I woke up with bad cramps, and I looked at the alarm clock beside the bed. It was 1:03 am on Friday, April 26, 2013, 15 days before my due date of May 11. I didn’t think much of it considering the day before, Thursday, I had been feeling “not right” and almost felt like I had eaten bad food or something, and I had been having very irregular contractions since the morning before. After waking twice more I looked at the clock again and it was 1:39 am. I got up to go to the bathroom both times, and when I got back in bed I decided if the cramps keep coming, I would start timing them. After climbing back in bed, my husband was awake and asked what was wrong. I said “nothing’s wrong, I just don’t feel well.” He asked flat out “are you in labour”? I said I don’t think so, but I was thinking it too. I woke up again at 1:53, 2:07, 2:21, 2:34 and finally at 2:47 I woke him up and said, ” I think I’m in real labour. I’m having cramps about every 12 to 13 minutes for almost 2 hours now.” I felt really excited.
We ended up staying in bed until around 4:30 am and then eventually got up, got dressed and brushed my teeth. The contractions were coming every 5-6 minutes apart, so I figured I’d wait a bit longer before calling my Midwife. Hubby figured he would blow up the birth pool and get it ready for filling, and I grabbed the home birth list off the fridge and realized we didn’t have anything we needed. At 5:21 am, the contractions were coming every 5 minutes and lasting about a minute, so I decided to call my Midwife. She told me to try and get as much rest as I could, and to call her back when they were 4 mins apart, lasting a minute long, for an hour. I had gotten the 4-1-1 rule mixed up with 5-1-1, she said it could still be a while yet. I told Hubby that and then we just laid on the couch and watched some TV, we decided he would go to Walmart at 8:00 am when it opens and grab all the stuff on the list, plus some fruit for me to munch on.
Upon Hubby’s return from Walmart, I was still labouring on the couch and the contractions were starting to get a bit more intense. They were not painful, but uncomfortable for sure. I wasn’t sure when we should fill the pool, but I felt like I needed some water therapy so I drew a bath in our tub thinking it would help. It was around 11:30 am by now, and the contractions were in between 4 and 5 mins apart and to my disappointment, the tub was too small for me to get in any comfortable position, so I got out and just paced the house or the next hour or so.
Finally after 11 hours, the contractions were steady at 4 minutes apart since noon, so at 12:58 pm, I told Hubby to call our Midwife as I was finding it hard to talk during the surges. When he got off the phone he told me she was at another birth, and she would call back. She told Him to call her back if there was an emergency, and asked if I was in the tub yet.
The next few hours went by fast for me even though the contractions seemed to be going by in slow motion. I remember when I first got in the birth pool, the feeling was instant relief. My big belly seemed to float, and the pressure wasn’t as bad during the contractions. At around 4:15 pm our Midwife arrived and started setting up her equipment in the room. I remember Hubby had found some classical music playlist on YouTube and had it on in the back ground playing from the iPad. My Midwife sat beside the pool, periodically checking the baby’s heart rate with the Doppler, and quietly cheering me on. Hubby was sitting behind me rubbing my shoulders and telling me what a good job I was doing. Again the hours seemed to go by really fast, and at around 6:00 pm, the Midwife asked if the contractions were getting more intense, and I said I didn’t think so, I got out of the tub so she could check how dilated I was. I think we were all a bit shocked when she said ”wow, you’re fully dilated and the baby’s head is coming down.” She asked if I was getting any urges to push and I said no, but I would try pushing to see what it felt like. She then went ahead and called the second Midwife, and I think we all thought our baby girl would be born in the next hour.
