Tuesday, October 16, 2012

our birth story (a cautionary tale)


i talk about giving birth in this post.  not trying to be creepy or graphic, just processing the grand event the way i prefer most: through writing.  if the idea of reading this feels too personal, weird, or just not appealing, please feel free to skip this post.  i promise i won't mind.

also, if you're pregnant for the first time, maybe consider not reading this til after the baby comes.  
or let it be a cautionary tale.

a few weeks ago, i had contractions - well, what i thought were contractions.  they fooled me for a while, getting steadily stronger and closer together, but then they went away.  aha, i thought, braxton-hicks.

my hopes were up that the braxton-hicks were signs of vava's imminent arrival.  but they weren't.

at least, though, i knew what braxton-hicks were like, so chalked up one more pregnancy experience.

on thursday last week, i woke up in the wee hours of the morning with contractions.  painful ones.  ouch-a-rama.  not terribly painful, or terribly long, but painful enough that i couldn't talk through them.  and they increased fairly quickly.  patrick stayed home from work because i was definitely in labour.

the day passed slo-o-o-wly.  we packed our bags, got everything ready, and waited.

and waited.

went for a walk, and waited some more.  i really didn't want to be one of those first-time-moms who show up at the hospital and get sent home.  after nine months of waiting, i'd rather wait a few hours at home than suffer the frustration of being told Not Yet.

finally, at 730, they were getting close together.  4 minutes apart - ish.  sometimes i would go a few minutes longer.  it was confusing.  but definitely painful.  so we decided to go in.  we called the midwife, who said they sounded like braxton-hicks, but i should come in if i wanted an assessment.

i knew they weren't braxton-hicks, so in we went.

and while we were there, i only had three contractions - none of which my midwife saw, because she wasn't in the room.  apparently, vava was being shy.  i was SO frustrated.  and after my assessment she shook her head condescendingly and said i was experiencing braxton-hicks.  "and if you think these are painful, my dear, you should consider pain management options during labour instead of attempting a natural delivery," she added.

i was so mad.  SO MAD!

so we went home.  out through the waiting room and into the cold.

all night long, those same contractions continued.  they got more painful.  i started vomiting from the sheer pain of them.  then shivering.  i tried so hard to be quiet in the house full of sleeping people, but sometimes cried out.  patrick woke up and rubbed my back, hard.  it felt like my spine was going to explode.

i remembered advice from a friend about how to get through labour: pray.  and count.  and pray.

i did.

i remember at one point just asking God if i could curl up in his lap and die.

and at last, as it has the habit of doing, the sun rose and brought the dawn.  i threw up the last bit of fluid left in my body and told patrick we had to go to the hospital.  so he called the midwife.

she told us we should stay home for a few more hours.

two hours later, i wasn't really conscious of much.  just the pain, and breaths in between.  and then the pain again.  and then i realized i really really really had to push and i absolutely could not get in the car.

my mom told me she was going to call an ambulance if i didn't.  and she had scared eyes.

so i lurched into my boots and into the car and yelled half the way to the hospital.  patrick drove like a champ.

i leaned on him in the lobby while he phoned to have the doors unlocked.  we left our car in the drop-off zone.  mercifully, there was a wheelchair inside and in my tunnel of pain i managed to sit in it.

a smiling nurse met us.  "what number baby is this?" she asked.  "first."  "ah," she responded, "do you need to go to the bathroom?"  "always," i moaned.

i could hear patrick and a (different - darling!) midwife waiting outside the door.  and i was pushing.  i couldn't help it.

they wheeled me quickly back to an exam room, where my midwife assured me i woudn't pee on the bed, and coaxed me to get up.  her eyes popped, and she told me i was having a baby.

"i know," i said.  (things weren't really making sense.)

"i mean, very soon," she said. "like, right now."  and she hustled me out of my clothes and into a gown and wheeled me into the very same delivery room where sam was born.

i heard words like "fully dilated" and "in labour for more than 24 hours" and then there was a monitor and i could hear vava's heartbeat and it did not sound good.  it was choppy and slow and definitely not the zippy, happy heartbeat of prenatal visits.  more and more people began coming into the room.  i didn't really notice enough to care.  not much.  patrick's hand was on my shoulder and it was a strong anchor in the middle of the maelstrom.  then i was pushing again and they said "meconium in the canal" and "doctor" and "resp team" and more people were there and i couldn't stop shaking.

then there were three people trying to talk to me at once.  the nurse was telling me she was starting an iv line, and i would feel a little pinch.  (i wanted to assure her i didn't really care about that - all things considered.)  the (mean) midwife was telling me not to moan, just tuck my chin down and use all my energy to push.  and the (where did he come from so fast?) doctor was introducing himself and asking me my name.

