When I first wrote about my birthing experience it had been 11 weeks since I had given birth to my son. I had been thinking about whether or not I wanted to share the story of his birth. At first, I didn’t because thinking about it gave me great anxiety and then I didn’t want to because I was embarrassed that the thought of it caused me anxiety… the truth is my birth was quite comparable (if it can be) to most other “normal” births, but for me, it included a lot of negative emotions and I felt guilty. While I can look back on it now and think “ok, that was pretty straightforward” it doesn’t change the fact that this was my first time giving birth, that I really didn’t know what to expect and that what happened shocked me and caused me a lot of fear and lasting emotional stress. It also didn’t help that a lot of the information on the internet talks about the “magic” and “happiness” of birth. It’s special, yes, but it takes a lot to get to that moment. Unfortunately, not many women I interacted with prior to giving birth shared the emotional side of their stories with me. I knew what biologically was going to happen, but I wasn’t prepared for how the events of the birth would make me feel.
My contractions started at about 10:30 AM and they felt like period cramps. Having had relatively painless periods, I knew something was happening. Right away I kept this to myself and bottled up my nervousness. I didn’t want to tell my family because I knew that they would start to worry and stress, that they would want to be with me at all times. I’m the type of person that likes to hide and be quiet when they’re scared, so I wasn’t ready for that kind of attention. In fact, I saw my parents multiple times that day and even though I was in pain I didn’t tell them. I also delayed telling my husband because he was working and I knew he would also get stressed out, which would, in turn, stress me out. What I had imagined would be one of the most exciting moments in my life I was now dreading. So, I waited. My contractions were quite consistent throughout the day, every 3 – 5 minutes and the pain was growing slowly. I asked my husband to come home around 3PM because I was now quite confident this was it and I wanted him to be a part of it. Plus, I also needed some encouragement to keep going at it from home. I called my midwife and she told me to call her back when the contractions were consistently at 3 minutes apart. Doing this for the first time without the advice of a medical professional made me so nervous. I didn’t know what was normal. I didn’t know what I should or should not be doing. You can only trust internet blogs so much… At about 5:30 PM I called her back and told her that they were consistently 3 – 4 minutes apart and that the pain was starting to be too much for me. By 6:30 PM she was at my house, checked me out and told me I was about 4 cm dilated and now in active labour. She told me that she thought I was progressing quickly and that we could likely stay at home for the birth, that it should be over soon. That brought me a little relief and I started to get a little excited. I could keep this up if it was going to be over soon!
The pain I felt was in my lower back and too much for me to handle. I asked for the laughing gas in order to ease my pain. She didn’t bring any with her. She called another midwife, but I would have to wait. This is when the feelings of broken trust started to creep up in my mind. How didn’t she have the laughing gas? This was the main pain management we talked about. Now I had to wait for someone else to help me?
Finally, the other midwife arrived and started connecting the laughing gas. It wasn’t working properly. Another 45 minutes went by before they could figure it out. In the meantime, the pain was unbearable. I needed my husband to push as hard as he could into my lower back just to distract me from the contractions. I started breathing in the laughing gas and quickly found myself dizzy, nauseous, and out of it. There was no pain relief, I just couldn’t get my thoughts together, I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling, I could only cry and wait for it to end.
After a while, the midwives asked if I wanted to try sterile injections, which would reduce the pain I was feeling in my lower back. They told me it would really hurt, like multiple bee stings, but that it would be worth it. I was terrified of more pain and delayed. Finally, I decided to do it. They told me to be very still and that they would do it as quickly as possible. They were surprised by my reaction – I was the only person they had done this to that hadn’t screamed. I told them I would have them do it 1,000 more times if it meant I didn’t have the pain I was getting from the contractions. This helped for a little bit, but we were now approaching midnight. The midwife checked me again and said I was still only 5cm dilated and that if they broke my water things would progress quicker. Getting your water broken is an interesting feeling. It doesn’t hurt AT ALL, but it does feel like the waterfall you may have read about.
At about 1AM, I was checked again. Still no progress. The midwife let me know that she was going to try and stretch my cervix. This was hands down the worst part of my experience and what I remember the most when I look back on everything. This was when I felt the most pain, this was when I cried the most and when I was literally begging for everything to stop. After this, I was completely drained and then the laughing gas tank ran out. Now, not only could I still feel everything that was happening, but I could also make sense of it. It was at this point that I lost it. I was so angry at my midwife, how could there not be enough laughing gas? What was I going to do now? She asked me to decide if I wanted to go to the hospital. I couldn’t move. I was frozen in fear for what felt like hours but finally, I was able to gain the courage to move and make my way to the car to go. Thankfully, the hospital was only a 5-minute drive. I was so happy I didn’t let them convince me to register at their preferred hospital which was a 30-minute drive away from my house. I had only two contractions on the way there! Phew.
About an hour after arriving at the hospital I got an epidural. What a difference!! I now felt excited and happy. I could relax. I slept. I ate a little. I drank a lot of water. The best part, I laughed and smiled. I was finally able to understand what was happening, that our lives were about to change for the better, forever. I was finally going to meet my little sidekick. Yes the epidural slowed down my contractions and they gave me Pitocin, but I was now thinking about how amazing the rest of my life was going to be and not just about the pain I was in. 4 hours later I was about 10 cm dilated and the midwives told me it was time to start pushing. Because of the epidural, I couldn’t feel what I was doing, which meant I was doing it wrong. Two hours of pushing passed but the midwives and my husband kept encouraging me to go on. I was already exhausted and felt defeated. I gave it two last pushes, hard as I think a human can and there he came. A beautiful, round, strong and bright-eyed little boy. Those first cuddles were amazing. I balled. It was the first time I ever saw my husband cry. I was so relieved. I felt amazing. It was one of the first times I ever felt truly accomplished and proud of myself.
We spent the next two days in the hospital because Bebe T didn’t have the best latch. When the epidural wore off.. 😲 it was hard to move. One of my legs stayed numb for three days. Then I started to swell. The swelling was so bad I could barely walk. I was confined to the couch in my living room for the first week. The first night home was hard. My mom went home, my husband went up to bed and it was just me and T, alone on the couch. I was petrified. He would cry if I put him down. So we slept together on the couch. We did this for the next 5 weeks. My milk came in great. In fact, due to a surgery, I had on one of my breasts a few years prior, there was milk everywhere. My emotions were a roller coaster. One minute I was happy and relaxed, the next I was crying and hating myself. This continued until about the end of week 4. For the first two weeks, I couldn’t think about his birth, I would hyperventilate. All I could remember was how much pain I had been in. I swore I would never do it again.