It was 6:45 pm when the second Midwife arrived, but I felt like it was longer. After trying to push a couple times with contractions, the urge to push started coming and the contractions started coming about every minute. After a while in the pool with no crowning, the Midwives suggested I get onto the toilet and try pushing there. I did that for a while with no luck so I went back in the pool. After a while longer in the pool, we went to the bed and tried pushing there. She checked me again and said the bag was bulging and suggested breaking my waters to see if it would make things easier. No sooner did she get the hook out, the waters broke on their own! At that point It seemed like I had been pushing forever. I tried laying down, standing up, squatting, on my side, and she checked again and said the baby’s head was right there, I just had to push it past the pelvic bone. She said the baby’s head was tilted sideways, and wasn’t cone shaped so that was probably why I was having trouble pushing her past the bone. After pushing a while longer I started getting this intense shooting pain starting in my right hip and shooting down my leg causing my leg to spasm. I would get 3 good pushes with every contraction, but on the third push, every time, the pain would shoot down and I had to stop because my leg would just give out. Ahhhh the sciatic nerve. Finally after 3+ hours of pushing, my Midwife suggested a transfer to hospital as there was nothing more we could do at home. She said a vacuum or forceps might be necessary to get her out. I remember thinking to myself that it was my worst nightmare coming true. I was so disappointed and felt like my body had failed me. I finally conceded and agreed to go, only because I knew our little baby could become distressed at any time having been pushing so long, and that was the first time I cried that day.
Getting ready to go to the hospital was a whirlwind of emotion. I was trying to breath through the contractions and not push, but that was easier said than done. The urge was so intense I couldn’t help it! It was like my body took over and just pushed on its own. I remember my Midwife telling me we could go to Sturgeon Hospital where the other Midwife had admitting rights, but that was a 30 minute drive away, and the Grey Nuns was only 5 minutes away. I couldn’t endure 30 minutes in a car, so I said we will go to Grey Nuns. Little did I know, that was the worst decision I could have made, and looking back, I would have gladly taken the 30 minute drive if I could do it over again. We left for the hospital at around 10:30 pm.
When we got to the hospital, I was in a daze. I remember thinking that no matter what, I was going to fight the doctors if I had to. I had all these horrible thoughts in my head about forceps and c-sections, and I knew deep down I COULD push our baby out with NO medical intervention. I made the decision on the drive over that I was going to do it naturally no matter how bad it hurt.
After getting admitted, Hubby, my Midwife, and I followed a nurse to my room. There was a lady in the next room over screaming her head off, and I remember thinking “what a wuss”. After the day I had, I felt proud to have gotten through the whole labour without making a sound. My nurse was really nice and tried her best to be supportive. She offered me gas and air but it did nothing to stop the nerve pain shooting down my leg. Finally the anaesthesiologist came in and offered me a weak epidural to help numb the leg. I made a point of saying that I did not want to be completely numb, I wanted to feel the birth. I was happy when he was done, I could still feel the contractions, but the nerve pain was gone. After pushing for another hour and a half I finally felt “the ring of fire” and I stopped pushing to breath the baby’s head out because I didn’t want to tear. Then between contractions, my Midwife helped me get my gown off so the baby could be put on my chest. One more push later, at 12:33 am on April 27 our little princess was born! The doctor put her on my chest and she looked up at me and it was the best feeling in the entire world! I was so happy at that moment, it was intoxicating, and the best few minutes of my life. I knew I could push her out!
That’s where the happy story ends, and the “hospital” experience starts. The doctor ignored my request to delay the cord clamping until it stopped pulsating! And after a couple minutes on me, they decided that she should be crying so they took her to a table beside my bed and called a code pink because she wasn’t “breathing right”. All these people came in and then she started crying so they all left. That was the first of many over reactions to follow.
After that was over, they brought her back to me and I nursed her as the doctor delivered my placenta. I remember the look he gave me when I said ” wait, I want to keep that” after hearing him say he was sending my placenta to pathology. He asked why, and I told him I was getting it encapsulated. They let me keep it, and my Midwife said she would bring it to the clinic to give to the encapsulator. After the doctor was satisfied I wasn’t bleeding too much and didn’t have a fever, he left, and I made a point to tell the nurse not to feed Zoë formula as they took her over to the nursery and told me when I’m settled in my room, they’ll bring her to me.
