I have now given birth to eight babies. I wanted to share all these stories in one place as they were all very different and I have fairly detailed accounts of each. My account of Erik’s birth is the clearest in my opinion – I believe it’s this way because I had no interventions (I went into labour on my own and had no drugs throughout the course of labour). (Update – Oliver’s birth is pretty clear in my mind and I wrote the story three days after he was born so it was pretty fresh) I’ll post the stories just as I wrote them at the time, without changing anything. Anyway, here they are from Jenny to Simon.
Jenny’s Birth – June 1, 2005
My due date was May 23rd, and by the end of that week, my doctor had decided to induce my labor the next week. Tuesday, May 31st was the scheduled date, so we thought there was a chance for us to still have a May baby. We went in to the hospital in the evening of the 31st and I was put on a monitor for quite some time. It was picking up my heartbeat, which was fast, but not the baby’s, so they assumed that mine belonged to the baby, which concerned them. So, I laid on my back for two and a half hours before they decided it was safe to go ahead with the induction. Then it was another hour before I could get up. I was having contractions before they induced me, but once it was done, they got a lot worse. However, I wasn’t really making any progress, and it was nearly midnight by then. The nurse gave me a sedative and had us stay the night at the hospital so that I could rest (Mike got to stay with me, which was great!).
In the morning, they did a second induction at around nine, and this time, it did the trick. My contractions quickly got very bad. I’ll try not to scare any of you too much (guys or those women who haven’t been through childbirth), but within two and a half hours, I was feeling worse pain than I’ve ever felt before. So, just before noon, the nurse felt I should have some Demerol/Gravol so that I could relax, and at that point, I started sleeping between contractions. The contractions were still really bad, and I was very drugged – I actually remember quite well feeling drugged, and at times, someone would ask me a question, and I would give a one word answer about ten times (i.e. “Do you want this grilled cheese sandwich?” to which the answer should be, “As if,” Or “Yeah, right,” but instead comes out as, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” with lots of head shaking.).
Just before one, they finally checked me, and said I was ready to move to a delivery room. We went in, they broke my water, and within five minutes, I had made some more progress. I started feeling like pushing after another five minutes or so, and they said I was ready and let me go ahead with it. So, I pushed for about forty-five minutes, and at 1:50 pm on June 1st, Jenny Rose was born! She was “no midget baby” as my doctor had predicted when I was pregnant. She weighed 9 lbs. 6 oz. and was 20.5 in. long. My labor in total was around five hours, which is not so bad for a first baby, but because I was induced, it was very intense. Mike was with me through the whole thing, and a tremendous support. The doctor and the nurses were very impressed with him, and I’ll probably go on bragging about how he did for the rest of our lives. He’s also fallen right into being a daddy, and is doing a very good job.
Anyway, that is our story, and now, almost two weeks later, we’re still doing very well. Life with a newborn is not easy (lots of you probably know that), but she is a joy, and every pain I had in labor was worth it. She is already making progress and looking different than when she was born, and we are so excited to see her grow up.
Elias’s Birth – September 6, 2006
I had my baby on Wednesday the 6th at 6:45 pm, it was a boy, he weighed 7 lbs. 4 oz, was 20.5 inches long and we have named him Elias James. Also, Jenny is very excited about him, and we are quickly trying to teach her the meaning of the word “gentle”.
Okay, now for the fun stuff. First of all, as many of you know, I had been experiencing an uncomfortable pregnancy, with lots of painful Braxton Hicks (translation: fake) contractions. I was very anxious to get the whole thing over with, so when on Tuesday I started having stronger contractions and a number of other signs of labour (fellow mothers, you can imagine what I mean, otherwise, I won’t go into it), I thought I might actually be in labour. I put off going to the hospital, though, because things kept going back to normal on me (how frustrating). Finally, around 8 that night, I had a couple bad ones (compared to what they were before, anyway), and Mike decided we would go (I absolutely needed him to make the decision because I just hate being wrong about things like this and I was afraid the nurses or my doctor would scold me or something if I wasn’t in labour). We took Jenny to Mike’s parents and went in, only to find out that my contractions were still Braxton Hicks, and that nothing was happening internally to indicate that I was in labour. Leaving the hospital an hour later, I told Mike that I was not going to do that again unless my contractions were so bad I was screaming, or if my water broke. And I also decided that obviously, I was not going to have this kid anytime soon, but probably two weeks late, sometime in October.
I started Wednesday morning off as normal as I would any other day; I read my Bible, had a muffin, organized a few things and tidied up my newly spotless kitchen (oh, yeah, last Friday, I had a burst of nesting that came in the form of thoroughly cleaning my kitchen, bathroom and living room). I then got up to go to the bathroom, and very quickly found that something was not right.
– Again, if you’re reading this, and you’re easily bothered by descriptions of birth or “female things”, you should probably quit now, cause this is when it gets interesting. –
What I found that was not right was that something was falling out of me. I have never felt anything so bizarre in my life. My immediate worry was that it might be the umbilical cord, but still in the amniotic sac, as my water hadn’t broken or anything. The only other odd thing that had happened this morning wasn’t really odd at all, I was just having little cramps, so this caught me completely off guard. I phoned the hospital, they said to come in right away, and then I phoned Mike at work and Mom to have her come over to get Jenny. We got to the hospital at about 10:30, they checked me, said I was probably 4 or 5 centimetres dilated, but my doctor, once he showed up, couldn’t find the position of the baby’s head. The ultrasound I had a week before had actually indicated that the baby was head down, but my doctor really didn’t feel that it was. He consulted our town’s only obstetrician, who said that what we would do is have another ultrasound done, find out where the head was, and then if there was a great deal of fluid between the baby and my cervix, or if the cord was down low, they would stick one big gigantic needle in my stomach to remove some of the fluid. I was really not crazy about that idea, and if they had found the baby to be transverse, I was still looking at a C-section because I was already past the point of no return due to being as dilated as I was.
I went down for the ultrasound, was checked by the obstetrician and he and the tech. said that the baby’s head was down (thank goodness), it was just very far up still. Because there was a lot of fluid for the baby to move around in, there was risk that if my labour didn’t progress naturally and the baby didn’t descend, it could still move into a bad position, or the cord could be swept out if my water broke. So, the decision was to put me on a pitocin drip to get my contractions going and encourage the baby to move its head down, and to let my water break on its own. At 1:30, they hooked up a monitor, put me in a bed (where I stayed the rest of the time…not really very fun), and started the drip. For probably two to two and a half hours, I didn’t feel anything terrible, although I did start breathing through my contractions as they got worse. The nurse asked me a number of times whether I wanted medicine, but the first three or four times she asked, I couldn’t imagine taking anything, because things just weren’t bad enough yet. I knew I wouldn’t want an epidural (I’m firmly set against them), and with Jenny, they gave me Demerol and it made me feel stoned (I’ve never actually been stoned, but some people who have been have told me the feeling is similar), plus it gave Jenny low oxygen levels because they gave it to me so late in my labour. After about three hours, though, things started to feel worse, and I would guess it was sometime between four and five that I had them give me Fentanyl, which ended up being fine, because all it did was let me rest completely in between contractions. I don’t really remember when it was, but I would guess it was five thirty or so that my water broke, and let me tell you, when it happens unexpectedly (they broke mine when I was in labour with Jenny), it feels so bizarre, and it really does speed things up. Also, a few people had guessed that there was lots of fluid, and they were right. Mike says it was like an inch and a half deep on the bed, and the nurse said it must have been gallons. Anyway, after that, it got hard not to push, but every time they checked me, I was still at an eight and the baby’s head wasn’t down far enough. I must have asked them to check me four times or so, and finally, the last time, the nurse told me to push against her fingers. I could hardly believe it, because this was the part I was waiting for. Even though I had pushed with Jenny for forty-five minutes, it felt productive and made me feel better while I was having contractions. Mike said that he looked at his watch when the nurse first told me to push, and it said 6:37. I had maybe three contractions and at 6:45, Elias was born. Also, I had really wanted to avoid stitches this time, and I managed it, which is probably part of why I’m feeling so good now. I also didn’t break (or bruise) my tailbone this time either, which certainly helps.
Compared to Jenny, Elias feels so tiny, not only how Jenny is now, but how she was when she was born, since she was two pounds and two ounces bigger than him. The only thing I had to learn was to keep him wrapped up more; since he was so small, his temperature was too low for awhile if I didn’t have him very wrapped. Well, I guess I’ve had to learn how to diaper a boy as well….point things down and make sure and cover them up or you might get it in the face. 🙂 That hasn’t actually happened yet, but I’m sure it will eventually.
Well, that’s the story, and it’s all the time I have anyway. Maybe one person will be interested in this, and if not, it is at least a good record for me to have. Oh, and I’ll try to get some pictures up, or get somebody else to put them up for me if I can’t.
