A little bit of backstory/ context: Before getting pregnant, I didn’t have much exposure to the baby world until my brother and sister-in-law had their baby girl (and I became an auntie!). I didn’t know much about mid-wives/ doulas/ alternative birth plans, etc. However, I would say that I am more of a traditionalist and knew that I wanted to do the doctor/ hospital/ epidural (if needed) route.
Growing up, I always had had a male family doctor. I didn’t think much of it when I was younger but started to reconsider when I got into my mid/late teens and ISSUES start to arise, you know? Plus, I knew that one day, I would want to have babies and would feel more comfortable with a female doctor. (That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with seeing male doctors as a woman, it was just a matter of personal preference.) I was about 17/18 when I seriously started looking for a new family doctor and that’s when I realized just HOW HARD it was to find a family doctor accepting new patients in our city. I lived in Richmond at the time and was willing to drive a decent distance to a female doctor accepting new patients but didn’t have ANY luck. Luckily, my sister-in-law (who works in the medical field) was pregnant at the time and started seeing a new, female family doctor who a) was accepting new patients (!!!), b) delivered babies, AND c) was in Richmond – score! I don’t think there was anything wrong with me at the time, but I went and saw her anyway just so that I could lock her down.
Fast-forward 4 years to David and I getting married/ moving to the ‘burbs/ getting pregnant. Even though I LOVED my doctor, I knew that once I was pregnant, doctors appointments would happen often and the drive between the ‘burbs into the city (my doctor had moved her practice to Vancouver at this point) was not necessarily ideal. Plus, it would mean that I would deliver at BC Women’s (40+ minutes of labouring in the car?! What if my water broke during rush hour?!). I attempted to search for a new family doctor again and had no luck. So I stuck it out, and I am so glad I did. At the time, I didn’t realize how sought after delivering at BC Women’s was, but I soon realized this after I had told a nurse friend where I was delivering and she said, “Wow, that is the creme de la creme!”
Looking back on it now, I am SO glad we decided to stick it out and do the drives into the city. I loved our hospital experience (as much as a person can love the experience, while pushing a human out of them) and the doctors/ nurses/ residents at BCW were amazing. We also took our prenatal classes through BCW, which meant we got to meet the doctors/ nurses and tour the hospital, etc. (Side note: I would HIGHLY recommend prenatal classes, especially the first time around. It opened our eyes to so many different things and it was nice to meet other people experiencing the same things as us.)
Anyways, as promised…here is our birth story.
(Although Jason is now almost 6 months old, I made an effort to write this when he was about a week old so that I wouldn’t forget the details because baby brain is REAL.)
Thursday, October 13th (Our Due Date)
Thursday was a regular Thursday (except for the fact that our baby was due that day!). Up until this point, we had had a pretty “by the book” pregnancy. Baby was measuring right and was head down, and pretty low so I figured we HAD to go on our due date…that’s how it happens in the movies, afterall. However, we woke up on October 13th…no baby. Things had been pretty quiet up to that point except for a Sunday a couple weeks before where shooting pains DOWN THERE had me thinking I was going into labour in our living room, on the day of my baby shower. The pain was INTENSE to the point that I couldn’t even stand. I thought, if this is what labour feels like, I will never survive. Turns out, it wasn’t in labour and I still don’t know what those pains were because they were WORSE than the contractions of when I was actually IN labour.
So here we were, our due date…I probably made myself a list of things to do that day – errands and what not. October 13th meant that I had been on mat leave for just under a month (3 days shy of a month) and had been ready for baby for a while (all our baseboard were scrubbed and window sills dusted)…so much so that on my list that day was “get a puzzle.” I have never completed an adult puzzle before and figured it would be a good way to pass many long hours ahead, waiting for baby. There was a storm warning for that weekend so I thought a puzzle would be perfect for that too.
I got home late afternoon that day and knew that David would be home a little later that day from work. (David was frantically trying to get through jobs that week as he knew that I was a ticking time bomb.) I think David got home around 7:30 that night and I was in the living room making progress on all the outside borders of my puzzle – fire going, candles burning, with a cup of tea. I was ready for that storm. I don’t think I had much of an appetite that night (Warning! Warning!) and so David said he would just have some leftovers. David told me a bit about his day as I got dinner ready…and of all nights, that night he said, “please don’t go into labour tonight…it’s been a long week.” (Of course.)
