Birth Knot: One Mama Two Stories

We're switching things up today at cord - today we're featuring a mama's story of her two births. We thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast how different births can be and the many factors that contribute to making a birth what it is. Enjoy!

Here are my two stories. Calvin and Victor were each born in different cities, Victoria, BC and Edmonton, Alberta, respectfully. Victoria is a more “crunchy” city than Edmonton, and you can see the influences of the city alone in my stories. Each birth is unique, but it is fun to compare the two.

CALVIN
My due date based on my 18 week ultrasound was April 3, 2012. Up until that point (and beyond), I had zero signs of going into labour. No Braxton Hicks, no leakage, no nothing. I felt completely normal, except for the fact that it took me far too long to get up off the couch, and rolling over in bed was a chore and a half.

As April 3 came and went, my doctor sent me for a non-stress test and an ultrasound to make sure the baby was still doing fine in there. Everything was just dandy, and a week later they sent me for another. I think it was a Wednesday. This time they found that my fluids were getting fairly low, so they told me they would put me on the waiting list to be induced over the weekend. Throughout the pregnancy, I was fairly certain I did not want to be induced, but after a week past my due date, I changed my mind.

Friday morning, around 11:30, I got a call from the hospital telling me to come in. They had a bed available for me in an hour and a half! At the time, Tim, my husband, was working from home, so he didn't need to rush home from work to bring me in or anything like that. In the next hour I made sure I had what I needed in our bags, did a few dishes so I wouldn't have to come home to a dirty kitchen, threw some leftovers in a bag for lunch, grabbed my pillow off my bed (seriously, bring your own pillow), and called my mom to tell her she better jump on a ferry. We had a nice 20 minute drive to the hospital, and got settled into my room.

By 1:30, I was hooked up to the oxytocin, and sometime soon after, or maybe a couple hours after, I don't remember, they broke my water. I wasn't allowed to leave the bed, so Tim and I played card games and Ticket to Ride on the iPhone. I also remembered that I never ate my lunch, so I asked my nurse if I could. She originally said no, but finally gave in. This was her demeanor the whole time she attended me. At some point my mom showed up, popped her head in the room to let me know she arrived and see how I was doing, then she left to get settled at the hotel.

Sometime between 4:00 and 4:30, my contractions started. I don't know how far apart they were, since I was hooked up to a machine that kept track of that sort of thing, but they were probably about 5 minutes apart or something like that. I don't think I knew at the time, but now have heard, that inductions make contractions come on stronger and closer together. So I suppose I was experiencing normal labour at this point, for being induced.

My back started feeling sore, and my nurse reluctantly let me flip onto my side. I also managed to get her to let me get up and walk around the halls a couple times. She was maybe in her 50s and probably used to the idea that women should labour on their backs the whole time. So this happened for a few hours until 7:00, which meant shift change time!

My new nurse was awesome. She was my age or a couple years older and right away brought in an exercise ball for me, and asked me frequently if I wanted to walk around. The contractions were feeling a bit stronger and closer. I was just sitting on the ball, and there wasn't much I found that Tim could do for me, so I let him watch the Canucks playoff game (they lost), as long as he kept me in the loop of what the score was. I think he also massaged my back a couple times, but it didn't do much for me. My in-laws got into town from Upisland, so they came by to say "hi" as well.

Around 8:00 or 9:00 (I really have no clue), I went to stand in the shower. I did not find that nice for me at all. It was at this point that I spoke the only words I remember speaking (more like whimpered) while in labour, "I don't want to do this anymore", talking about labour in general, not just the shower. I think I was only in there for a few minutes before returning to my ball beside the bed. When I got back, I also asked for the gas.

Tim asked the nurse if she thought I had gone through transition yet, and she replied that she didn't think so and that we would probably be there past midnight. Then we got in a good routine. I was still on the ball with my elbows on the bed. During a contraction, I would take the gas mask and breathe it in. Afterward, Tim would hand me a cool wet cloth that I kept on my face until the next contraction started. I thought it was a good system that worked quite well.

