May 14, 2017

All photos in this post taken by the talented Katrina Massey.  

Now that August is just a few days shy of 7 months old, I had better publish his birth story.  This one is difficult for me to think about.  I always assumed my first birth would be the hardest, but life is at times hell bent on kicking us in the nutsack and then pointing and laughing. Amirite?  Alas, it is Mother's Day where we all talk about our hearts being full relative to the traffic through our uterus and I just can't really latch on to that much sweetness all at once. It isn't my nature.  So I thought I would hit publish on this story that yields more hurt than fondness for me.  Though that hurt is almost exclusively emotional, and I must add a humble disclaimer that I realize my relative good fortune in this birth for neither mine nor my baby's life and health were ever in danger.  But I guess that is the point.  Without any real cuts, you can still feel pretty wounded.  (ALSO WARNING.  I TALK ABOUT BIRTH STUFF LIKE FLUIDS. There.  You've been warned.)

So here it goes:

It was Saturday.  Just like Piper, he was born on Saturday afternoon.

Contractions started at 37 weeks.  Not braxton hicks, but the low achey contractions of early labour (or so I thought).  Every night they came about 10 minutes apart; but I was able to stave them off by having a hot bath or doing some sleep hypnosis exercises.  Each morning I woke up feeling surprised at making it through the night, yet disappointed.  Throughout the day they would keep coming at random times... rinse and repeat.

I cried uncle at 40 weeks 4 days.  That was a Wednesday.

My seasoned midwife and I decided Saturday would be a good day for her to come and administer that yucky labour cocktail smoothie and I could get on with meeting my baby at home, just like I had two and a half years prior.  But of course, 5am Saturday morning had different plans for me. Starting with Piper waking at 5am crying (she never does this). I went to comfort her and return the pacifier to her chubby, tender little hands and she rolled over back to dreamland, oblivious to my presence.  Squatting next to her tiny toddler bed, I felt fluid begin to leak and relief flooded my brain.  Water breaking in the morning meant I would not likely need to labour through the night.  Today was (probably) the day!

While I was in the bathroom cleaning up the situation, I was also mulling my course of action.  Without the presence of big contractions, I knew that labour wasn't really in gear which made waking the midwife on call at this hour less than ideal.  Also on my mind, given Piper was born very shortly after my water broke last time, were instructions to call as soon as I felt I was in real labour because apparently second babies come flying out.  How is that for a mental picture? ;)

Still unsure of what to do, I wiped the a bit of fluid off my leg with a tissue and turned it over to notice it was tinged green. My heart sank.  I began texting my doula and called the midwife.  Waters being coloured means there is a chance that the baby has decided to take a poop before birth.  In midwife speak: Meconium.  Which could indicate distress.  Meconium means a hospital birth.

I texted my mom who was staying in a hotel down the road and she came to collect Piper.  Because it was so close to when she would normally wake up, I felt fine waking her to say goodbye before the birth team arrived. Shoving the necessities into her backpack and trying not to forget anything important was a good distraction. When mom arrived, I gathered myself and knelt down for a big hug from my baby girl.  Calling out last reassurances to her that if she needed to pee she must just tell grandma, my excited little two-and-a-half year old bounded out towards the day's adventure. Seeing her off felt so significant for me.  Probably because I tend to really dwell in emotional moments.

Immediately after Piper left Renee (our doula) and the midwife arrived.  We chatted quietly.  Nervously.  I could feel the anticipation in the room.  I think we all did, maybe.  The midwife, we shall call her Marie (who was not my actual midwife *a severe bike accident left my talented and infinitely experienced midwife with injuries that prevented her from being on call full time* I opened the door to a woman whom I had met for less than 30 seconds a few weeks prior.  Fun.) came in and examined our vitals while I lay on my couch propped up by pillows Renee had gathered from around the house.  We all chatted and I actually felt at ease with Marie.  Baby was happy, all was fine.  Then game time to examine the amniotic fluid that had been steadily leaking from that first gush.  She called from the bathroom immediately confirming meconium.  We would be going to the hospital.  My chest tightened; I burst into tears.

I hate hospitals.  I hate the smell, I hate the pale colors of scrubs adorning the staff.  Having lived most of my life with a terrible fear of needles, facing my first IV in that stinky disease-ridden place drove my mind wild with panic.  To have felt so confident in my ability to give birth for 40 full weeks and suddenly it was like the first time all over again, but worse.  I was devastated.  I didn't know how to cope, what to expect.  Suddenly this was happening to me, and I was no longer in charge.

We discussed the need for an induction briefly, followed by logistics of how and when we would leave and then as a quick footnote:  Marie asked if it was okay if her midwifery student came along.

