wanted an epidural. Not because of pain; because I wanted a break. I wanted a nap. Can I come back to this in like 3 hours and try again?
THIS is transition.
Less than an hour later I am pushing.
I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I have told many a pregnant mama that you don’t need to push, that your body has a reflex that gets the baby out. It’s true.
My midwife told me that she was calling her back up, I asked if it was because she had been on call for too long and needed a break. “No, it’s because you’re about to have your baby”. Oh!
The back up midwife arrives at about 5am. I pushed in a lot of different positions. A few contractions in one position, but baby doesn’t like this and their heart rate is dipping. Move to another position, same thing. Move to another, same thing.
Finally, at 6:30am I settle onto my back. This isn’t the position I wanted to birth in, but this is where baby seems to be happiest.
I knew that it would, but that didn’t make it any easier.
This was the hardest work I have ever done in my life, sending all of my energy down as intense waves move my baby out. But, the only way out is through. I remember saying out loud “I will not break”.
20 minutes later, my husband caught my son and placed him on my chest.
He wasn’t breathing right away. My midwife started to cut the cord to get him to the crash cart. I asked her to wait. She did. 2 full minutes. Babe still isn’t breathing. I told her to cut the cord. This is what it is to have a team who respects your role in the birthing process.
He was brought to the warmer and needed suctioning and oxygen, but within 4 minutes he is breathing just fine. Minutes later he is back on my chest.
My husband, my son and I take a very well deserved nap.
We wake up around 8am, and my son latches on and breastfeeds amazingly well.
By 10am, I carried our bags to the entrance of the birth centre.
The staff told me I needed to be wheeled out. Ok fine, I sit in the wheel chair and get wheeled to the car.
We are home and snuggling on the couch by 10:30am.
In the first few days after giving birth, I felt like I hadn’t accomplished my goal. I had needed an intervention, nitrous oxide- a minor one, but still. Why had I not been able to handle it? I had been so confident in my ability to give birth. It’s a physiological process, right?
The thing that helped the most was looking at the chart that the midwives had filled out during labour. I knew I had wanted a break, but at the time I didn’t realize just how close together and long my contractions had been. 90 seconds, every 2 minutes, for about 12 hours. For most births I’ve attended, there were 1 or 2 minute breaks in between contractions. What I would have given for a 2-minute break!
I realized that there is no way that I could have coped with 12 hours of intense work without some sort of help. If I had tried without the nitrous oxide, I would have needed something stronger.
Ultimately, the nitrous oxide is what facilitated me having the birth I wanted. It didn’t take away from it.
Things don’t always go according to plan, and being fluid is important. Especially with something as unpredictable as birth.
I knew that my team respected my goal of a natural birth and that the suggestions they made were in line with that.
We had clear discussions prior to my birth regarding these goals.
The key to a great birth?
Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to change it.
Have a team that you trust and who know your goals. They can help you achieve them regardless of how your birth plays out.
The best way to start is to make a birth plan. Fill it out and bring it to your team. Make sure you discuss it with them. You can have an amazing birth, even if things don’t go as planned.