(btw, the mean midwife kept calling me different names - even after being my primary midwife the whole pregnancy - i remember hearing her call me janine, jenille, and labelle - YES even labelle! - while i was at the hospital.  snicker.)

and then they told me there wasn't time for the usual stretching and slow pushing.  vava's heartrate was dropping too fast and she had to come out.  the nice midwife told me she would count to ten three times, and during each count i had to push with all my energy.  i could take one breath in between counts, and do it again.  a contraction hit, and she began to count.

and so i pushed.  really fast.  and really hard.

and suddenly vava was on my belly and there wasn't time for patrick to cut the cord (oh darling, i'm sorry!) and she stared at me big eyed and beautiful and was whisked off to the resp team who vacuumed her and made sure she lived (our lively stranger!  so full of life, yes, even with such a beginning).

the next half hour was a blur of stitching and shaking and hot blankets and breathing in gas.  and patrick's hand was always on my shoulder, so warm and strong.  for a few moments he left, to snuggle vava before she went to the nicu, and i missed him so.

and then the doctor was gone and the nurses were gone and the nice midwife was puttering around, and bringing me more blankets and assuring me vava was fine.

and patrick brought me apple juice with ice and a bendy straw, and it felt like the most nourishing and delicious drink in the world.

and just when i was starting to doubt the midwife, and starting to wonder if patrick should go to the nicu to check, a nurse came in.

carrying vava.

and oh, she was fine!  more than fine.  perfect, adorable, irresistible.

we cuddled her for blissful hours, and then had the magic of introducing her to sam and my mom.  and we've been snuggling ever since.

vivian varvara - still lively, less a stranger ;).

{if you read this as a cautionary tale, let the moral be noted: when in labour, listen to your body, not your midwife.  amen and amen.}


  1. Amen to that.. wow you hit the nail on the head honey.. listen to your body is so correct.. glad Mom was there to push you out the door..
    My goodness sounds to me like you should of been in the hospital a few hours sooner. thanks to the nasty midwife.. thanks for your pre birth experience story.. my heart goes out to you as I went 23 hrs in labor just like you but they kept me in after 10 hrs of labor at home I went in and they said just keep walking the halls.. at least I knew I was in the halls of the hospital incase something changed.. all the best my dear and enjoy that precious gift from God... all the delivery will experience will soon pass.. love you.. ..

    1. sorry for my boo boo.. I meant all the delivery we experience

    2. This is such a beautifully written piece about your birth experience -- thank you so much for sharing. I am so happy for you and your family and having your lovely husband by your side. You are blessed and thank you for reminding the rest of us that we are too. :)

  2. Wow... what an experience Janelle! I am so thankful sweet little Vava is doing well after her long-awaited arrival!

    I am sorry you had a bad midwife experience... glad Midwife #2 showed up!!
    Thanks for sharing... enjoy these crazy weeks with your precious bundle... take lots of pictures and videos! x0x

  3. I love hearing birth stories, especially ones with happy endings, but reading yours made me bawl. First in anger for you and then in happiness that everything was OK. I know first hand how scary it is to have your baby disappear with the respiratory techs right after birth and it's pretty much the worst most helpless feeling in the world. I'm so thankful that Vava and you are alright. I hope you know you had the force of a lot of prayers behind you that night :) xoxo

    PS - Now I want to snuggle her even more for being such a tough little fighter. You too! ( A hug, not a snuggle - a snuggle would just be weird I think) :)

  4. ALWAYS listen to your body!!! Just goes to show that there is no "magic" answer. Some doctors are miserable and some are marvellous. Likewise midwives!!! It is a good thing to insist on a second voice.
    Reminds me just a little of our first...nurses nastily saying "stop that shaking" and telling me it would be hours and hours before the baby was born...as she was actually arriving. 2ond wasn't much better - and poor baby had the meconium messies. I think a lot of the fetal distress is from the start and start irregular labour pattern. Amazing what we go through and come out thankful and blessed because of the beloved baby!

  5. Wow... you are incredible. Welcome sweet Vava... you are SO loved!

  6. Wow... this is an incredible story... mostly because it is so terribly similar to ours with one crucial difference -- we had a really good midwife (during labor... not before. She was just as doubting of me being a "first time mom" before before I was in active labor). But the timing (through the night), the "false" labor, the skeptical midwife, our baby girl in distress, and the vacuum (Paco talked about it) were all soooo similar to our story!

    Thank you for writing this, I might just write our birth story out. I haven't had the nerve to think about and put into words all of it yet.

    Enjoy your precious little girl. <3

    (I got your blog from Leanne, she said I should read the birth story :)