I guess my breathing changed or something, because the nurse asked me if I felt like I needed to push. I realized that yes, in fact, I did feel like I needed to push. So she got the bed ready for me, and helped me onto it. I think she must have read my mind, because she prepped it for a squatting delivery. I don't think I told her I wanted to try it, but because she was such a great nurse, she just knew! I'm positive that if the other nurse had stayed with me, I would have been stuck on my back the whole time.

Looking back, I think the shower was not so much fun because I probably had my biggest contractions in there, so I had actually gone through transition when the nurse didn't think I had yet.

I pushed for about 20 minutes, then got to meet Calvin at 10:15! All I remember from those first couple moments is seeing his squinty, newborn eyes, then watching as they weighed him. I don’t remember if I held him first or not. I also remember them all putting in the weight guesses, then counting "10, 10, 2!" (I don't think they count the "2" if you have a girl, in case you were wondering what that was about.) I tore pretty badly, so they were stitching me up at this point. In Victoria, they don’t do episiotomies, which was cool because I didn’t want one anyway. But I do wonder if I did get cut instead of being left to tear, if I wouldn’t have such a long recovery period. I was uncomfortable sitting on hard chairs for three months!

Then I got to feed him. He took to it right away, and I remember it taking forever! It was probably like, an hour, and I was anxious for our family to get to see him. I knew they were all outside and I felt bad making them have to wait, but was glad I could have this time to cuddle and nurse. Of course my mom came in at some point to take a peek, so that was nice. Everybody else waited patiently.

Next came the most welcome shower ever! I wish I could have stayed in there all night. Then we got settled in my new room where I would stay until Sunday morning, getting to know my little boy and letting others snuggle him.

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These are some of my thoughts, looking back on Calvin’s birth while I was pregnant with Victor:

I don't know if I want to be induced again. There were good parts, like getting to drive to the hospital without having contractions at the same time. But there were also negative parts, like being stuck to an IV throughout the entire labour. That made going for walks and the shower a little bit more difficult than it would have been otherwise. We will see if I go that far overdue again.

I'm a little bit afraid of actually going into labour. I have no clue what it's like. I didn't experience my water breaking or having to time contractions and figure out the best time to go in to the hospital. Just because I have delivered one child does not mean that I know exactly what the whole process is like. It could be a whole new experience for me.

I have also been told that for my first delivery, and for being induced, I had quite a short labour at only about 6 hours. Often times the second child comes quicker than the first. If that is that case for me, and if I also don't have the oxytocin slowing me down, could my labour go super quickly? I wouldn't mind! But it could also be longer. I may feel the need to ask for stronger drugs (I hope I don't). Maybe I will require a C-section. You never really know.

VICTOR
When I had my initial visit with my OBGYN in Edmonton, I told her my first labour was quick, so she wanted to schedule an induction. I didn’t want to do that again, so I told her we live just 5 minutes from the hospital (which is not a lie). I was very glad she accepted my plea and she never even mentioned it again!

Monday, October 21 was my due date. I was not surprised I was still a mother of just one that day. I was measuring small, and Calvin was way over due. At my doctor's appointment the previous week, I was 2 cm dilated, and had a membrane sweep done. Nothing had happened after that.

My next appointment was on Wednesday, October 23. I was measured at 5cm and had another sweep done. My doctor was very optimistic about me going into labour that evening. I don't know how much of that was medical based and how much it was because she was on call at the hospital that night and just being optimistic so she could be the one to deliver my baby. I hoped she would be able to do it, because she was awesome! She prescribed me a brisk walk that afternoon, and lots playing with Calvin on my hands and knees. I also bounced on the exercise ball to try to make things happen.

All through that evening I felt cramps coming on, like menstrual cramps. They didn't hurt, but they were there. They were fairly strong and consistent while I was nursing Calvin before his bedtime around 8 pm, coming every 2 minutes or so, but slowed down when I was done.  I was hoping that the nursing would help them stay coming stronger and faster, but that didn't happen. Throughout the rest of the evening I felt them every 8-12 minutes, and they weren't hurting.

My mom arrived at our place from her flight just before midnight. At that point, I was starting to be in a little bit more pain, but they were still far apart. We went to bed. Tim fell asleep, but I couldn't. Gradually I could feel the cramps getting closer together and stronger. My doctor had instructed me to head to the hospital as soon as I felt like contractions were starting, but I had no clue what the difference was between cramps and contractions. So I decided that point was when I no longer could lay still during one. That ended up being at 2am. I woke Tim up and we made the 5 minute trek to the hospital.

