Forty one weeks & one day in, forty one weeks & one day out! I thought it was a fitting time to share our sweet girl’s birth story. I’ve gone back & forth about whether I would actually share this on the blog. I’ve made a conscious effort to keep Annika off my own public social media accounts so she can dictate her own online story (that’s a whole other blog post). I’ve ultimately decided that this story is part of my own though. I loved reading birth stories when I was pregnant. I still do, in fact. So here we go, my birth story.
When my midwife came over for my first postpartum check up after Anni was born, she asked me how I felt about her birth. We had “planned” for as intervention free of a hospital delivery as possible &, spoiler alert, that’s not really how things went down. Strangely (& happily) I feel really positively about it. It wasn’t what I’d wanted, but it was the best possible experience given the circumstances. I’ll break this out into sections so you can skip through to whatever you want. Buckle up, it’s a long story.
I’d luckily gotten into a midwife practice fairly early on my pregnancy. I wasn’t loving the OB experience so far and had heard midwifery care here was amazing, & covered by our provincial healthcare. I feel so lucky to have had it as an option, to have loved both my midwives, & to have had an easy, uneventful pregnancy.
I’m not a huge fan of hospitals, but wanted to deliver at one in case something went sideways & they needed to transfer care. A hospital birth under midwife care felt like a happy middle ground. I was seeing a chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy & postpartum care in hopes of making sure labour could progress as smoothly as possible. My goal was for an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. I’m not a big fan of needles & the idea of an epidural totally freaked me out, despite hearing of its supposed magic. I also don’t love situations I can’t control, but was trying to keep an open mind & accept that I may not have a choice with much of what would happen. I still had conversations with both my husband & our midwife team about my ideal birth plan. Basically, if labour was going well, & I was coping, epidural would not even come up. If it wasn’t or labour was long & I need a break, I was open to it. We had a TENS machine packed & hoped to have access to the one room with a tub at the hospital for other pain management options.
At 40 weeks & 5 days, I chatted with my midwife about what our next steps were. It didn’t seem like labour would be starting anytime soon, despite my trying to will my body into it. I was trying all the old wives tales & natural labour induction techniques & was really tired of being pregnant. We booked a routine NST at the hospital for 41 weeks where we were going to discuss the plan for that week.
Monday (41 weeks) came around & I headed to the hospital to meet my midwife in the afternoon. Triage was busy, but they had a bed for me & hooked me up to a monitor. Babe was doing so well. She saw everything she needed to from baby in the first few minutes – she said it was the loveliest NST she’d seen in months. She kept me on the monitor for the full twenty minutes to make sure it was all still good & we started discussing the risk/benefit of waiting for my body to go into labour naturally & what our next steps were. She was going to send me home with some stats about those risks in the 41st week, but the plan was for her to start checking me at home every two days & hope things started on their own. She would be willing to let me go to 42 weeks if I decided that’s what we wanted. We were chatting and joking & I was feeling good.
Before she checked my cervix, she decided to check my BP. We were still just chatting casually & joking when the reading came back. It was high, like 170/85 or something. I don’t think I realized how high it was until much later. She took it again a few minutes later to confirm & it was unfortunately still sky high. I felt great & had no other high BP symptoms. I still didn’t really realize what it meant or where things were going, but the friendly nursing team started stepping in to take my blood pressure.
Our conversation changed to talk of getting an OB consult & blood work pretty quickly at this point. I was texting my husband and I think we both still thought I might be going home, but then my readings weren’t getting any better. Instead, they were climbing higher. Triage was busy & loud & distracting but even that didn’t explain why it was so high. They ordered some blood work & tested my urine for protein, as we chatted about what would likely happen. My midwife said she was 90% sure they’d have to induce me & that she was going to have to transfer my care to obstetrics. I think this was the hardest part for me. I had gotten to know my midwife team so well, & had had a generally great pregnancy with no complications. To have this come out of nowhere so suddenly was really emotional for me.
While we waited for the OB consult, they were cycling through taking my blood pressure & it was just getting higher. They prescribed some oral medication, but at one point it still jumped up to 190/102. I had a couple like that before the medication kicked it & it started to go down.
