You can read the birth story of my first babe, here. In that post, you can also read about how I came to decide on my choices for delivery, and how I prepared for it. Our plans for our third babe were no different - unmedicated, in a hospital with our favourite midwife there to catch our babe, and home as soon as possible. The only difference this time around, since my first two deliveries were speedy, was that we had a home birth kit on the ready and my husband was prepped on how to catch a baby, just in case. **Spoiler, it wasn’t used. It was close, but we made it to the hospital.
Reading positive birth stories are what fuelled my desire to have an unmedicated delivery. They inspired me. They empowered me. And they reminded me that we are inherently designed to birth our babes without intervention. All birth is natural, and I have zero judgement for those that either wish for or medically require intervention.
This is my story, and I hope that it inspires, empowers or simply acts as a reminder that a birth without fear is a birth worth aiming for.
Wednesday May 2nd 2018 (39 weeks + 4 days)
1:30 AM I woke up with abdominal cramps.
First thought: Yaaasss! It’s happening! (fist pump)
Second thought: It’s so damn early (late?), and it’s just cramps so maybe I can go back to sleep.
Foolish, foolish thoughts.
I knew that it was time to get up and start moving. But for the next hour, I tried to (mentally) SLOW my labour. This is, of course, an impossibly hilarious notion, but the polite person that I am didn't want to call my parents across town (who would be coming to our house to stay with the boys) at such an unfriendly hour. Nor did I want to wake my husband or my midwife.
I hung out in our bathroom for this hour. Cramping progressed to definitive contractions. I think I tried timing a few. I hung out in my go-to labouring position on all 4’s the entire time. My bag of waters was still intact.
2:30 AM I woke my husband. He gave me the "REALLY?!". Yes, really. Now come squeeze my pelvis, I’m having another contraction. My contractions were of moderate intensity by this point, and pelvic squeezes are my go-to for pain relief.
ps If pelvic squeezes aren’t something you’ve tried - try it! It helps to mechanically widen the pelvic outlet as well, giving baby more room to move down. Reduces pain and facilitates labour - yes, please. I honestly believe this and being on all 4’s during contractions is what facilitated most of my speedy deliveries. Lying on your back labouring is just about the worst position you can be in as it fixates your sacrum (tail bone), which needs to move like a door to allow baby to descend.
3:00 AM My husband called my parents and our midwife. Contraction intensity: still moderate. I’m not sure how far apart my contractions were at this point, but they seemed consistent, likely around four minutes apart. Usually 4-1-1 is the cue to call the midwife (4 minutes apart, lasting for one minute, ongoing for 1 hour), but with my second pregnancy we called based on intensity as my contractions were completely sporadic and I’d had a fast first delivery. This time they seemed more consistent, but we didn’t have a chance to really time them. My husband was making the phone calls and getting ready to head to the hospital, and with each contraction I am off in la-la land, so timing them is not on my radar.
Our midwife said she'd meet us at the hospital.
3:20 AM My parents arrived and we left immediately. My contractions were pretty intense by this point, especially without pelvic pressure from my husband.
It’s less than a ten minute drive to the Ottawa hospital at this hour of the night from our house. I had three contractions in the car. Intensity: intense, but tolerable considering I was sitting in the car without the ability to move or have pelvic compressions. It sounds ridiculous in hindsight, and knowing my past labour history, but I had no idea how far along I was! In the moment, my only focus is on the contractions that are coming at a steady pace. Of course, I knew I’d be seeing my baby soon, but I had no idea just how soon. Again, la-la land.
3:30 AM We arrived at the hospital and parked right out front. Since the maternity ward end of the building is locked at this hour, we had to go in through the emergency department at the other end of the building. I clearly remember the look on the triage nurse’s face when we stopped to ask for directions to L&D. She offered a huge smile and a “CONGRATULATIONS!”, which seemed odd to me at the time since I honestly (and ridiculously) believed I had quite a bit of time before this baby actually made an appearance. A “good luck” seemed more appropriately, but she obviously saw the desperation and intensity in my eyes and knew I’d be holding my baby (spoiler alert) within minutes.
