Written by mama, Alexis
Oh birth… you are such an interesting beast.
I had no idea what to really expect when it came time to give birth. My husband squirms at the site of blood, or any bodily fluids, so the thought of catching a baby made him a little green. When we told my mother that we were planning a home birth I think she wondered if I had paid my taxes and my father kept asking, “What’s a Doooula?” - assuming we were incorporating voodoo into the birth. Then there was the neighbor who felt the need to warn us against a home birth because her friend ended up being rushed to the hospital. Oh, and when we mentioned we had enrolled in a hypnobabies class they all really thought we’d lost our nut. Every birth is different, every woman is different, and every baby is different. We all have our own beliefs and expectations going into birth, and I am so glad that I went into mine informed and on the one side of the spectrum and not the other.
Thursday September 11th, 2014: I had just finished getting my hair done and I decided to stop off at the Yaletown farmer’s market before my 3km waddle back to Mount Pleasant. The kale was singing to me, so I bought it. Big mistake. That evening around 2am my contractions started as the kale was resurfacing. How frustrating. I had the easiest pregnancy, but for some reason kale salads make me vomit and this was the third time. Three times a charm they say. Right, I guess if you want to induce your own labour. Now every time I see kale on the menu I cringe.
In the evening I managed to get a little sleep and knew that the “pressure waves,” as we were to call them, were too far apart for baby to arrive. The following day I had a chiropractic appointment, a dental appointment and lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in six months. A bit of a line up, but I thought that I might as well attempt them all instead of sitting around waiting. The usual 25-minute walk to the chiro took an hour as I was stopping and waiting for each wave to pass. I breathed through the waves on the table and felt better. The dental office was two blocks away, so off I went to that appointment. I’m pretty sure they thought I was nuts, but I had no idea when I would actually be able to get back to see the dentist. A few pressure waves on the chair and the appointment was over and now just in time for lunch. I was happy to see my girlfriend, but after a few bites and stunted conversation she said that she was taking me home. I guess the baby was coming.
No baby Friday night and pressure waves were still too far apart to call our doula, Jessica.
Saturday morning I woke up and there they were! Pressure waves began and were about seven minutes apart, but sometimes 10 and then the odd 12. My mom came over and as much as I was trying to follow our hypnosis cues I’m pretty sure the entire complex heard my wounded cat noises. I was riding the waves and certainly crashing through them too. These lasted the whole day. They would start at the bottom of my right foot and literally as a wave would rise and circle my body, strike my lower back and leave through my left foot. The ones I could literally manage to ride and breath through were good, and the ones I missed and crashed through were certainly challenging. The waves got closer together and we called Jessica around 5pm. She said I think you’re going to have your baby tonight. Jessica had this wonderful tens machine for my back and it felt nice to be in control when pressure would surface. I felt a huge relief knowing she was with me. Wonderful to have my mom, but having someone who is so knowledgeable and experienced with birth allowed me to surrender and have trust in the process.
We have a fairly large townhouse, but I spent the better part of the day and night up in my bedroom with the shades drawn. I felt safe, like an animal in her den. Apparently lots of babies come in the middle of night, but at 4 am still no baby. My back was unusually sore. I was determined not to take painkillers, as I knew that what I was experiencing was good pressure and not pain like breaking your arm. I could shift my mind to a deep meditation, but there were many intense moments that made it challenging. Fortunately for me, Jessica called Acumamas and a wonderful acupuncturist by the name of Shannon came over at 5am. If there was ever a time to believe in magic it was now. The acupuncture was such a relief that it actually stopped my labour. She said that it would either induce the labour or at times could stop it. Well, it stopped it and I could rest. I started to wonder, why isn’t this baby coming? At 6 am I had a bath and Jessica played the fear-clearing CD from hypnobabies, one of the most useful tools from the course. I took a deep breath. I wasn’t alone. I knew that time would pass and the baby would arrive. Jessica kept reminding me that it was normal too. She had countless stories of first time moms that were similar to mine. I held Lanny’s hand and we went to bed.