Erik’s Birth – June 15, 2008
After a long and not so comfortable pregnancy – okay, it was normal in length, but felt really long – and both of my previous deliveries not going my way, I was anxious to do this one on my own. While lots of women are pushing for induction at a week overdue just to get the kid out of them, I insisted on putting it off until twelve days past my due date, which was as long as my doctor would let me have. For a month before my due date, I was having increasingly uncomfortable Braxton Hicks contractions. The week before my due date, I was sure I was in labour at least once, only to have everything stop and go back to normal.
On Tuesday, June 10th, when I was two days overdue, I went for my doctor’s appointment and expected to have my membranes stripped. Turns out, my cervix was not ripe at all and so it wasn’t possible. I went home figuring I would be back in another six days to try it again. The next morning, I lost my mucous plug and had a number of contractions, some very close together, throughout the evening. After a long night, I had Mike take me to the hospital Thursday morning. As soon as I got there, my contractions almost completely stopped. They weren’t showing up on the monitor and when the nurse checked me for dilation, she said nothing, which indicated to me that nothing was happening. The concern that day was that the baby was transverse and so I went back a few hours later for my doctor to check. As far as I can tell, the baby had moved in the two hours that I was not in the hospital, because when I went in on Thursday at noon, he was head down for sure. My doctor did an internal exam as well, and again, said nothing to me about dilation. The only thing I heard was her saying was that something was long, which I assumed was referring to my cervix, and that it wasn’t effaced yet. I went home feeling depressed and had a little cry over what I assumed meant another eight days of pregnancy. Friday went by pretty normal – it was a busy day, but after a hockey team barbeque and being at my in-laws until eleven, I felt pretty good. I was feeling a little bit strange physically, but not having many contractions. I had actually found that day that when I went to the bathroom, I would have a contraction almost every time. I worried that I might have a bladder infection, as I had heard that they could cause contractions and pain when using the bathroom.
We went to bed late on Friday and I had about two hours of sleep when I woke up with a contraction. I had them five minutes apart for three hours and then was able to sleep between them for the next four hours. They were painful enough that I was breathing through them and using effleurage to deal with the pain. In the morning, I checked my cervix to see what I could feel and something was definitely different. Instead of feeling the neck, I just felt the edge of it, which I figured meant that those seven hours had at least gotten me effaced. I didn’t check any more than that, but I may have been somewhat dilated as well.
My contractions more or less stopped when I got up and so I told Mike that we had to stay busy that day or I was going to go nuts. I figured that I would probably have the baby soon, but had no way to really tell and I had errands to run and cleaning to do in the house. I decided that if we could get a few things done at home and then have the kids nap at Mike’s parents while we went shopping, it would be a good way to stay busy. We finished up at home and went to his parents around three-thirty. We put the kids down for their nap, Mike had some steak and we left to get our shopping done. I was pretty tired and not feeling great when we got back to pick up the kids, so we didn’t stay for a long time. We had some dessert and left around seven-thirty. I had at least two or three bad contractions when I was at my in-laws, but nothing was regular. On the way home, we stopped at Safeway to get ice and against my better judgement, I went in to get it myself. Getting back out to the van, I was in a terrible amount of pain. We got home and Mike sat down to watch a movie with the kids. I heated up some food for myself and gave them some string cheese to snack on while I checked my email and did a few other things on the computer. I got up to go to the bathroom a little after eight and had a bad contraction when I was in there, so I decided to take a bath and see if it would make me feel a bit better. It felt good, but mostly just made me have more contractions. When I got out around eight thirty, I checked myself again and realized pretty quickly that I could feel a good sized circle of the baby’s head through the amniotic sac. At this point, my contractions were bad enough to make me cry, and I figured that this was a good sign that real labour was finally happening.
Mike called his parents, who were already in bed, and we packed the kids up and took them over. They had not had supper and I felt bad about it, but there was no way I was taking the time to do it. It turns out that when they got to their grandparents, they went right to bed and slept through the night without ever eating anything. We got to the hospital around twenty to ten. Right away I was having contractions that the nurse said sounded like the real thing. After being on the monitor for awhile, she checked me and said I was four or five centimetres dilated, which meant, she said, that they were keeping me. Mike and I high-fived after she left – I was actually in labour!
I stayed in the same room for a short time and then went to the delivery room and got set up in there. It must have been ten-fifteen or so at that point and things were still slow but getting more intense. I was having intense back pain and the nurse suggested that the baby was posterior, so I got on my hands and knees to try to get the baby to flip. I’m not sure that he ever did, but things did feel better after awhile, so he must have at some point. It seemed that the whole time I was in the delivery room, I would just get into a position that was comfortable and then I would have to pee. So I would move to get up, have a contraction, go the bathroom, have another contraction and then repeat it all going back to where I was. I spent some time in the shower, but found that while it felt great on my belly during a contraction, the rest of my body was getting too cold. Every time I changed positions at all, I would have a contraction, even if I was just at the end of one. Finally, I got back in bed and didn’t feel like getting up again. The nurse checked me and said that I was six or seven centimetres and while she was checking, she broke my water. She said that while I was having a contraction, there was a bulge in the amniotic sac and she just had to loop her finger into it to break it. Things went fast after that was done – I must have gone right to an eight in the next few minutes and soon, I was feeling a lot of pressure; not quite the urge to push, but I knew it was close. When I mentioned it, the nurse checked me again, found that I was nine centimetres and a minute later, nine and a half, with just a lip of the cervix still there. They called the doctor, told me that she would be three minutes and that I should pant if I felt the urge to push. I think I had two or three contractions before my doctor got there and I was panting through the second half of every one. Finally, my doctor walked in and I was told that I could push. For some reason, unlike when I was in labour with Jenny and Elias, I didn’t feel the animalistic urge to push. I felt pressure, but I was reluctant to do it. They all kept telling me to give it everything I had and I tried to do that during the second contraction, but still didn’t feel like much was happening.
I had no drugs during labour at all, so at this point, I was very aware of what was going on. They were checking the baby’s heart rate off and on, and during contractions, it was going down to 80 or 90 beats per minute. I knew that this was a bad thing, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I looked down at my doctor and heard her ask for Lidocaine. The nurse told her that I wanted to go without an episiotomy or tears, but my doctor said that the baby needed to be born and she was just going to have to get it out. I knew right away that I had to do it if I wanted to escape without stitches. They had already seen the baby’s head at this point, so I knew it wasn’t long and with the next contraction, I finally gave it all my strength. When he crowned, they coached me through little pushes and panting to keep me from tearing. It was really hard not to just get it over with, but having experienced stitches after an episiotomy and then, when Elias was born, making it out with just a tiny tear, I knew it was worth it for my recovery. Very soon after he crowned, I pushed his head out and then, even though I could have waited, I pushed his shoulders out as well. The cord was wrapped around his neck a bit, which explained his heart rate dropping. It was 12:46 am when he was born – I had been in the hospital about three hours and had only pushed for ten minutes.
Because of his cord being wrapped, no one said anything to me about whether the baby was a boy or a girl. I had felt like it was a girl, but when I sat up to see for myself, I said to Mike, “Oh, it is a boy!” So many other people had said it was a boy, but I hadn’t really believed them. Mike had said during my labour that he was hoping for a boy, and I was glad to see that he had gotten his wish. It was amazing being so aware of what was going on that I could sit up to see him at the foot of the bed. I had asked to let the cord pulsate after the baby was born, so they put a towel on my chest and then laid him on top of me. It was amazing, as it always is, that I loved him so fully the moment I saw him. I held him for a few minutes until the cord was definitely done pulsating and then cut the cord myself. Mike had not interest in doing it, but my doctor asked if I wanted to, and I thought it might be a good experience. I wouldn’t jump at the chance to do it next time, but it was neat being so clear headed that I was able to do it. After I cut the cord, they took him and cleaned him up quickly and looked him over to make sure things were good. I think I actually heard his Apgar score mentioned (which I never have with the other kids). My doctor said eight and something about his colour, but I didn’t really care. As soon as he was back with me, I nursed him and he stayed with me for at least forty-five minutes, nursing while I had a snack. He was very awake and making eye contact with both of us for most of the time. It was amazing, because Jenny and Elias were taken away much sooner and were not nearly as alert as Erik was.