Now its kind of important for me to write this part, because it affected my confidence and my birth considerably.  So as a note to any expectant mothers out there:

If someone asks your consent for a student (student nurse, student midwife, resident... whatever) to be present, ASK WHAT THE STUDENT WILL DO.  ASK MANY MANY QUESTIONS BEFORE GIVING THIS CONSENT.  In my case, the student was a 4th year, which meant that she was expecting to deliver the baby and be distantly observed by the senior midwife.  I did not know this at the moment this question was asked, nor was it reflected to me in any conversation.  If I had just taken a minute before she walked out the door.  If I had stopped and said: "Wait, hold on. What will she be doing?".  It would have been obvious to me that this birth was not the right birth for a student midwife to attend.

We arrived at the hospital and our credit card wouldn't work to buy parking for some reason.  I stood with my very sloppily packed overnight bag and could not imagine feeling more out of place.  I didn't even know what to say to the nurses at the desk.  I managed to blurt out "I think I'm supposed to be here..."  Which was totally unconvincing.  I wasn't supposed to be there.  I was supposed to be at home with my birth pool and my ball and my various prepared labour snacks.  There was a bed waiting  and I just stood at the entrance to the room.  My crew, which came to include a nurse or two now, followed closely behind and all stared when I didn't seem to know what to do.  I eventually said "I guess I sit on there then?" motioning toward the bed.  I'm sure Renee said something like "Yes, dear, the bed is for you".  Awkwardly, I sat down on the freshly made hospital bed and there was a low squeak as the waterproof mats rubbed against one another.  The experience was surreal.

Marie, and her student sidekick (I don't remember her name... oops.  I will call her Caroline) arrived dressed in green scrubs looking so earnest I filled with even more dread.  Caroline proceeded to take the lead and ask questions, acting like everything was normal and she was my midwife.  I saw Marie standing in the background, observing and I recognized this situation... I've been trained as a waitress before.

This is the part where they let you take a few of your own tables and you fumble through the daily specials and forget to ask if they want drinks.  People have to be nice and smile even though its basically the worst service they've ever had. I felt my fists tighten. Tears stung my eyes and made my nose tingle but I felt powerless to say anything.  She was already there.  Probably got a call before 7am on a Saturday.  I can't suddenly just be like:

"Nope, I changed my mind.  Please can you leave and that real midwife behind you can stay and deliver my baby.  I'm barely hanging on to my faculties in this yucky hospital, abandoned by my actual midwife. I can't hold your hand and make you feel like you're doing a good job even though you're slow and awkward and you suck balls"

Nevertheless, this is how I felt.

I threw up in my mouth a little when she came at me with her IV paraphernalia, pretending she did this all the time when I could smell her trepidation.

After digging around for a vein until that arm was no longer viable, while I focused on the wall and imagined pooping directly into her hands as payback in about 3 hours time - she asked Marie to step in and try.

I kept myself from crying hysterically, which is how most of my energy was spent that morning.  I wonder if it could be measured, the amount of energy a women exerts trying to keep from crying during birth.  I'm willing to bet its a lot.

Renee, seeing how stressed I looked, suggested we walk while we wait for the OB to finish up surgery. Bless her.  On that walk I opened up about how uncomfortable I was with the situation. As we discussed my unease, I gave up on my fantasy of telling the student to get lost.  Deciding rather to make it clear to Marie that I wanted her doing the 'important midwife stuff' like catching my baby and doing the stitching if need be.  We had that talk when I returned, but I did feel more 'managed' than heard... nonetheless, one of my requests was honoured and I felt proud of my people-pleasing self for speaking up.

The reason I am talking so much about the role of the student in all of this is because never once either in birthing class, or in my many midwife appointments for both of my babies had anyone explained to me how it works if there is a midwifery student present.  You go for your weekly appointments with one midwife (or one of a handful, tops) and you get to know them.  That is the whole point of having a midwife, having your own personal care accompany you at the hospital so you don't just get whoever is on shift.  You have the person you've been discussing your birth plan, your history, your concerns with for the past 7 months.  Then suddenly you're dumped into the quivering arms of a novice with what feels like no warning at all.  With the seemingly benign request of "can our student come along?".  It is just so misleading.  So.  If you take nothing away from this rambling story, let it be that informed consent is everything. When someone asks you a question, any question, be sure they get a question back.  Even if it is just you elaborating on what you think they just asked you.  Some people might get annoyed but screw them.  This is your body and you get to ask whatever you want.  You get to ask for time to decide.

Back to after my IV was hooked up. Shortly after they turned on the juice, my dearest friend Kat showed up at about 12:30pm, camera in hand.  She sat next to Reece and hung out with us as we waited for 'the event' to begin.  I felt more at ease for a moment.  My people were a vacation. The same people who were there the last time I gave birth (except for Mom, who was doing the most important job of all).  It was a moment of calm.