When we got there I was brought to the observation area where they monitored me and the baby for a bit. They measured me at being still at 6cm. Then about half an hour later I was brought to my labour and delivery room. I spent the next little bit sitting on a ball I borrowed from a friend (Edmonton isn’t as crunchy as Victoria and does not provide balls for you), and riding out the contractions. At this point they were strong enough that I had to breathe through them, but they were quite manageable. It didn't seem like much was progressing, so I asked if my doctor could break my water. I was 8cm so she came by around 4 am to do that. The passage of time is a bit hazy at this point, but I could immediately tell the contractions got worse right after. During those contractions I took the gas and Tim was continuing to massage my lower back with each contraction while I was on my hands and knees on the bed. I could feel the pain slipping away each time he reached whatever particular spot helped for each individual contraction.

It felt like only a few contractions after my water broke that I felt the need to push. I flipped over onto my back, the bottom of the bed was taken apart and the stirrups were put in place. Going into it, I was apprehensive about delivering on my back, but my doctor assured me that it was the best way for her to control the head and prevent a lot of tearing. Since I was more apprehensive about tearing due to the recovery after Calvin, I was okay with delivering on my back. The big difference I found between that and having a crouching delivery is that I had to focus energy on two places this time. They wanted me to grab behind my legs and pull up on them while at the same time pushing. I heard myself say, "I can't!" because I didn't have the energy to do both. This was the only thing I remember saying out loud this time. But somehow I managed, and after 10 minutes of pushing, Victor was here!

I ended up with just a small tear, and because of my quick delivery, there was extra bleeding or something from my uterus, so I was put on an Oxytocin drip afterward for a few hours. So while I didn't have to be attached to an IV during labour, I was for the first little bit post delivery.

After he was born, we made calls, sent texts and were brought to my room. I wasn't sure how long they wanted me to stay, but I wanted out that day. A couple people mentioned maybe the next day, but I really didn't want to spend a night there! All they needed was to make sure Victor was eating okay, that he had good output, and that my Oxytocin drip was done. So we were out of there by 3:30 in the afternoon. I'd say a 13.5 hour trip to the hospital and coming home with a baby is pretty great!

There was a huge difference between this time and last time with regards to recovery. Maybe in part due to it being my second, and partially due to a smaller tear (and less swelling), but I had more energy and was less sore right off the bat, and felt pretty much back to 100% within the first week!

Another difference from last time was that I obviously was not induced. The difference I think this made was that my initial crampy, "pre-labour" was a lot longer this time, but my active labour was shorter. That is definitely not something to complain about!

Larissa Answers:

How did the difficulty level meet your expectations?
I didn't have too many expectations going in. I knew labour is unbearable for some, but still bearable for others. I was wondering if labour would bring out some secret wild animal in me, but it didn't, I never yelled or screamed, or was angry at Tim. I was myself, quiet and reserved, just in pain. 

What was the best thing you did to prepare? 
Take our prenatal course. It was done by a friend of ours who is a trained midwife and doula. Both Tim and I learned so much from it, and it was kind of fun to hear Tim spout off words like "transition" during my labour. He also learned good and helpful massage techniques. :) I didn’t read any pregnancy books at all (can’t stand non-fiction), so this was really our only preparation. We didn’t do anything for the second go-around.

What was your most effective form of pain control? 
Rolling side to side on the ball while having pressure put on my lower back. I felt both labours a lot in my back, and having the gentle movement plus the pressure helped a lot! The gas worked to take the edge off and give me something to focus on during a contraction.

Would you do anything differently?
If/when I have a third, I think I will keep doing what I do: take everything in stride, not have any specific expectations, and just get the baby out leaving both of us in one piece. For the most part. ;) Other than that, maybe wear something else after having the baby, so I'm not sporting the not-so-attractive hospital gown in all my photos. 

Do you have any advice for pregnant moms?
You only ever hear moms talk about either having an all natural labour, or getting an epidural. I think it's important to know that there is a middle ground, and other options before jumping straight to the epidural if you want relief, such as the gas I had.