After he seemed to have enough to eat, Mike took him to have him bathed and weighed and the nurse cleaned me up and moved me to my room. At this point, it was close to two in the morning and I felt bad for my roommate in the bed across from me. Mike came back ten minutes or so later with the nurse and our new little boy. I quickly asked Mike how much he had weighed – I had been expecting a nine pound baby because when Jenny was eight days late, she weighed 9 lb 6 oz. Erik was a week late and after holding him, I knew he wasn’t as big as Jenny had been, but I still thought he had to be bigger than Elias was at birth – 7 lb 4 oz and two and a half weeks early. I had the second shock of the night (the first being that he was a boy) when I heard he was only 7 lb 1 oz! I guess because our nephew was born 5 lb 8 oz so recently (about five and a half weeks before), Erik just didn’t seem small. He was twenty inches long, half an inch shorter than both Jenny and Elias. Right away, we noticed that he had a completely different look than both of our kids. They had looked so different from each other that I thought our third would look more like one or the other. Erik has lighter skin like Jenny, but only a few similar features to Elias. He has lighter hair than both of them and much less than they both did when they were born.
Mike went home around three in the morning and I slept off and on through the night, waking up to feed Erik once or twice before breakfast. Mike went to breakfast at his parents house before they went to church and then he came back to be with me. He snoozed on my bed holding Erik while I made phone calls to my family. When I was in labour, we were watching the clock to see if the baby would be born on Saturday or Sunday. When the hands moved past midnight, I knew that I’d be giving Mike and our dads a great Father’s Day present. My dad had mentioned weeks ago that I should have the baby on Father’s Day, but I brushed the idea away because I didn’t want to be pregnant still. It was also nice being in the hospital Sunday afternoon, because the whole family came all at once to see us after they went to church.
My doctor came Sunday morning and actually indicated that I could go home if I wanted to, but I knew that the rest in the hospital would be good for me. I did tell her that I definitely wanted to go home the next morning. With no tears or stitches, I felt really good right away. Monday morning, after a pretty good night’s sleep (my roommate left Sunday before noon and I had the room to myself the rest of the time), Erik had his PKU blood test done and my doctor checked us out and gave us the go ahead to go home. We went home around ten in the morning – I wasn’t even in the hospital thirty-six hours this time!
So far, Erik has been a very happy baby. He eats really well and sleeps for long stretches. He’s also awake for long periods of time, which has been lots of fun for anyone who sees him. He has an intelligent look about him, like he’s really studying things and wondering about the world already. Right from the beginning, it has looked like he wanted to smile at us. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he does it before he’s a month old.
My recovery so far has been great, too. The pain I had after labour went away quickly and other than cramping while nursing, I have felt good since we came home. My milk came in during the night on Tuesday, which was just in time because Erik seemed to be needing more than he was getting. Other than the discomfort coming from some engorgement, my body does not feel like it just went through labour four days ago. This makes me look forward to any future deliveries – hopefully they’ll all be like this one (or even shorter). The great thing is that even though it was a fast labour, it wasn’t really intense. My labour with Jenny was just barely longer than this one, but it was awful right from the beginning. I was very quiet during my labour this time and only yelled a bit when I was pushing. It felt good to have control like that over my reactions to the pain.
So, that’s the story of Erik Michael, born June 15, 2008. His big brother and sister love him and the whole family thinks he’s pretty cute. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to be like as he grows up.
Ben’s Birth – May 21, 2010
Benjamin Joshua was born on May 21st, 2010 at 12:01 am. He snuck his way into Friday even though we were certain he would be born on Thursday. We were also fairly certain he would be a girl – but he got us there, too. The one thing we weren’t surprised at was his size – everyone was predicting a big baby and he felt huge when I was carrying him. He still wasn’t as big as Jenny was (9 lb 6 oz), but he was longer than any of our other kids at 21 inches and he weighed 8 lb 14 oz – just eight ounces under Jenny’s birth weight. He was also very late – according to my longer cycle, he was eleven days late, and according to the due date my doctor gave me, fifteen days late. Unfortunately, he refused to come on his own and I was induced on Thursday morning (May 20th).
I went in Wednesday night to possibly be induced and was told that they had too much going on in the maternity ward at the time(five women walked in to deliver babies within a twenty minute period that afternoon). They did a non-stress test on me to make sure baby was doing well – I had a non-stress test on Tuesday night as well so this felt a little redundant. They quickly deduced that he was an active baby but almost too active – so they sent me home to walk for an hour and put him to sleep. We went back to the hospital a little after ten and I was put back on the monitor. He did what they wanted – slept – but they left me on until midnight. I kept thinking about the fact that I had to be back in the morning at seven thirty – and that I wasn’t sleeping well as it was. We went home and went to bed (the kids were already at Mike’s parents’ for the night) and went back in Thursday morning.
Around eight o’clock on May 20th, the first induction gel was administered by my doctor, who then had six hours in town before needing to leave – I hoped to quickly go into labour and have the baby before then. That didn’t happen. We were told to come back if my contractions got bad or if my water broke, but otherwise to come back at two o’clock to have a second, larger dose of gel administered by another doctor. I had contractions but nothing too crazy and managed to have a short nap before we went back in. When I was induced with Jenny, a first gel was given on Tuesday night, then a second Wednesday morning and Jenny was born four and a half hours later. I fully expected things to work the same way this time; they would give me the gel and I would go into labour so fast they wouldn’t bother sending me home again (something I was getting pretty sick of). We went in, the second gel was given, I stayed on the monitor for half an hour and we left again. We came home to eat and watch a movie and around five or five thirty I started having stronger contractions that were bad enough to breathe through. I took a bath and decided around six thirty that we should go back in. I was scheduled for a third gel at seven, so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to go early and see if the contractions were working.
We got checked in and put into a delivery room right away – a good sign since it generally means they won’t send you home again. The nurse told me later that based on the pain I appeared to be in, she expected I would be dilated to a six or so when she checked. No such luck – I was only one centimetre dilated. It was about quarter to seven and I couldn’t imagine going through that kind of pain for much longer. After a shift change, the new nurse suggested I try the shower – something that hadn’t really worked when I was in labour with Erik. I thought I’d give it a try anyway and it turned out to be a good idea. The shower I had used with Erik didn’t have good heat control and would go cold frequently and also didn’t have a handheld shower head like the one this time. I was able to sit and keep the water on my belly or back during contractions while Mike sat on an exercise ball in the little shower room. He was roasting (or steaming, I suppose) but he stuck it out with me. I figured that even with how bad things were, if I could just stay in the shower, I could make it through.
I was in the shower for more than an hour the first time before the nurse had me come out so she could check my dilation. I was pretty hopeful because things were getting worse, but she said I was only two, maybe three centimetres dilated. This was at least an hour and a half after she had checked me the first time and I was starting to feel incredibly worn out. I got back into the shower and about twenty minutes later, the nurse came back and said that the doctor wanted me to consider an epidural, just because I was progressing so slowly but was in so much pain. I mulled it over, thinking that if I got out again in another hour and still hadn’t gone anywhere, I might consider it. I’ve always been very anti-epidural, and because my labours are generally really quick, never imagined getting to the point of needing one to begin with. But after six hours of sleep the night before, a very long day and a trying labour so far, I knew that if I wasn’t progressing, I was going to need some sort of help. The next time the nurse checked me she said I was four or five centimetres – this sealed the deal that I wouldn’t be getting an epidural, but I still felt frustrated at going so slow. The strange thing was that at this point, she also started saying she expected me to deliver any time. Ben’s head was still high but she said she had seen women go from this point to pushing in fifteen minutes before. She suggested fentanyl for the pain, but said she would have to start an IV for that. Then she said maybe I’d like to try the gas – something I had used with Jenny but not found particularly helpful. I took one breath through my nose in the mask and didn’t think I could do it – it just smelled so awful. The next contraction came and she said I should just try to use it once. I tried putting the mask just over my mouth instead of my nose and it worked. I don’t remember what time it was then, but around eleven o’clock, she checked me again and said I was eight – this was probably the one time I really felt happy throughout the whole labour (up until the point that Ben was born, anyway). Five minutes later, though, she said I was a six or seven. Still, she rushed around, calling the doctor and getting the room ready for delivery. The gas was still helping – before I started using it I was nearly screaming with pain (something I generally don’t do in labour), but now I was able to just breathe deep through contractions. From there, my memory of it is mostly just a contraction coming on, putting the mask to my mouth, breathing through the contraction and collapsing when it was over. I felt funny but the gas wasn’t staying in my system for too long so I would just about be over the weird feeling when I’d have another contraction.