When my husband arrived, the OB resident was talking to me about their plan & explaining the transfer of care forms. She was going to put a Foley catheter in & once I had a few good blood pressure readings, I could go down to antepartum & wait for it to do its thing. They both thought it would take all night.
I was only about 1 cm dilated when she went to put it in & it was super uncomfortable. I was crying a lot but it had more to do with feeling overwhelmed by all the changes and being induced so suddenly. I hate crying in front of people, especially in a situation like that. I knew it was the right decision to be induced – I was 41 weeks & delivering the baby would most likely bring my blood pressure down. There was no reason to give her more time to come out. But I was still upset, & scared for what I figured would be a long labour.
I was still in triage & getting pretty hungry as it was 7 pm at this point. I’d been there for hours. They were just waiting on a couple more lowered BP readings before moving me to antepartum & then we could go for dinner. We figured we’d get pizza across the street since everyone we talked to predicted I wouldn’t be dilated enough to induce until morning. We finally moved downstairs around 8 pm and started getting settled. My SIL came over from her unit (she’s a nurse) on her break & I was commenting that I felt like the catheter was dropping down each time I went to the bathroom & was going to come out. My nurse was like, yeah maybe, but don’t get your hopes up. We got ready to head for dinner and I went to the bathroom one last time. Sure enough, the catheter fell out.
We paged the nurse and she was pretty surprised. She said it could have been placed incorrectly so an OB resident was on his way to check. He arrived with a medical student, another guy. This was definitely something I had thought I’d have a hard time with when I was with an OB practice in the beginning & knew there were male OBs in the practice. Funnily enough, it didn’t bother me though. More than anything, it seemed pretty funny.
He checked me, & the Foley catheter had been correctly placed. I was actually 3-4 cms dilated. Hurray! We packed our stuff up, grabbed some food from the cafe downstairs quickly, & headed up to Labour & Delivery.
Once we’d eaten & gotten settled back up on Labour & Delivery, they broke my water. There was some talk of whether there was meconium, but they decided they didn’t think so. We discussed waiting to started me on oxytocin, but the OB said he didn’t think there was much point. I was pretty resigned to the fact that I was going to be induced so we decided to just go for it & start the oxytocin. It was 9 pm. Because of my high blood pressure, I was also hooked up to two monitors the whole time, one for baby’s heart rate & one for my contractions. We had a nurse assigned to monitor these & check my blood pressure every 30 minutes. She never left the room, but we were allowed to wander the halls with all my gear. It seemed super quiet on the ward, with maybe two other rooms occupied. Contractions started pretty quickly, but were super mild in the beginning. We kept walking around to get things moving. My SIL came for a visit when she got off work just after 10. We chatted for a bit and then got back to wandering the halls.
My contractions were pretty regular right off the bat, which the nurse was happy with. We just needed them to get longer & more intense to get things going, so we kept walking a fair bit. At this point, I remember thinking they just felt like a squeezing feeling. Sort of similar to cramps, but not really at the same time. It didn’t take too long for me to get to a point where I couldn’t walk or talk through them.
At that point, we moved back to the room. I was really feeling it in my lower back so I wanted to use our TENS machine & lean over the back of the bed. I just couldn’t stand being on my back. The nurse also offered to hook up the laughing gas, which I decided to go for even though most people had told me they hated it. Luckily, I found it really helpful. It didn’t stop the pain but it took the edge off & forced me to focus on proper breathing. N was also really great at applying counter pressure & rubbing my back. I thought I’d be a lot more vocal through the pain, but I mostly just put my head down and tried to breath.
I laboured like this from about midnight until 2 am, when the OB resident came back because my blood pressure was back up. He wanted me to consider an epidural, not for pain management, but to lower my blood pressure. I was hesitant since I really couldn’t stand being on my back, but it also seemed like a logical decision given the issues we were having with my blood pressure, so we decided to get it.
The anesthesiologist came pretty quickly & started the whole process. This was probably the worst part for me. I kept telling myself that at least I’d get some pain relief & maybe we could both sleep for a bit, but I was really struggling with the whole thing. At one point, I felt something weird & involuntarily arched my back. Both N & the nurse were holding me so tightly & were pretty worried that I’d jerked back. The anesthesiologist was pretty quick afterwards & it didn’t take long for me to start feeling the effects.