Sunday 10 am. I woke up to the waves starting again, but we had both slept and we were ready for the next round. We called Jessica back at about 2 pm. I kept telling her that I don’t blame people for getting an epidural or doing whatever they have to do, as this whole birth thing is pretty intense, but I knew that I could pull through. If Crystal, my hypnobabies instructor, had a four-day birth I knew I could do it. At 3 pm Shannon came back and I had another round of acupuncture. This time it didn’t seem to give much relief. At about 7 pm the pressure waves were erratic and the frustration was building. Where is this baby? I took a bath and Jessica decided to head home and saddle up for the night. I kept asking her why she thought the baby wasn’t coming. My water hadn’t broken yet either (mind you I knew it didn’t necessarily have to), but she thought that perhaps the pressure of my bag of waters was causing the discomfort in my back. The thought of this pesky bag of waters as the cause of the problem was incentive enough for me to give it a little nudge out. When she left I settled into the bath and gave it a good push and out popped this bubble. I called to Lanny to inspect what had just happened. Now let’s remember… Lanny and bodily fluids don’t mix. I knew that intimate times were not in the near forecast, so even if he got grossed out I was ok with it. When I asked him what it looked like he agreed, it looked like a frog was mating or I was blowing Hubba Bubba downstairs. I asked him to take a photo and send it to Jessica, but I received a firm no way. We were both laughing in hysterics at this point. Here I am in my half size bathtub with Hubba Bubba coming out of my vagina and Jessica wasn’t here to witness it.
Jessica did come back and concluded that it was my bag of waters, but it hadn’t burst yet. Now when she said that the baby was coming soon I believed her. She asked me how I felt about having it in the bathtub. This half-size bathtub? Really? I was hoping for the birth pool with a bit of Enya and some candles. No time? Jeez, it seemed like we had a lot of time before. I guess the acupuncture really did cause a shift. Ok, let’s give it a go.
She called the midwife. My first midwife, Yarra, was getting married and our second midwife, Dawn, was at another birth, so a third midwife came until Dawn was ready. I neglected to mention this detail, but after the first round of acupuncture I had a rather large black BM leave my system, so I thought with all the Hubba Bubba pushing I had again pooped in the bathtub. I looked down and was mortified to see a little floater. I just hoped that they hadn’t noticed. On the contrary… Jessica had one of my kitchen sieves and was fishing around and looking at it! Oh god, as if it wasn’t enough that everyone was hovering around my beached body now they’re inspecting my floater. As it turned out, the floater didn’t belong to me it belonged to my baby.
Dawn arrived. Normally they wouldn’t perform a vaginal exam, but at this moment I was ok with it. I was fully dilated and when she stuck her fingers up to check she felt feet. She said, “You know Alexis when I thought you were breech at your last appointment… well you are.” The original due date was September 19th and because we all expected baby to be late she was going to re-check me at my following appointment. The little monkey must have turned last minute. Yarra had performed several natural breech births, but Dawn had yet to perform one and felt more comfortable if I wasn’t her first. Her colleague Dr. Bloomenthal was working at Women’s and Children’s that night so our plan changed and it was time to roll with the unexpected. Lanny grabbed a set of clothes as no bag was packed. I left the house in a striped t-shirt streaked with meconium, a skirt with no underwear (as this long Hubba Bubba kelp thing had now burst and was smacking between my inner thighs), some old pink hoodie, Hawaiian flip flops and an ode to Beetlejuice hair do. Awesome. Fashion statement extraordinaire meet unplanned breech birth. I’m not sure what scared me more. I am so glad that Dawn had the reins and knew that we didn’t want a C-section. I am so glad that at this very moment when panic could have set in that I was informed and in the best care. This birth was certainly happening and I had to roll with the change of plans.
We made it outside. The ambulance lights blazing, all the neighbours lined up at the fence and me wailing like a sick cat. To boot, just as the ambulance door closed I saw the neighbour who had warned me about the home birth peering out from behind her curtains. Arghhh.
We rolled into the hospital, quite literally as I was on a stretcher, and I was shuttled into a small delivery room where I met Dr. Bloomenthal. Now we were on hospital turf with hospital rules. I knew my rights from my class and excellent care providers, but decisions had to be made. Lanny immediately piped up and told Bloomenthal that we weren’t going to buy into the medical system. I must have given him the death stare because this woman was about to deliver our baby. It’s sort of the same reason you don’t argue with the dentist when they’re about to extract your teeth. Following the altercation, she turned to me and listed the scenarios out. These were the options: Plan A she advised getting an epidural; if I couldn’t give birth naturally Plan B would happen, and that meant I would have to go under general anaesthetic and have a C-section. For some reason the intense pressure waves subsided and more adrenaline must have kicked in. This isn’t what I wanted. I knew that with an epidural you are essentially paralyzed from the waist down and pushing when you can’t feel contractions would be very hard. Isn’t this the OB that specialized in natural breech births? What the heck?