As soon as I was confirmed to be seven or eight centimetres, I started feeling the urge to push. The nurse kept checking me and telling me to wait – plus they were waiting on the doctor to come. When he came, he checked me, said I was good to go and I started pushing. Mike says it was either eleven twenty-five or eleven thirty-five when I started pushing. The doctor broke my water then, and they found that it had a bit of meconium in it, but wasn’t very dark (which just meant that Ben probably wouldn’t be affected by it yet). Jenny took me forty-five minutes of pushing, but the boys took only eight and ten minutes, so I was sure that this baby would be born by midnight. Maybe because of his size, he took longer. It was nearly midnight when he crowned and his head was born, but his umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his shoulders so essentially, he got stuck. The doctor cut his cord while he was still at that point, just to make the rest of it easier. They were coaching me, telling me not to push (which, for anyone who has never done it before, seems completely impossible) and finally right at midnight I was able to push again. I asked later and the nurses agreed that Ben was fully born at one minute after midnight. If he had been born at midnight, they might have said he was born at eleven fifty-nine and fifty-nine seconds, just so his birthday could be the 20th and not the 21st, but that one minute meant that the 21st would go on the birth certificate. While the labour was hard and the delivery took longer than my last two babies, I feel more or less the same as I did after the other boys – probably due to having no need for stitches. With Ben’s shoulders getting stuck, I’m actually quite surprised that I avoided tearing or having an episiotomy.
They took Ben to the little table to suction him well since he had pooped before he was born but found pretty quickly that he was healthy. They laid him on my chest skin to skin and we had a good snuggle before he started eating. He ate for about an hour and didn’t want to quit but we figured it was a good idea to get everything cleaned up and get to bed – it was nearly two o’clock in the morning by then. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to breastfeed all my babies right away after birth, and especially Ben and Erik who responded really well to it in the first hour or so after birth. Ben and I got to our room after he was weighed and measured and Mike went home a little after two. I only stayed in the hospital that night and the next night and left on the morning of the 22nd – I was feeling good enough that I didn’t see any reason to stay longer.
Other than some latching issues with breastfeeding – Ben has a small mouth, a big appetite and NO patience – things have been going very well. Jenny wasn’t disappointed by another brother even though she was rooting for a sister. We’re getting into the swing of things with a new baby in the house – making sure everyone is gentle and no one tries to pick Ben up and move him (something that Jenny and Erik have already tried). Mike had the weekend off and since it was a holiday, Monday as well. He took Tuesday off of work and went back yesterday (the 26th). I’m napping whenever I find the time – sometimes sleeping while sitting in the rocker after nursing Ben. The great thing about the older kids is that they play quite well together and aren’t incredibly needy, which means I can focus on Ben most of the time and do things with them when he’s sleeping. I’m still a little stunned to be the mother of four – and especially that three of those four are boys! I never imagined myself having three boys at this point, although I have always hoped that we would end up with three of each. No telling if we’ll end up with any more girls at this point, though! I’m rather smitten with my newest little boy and can’t wait to see his personality form over the next years.
Sam’s Birth – April 30, 2012
(This birth story was first written as a testimony of God’s faithfulness in getting me through labour. It was posted on a message board connected to Be In Health, I haven’t changed it from that format yet so it might read a little funny at times)
Many of you know that I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid) last week, at one week over my due date with my fifth baby. I was scheduled for an induction of labour on Monday morning at 7:30. Baby had been twisting and turning every time they checked out how he was doing, and he kept it up right through last weekend. We prayed and prayed that labour would start on its own, primarily because my past induction experiences had been so rough. But, Monday morning, nothing was happening so we started the process.
The first induction at eight didn’t seem to do much, but while we waited for something to happen, we were at home together (kids were with Grandma and Grandpa). I did dishes and laundry to catch up before having baby and my husband suggested we listen to the childbearing teaching, as he had not heard the whole thing yet. We went to lunch together and I started having some contractions during lunch. NO pain, just tightening.
When we got back for the second induction (they do it with a gel here rather than putting you on an IV), I still had no dilation. That was at two o’clock. Almost immediately after it was done, though, my contractions picked up. We were left alone to labour and I did what felt right – swaying, rocking, moving around and breathing through my contractions. I kept reminding myself of the rule I had made for myself when I was having Braxton Hicks contractions: “no ouch face,” and it made such a difference. I thought about what Pastor Donna and Adrienne said on the CD about it being work and pressure rather than pain, and was continually amazed by how painless it felt! I imagined I might have made a bit of progress, but was actually surprised that when I was checked a little after four (only two hours after the second gel), I was dilated to three centimetres and fully effaced. In my labour with my last baby, I had five hours of zero progression and terrible pain. I really thought that inductions just had to be that way. What a blessing to learn otherwise! Since this was my fifth baby and dilation typically goes very quickly at a certain point with later births, I knew I could be done very soon afterward.
I was moved to a delivery room and my doctor was called to come break my water. The big concern was the baby’s position and the risk of cord prolapse (the cord coming out before the baby – VERY dangerous), so she wanted to do it sooner rather than later. When she did it, my belly shrunk by probably two-thirds. She estimates that I had eight litres of fluid in there – four times the normal amount. Unfortunately, even though we thought baby was head down, she quickly found him to be breech. Because he was estimated to be as big as eleven pounds (they were way off there), they couldn’t let him come breech as his head could get stuck. As soon as she said, “That’s a bum,” I knew we would have a c-section. This was something I had never wanted. Everyone went scurrying off to arrange things and while they were all gone, I put out one last request to Daddy, “Father, if there is any way for this baby to get into a head first position now, please do it!!” My husband agreed.
Nothing happened in that regard, but I did not feel let down. I had the most amazing wave of peace washing over me as they added another IV, talked to me about what was going to happen, took all my jewelry, etc. I was contracting still and feeling like I needed to push, which obviously, I couldn’t do. As they took me downstairs, I panted through contractions. I had one nurse downstairs say that if that had been her, she would have been screaming her head off. I just never felt any fear, only peace that this had to happen and it was for the best.
The whole process of getting me ready took twenty minutes or so, with a spinal done rather than general anesthetic. This was yet another blessing – God kept me from dilating any faster so that I would be awake during the birth (something that is both safer and better mentally for mom). My husband came in and we shared a quiet time together, waiting for our baby to be born. It was a very strange experience, but it went very well. I had my doctor, a competent surgeon that I was familiar with (he actually took my tonsils out a few years ago) and a great anesthetist who was gentle and reported to me frequently on how things were going (it turns out he is my doctor’s husband!).
When our son cried for the first time, it was such a wonderful sound. When they wrapped him up and handed him to Mike, I had him put Sam (his name is Samuel Nicholas) right next to my face, cheek to cheek. I still feel like I missed something, not having the typical naked baby on my bare chest experience, but the skin contact was terrific. I talked to him as long as I could, telling him how precious he was, how much we loved him. It was the best it could have been under the circumstances. He never went into distress, which was also a huge blessing.
When I was being stitched up, they were unable to remove my uterus to sew it up (which is standard procedure), because it was so distended. Thankfully, this didn’t seem to affect much, just that it took longer than normal. My womb is taking longer to go back to normal size, partially because of having five babies, and partially because of the extra fluid making it grow so big. We are only expecting the best, though.
While this recovery is going to be very difficult compared the other kids, I expect it to go well and I am going to follow all the rules and be very careful. Mike is taking six weeks of leave, which we will have 55% compensation for. We have money in savings to get us through this and are at peace about it. I have to wait six weeks before lifting more than ten pounds, so being alone with all four (the youngest is not quite two) is just not an option. I think it has the potential to be a very good time for our family, especially once we get past the first few weeks when I really can’t do much at all. I am in pain, but have a good pain killer and am not going to be shy about taking it as this is major abdominal surgery I’m recovering from!
While I have a sense of loss at missing natural birth (which I love), I have said many times that if this had happened with any of my other children, it would have been devastating. I guess God just knew I could handle it. My last induction was miserable, but I know now that I can make it through even that form of intervention without pain! It felt like a miracle, even though it ended in the biggest intervention of all. And a side blessing of this is that once you have had an c-section, you cannot be induced. I am trusting God to heal me so thoroughly that I will have no problem having a natural birth that comes in its own timing. We both came to the conclusion seperately that we should pray for healing or even a creative miracle of a new womb, one that shows no signs of c-section, polyhydramnios or even five pregnancies. It is our heart to continue bringing children into the world, and of course, we want that to go as well as possible.
I want to thank all of you who were praying for me through this. It did not end as we had hoped, but Sam and I are healthy and home again. Mike and I got to experience the wonder of a painless labour, even if we never made it to natural delivery this time. What a blessing that I know I can do it – it makes me look forward even more to the next pregnancy and birth. I was told by my doctor that the recommended time between deliveries is eighteen to twenty-four months. Because we do not use any birth control, I was concerned that this might change what was “required” of us to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). It turns out that this is a very typical spacing for us without doing anything to control it. We are trusting that God’s timing is the best kind and we won’t have to change anything in order to have the birth we want next time.
Again, a HUGE thanks to Be In Health, in particular Pastor Henry and Donna and Adrienne Shales for putting together the teaching on childbearing. It has changed things for me for good – I will not go back to my old way of thinking ever again.