At this point my contractions were INTENSE. Yes, my labour pains do reach “painful” at that 8-10cm transition stage. I won’t lie about that, but if you ask me to describe what unmedicated contractions feel like at this stage (the joyous transition stage of labour), I’d tell you with a deep animalistic voice that they are I N T E N S E. They are a maximal contraction of your strongest muscles - uterus, diaphragm, abdominal wall.
During my first labour, my husband was very curious about how they felt, and over and over I just said they were INTENSSSSSSE. Pain is of course relative, and I truly believe that baring some abnormal baby position that actually triggers PAIN signals, normal labour contractions are just that: muscles contracting in the most INTENSE way, serving a purpose. If you want to call that intensity painful you can, but I never thought of them like that. Pain to me is INJURY. It is a signal to your brain that something has been injured. It is protective. Pain is your alarm system warning you to slow down, rest, move carefully, avoid further damage. Labour contractions are a normal physiological process and if you think of them positively (as doing work for you), then they may just not be as painful as you think.
But enough about pain. Back to them impending delivery.
The walk through the building to labour and delivery probably took about 5 minutes. I think I had three contractions along the way. I was right in that lovely transition stage. Being able to MOVE and assume my go-to position on all 4s (even on the hospital hall floor) is crucial to managing a contraction. As we walked towards the birth ward, the few kind staff roaming the quiet halls offered wheel chairs along with congratulatory smiles. We chuckled in between contractions, and walked quickly.
3:40 AM (admitted time) We arrived at L&D. It was a quiet night on the ward. I promptly lay my towel down on the floor across from reception and had a contraction (on all 4’s) while my husband gave them my name and whatnot. My bag of waters was still intact.
No sign of my midwife.
Contractions were super intense and I was feeling a bit panicky at this point to get into a room. That inherent need to retreat into a safe space was kicking in hard.
The nurses ushered us into a delivery room. I think a nurse checked me (for what?? to see if I was having a baby??), but this part is fuzzy. I don’t recall her saying anything to me, like “you’re 10cms”. Nope. Blurry.
My midwife still hadn’t arrived, but there was one from another clinic who was down the hall, she came in to help.
3:43 AM I felt like I had to pee really badly all of a sudden, so I went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. Nope. I needed to push! I rushed to the bed, had help tearing off my pants and started to push with the contraction.
As that contraction faded, my midwife walked in, we said a quick hello, and on the next contraction I pushed my baby out, it was 3:45 AM.
3:45 AM I asked “what IS IT???” as soon as she was out and I’d caught my breath. She told me to reach down and grab my baby and have a look. To my utter disbelief, it was a girl. Disbelief that I had a daughter stuck around for the next six months.
Isla Susan Ironside Geddes was born weighing 8 lbs 6 ounces. She had a full head of dark hair like her brothers did and a little button nose that was smooshed into her face from being so low in my pelvis for so long (which I knew and kept saying how low she felt during my third trimester - her low position (plus a wicked cough) ultimately contributed to a mild bladder prolapse that I’ll post about another day).
And that’s how my beautiful baby girl came into this world. Forty-five minutes of active labour, two hours from first signs to the end.
As with my first two deliveries, we were home a couple hours later (three hours is the minimum time a midwife has to keep you at the hospital). My boys woke up to meet their new little sister. Coming home with her, to see my mum and dad and my boys is a moment I’ll never forget.
If there is anything I’ve learnt from having three unmedicated, wonderful deliveries, it’s that your mind and body must work together. I often talk about physical prep for birth, but your mental prep and how you approach birth plays a bigger role. Think positively about your body, about birth, and listen to what it is telling you that you need in the moment. You’re the best advocate for your body. Trust that.
Happy birthing days, mummas.