My labour was really long... really really long... I could say it was 48 hours if I wanted to be dramatic. That is from first contraction to baby in arms, but since the first day or so of contractions were pretty low key... I think it's more true to clock my labour in at about 32 hours... which is still hella long.
So it's Sunday night/Monday morning and I'm up at 4:30 in the morning because I have the worst insomnia. I'm anxious because tomorrow I have midwife appointment and I'm a week and a half past my due date. My doula is telling me not to get a membrane sweep, but my midwife recommends it and they both want me to do acupuncture, which I am sure I will hate. I'm watching The Mindy Project and I get up to pee. I go to the bathroom and there's blood. I think, this might be something but it might also be nothing. I go back to watch The Mindy Project, which by the way is awesome.
I'm having these super mild pains every once in a while but they're really mild. They are like period pains you wouldn't even mention because it would be karmically unkind to women who get real period pains and then the Gods of menstrual pain might smite you. If you're from a Judeo-Christian background those gods are just God God. I'm looking at you Eve. Anyway, so I google "contractions and how do you know if you're in labour." Basically everyone says there is no way you'll miss it, you'll know if you're in labour. So, I think this isn't labour?
Thing is pains keep getting more and more intense but still not intense, but they're definitely a thing now. I text my doula and let her know what's up. I'm relieved because this means I don't need to deal with the whole membrane sweep controversy. I have a cookie at Whole Foods, and go to my midwife appointment. She tells me I am already 4cms! This labour thing is easy breezy. I'm like halfway there and I can still walk, talk and eat cookies. My midwife tells me that the next two midwives on call have been informed I'm in labour and wishes me luck. She won't be seeing me again until I have a baby because she isn't on duty till tomorrow at 6pm, so surely she won't be delivering my baby. No way. Heck no. That's like 38 hours from now and I am already 4 cms.
Coming home from the appointment contractions start to be intense like I have to stop and hold on to Ana every time they happen. I am using my hypno-techniques though and things are going well.
Doula comes over that night and brings me a TENS machine. It sends little electric pulses through your back and is suppose to help with labour pains. I actually really liked it. It was a nice distraction from contractions. It kind of looked like Barbie's dream TENS machine but I can look past that because of the relief it brought me.
The doula thinks at this point she should stay. That night contractions progress pretty well. There was a lot of rocking on a yoga ball, she would get me to walk up and down the stairs, we would listen to hypno-tracks or Ana would read them to me. Also, the apartment was softly lit with candles and one lamp. Now, even seven weeks later, candle light reminds me of contractions. Romantic dinners at low lit restaurants would be really weird for me. Thankfully, that is not a thing we do too much these days.
The next day things slowed down which was a bummer. A midwife came over around noon and I didn't even have her check how dilated I was because I though it would depress me. Quick side note, that at this point my midwife was pregnant, my doula was pregnant, and I was in labour. Ana really was the odd one out by not being in the process of growing life. Actually, the woman who taught my prenatal class was also pregnant. Pregnancy was one big fancy dress party with very specific costume requirements.
This weird slowing down time on day two was for sure my lowest point. I wasn't sure I could do contractions for a lot longer. I had a little cry. I was worried I would cave and need pain medication. I also thought maybe I would just straight up die of exhaustion. I knew that it was unlikely because I had never heard of that happening in labour and if it was a thing they would probably give you a heads up in prenatal classes.
I took Gravol and rested... I wouldn't say slept but rested. Gravol really dulled my contractions. My doula went on a food run and got me soup which I ate. At this point my doula was also giving me some sort of small round "naturopathic" thing to help speed up labour and deal with stress. They were like little round sugar balls and when I asked her what they were she kind of shrugged me off. My guess is tiny placebo sugar spheres. Regardless, at this point I am progressing. Things are intense. I don't want to say painful but kind of painful, which makes me feel like a failure because in my hypno class they said if we did it right we wouldn't feel pain. It was painful but I'm really in my body and really focused and it's not an unpleasant feeling because yes it hurts but I feel like a badass. It's maybe 7pm on Tuesday night and the only way I can get through contractions is to imagine I am a giant tigress who is roaring as she gives birth or fighting off someone trying to hurt her cubs. This isn't a metaphor. That is literally what I would think of every time I had a contraction.
I am also making noises like a tiger and then while having a contraction on all fours in the living room. I barf. I barf and barf and barf. To be honest the barfing was a welcome relief. It was a different sensation after hours of the same. My doula was totally on it and had a container for me to barf in. At this point we are ready to go to the hospital.
We get to BC Women's and my midwife is already there. The same midwife who surely would not be delivering my baby. That's how long I have been in labour. She is at the hospital because another one of her clients is also in labour. She examines me and I am all of a sudden self conscious about my tiger noises, so I try to tone it down. The thing is you can't really do mama tiger halfway so it's pretty loud. I'm already 9 cms dilated. I go up to my room which is giant. It's bigger than any hotel I have ever stayed in, with a tub the size of a small pool.
I have a bath with Ana. I have some more contractions and then midwife checks me again. I am 10cms! The end is in sight. She recommends breaking my bag of waters. On TV the woman's water breaks and she goes into labour but it actually doesn't usually work that way. Many women's waters don't break until active labour and some babies are born inside their amniotic sacks. My midwife tells me I have the thickest sack of waters she's ever seen and that breaking it will move things along. The main worry about breaking the amniotic sac is infection and since it is pretty much go time that's not a worry. I let her break it and there is meconium in the fluid. Meconium is a fancy science word for baby poop. The baby has pooped already inside of me. This is really normal for late babies, but this is where things get derailed a bit.