Oliver’s Birth – August 6, 2014
On Monday night (August 4th), Mike and I prayed that baby would be born during the night. His mom and sister were leaving town in the morning and it would just work out so well if they could stop in at the hospital on the way out of town to meet our newest bundle. Well, nothing happened overnight and in the morning, I was lying in bed, answering a question someone had asked about how I felt – “Just hanging in there, taking things moment to moment and hoping it happens soon,” was essentially my response. I got up at nine and found I had lost my mucous plug. This had never happened to me outside of labour or the day after an internal exam. So naturally, I was excited.
I noticed that I had some cramping over the next few hours and I texted Mike and my friend Sarah to let them know something was happening. I knew that the best thing for me was to stay busy so I wouldn’t sit around wondering when things would get going, especially because it can sometimes be days until actual labour starts. I also felt that baby was not head down that morning – not cause for any great concern because he had been moving so much in the last few weeks, but it made me wonder if I should be doing different exercises to get him into the right position. I felt led to read Hebrews 3 and 4 and found a verse towards the end talking about ceasing from your work and entering into God’s rest. It even had the word labour in it. I figured that was reason enough to just let things happen and trust that baby would go where he was supposed to.
I caught up on a few things around the house and after Mike’s lunch break started having stronger contractions. They intensified all afternoon but were very irregular. I knew I was in early labour at this point but didn’t know how much longer I had. I made pancakes for supper, feeling very strange as I’ve never had a baby take so long to come. It was surreal to be doing things like that while knowing I was labouring. We went to Bible study at Mike’s parents’ house and I was able to share where I was at and be prayed for by everyone there. My contractions got considerably stronger while we were there but didn’t hurt at all. All day I had been having increasing bloody show so I knew this was not false labour which was reassuring.
We went home, put the kids to bed and I used my exercise ball, took care of a few chores and around 11:30 decided that I wasn’t progressing fast enough to bother going into the hospital. We figured we would try to sleep as long as possible. I was up every two hours or so and had a bath in the middle of the night trying to decide whether it was time to go in or not. I woke Mike up around 4:00 and told him that I needed him to decide what we should do. I felt that the baby’s head was up quite high and knew if we went in, they might want to intervene like they did when I was in labour with Elias. I also didn’t want to stay home too long but thought that maybe it would be better if we waited for morning so that we could get the kids up for the day and take them to Sarah’s instead of having someone come in the night. I felt like I was not going to make a clear decision at that point. My contractions had become very uncomfortable and I wasn’t up to talking through them anymore. Mike felt that waiting until 7:00 or so was the best plan so we went back to sleep again.
The strangest thing for me was the fact that I was able to sleep right through contractions even though they were so uncomfortable when I was up. I know the rest was good for me as my labour was taking longer than what is normal for me.
At 6:30, I got up and ate breakfast and an hour later, we woke the kids up and loaded them in the van. Jenny and Elias were both so cute when I told them it was time for me to go to the hospital to have the baby. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Elias’s eyes so big before. Ben, on the other hand, was just mad that they didn’t get to have computer day and he had to go to his friend’s house instead. We dropped them off around 8:00 and chatted with Sarah a bit before we left. When we got to the hospital, I had a good contraction in the parking lot and was laughing at myself as it seemed like something that always happens in movies. On the way in, we saw a friend of mine who is a maternity nurse and was there when I was in the hospital with Sam.
We went in and they put me in an exam room right away. I filled them in on my history and that I was here for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and they were about to bring a doctor in when one of my favourites just happened to show up at the door. He came in and felt for baby’s position. He could tell very quickly that there was no head in my pelvis where it should have been. After a minute he found it up under my ribs on my right side. The mood immediately changed and they went to find the obstetrician, who thankfully was in the hospital at the time. He came within ten minutes and they monitored my contractions and baby’s heart rate while we waited. He brought a portable ultrasound machine with him to confirm where baby was and found his head right at the top of my belly and his feet hanging down. This meant he was not frank breech, but footling breech. I had been told that a frank breech (like Sam was) I could attempt my VBAC with, as I had a history of big babies and have had four naturally before. Footling breech is another story, though. I asked the OB what it meant for me and he said, “Looks like you’re looking at another c-section.”
The next twenty minutes were tough as Mike and I prayed and prayed for that baby to turn on its own. Even my friend stayed with us and prayed. We knew we had a decision to make but didn’t understand our options yet. The obstetrician came back in and I asked if we could just wait and see what happened. He had checked me and said that I was already at three centimetres and my membranes were bulging during contractions which usually means your water will break soon. I have only had my water break once on its own and told him that but his concern was that of course, we had no idea if it would happen and baby’s foot would most likely come right out at that point, which would mean an emergency c-section.
During the appointment I had with the OB a few weeks before, I had asked him about external cephalic version (ECV) where they turn the baby from the outside. It was something mentioned when I was pregnant with Sam but not attempted as there was no OB here at the time. He said he could do them if baby wasn’t presenting correctly at the end. So when he came back to find out what we wanted to do, I asked him if he could do a version. He said he could but in these cases, there was a risk of the cord catching on baby’s feet as they were rotated and there was only a fifty percent chance it would work at all. It would also mean giving me a spinal, prepping me for a c-section and doing the whole thing in the operating room so that if things didn’t work, they could quickly get the baby out. Mike and I did not have peace about moving forward into a caesarean right away but even a fifty percent chance sounded good to us. So we went forward, I had IVs already and they added a catheter before moving me to the OR. Mike was very quiet through most of this but when I would look to see how he was doing, I could see his mouth moving. He said later that he basically prayed the entire time this was going on. The older nurse in the room also told us that every time she goes into the OR, she is praying.
Added to the prayer support we already had, Mike let his family know what was going on. My doctor showed up to do the spinal and knowing he was a believer (as well as the first doctor to examine me) made me feel even more supported by people who were praying or at the very least, hoping for the very best outcome. They wheeled me down to the OR, left Mike to wait for the spinal to be done and took me in. The experience was similar to what happened with Sam although the big difference was that I was not feeling like pushing like I had been with him. When I had to sit still through the spinal it really wasn’t difficult as my contractions were still fairly well spaced apart. It went quickly and I had my maternity nurse friend right there to hold onto while it was done.
Mike came back in the room, the ultrasound was set up and the OB came in to start the procedure. From what I’ve heard, it can be very intense and without anesthetic can be painful, especially if you are already in labour. He found baby’s head and bum and with just a bit of gel on my belly, started moving him. What I had expected was not at all what happened. It must have taken less than two minutes to get him moved and he just went without effort. It was incredible! The OB said later that he was being very cooperative. When it was done, the mood in the OR was comical. My doctor had said that he was doing a long lasting spinal so that if we had to do a section, it wouldn’t need to be redone. Now he said that the reason the ECV worked was because he had chosen to use that form of spinal. There was a lot of laughing – the room was fairly full of people (my friend Nikki, a new unit manager that she was training, the older nurse, Kathleen, a resident doctor who was helping, Dr. Stephenson, the OB, Dr. Oluyede, the anesthetist, Dr. Mackey and at least one OR nurse as well).
The OB kept his hands on baby’s head and prepared to break my water. The resident took over with the head while he did it – I had no idea when it was done because of the spinal. It was strange to experience my water breaking without feeling anything. There was meconium in the fluid which added a bit of concern but it wasn’t heavy so they suspected it had happened when he was being moved. They then started Pitocin – something that I had thought was too risky with a previous caesarean but found out from research and talks with the OB was only risky if you were not in labour yet. They wanted his head to move down as it was still quite high. I wish I could remember what time all of this was happening but I believe it was close to 10:00 am when we went to the OR. I had jokingly told the baby on the way to the hospital that I’d like to be done by noon so at some point, I was watching the clock but having no idea how long things would take.
At first, I was told that they would move me to the ward to deliver once we got the head down and my waters were broken. After it was done, they decided to keep me in the OR just in case we needed to move quickly. I was feeling great at this point and just amazed that it had worked so easily. I was not resigned to a second c-section but had come to terms with the fact that it could happen and was just looking forward to meeting our baby. Now I was lying on my side in a strange position, not feeling anything because of the spinal, feeling euphoric that I was going to have this baby vaginally. I had lines everywhere and it was far from a “natural” experience but I didn’t even care. I knew those prayers were working and I settled in to labour until baby was ready to come.
Eventually I started to feel contractions again and a nurse checked me to see how far I was. She estimated five centimetres and baby was at -2 station which means high. This was before they turned me on my side and when the Pitocin was still at a lower dose. They turned it up at some point and things picked up a bit but I still couldn’t feel a thing below my waist. After an hour or so, two of the nurses decided to take a break so they sent in another nurse and at the same time, Mike left to use the bathroom and get something to drink. I have no idea how long they were all gone but when one of the nurses came back, she caught the end of a contraction and said quickly, “You’re sounding pushy! I need to check you!”