After waiting in my room wondering where Zoë was, a nurse came and said she wasn’t coming to my room because they’re giving her a dose of antibiotics because I was GBS positive. I was a little pissed, but she said its standard hospital policy to make sure the baby won’t get sick, because I didn’t have antibiotics in labour but that I could go to her for feeding’s, which I did. I was shocked to see her when I got there. She was in the NICU with all the sick babies and they had her on heart monitors, and an IV in her hand. I noticed a band-aid on her wrist and heel, and goopy stuff in her eyes. I was so upset I cried. And she cried. That was start of the worst week of my life.
The first night for obvious reasons was hard. I was exhausted from the last two days, and breastfeeding every two hours was harder than I thought. The nurses coming and taking Zoë’s vitals every shift was annoying as well, but it wasn’t until one nurse in particular came in that I knew it was going to be a tough couple days. She made it clear that Zoë was sick because I didn’t have proper prenatal care. Seriously?! I made it very clear that I DID have proper care and that GBS has nothing to do with that! I questioned her on Zoë being sick because her vitals had always been normal, and she showed no signs of GBS sickness at all. She was eating and pooping and kicking and alert. She told me the neonatologist had ordered 7 days of antibiotics as a precaution to be sure the bacteria would not make her sick, hospital policy, and without even talking to me first, they had started her on the second round of treatment. She said Zoë WAS sick, because she was jaundice, and that was also my fault because my milk hadn’t come in yet. She tried to convince me to supplement with formula because it would be best for Zoë. I said no, my breast milk is best for Zoë, and newborns getting jaundice was normal in the first few days. She maintained that some babies get really sick from jaundice so she needed to test her bilirubin levels to make sure. They came back 194 which isn’t very high, but she ordered the light therapy as a ‘precaution’, and again, hospital policy. Twice she caught me wearing Zoë on a reclining chair while we both slept and she preceded to lecture me on “back to sleep” and how she can smother on me and MUST sleep in the cot on her back, and how I “better not do that at home” hospital policy blah, blah, precautions….Oh how I hate these words now!
The next week was basically more of the same. Most of the nurses were really nice, and very gentle with Zoë, and others were stale and indifferent, but they had to change her IV 4 times in total and she cried every time. I cried every time. I hated that she had to go through that in her first week of life. I blamed myself for everything, for making the wrong decision about hospitals, and for not being able to birth her in the pool at home. It was my worse case scenario come true, and I was having a hard time dealing with it all. Thank goodness Hubby was there with me the first 5 days, and a visit from my Midwife on day two made me feel a lot better. Hubby and I were both there with Zoë from day one, and never left her alone. I hope she knows that we were with her during every procedure, and every time she cried in pain or discomfort, I cried with her. I thought after 6 days I was going to go crazy, I felt so depressed. Not baby blues or anything, but it was like I was useless and the nurses certainly didn’t help me feel any better. I was again blessed with a visit from our other Midwife who as always, knew just what to say to make me feel better, and that visit made the last couple days more tolerable.
Finally at the end of the week, and on day 8 after she was born, Zoë was discharged from hospital. It was only then did we actually meet the neonatologist, and he seemed very indifferent to it all. They were trying to convince me that I needed to take Zoë to a paediatrician as soon as we leave the hospital, but I told them we had Midwifery care for 6 weeks, so it wouldn’t be necessary. I really feel I was treated differently because I had Midwives, and because I tried to have my baby at home. I felt like the doctors and nurses didn’t take Midwifery seriously, and I practically had to beg to have Zoë’s medical files transferred to the Midwives clinic. In the end, the files were transferred, and we made it home. I don’t think Zoë has any residual effects from her experience, but I still think about it sometimes and cry.
This experience as a whole was tricky for me. The time I spent at home in labour in the pool was terrific. My husband and Midwives were so supportive and I was so relaxed. I felt no real pain, and was happy the whole time. I felt like I was in control of the situation, and had no negative thoughts. The time in the hospital was a nightmare. It was the complete opposite. I felt like I had no say in anything, and was made to feel like a failure. I NEVER want to go through that again, and the experience has only strengthened my belief in home birth with Midwives. I truly believe Zoë and I will both be stronger after this experience, and I look forward to having my home water birth with baby #2.