After dinner, David and I sat in the living room and watched some Homeland…and decided to call it a night around 10. David and I got ready for bed and maybe because it was my due date or it was positive thinking, I decided to take a shower and take off all my nail polish, and cut my nails. It was silly, but I just really wanted to feel fresh, “just in case.” Everyone seemed to always go into labour in the middle of the night (again, like the movies) and I wanted to be ready. After my shower, I think David was in bed either watching YouTube videos or scrolling through Instagram. I asked him to take my weekly photo and said, “come on, this might very well be the last one of these we take for this pregnancy!” And so, we took the photo and went to bed.
I woke up around 12:30am feeling random contractions. The contractions were random lengths/ times apart and I would fall asleep between them. Around 1:00 am, I woke up to a particularly strong one and laid there waiting for few seconds for it to pass. Near the end of it, I heard a little “pop!” and a slight gush and thought, “uh oh?” (I had googled what it was like to have your water break and pop sounds were very common.)
I ran (waddled) into the guest bathroom to pee and “whoosh!”, pink pee. I ran back to our room and shook David awake.
J: “David?” *shake shake*
J: “I think my water just broke.”
(Here, David’s eyes go from sleepy to boom, wide open.)
D: “Really? Ugh I have a splitting headache.”
I then proceed to explain to him the events leading up to that moment. In the next few hours, we called the hotline (I’m not sure if other hospitals have this, but this was another perk to delivering at BCW and taking prenatal classes. They gave us a hotline for questions/ emergencies, etc.) and got told to time my contractions and to come in when they were about five minutes apart and lasting about 1 to 1.5 minutes (I think this was right. I still mix up all these numbers. This was David’s job.) We sat in bed, eating coconut bread and timed. 20 to 30 seconds long, 2 to 3 minutes apart. Weird. Close together but short. As time went on, the contractions got longer but stayed about 2 to 3 minutes apart. The doctor on call that night said that if nothing progressed by 6 am to call her again and that I’d get put on the list for an induction (because my waters had ruptured). She also mentioned that we were welcome to come in and get checked or stay home and wait it out. Being that it was Friday morning, we didn’t want to wait too long and be stuck in rush hour traffic (my fear!!). By about 3:30 am, my contractions were lasting about 40 to 60 seconds and still about 2 to 3 minutes apart (there is an app you can get to time them. You hold the button as a contraction happens and let go when it passes and it records it all. Easy!) We figured we might as well get going. Our bags and car seat had been in David’s truck for about 2 weeks at this point. We grabbed a couple extra things and got going. We got to the hospital at around 4:30 am and waited in the assessment room. I initially got checked by one of the nurses and was told that I was only about 1 to 2 cm dilated (bummer since BCW has a policy where they don’t admit you until you are at least 4 cm dilated). Contractions were very bearable at this point and had only taken my breath away a couple times. The nurses knew we lived far so while they had their 4 cm policy, they wanted to come up with a game plan before they released us…given that my waters had ruptured.
The doctor was delivering a baby at the time so we had to just wait. (We found out after that this was someone in our prenatal class having their baby!) So we waited, and we waited. At around 7:00 am, a resident doctor came in and checked me and said that I was finally at 4 cm (contractions still bearable) and that they would admit us. (And we thought, “oh my goodness this is happening!”) They told us that the room would have to get prepped for us so they encouraged us to walk around to encourage labour along. So we walked, and walked around the hospital for about 45 minutes.
Around 8:45am, we came back to our assessment room and they took us up to our delivery room. There we waited some more (this was a big trend throughout the day). The nurses would check my vitals, etc. every 15 minutes and I paced and sat, and paced and sat while David brought our bags in, supplemented me with jello and water, and rubbed my back every time a contraction came. He was also in charge of replying to everyone who was in the loop and awake by this point.
At around 10 am, my doctor came in to check on me (she was on call that day!). I am not sure how it works at other hospitals but at BCW, your own doctor doesn’t necessarily deliver you, but whoever is on call will. and I was only about 4 to 5 cm dilated (bummer again). She decided that it would be good to induce me and get me on oxytocin to help move my contractions along, and therefore get me more dilated. I didn’t really know what the repercussions of this would be, but I soon found out.