My reaction was, “I am?” I couldn’t feel anything and didn’t notice anything different in my vocalizations but she knew her stuff so she went to check. Her next words were, “This baby is RIGHT HERE!!” I was ten centimetres and +2 station which means baby is very nearly crowning. Everyone started scrambling, calling for a doctor to come in to deliver, trying to find the other nurses and Mike. Thankfully it waited until everyone got there (not thanks to anything I was doing in this case – because I couldn’t feel the urge to push, baby was just coming down on his own). The OB was in surgery so they found the original doctor to be the baby doctor in case he was needed and the resident to deliver. They coached me and when he crowned, I got to feel his head, something I had never done before. We still had no idea of gender but I knew this kid had a lot of hair. I did my best to follow what they wanted me to do in terms of going slow so I wouldn’t tear and it must have been my past experience because the whole time I was uncertain of whether I was doing the right thing. It was less than ten minutes and maybe three contractions and he was born. They turned him over and were saying, “It’s another boy!” right as I was seeing it for myself. I laughed (as I had predicted) as there is something funny about having a girl and then FIVE boys in a row. Oliver was born at 12:47 pm, not too far off of my hoped for noon arrival time.
I then got to have the experience I missed with Sam, holding Oliver right on my chest right away. I kept him there while they delivered the placenta – the OB was back at this point – and when they wheeled me back to my room. I would have handed him to Mike but he said as I missed it last time, I should take as long as I wanted. It was quite some time before we knew what he weighed because I kept him on my chest until I felt ready to let him go. He nursed a bit at some point and when they weighed him, my suspicions were confirmed that he was not even eight pounds. Not my smallest baby – Erik and Elias were smaller – but smaller than the last two. We noticed quickly that he looked a lot like Erik. I realized later that he was almost identical to him, just with lots of hair.
Calling the kids was the best part – I talked to Jenny and she was so excited to hear that Oliver was born. She wasn’t one bit disappointed that he was another brother and not a long awaited sister. Mike went to get them after a few hours and it was really something to have all six of my kids in that room. Dad came just after they did and then took them out for supper. He kept the kids for a bit later on so Mike could come back to see me before he put the kids to bed.
By the end of the day, once the spinal wore off, I felt really good. The next morning, I felt totally normal but still decided to stay in the hospital as they weren’t busy and I figured the quiet would be nice. Visiting hours were also very restricted and I wanted to be there long enough for a few more people to come to see us.
All in all, this is the most unique experience I’ve ever had. Not just birth, but life experience. I have always dreamed of a peaceful home birth, maybe in water – low lights, no interventions, falling asleep in my own bed after everything was done. But this taught me that even with almost every kind of intervention you can have, a peaceful birth is still possible. Sam’s birth was peaceful but the recovery from the c-section was so hard and really not something I wanted to repeat. I kept telling people that I felt amazing in part because I wasn’t recovering from a caesarean when I could have been. There was a point when we could have consented to the c-section without trying anything else but I’m so glad I knew that we had options and that we asked about them.
I wasn’t the only person who thought the birth was strange – the nursing staff were talking about it and when we were checking out on Friday, the nurse asked if I was a section. I said no, but I nearly was. She said, “OH, that was YOU!” Apparently the whole thing is just not something they’ve seen before. The older nurse who was there the whole time told me later that she had never seen a successful ECV before and she was so grateful to have been a part of Oliver’s birth because of that. The resident also told me when he came to check on Ollie that it was the most unique birth he had been to. There were lots of smiles and laughter from everyone involved as I think we all knew that what had happened was somewhat miraculous. I still feel surprised by it – I got my VBAC!! I also have an amazing story to tell which turns out is more fun than, “We went to the hospital and the baby was born.”
Simon’s Birth – September 27, 2016
Time again for another birth story; my seventh. Simon was born on September 27th, fourteen minutes “late” as I was in labour on my due date the day before but he came after midnight instead. His birth was a mix of fast and slow, peaceful and chaotic. It was not as I expected and will take me time to process but he is a beautiful, healthy boy and we are both alive.
I believe that I started early labour or at least pre-labour on the 25th. I had contractions enough through the night to make a solid sleep quite difficult. Nothing too intense or painful but steady. They tapered off by morning but I also became aware that baby’s head did not feel as though it was down anymore. Like my other boys, this one had moved in and out of head-down position many times during the end of pregnancy. I messaged a friend who is a maternity nurse (the one who was with me during Sam and Oliver’s births) and asked her for her advice on what we should do. She suggested calling the obstetrician’s office to see what he wanted me to do as he would be the one to turn the baby if it wasn’t head down. I called and waited less than an hour before hearing back from him that he wanted us to go get things checked out and that the staff in the birthing centre would call him if they needed him.
Lacey came over with her kids for a visit in the late morning but by then we knew things were happening so she came prepared to stay with them if we had to go in. Once we knew what the OB wanted, we gathered our things, ate some lunch and left the boys with her to go to the hospital with Jenny. Once were in a room, a nurse confirmed that the baby was not head down but she did not check for dilation because my contractions were so infrequent. The staff called the OB to let him know about baby’s position and he said he would come back at five. It was just after one o’clock at that point so the thought of waiting so long was a bit disheartening since it seemed I wasn’t anywhere near active labour yet. He also wanted us to wait at the hospital rather than going back home, just in case my water broke or things changed and an emergency response was needed.
We walked the hospital, walked around the outside of the hospital and rested in the exam room as much as possible before he came back. He was late – he finally got to us just before six, confirmed that baby was transverse and with the help of an ultrasound, moved him into a head down position in the exam room. It was very gentle and quick which didn’t surprise me considering how it was with Oliver and how much room I seemed to have. We were moved to a regular delivery room and my water was broken. Very quickly it was clear that this wouldn’t be a hands-off birth as there was heavy meconium in the fluid. I was put on monitors and tried to find good positions to labour in to get things moving. I started having regular contractions right away but they weren’t very strong.
Over the course of the evening, I moved from the bed to standing to rocking and in certain positions, Simon’s heart rate would drop a bit. The nurses figured that he probably had his cord tucked under his arm or something. So we’d move into a better position and give that some time. I was calm and things seemed mild at that point. Dad brought Mike and Jenny some supper around seven and I had a few crackers and hummus but otherwise just focused on labour. After a few hours, the doctor ordered pitocin which I had no argument with since it was used with Oliver and helped things move really fast. The nurses figured they would barely give me any and I’d be delivering. However, a few hours of pitocin gradually being turned up and I still had made very little progress. I felt like I was willing him to move down, willing myself to feel an urge to push but the last time they checked me, sometime after eleven, I was only six centimetres dilated. Through this whole time, certain positions were not just making his heart rate drop but plummet. I went from using the gas to get me through a contraction to hearing his heart rate slow way down and then being given oxygen and having nurses wiggling my hips to get the baby off of his cord. His regular heart rate was steady around 145 but during these drops would get down to the 50s. Trying to focus on my breathing while hearing that in the background was so hard. It was clear that the staff was becoming concerned as well.
The OB came back around 11:30 and immediately expressed concern over my slow progress and the monitor strip showing these drops in the baby’s heart rate. I agreed that the slow progress seemed strange. Oliver started out as an almost identical situation – not head down, needed to be moved externally, water broken once he was head down and then pitocin administered to get his head to move down with stronger contractions. And in his case, I was lying down with a spinal the entire time so gravity wasn’t there to help. It had taken about an hour and a half after my water was broken with Oliver and we were going on six hours at this point. The doctor quickly said, “We need to get your baby delivered.” I knew what this meant and rather than focusing on how upsetting it could be to consider a second c-section, I understood quite deeply that this baby was genuinely in danger. Something was not right and I think I knew it for awhile.
Just like my experience with Sam, that was the point that everything started moving quickly. The bright lights came on so to speak, extra tubes were put here and there, I signed consent forms and extra nurses came rushing in. It was a blur but in the middle of it, Jenny was visibly upset and I knew it was important to address it. I was incredibly calm and I will forever be thankful that with God’s help, I was able to keep my peace through the entire experience. Jenny was tired and confused and scared but I told her that I would be okay, that the baby would be okay, that all of this had to happen to make sure our baby was safe. I told her to pray and sleep if she could while she waited for us and then they whisked us away. Various nurses checked on her throughout the surgery until Mike was able to go back to the room with Simon. Thankfully she doesn’t seem affected by it now and she told me that she was able to identify a fear of losing one of us as what was most upsetting to her.