Dawn, Jessica and Lanny were all lined up in front of me with a wide-eyed “don’t do it” look, but it was my decision. I felt very clear at that moment and asked about another plan. Couldn’t I at least try and push baby about without any drugs and then move to plan B? There were a lot of “if I couldn’t do it” reasons, but I hadn’t even been given the opportunity to try. Again, I went into this scenario informed and empowered, and happy I did so. We opted for my plan.
The following scene transpired: various medical professionals came in to check if I was able to handle general anaesthetic or other medical procedures, plus a few looky-loo medical students who wanted to see a natural breech birth as they had never seen one - but Lanny shooed them out and informed they couldn’t watch the show - and then some epic pushing.
I felt like I was on stage and was almost having performance anxiety. Every time a wave came I wasn’t sure if it was truly one or not. I would see my audience staring at the monitor and then getting ready to cheer. I was so wired I wasn’t even sure if I felt it or not. After 20 minutes a few toes emerged. Everyone was cheering. I looked at Lanny and he looked at me and we both had the same thought. Shoot, if it took 20 minutes to get the toes out and those are about a 1/16th of the body, how long is it going to take to get the whole baby out? Just then Dr. Bloomenthal came back in the room and took over for Dawn. She said, “Well Alexis that was a practice push”. Practice push? I was really pushing! Everyone laughed as I guess my thoughts were pretty loud. What she meant was, she knew that I could do it, so she gave me an extra 20 minutes to my 1.5 hours allotted time to push baby out. I was determined and the pushing itself wasn’t what I would call pain it was more relief. There was a performance happening so the show must go on! I jumped up and clung onto the bar in deep yoga squats, I side pushed and finally half seated I gave my final pushes. She informed me that a small episiotomy was recommended and already began the freezing. I was ok with that and it was the least invasive of options. The right foot was out and in a couple pushes a bum and left foot emerged. She cradled the bum and with one more good push the baby seemed to slither out and the head was a breeze. I was well under time and felt like I came in first place.
Mama's feet, Baby's feet
I still didn’t know if my baby was a boy or a girl. I was expecting a grand movie scene and someone yelling it’s a boy or it’s a girl! Nope. Just as I was about to receive baby I looked under the blanket and saw some extra bits and bobs and knew that indeed I had just birthed a son! I was so excited and relieved. Now it was ok for Lanny to call my mom. I snuggled and held my little Leo. It was the most amazing thing to meet the little one who was brewing in my belly for the last nine months. Oh my, was he ever precious. Some people say that they didn’t feel love at first sight, but we both did. I wanted to cry I was so happy.
We did the delayed cord clamping and Dawn asked Lanny to cut it when the moment was right. I almost laughed because I knew that this was definitely not in the plan, but then he surprised me and cut the cord. I do have to mention that Lanny was an exceptional husband and father with the entire birthing process and nursing me back to health. I’ve never felt such love and pampering from him. Perhaps another birth is in order…
A half an hour later the placenta was born then a few stitches later I was back in action. Little Leo Alexander Taschuk was weighed and measured and all was good. Lanny had to get a ride back home and install the car seat since we weren’t expecting to go to the hospital and I waited upstairs. I was wheeled up and all the nurses had heard the story. You had a natural breech birth with no drugs? What can we give you? It was strange how they still wanted to push drugs and the birth was over. I just said no thanks and that I was only going to use a bed till my husband came back. They told me that it was a minimum of six hours. Forget that! All I wanted was my own bed and I wasn’t meant to be there anyway. I do have to mention that one bonus to the hospital was their underwear. Seriously hideous, but were they ever comfortable. I think I pinched a good four pairs.
Lanny arrived and I re-dressed in my meconium stained shirt, shimmied back into my skirt, zipped my hoodie up and flip flopped my way out of the room. Of course we didn’t have any cute baby clothes in our never-packed hospital bag, so we stole a yellow hospital towel and we were ready. Eyebrows rose when we told them we were checking out. They wanted to see the car seat, but it wasn’t an infant one, it was a convertible one, so it had to stay in the car. Again another brow rose. Finally discharged we laughed at what looked like the beginning stages of horrible hippie parenting. We put him into the car seat and left.
I was so happy to be at home snuggled in bed with our little Leo. It was the strangest realization. We made a baby. We actually made a baby and he’s here with us now. He had a grand entrance and I wouldn’t have wanted to change a thing.
And that Leo, is how you came into the world.