If there is meconium in your amniotic fluid it's hospital policy, at BC Women's, to monitor the baby's heart rate continuously. Sometimes babies poo when they're in distress. To do this they use two monitors and two straps to hold them in place. This is not effective because it's hard for someone to move while keeping monitors strapped to your body and I want to move because the second she breaks my waters I have an urge to push. I want to move around and try pushing in different positions. Also, the baby is moving so it's like too much movement to be conducive to effective monitoring. I actually liked pushing because it was a welcome different sensation and it meant it was nearly baby time. I borderline enjoyed it... except a lot of other stuff was happening during this stage of my labour.
The baby keeps going off monitor and so my midwife puts a little electrode on the baby's head so they can monitor the baby that way. This works but limits my movement to things I can do on the bed. I can still squat with a special squatting bar. The first time I try this bar the baby's heart rate takes a scary drop. It takes a while to be normal again and then there is another drop. The nurse freaks and calls doctors. Doctors come and they take a look at what happened and tell me that it looks like baby is having a hard time. We need to get the baby out fast. It's going to mean forceps, or vacuum, or cesarean. Yep, they said the c-word. At this point I have full on mama hormones coursing through me and am pretty much, "Save the baby, take my life for theirs! If you need to cut off me head, to get the baby out that way, fine."
The only thing I remember being bummed about is that they tell me I will need to have an epidural because all the things they might do hurt. I remember thinking, shit I made it like 47 hours labouring without drugs, and now I am going to be forced to have them? Ana is more grounded and asks if we can have time to consider our options? A little. What will happen if we do nothing? Could be really bad, could mean the baby dies. Can you leave while we think about this? Yes.
Doctors leave and my midwife says, "If we push the baby out really fast maybe we won't need to do any of that." Then begins some intense pushing. Each time I get an urge doula, Ana and midwife gather around me and encourage me to push, not make noise, hold my legs back. They also keep telling me how great I am doing. The doctors (there were two) come back in the baby's head is already visible. It's too late for a c-section and an epidural and Ana asks them to leave. Which they do but as soon as they do the baby's heart rate takes a super big drop. The biggest so far. The midwife runs to get the doctors. Baby needs to come out now! It's too late for an epidural, they're going to use the vacuum. They tell me not to worry it won't hurt more at this point with the vacuum. I am pretty sure that was a lie because the baby isn't out yet so the most intense part is still to come but whatever. Lie to me doctors. They put this little suction cup vacuum thing on the baby's head. They use it for three pushes and he starts to crown. Baby's heart rate is doing fine at this point so they take it off the baby's head. They let me push the baby out on my own, to save my vagina little.
My cheering squad has grown from 3 to 9! There were 9 people in the room when baby was born: Ana, doula, midwife, 2 obstetricians, 2 pediatricians (for the baby because of the meconium), and 2 nurses. It was 4 in the morning. It was like we were having an after party in our giant room. A really fucked after party.
Baby comes out screaming. This is really good because sometimes they swallow some meconium and aren't doing so hot when they come out. If this had happened I wasn't going to get skin to skin but it didn't happen. They throw that poop covered baby right on my chest and yes he was the most beautiful thing I had/have ever seen. We locked eyes and it was love, but I was still conscious of him being covered in poop and now me being covered in poop. Ana cut the cord. The baby was weighed and stuff. When he came back he really zeroed in on my nipple. My baby loves to eat. My vagina was stitched up... I got two labial tears. One was quite bad, and the doctor mentioned casually, that a piece of my labia might fall off. Ah, well small price to pay. What was I using it for anyway?
Gradually people left the room until it was only Ana, baby, and I. It was like wholly fuck, this is my family. We're like a family now for real. We made this little guy and now here he is, not just an abstract reason to put sperm in my vagina, or why I have nausea and heartburn. He's a 7 pound 8 ounce, 52 cm, born male person. His name is Leif Stanley Hyde-Chamgoulov. I think it sounds like a heroes name but at this point I feel like the hero.
I feel really proud because I did it. Without medication for hours and hours and hours. I pushed him out really fast and avoided too much intervention. I am a rockstar mama tiger.
Eventually Ana and Leif fell asleep but I couldn't. I was too pumped up. The nurse came in and I asked her to move Leif to where I could see him. She rolled him close and I just looked at him and finally really fell asleep for the first time in 48 hours.
Doctors- I heard a lot about how evil you were in books and birthing classes. I heard how you wanted to cut me open to get the baby out in time for you to get home for dinner. When you were brought into my birth you were super respectful of moving slow enough for us to make the choices we wanted. You used the least invasive methods possible and were a funny and welcome last minute edition to my birth team.
Doula- You were with us so long. You fed me, held me and told me I could do it. You let me cry without shaming me. I think because my labour was so long you barely made more than minimum wage when you break it down by hour. Thank you.
Midwives- I received the best healthcare I have ever received from anyone from you. You answered my questions, calmed my fears, checked by blood pressure. You came to my home and checked the baby's latch again and again (I'll get into this next time). Urging me to push baby out quickly was a great call. You also work so hard all hours of the night. Your families must miss you.
Ana- You made sure that no one acted too fast or too rashly. You were my rock and let me hang off of you while I roared like a tiger. When I couldn't advocate for our choices you did. You are the calm to my too busy head. You are my partner but not like "partner" because we're gay married... well that too I guess. You are my partner like when you have to pick one in gym class and you make eye contact, and quickly sit next to each other, because you know even volleyball drills will be fun if you do them together. Parenthood will be fun together. I love you.