For the third time, I had a spinal administered while in labour. I didn’t have a comforting and familiar nurse with me this time and felt a little out of sorts through the process. I wanted Mike to be with me so badly the whole time I was being prepped. Finally I was lying down and numb, the curtain was up and there he was, capped and gowned and by my side. I was amazed at that point how quickly things moved. We had been warned numerous times that our baby might not cry when he was born because of the meconium in the fluid and then the decelerations in his heart rate made this seem even more likely. We experienced what felt like a miracle when we heard him cry immediately after he was pulled out. He was taken to the side to be looked over and it was a minute before someone said, “Time of birth?” and then, “Baby..?” and we heard, “Boy!” as a response. I laughed again, just like I did with Oliver. If you can have three or four boys in a row, you can certainly have five or six of them in a row.
We waited quite some time, during which I groggily asked over and over where my baby was, until finally a nurse walked over with him and handed him to Mike. I asked for my oxygen mask to be removed and Mike to move Simon closer to me so I could kiss his head. His eyes were wide open and he was moving his tongue around. I remember him catching fuzz from the blanket on his tongue and that I wanted to take it off but my arms were strapped down. My face started itching at some point during that time and while I can’t remember if it was before Simon was brought over or not, I remember asking Mike to scratch my face and it was never good enough. I also felt sick to my stomach a few times and had to throw up, once while Mike was there and once after he and Simon left. It was the strangest thing to feel like vomiting but be unable to use any stomach muscles to bring it up. I don’t remember feeling any of that in surgery with Sam so it was frustrating and made me feel very unsettled.
After Mike left with Simon, I waited for surgery to be done. This part felt so long and I had no idea why. When the actual surgery was over, the OB said that he had used dissolvable stitches, told me that the baby’s cord had been wrapped around his neck and whole body and I heard someone say that I had a lot of blood loss but everything else was quite blurry. I started shaking badly once I was closed up and just wanted to go to sleep. They didn’t move me to a recovery room but left me in the OR to recover, listening to the sounds of instruments being counted and cleaned up and people leaving one by one. I have no idea how long I was there before a few familiar nurses came and moved me off of the table onto a stretcher. They took me back to my room where Mike and Jenny waited with Simon. It was close to two in the morning at this point and everyone was exhausted. Jenny was bubbly with excitement still but I knew they needed to get home to bed soon.
Simon weighed 7lb 10oz and was 21 inches long – kind of a skinny little thing. I expected a big baby because of how quickly I expanded and how much weight I gained but in the end he feels so tiny. He’s right in the middle of all the other birth weights – three brothers were smaller than him at birth and the other two and Jenny were bigger. He nursed well right away and thankfully my milk came in at a reasonable time before he had time to get impatient. We came home from the hospital a bit earlier than we should have but I couldn’t stand the thought of more time in those beds. Because of the blood loss, I was very weak and on Tuesday was falling asleep in the middle of conversations or texting strange things to people because my fingers would fall on the screen in the middle of writing. I didn’t need a transfusion but will need extra iron for awhile and I am very limited in what I can do at home. Mike will be off for awhile, probably the whole month. Very unexpected but totally needed for me to be able to recover well from both the blood loss and the c-section.
This birth experience was so drastically different than any of the others. I knew very quickly that this was one of those c-sections that no one could ever say was unnecessary. I have acknowledged that Sam’s probably was as I had given birth to four babies before him and so a breech presentation shouldn’t have meant an immediate c-section. But this time, I knew my baby wouldn’t have been born safely without surgery. The day I left the hospital, I also found out that the cause of my blood loss – placenta accreta – would have made a vaginal birth end very differently as well. The placenta did not detach when the OB went to remove it and instead opened up blood vessels underneath it and caused a great deal of blood loss. Because it happened in surgery, it was able to be immediately dealt with. Had I given birth vaginally, I would have likely hemorrhaged and then been sent for emergency surgery anyway. I was also told that my uterus was paper thin at the bottom so I was fortunate to have not ruptured – another blessing of never making it into really active or intense labour.
I have been on a roller coaster of emotions this week. A second c-section first felt like a loss of future VBACs, even though I had been told a week before that there was no reason to consider myself a VBAC after this birth. Then I started thinking that I could find someone to let me have a VBA2C. When the OB did his discharge exam, mixed into the “your incision looks great,” was the news about the accreta and the thin uterus. I asked him what that meant for future pregnancies and he said, “I would tell you not to have anymore but I can’t make you do that.” As someone who imagined having babies right up until menopause, this was like a dagger. He didn’t tell me that it would kill me but I know that I just moved into a much higher risk category.
We have prayed and talked and I have cried an awful lot. I don’t feel the same despair as I did but I have come to the conclusion that it is highly likely that if we have another baby, we will have to expect the high possibility of a hysterectomy after a planned c-section. It feels like a better option than being done suddenly without any warning and a hysterectomy would actually be easier for me to be okay with than any form of birth control or sterilization because of our personal convictions on the subject. In the meantime, we will pray hard for full restoration of my body, for thickening of my uterus where it has thinned out, for a full miracle of a new uterus if that is what is required. My heart longs to birth more babies but I also know that I don’t need to have all the answers right now. The last thing I want to do is to get so lost in this grief that I miss Simon’s infancy. He is so precious and beautiful and I don’t want to let this time go by in a fog.
Our other kids are in love with their little brother. Elias has easily shown more interest than everyone else (possibly combined) and practically begs to hold him every day. Jenny hasn’t expressed any disappointment in another brother and neither has anyone else. When I was still in surgery waiting to see Simon, I turned to Mike and said, “Six sons, what a legacy,” and I keep thinking it. It really does feel incredible.
Lucas’s Birth – January 20, 2019
On the morning of January 19th, I was wide awake at six, making sure I would hear my phone if it rang calling us in for an induction. Back home, inductions are scheduled for a specific time – usually eight a.m. or so – and you just show up at that time. If they’re too busy, they send you home until they can fit you in. At the Royal Alex, they tell you to be by your phone from six a.m. to six p.m. and if you don’t hear from them by the end of the day, you’ll have to wait for the next morning. We went to bed hoping it would either be first thing or wait until we had breakfast and could get the rest of the kids over to Mom and Dad’s hotel. I finally decided around six fifteen that I should get whatever sleep I could manage and then slept almost another two hours. We got up and had breakfast at the Guest Home and then made sure everyone had their bathing suits, a change of clothes and pajamas in case they needed to stay overnight at the hotel and then we headed to West Edmonton.
We figured since we hadn’t heard anything yet, we may as well take advantage of the pool and hot tub before we got a call. The hot tub was not insanely hot so I had a good opportunity to soak for awhile and to watch the kids enjoying the pool. As I mentioned in my last post, I had a thought around eleven thirty that it was possible that the hospital was calling our home phone number. I checked our messages and had one from them so I found a quiet place and phoned the induction and assessment ward. Sure enough, they had called me just after nine and again at eleven fifteen. The nurse suggested we come in at two and I agreed. She told us to have lunch and show up any time between two and three. We said goodbye to the kids and went to Red Lobster for a splurgy last meal before the induction.
We got to the hospital around two thirty and after some paperwork, I was put on a monitor for around forty minutes and given an IV lock. At the end of that time, they found baby’s heart rate had a few minor decelerations (very likely when he was moving a lot) so they put me back on it before moving forward with the induction. I was told by my nurse at the time that this was all due to my being a VBAC. Serious heart decels without recovery are a sign of rupture so they always have to be certain this is not happening. We were certain of that ourselves but felt a little trapped by policy so we put up with it for the next hour or so. I had been checked at some point and found to be no more than two centimetres dilated but soft enough that everyone figured the Foley bulb would not do much but just fall out. Pitocin was the only option on the table at that point.
During the waiting, I found out that they had no record of my GBS (group B strep) test from home, even though I had called our birthing centre and asked them to fax it two weeks prior. I had verbal confirmation that it was negative but they wanted proof on paper. So we waited awhile longer while they tracked it down. I had been drinking water leading up to the actual induction but was warned that I would be under a no food or drink order once the Pit was started. I knew this was based on outdated research and typically worked against women, but I wasn’t hungry at all after the huge lunch I had so I didn’t fight it. Just about every nurse and doctor I encountered said I could have ice so we stuck with that when I needed it. Thankfully hunger didn’t set in until after Lucas was born.
It was around six forty-five when they finally started me on the lowest dose of Pitocin. It was raised by a small amount every half hour and I started having contractions that were increasingly strong but not painful. This continued through being moved to labour and delivery and until around ten o’clock. There were a few times when the Pitocin was slowed down or turned down but the nurses kept turning it up because my contractions would space out a bit more. Personally, I feel now that I would have had an overall better labour if they had let them slow down and see if my body was taking over but it was hard and fast on Pitocin the whole night.
During the first few hours, I remembered the birth playlist I had made on Spotify of worship songs that had particularly spoken to me during pregnancy. I put it on and it stayed on until it ended and then another one played until well after Lucas was born. This may have been the first labour where I’ve actually had music playing and it was a very calming thing to have in the room, especially when things got more difficult later on.