I began occasionally interrupting the fun, light conversation to contract.  Renee stepped in to support me and the room began to focus.  My water broke hard (again...?) with a POP like a starting pistol that was inwardly audible to me.  It was go time.

The best labour tools were the double hip squeeze (look it up - so amazing) and water. After labouring awhile on the bed (I have no concept of time at this point) I was so grateful the old battleaxe of a nurse presiding over us allowed me off of my bump shackles (known as fetal monitors: a perk of being induced) for a break in the shower.  The water, even the pitiful trickle of the terrible hospital pressure, was powerful in relieving tension.  Most of which was from fighting with all the tubes and wires to which I was tethered.  I focused.  I breathed.

Each contraction was 4 breaths.  I told myself each time:
inhale 1. exhale.
inhale 2.  this is the worst of it. exhale.
inhale 3. starting to get better. exhale.
inhale 4. blow that sucker away.exhale.
I willed the baby downward.

After the shower, contractions came to a quiet lull for a few minutes.  Back on the bed, I almost fell asleep between them, I was so focused on relaxation.  Nothing in the room existed but me and my breath.

Then they were low; there was so much pressure, coming one after the other to the point where I barely caught my breath in-between them.  Renee said I could change position but it had to be now.  I couldn't break my focus even for a moment to say yes, so on my side I remained.  There were instructions coming from the foot of the bed to hold my leg up and don't push.  More talking and moving around.  I was so disconnected from what was happening.  Like being cut in two.  Suddenly I was being flipped on my back and the bed was so low by my head that I felt upside down.

I was told to push and I did.  I'm pretty damn good at pushing.  There were only two of them before it seemed to me that the baby was out.  I couldn't really tell much because my view was more ceiling and old nurse's arm than anything.  I wished I could see.  I wished someone would talk to me.

Reece finally managed to spit out that it was a boy so I knew it was done. Instead of my arms, he was passed to the paediatrician in the corner because he didn't cry immediately.  The kind eyes of the cropped haired doctor met mine and she brought my baby to me.  I was making the most awfully un-photogenic faces of pain mixed with shock and disbelief.  I will admit, I don't think it was that incredible emotion of bring a baby earthside.  I hated everything about this experience.  Nevertheless, the room was smiling.  I took my warm, squirming baby.

I've spoken to friends about that 'mother-baby love at first sight' thing, and its so important for me to speak about it.  With both of my babies, I felt more relief at the ordeal being over than immediate sparkles and rainbows from heaven at the sight of the love of my life.  The baby was healthy and alive, that was good.  I felt good about the baby.  But I felt better about no longer being in pain.  It took days and weeks for me to really connect with my babies.

I held him to try to feed him, but the quick birth left him so congested that he couldn't eat, really.

I was supposed to be released the same day but my pair of midwives led by the unfortunate Caroline gave me their best empathetic faces when they regretfully informed me that I had bled too much and they recommended that I stay in hospital at least overnight for observation.  Another devastating blow.

Looking at the synthetic chair that flips back into a makeshift cot, I couldn't insist that Reece stay with me and sleep on that.  Even though I was dejected at being left all alone in this disgusting hospital, I suggested Reece go back home with Piper and put her to bed like normal. That way he could sleep in our bed and come back rested the following day.

My absolute favourite part of the day was hearing Piper's voice in the hall as she approached our room with my parents.  Without the tiniest flicker of jealousy, all two and a half years of Piper hopped up on the bed with me and looked at the tiny bundle saying:

"Baby Bruver. So TOOT (Cute)!"

Oh.  My GAWD.

My heart exploded and I couldn't help but feel like the luckiest woman alive.  My parents were there, my husband and babies were there... I was at peace. (I can't find that video right now, but I will try and post it to instagram if I can track it down)

The first night was hard.  Being alone was a terrible chaser for the day I had.  I'm an extrovert so once everyone left I could feel my energy depleting.  I tried to sleep but was actually still sick with the bad cold we all caught the week leading up to baby boy's arrival.  He was restless and fussy, where Piper slept a solid 5 hours her first night.  I spent much of the night watching the large digital clock, praying for it to be 7am already.  I was so grateful to see a nurse finally stride in I could have wept in her arms.

We finally left the hospital at 2pm and I've never felt more like a celebrity.  Everyone says "Congratulations" and I could see Reece was as pleased as punch to parade out that door carrying his precious new cargo.

His name:

August Finn

We didn't get too hung up on the meaning. We liked the sound and uniqueness of August without it feeling weird.  He is sometimes called Gus, but I'm his mother so I think I'll always call him August.  Which means Great.  He is a determined, willful but happy little chap with a pretty killer sense of humor.  He adores his older sister and the two now share a room, where she obviously sneaks in a few punches and casual pushes here and there to make sure he isn't deprived of the younger sibling experience ;)

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