And so I started to get hooked up to more IV’s. So over the next few hours, my contractions started getting more intense and closer together (some were even “coupling”, I found out later this was thanks to the induction). Around 2:00pm, I got checked and was only 6 cm dilated. Oxytocin was getting raised higher and higher, contractions were LEGIT and doubling non-stop.
Up until that point, I had been fine on laughinh gas but after hearing that I was only 6 cm, I asked for the epidural. Heading into pregnancy, I had always thought I would be an epidural girl (again, that’s how they do it in movies, right?), but after taking the “pain management” portion of our prenatal classes, our eyes were opened to so many other alternatives, laughing gas being one of them. So going into birth, I figured that I would try to go on laughing gas for as long as I could, but was not opposed to the epidural, if need be. And by 6 cm, it was NEEDED.)
But OF COURSE, the paging system was having some trouble, so by the time they got through to the anesthesiologist, there were two people ahead of me. He got there around 3:30 pm and administered it to me. By then, the gas was really not cutting it and David’s hands were getting squeezed like crazy, I’m sure. The anesthesiologist we got was really nice and probably in his early thirties. I remember being in so much pain and having my eyes closed for most of the time he was talking, and boy did he talk. He gave a long sch-peel on what he was about to do, the risks, etc. I gave him kudos (after) on how FAST he talked – he had obviously given that speech MANY times, VERY quickly to women who were probably cursing him – lol.
So I eventually got the epidural, but for some reason was still feeling my contractions, to some degree, which wasn’t supposed to be happening. Long story short, there was a patch on my lower abdomen that didn’t receive the epidural fully so I had to get another anesthesiologist at 5:00 pm who gave me the option of raising the dose (not guaranteed) or re-administering the epidural (also not guaranteed but more likely to work in her opinion). Her and the first anesthesiologist were funny and both came in and bet who’s epidural would work better. She won in the end.
My parents came around this time to bring us (David) food. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything not transparent at this point, not that I had any desire to. My mom stayed while I got my epidurals and my Dad waited outside. Apparently, husbands often faint when they see the epidural go in (sorry if that was you but I would give David SUCH a hard time if that happened to him). But we didn’t get to see if David would faint since him and my mom had to stand on the other side of this curtain…hospital policy, lol. The epidural got inserted again and it got hooked up through a drip. The machine would give me doses of this epidural at set intervals, but I could also control up to 3 additional dosages in an hour, for the really intense moments. That second epidural eventually kicked in, and I was pain free and not feeling ANYTHING. It was glorious. However, this also meant no feeling anywhere so I couldn’t pee…insert catheter here.
Mom and dad took off around 7:00 pm and I remember them praying for me, before they left. It was pretty surreal, having my parents there, before David and I brought our baby into the world. For a split second, I felt like a little girl again. It was very bittersweet.
By 7:00 pm I was fully dilated but apparently baby could drop further still. My doctor was off by this point and it was Dr. Buhler on call – she had led the prenatal classes, so we knew her too…woohoo!. She had to go and deliver another baby (another day, another baby) and wanted me on all fours so encourage baby dropping. I stayed in this position for about an hour. By now, I had clued in that it is NOTHING like the movies. I remember asking my doctor at one of my check-ups if I should be concerned that I lived so far from the hospital. She looked at me, smiled and said, “for your first baby? I wouldn’t worry about it.” On October 14th, I figured out why. It is NOT like the movies where your water breaks (I learned that a VERY small percentage of women’s waters break. I was part of a very lucky fifteen percent!)
So, at this point, I could not control my gas and was embarrassingly letting off toots randomly, which David laughed at and the nurse kindly ignored. She said it was totally normal, bless her heart. Dr. Buhler came back around 8:30 pm and it was almost time to start pushing. They were initially concerned about the position baby was turned and she called Dr. Rosengarten (he was the OB on call..and is coincidentally my sister-in-law’s OB as well) to see if he could turn the baby around. He came and decided that there was no need to do so. How do they turn the baby around, you ask? How does he check, you ask? Well, with his hand, of course!I am so glad I had an epidural because at that point, all hell breaks loose and they are NOT delicate down there. I think, they figure, if a human is going to come out of there, it needs as much room as it can get so man, are they going to help it get room! After this, we got the go ahead to start pushing.