I was still texting my friend at ten minutes to ten saying I was feeling fantastic with strong but not really painful contractions. I don’t know exactly when that changed but sometime between then and midnight, I started feeling pain and baby started having serious decelerations in his heart rate. It seemed again (like Simon’s birth) that position had something to do with it because it would recover if I moved onto my side or shifted somehow. My recollection of this time is very fuzzy, in part because I started relying on the gas to get me through contractions (sorry to any of you who don’t have access to laughing gas during labour – it’s incredible stuff). It worked amazingly well to keep me coping and let me rest between contractions. A few hours of that, however, and I was feeling totally exhausted and wishing it would all be over already. I had been at five or six centimetres for awhile without change and was starting to feel discouraged on top of being so tired. The heart rate decels hadn’t gotten much better either.
When we were first moved to L&D, the nurse taking us there looked over and said, “So, epidural?” in a positive tone like she knew I was going to say, “Yes, of course!” I looked at her funny instead and said, “Um, I hope not.” She told me I had to read the papers and that they would prefer I sign them then so I didn’t ask for it later when I was – and I quote – “writhing in pain.” I laughed, knowing it’s not like me to writhe in pain in any labour, and said I wouldn’t need it but I would read and sign them because it wasn’t an order for them, just consent if I changed my mind. I had no intention of changing my mind at that point.
Back to the gas, passing out, feeling exhausted, etc and I remembered a few birth stories where women had felt like I did, had good progress in dilation, then got an epidural, rested for an hour or so and delivered their babies. I heard God say, “Humble yourself,” and I knew what it meant. “This is totally out of left field for me, but I think I’m considering an epidural,” I told the nurse. She said we could certainly consider it since I was well established in labour but that the anesthesiologist was in the OR at the time. She put in the request and offered me some Fentanyl to get me through a contraction or two. It may have helped but I was still using the gas as well and the dose didn’t last long at all. It was during this time of waiting that I decided that my bladder felt full but I couldn’t do anything about it. I asked for a catheter, knowing that sometimes a full bladder can hold baby back from descending properly. The nurse said usually they would do that after the epidural but that it was probably a good idea to take care of it while we waited. I’ve had three catheters prior to spinals and while it’s not fun, I knew it wouldn’t compare to the contractions I was having and it might bring me closer to delivery. I was willing to try almost anything at that point. After the cath was in, the nurse started getting a second dose of Fentanyl ready when the doctor came in to do the epidural. This was likely around one thirty in the morning, although I was certainly not looking at the clock during that time.
I sat up, made it through a contraction or two and then endured the never comfortable experience of having needles put in your back. I’ve only ever had spinals for my cesareans and for Oliver’s birth when an ECV was needed and the OB wanted to be prepared for a cesarean. An epidural was basically the same experience but instead of immediately falling over numb, I was told it would take fifteen minutes to work. I laid down on my back to let it start working and baby’s heart rate fell drastically. I was moved onto my side to bring it back up but then told that the epidural would be one sided if I stayed that way so onto my back I went. Heart rate went down again and I rolled onto my other side. At this point, I started to feel like pushing, which felt like the best thing ever after what I had gone through. A quick check was done and I was told I was only seven centimetres which meant, “Don’t push!” During the next few minutes (probably less than five), I fought pushing while we listened to baby’s heart rate drop and not recover. A scalp monitor had been put in sometime between the Fentanyl and the epidural and so we knew it wasn’t just the external monitor falling off my belly (something that happened all day and drove me crazy…darned continuous monitoring).
The on call doctor was there at the time and when the heart rate was fifty something and I was starting to feel things going in the direction of Simon’s birth, she checked me to see if I might possibly be fully dilated yet. I heard her say, “Seven,” and then, “Vacuum,” but didn’t put anything together right away. She then increased her volume considerably and yelled at me, “Okay, hold your legs up, hold your breath, get angry and push as hard as you possibly can!!” I was confused – she had just said I was still seven centimetres. What happened that I could push suddenly? Doesn’t she know pushing against a cervix that isn’t fully dilated can make it swell and stop labour in its tracks? She yelled again, “GET ANGRY! PUSH!!” and I did what I could. Not good enough, apparently, “NO! You have to hold your breath and push as hard as you can!” So I gave it my best, felt every moment of that baby’s head coming down and stretching and then suddenly he was out.
Mike looked down and whispered to me, “It’s a boy!” With how fast everything went, I just looked around and started saying, “What just happened?!” Lucas was put on my chest as soon as his cord was clamped and I marveled at him and the fact that I had just delivered him vaginally, despite having so much against us. Official time of birth was one forty-four a.m., meaning seven hours of Pitocin and probably around three and a half hours of active labour at the end.
I figured pushing had taken five minutes but Mike said it was no more than three and probably closer to two. Then I found out why I could push before the OB ever said, “ten.” She had checked, found me still at a seven and quickly decided to manually stretch me to ten centimetres and use a vacuum, rather than make the call to do another cesarean. Unlike most people’s assumptions, I did not feel anything other than what a normal cervical check feels like late in labour. I am so incredibly grateful for that quick and rather unconventional thinking. The nurse said afterward that any other doctor would have had me in the OR. Dr. Patel was apparently the only doctor who would do something like that. I’ve since learned that it’s not an uncommon practice for midwives to employ in certain situations like mine but is often frowned upon.
What amazes me still is that I flew to Edmonton in December to meet Dr. Mayo, someone rumoured to be fantastic about VBACs even after multiple cesareans. He then had surgery and Dr. Sklar took over. I saw Sklar twice during our two and a half weeks in Edmonton prior to the induction. During labour, I only saw the on call doctor on the assessment side, a resident, and Dr. Patel. We had prayed for the right staff to be there at the right time and in almost every case, it seemed that we had exactly that. With only one exception, all the nurses leading up to birth were kind and attentive and Dr. Patel was exactly what I needed at the end.
Because of the vacuum and the speed of delivery, I did have a second degree tear that was rather extensive. The resident stitched while the OB observed and coached but it still didn’t take more than fifteen to twenty minutes. The hardest part about that was not being in a good position to start nursing Lucas. He was calm through the whole thing but I always like to get them nursing as soon as possible.
Mike was nearly passing out tired through the last two or three hours of my labour, having an actual nap once or twice, and so once the stitching was done, Lucas was weighed and he had a chance to hold him, he said goodnight and went back to the Guest Home. It was probably close to three in the morning at that point. I stayed in the labour and delivery room long enough to nurse baby for awhile and then went downstairs to the postpartum ward. I very much missed the lovely all in one rooms we have at the hospital at home, especially the privacy, as I was roomed with someone else whose husband was snoring away in the recliner next to her and whose entire extended family seemed to show up the next day and stay almost the entire time. A shared bathroom with a rolling door that doesn’t lock didn’t help matters.
In all, we only stayed at the hospital around twenty hours after Lucas was born. We had to check out of the Guest Home the next day and I didn’t want Mike to have to pack up and get all the kids out without my help. I felt great aside from fairly minor pain from my stitches so it wasn’t hard at all to leave so quickly. We had some issues with birth registration that will take awhile to sort out, mostly because it’s done so differently in Alberta and I was misinformed at the hospital on how to fill out some of the paperwork. We spent two nights with Mike’s sister an hour away from Edmonton and then drove about halfway home on the twenty-third and came the rest of the way on the twenty-fourth, exactly three weeks from the day we drove to Edmonton. We spent thousands of dollars and it was easily one of the most challenging experiences we’ve ever had but we came home with a beautiful healthy baby and a successful VBA2C which was the entire reason we went away.
I know now that I should have probably avoided induction at all costs but we really did feel that we needed to get our family home. After adding up all we spent while we were away (including the van repair), I’m not sure we could have managed the costs of lodging any longer without burning through every penny of our savings and going into debt. We cannot change the way this labour went but if we have more children, it will likely change what we do then.
Lucas is two weeks old now and an absolute doll. He is a peaceful baby and gets passed around all day, cherished particularly by his sister, who doesn’t mind another brother at all. I marvel a bit at having seven sons. Clearly God has a plan for us to raise up Godly men, and honestly, I’m a bit of a boy mom after having nothing but boys for twelve years. Jenny is a softening presence for her younger brothers and they have thoroughly toughened her up so she can handle a lot more than many girls her age.
One of the blessings of coming back was coming home to a very clean house, thanks to Mike’s mom, and to a stocked fridge and freezer, thanks to the ladies at our church. We haven’t received hot meals like every baby before this (although I think one or two may come yet) but haven’t had to be incredibly creative or shop much at all.
If you’ve made it this far, your reward is a picture of our sweet boy. He has so much hair and the sweetest little chin and lips. We can’t quite decide who he looks like just yet but like all our kids, I’m sure he’ll fit in without looking just like anyone else.