Unfortunately, the epidural never fully worked for me. My left side was definitely numb, but I was still having a lot of pain on my right side, in the front, & had significantly more mobility in my leg on that side. They kept propping up my left side since they said gravity should help it work, but that didn’t do anything for me. The pain kept getting worse & I was really grateful for the laughing gas & my husband’s encouragement.
At 4 am, the OB resident came back because my BP had spiked again. He told me I’d earned a check (we’d asked a couple times before this point, but he’d told us less fingers were better, so we were excited he was going to check so we’d have an idea of where we were. I hadn’t had one since I was first induced). N said he was suggesting that if I wasn’t at a certain point, they’d be doing a c section. I luckily didn’t catch that since it was one of my fears going into labour.
To his surprise, baby was right there when he checked me, which he said was probably why my BP was up & the epidural wasn’t working. Looking back, I’m curious how long I’d been at that point. He told us we could start doing some practice pushes & the nurses could get ready for baby. This was just after 4 am. My husband got on the phone right away to call our midwife back. We wanted her there for delivery & were supposed to call her when I was at 8 cm.
The nurse talked me through how we’d push. They were gonna have me start on my back, which I wasn’t super excited about after having learned it isn’t the best position in baby class, but my back pain was pretty intense at this point. I was still sucking back the gas with every contraction, to a point where she said, you’re going to have to put that down on the next one if you want to push. I was pretty unsure I could manage it.
I did though. N & the nurses counted for me. He liked feeling like he had something useful to contribute & I liked having something to focus on. Pushing was so much better than the waiting. I couldn’t actually feel what I was doing or feel any pressure so I just focused on pushing like they told me. It seemed to do the trick. I was making progress quickly & they were starting to see the top of babe’s head.
Between contractions I was really struggling though. I couldn’t feel an urge to push or anything like that & the pain in my back had really increased. I actually looked forward to each contraction so that I could push. It was such a welcome distraction from the back pain. After trying a few push just on my back with N & a nurse helping me hold my legs, we decided to try to use the squat bar. We did that for a little bit, but it wasn’t my favourite. I was still making really good progress though. With every push, they were seeing more of the head. N said it was really cool to see.
My midwife arrived around this point. I was really happy to see her & glad she made it for the delivery, although I’d felt so bad calling her so late. She was also pregnant & I’d hoped to give her a little more time to get herself there.
I switched back to pushing more on my back, using the squat bar for support. I thought I would like the squatting position more than I ended up. I think it was just hard given that one leg was numb from the epidural. With every push, I got so much encouragement from everyone around me. They asked if I wanted to see the head with a mirror & I decided to look. I think my response was, that is so weird. It was strange to see, but I’m glad I looked.
The room was pretty full at this point. A lot of the nurses on the unit had made their way to our room & were pretty excited for us. The OB resident came back & was ready to catch the baby. He guided me through the last few pushes, telling me to stop at one point, which felt so weird but probably saved me from a much worse tear.
The last few minutes we a blur. All of a sudden, babe was out and they were lifting this little slimy bundle onto my chest & cleaning her up & asking if we’d seen if it was a boy or girl. Someone used the pronoun, she. She’s a girl!
There were tears & photos & video. My husband eventually cut the cord. Mostly she snuggled on my chest & let us admire her. There was a flurry of congratulations & excitement. The actual OB came to congratulate us & check that his resident had it all under control.
I had a mild second degree tear so the resident stitched it up, which seemed to take forever. Our OB also showed us the placenta, which is so bizarre, but pretty cool. The whole time, babe was just chilling on my chest. They didn’t even think of taking her to weigh her or anything for so long, which is exactly what I’d hoped for. We got so much great skin to skin.
Our beautiful Annika Rose weighed in at 7 lbs 11 oz & 21 inches. Her official time of birth was 5:15 am (I pushed for about 45 minutes). We’ve been smitten from the moment we met. She’s an amazing, sweet, easy-going baby, & we feel so lucky.