So we began. I pushed for about 1.5 hours and David held my legs (with the nurse) and helped me count through the contractions. Going into birth, I told myself that I did NOT want David looking down there as our baby made it’s appearance into the world. I told him that there are just some things you can’t UNSEE. We were warned in our prenatals that because BCW is such a teaching hospital, every doctor/ anethesisologist/ nurse, etc. usually has a resident with them. I had my legs in stirrups and various doctors/ nurses would pop in and check my progress. They’d walk in, assess things and say something along the lines of “Good job, it’s looking good down there!” Well, thank you, kind sir/ miss. At this point, you literally DO NOT care. At least fifteen people had seen EVERYTHING, so what if David saw down there. He was viewing at his own risk. After being awake for over 24 hours straight (we didn’t really sleep the night before) and I was exhausted. I remember shutting by eyes between every contraction and literally falling asleep. I couldn’t feel much at this point so the nurses had to tell me anytime a contraction came and when to push. I was also super parched for some reason and just kept turning to David and saying “apple juice”, which he would kindly let me sip through my straw. Now everytime I drink cold apple juice, I think of birth…yay.
After pushing for an hour and a half, I was told that only about a quarter sized portion of baby’s head could be seen. I was offered a mirror so that I could see what was going on down there as I pushed, but I kindly declined and settled for play-by-plays instead. We were told that anytime I would push, baby’s heart rate would drop. They weren’t overly concerned in the sense that it would go back up BUT since we were nowhere near the end, we had to come up with a game plan, or else it would put baby in too much distress. Dr. Buhler called Dr. Rosengarten back to see what we should do (vacuum vs. forceps). He decided on forceps as the the baby’s head could not make it past the pubic bone and forceps would work best. He cautioned us against the risks and explained the procedure and how I would push as they pulled. Back into the stirrups my legs went and Dr.Buhler said, “This is it. You’ll have a baby within 15 minutes.” Wait, what? The nurses started unbuttoning my gown and I was shivering uncontrollably at this point. I think it was more anxiousness and nervousness, than being cold. Again, not like the movies where you are nicely gowned and pushing in one position the whole time. In REAL LIFE, they make you walk around, squat, stand if you can and try different positions to push baby out in. But here I was, lying down, legs in stirrups, ready for the grand finale.
In the forceps went and out came Jason. 7 pounds, 6 ounces at 11:24 pm. I can’t get the image out of my head of how dark red and slimy he was. It turned out his umbilical cord was around his neck and his arm was holding it in place. Anytime I’d push, it would cause the cord to tighten, which would make his heart rate drop.
I couldn’t believe he was ours. He was so tiny and real. One second he was inside and then the next, we could finally hold him. He got placed on my chest immediately for skin to skin.
I had to push out the placenta shortly after but that was nothing at that point. I remember them turning to us and saying, “do you guys want to keep this?” Again, I am a little bit more of a traditionalist and kindly declined. David cut the umbilical cord and got some skin to skin after I did. I continued to get stitches, etc. Apparently, I had a second degree tear, which didn’t seem like a big deal to them. It was a big deal to me the weeks following, let me tell ya. It was kind of humourous, looking back on it now, my legs in stirrups, with Dr. Rosengarten and his resident, just stitching away and telling me it would be a masterpiece when they were done. (Thanks guys!!!). After an hour of skin to skin, Baby Jason got weighed and measured by Dr. Buhler. Then, we sadly had to move rooms after it all because of BCW’s renovations at the time and it was a busy night. Our delivery room was AWESOME and spacious and our room after that wasn’t as nice, sadly. We got to our new room around 2:30 am. It had been a long day and the night was full of crying and I’m glad I threw the pacifier in our bag! But seriously, they just put you in your room and you’re on your own until his next hourly check-up. Baby Jason was just swaddled up to this point I remember asking the simplest question, “can we put clothes on him?”
The next few days were a blur after that…full of everything but sleep. Check ups, feedings, visitors, etc. People ask me how birth was and I say, honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought but it wasn’t necessarily better, either. It was what it was, and I feel like you just go into survival mode and get through it, despite the exhaustion and chaos. I was so thankful for the people at BCW and the amazing team there, and also our support system of family/ friends the days following Jason’s birth. I was prepared for an intense birth experience, to some degree or another, but I was NOT prepared for the aftermath and what my body would go through after and the days to follow with a newborn. But.. more on that in another post!
That, folks, is how Baby J made his entrance, earth-side!
Oh and…I never did complete that puzzle.