again, childbirth has taught me more about my body and myself, than I ever
thought I had left to learn. And once again, I’m grateful for the
lessons learned and experiences gained.
This last journey began when I saw that second line
appear in the window of a pregnancy test. I had suspected I might have
been pregnant but I was still a bit surprised by what I was seeing. My
first reaction was, “Wait a minute… I just DID this”, but as I sat
down and began to realize that at that very moment there was a little life
growing inside of me, a smile spread across my face. And for those few
minutes, my unborn baby and me shared an incredible secret together.
I chose a different route in prenatal care this time.
I decided to use the services of traditional birth attendants instead of a
registered midwife. It was a very personal decision and one I am very
happy with. As I look back now, I feel I was really led to these women and
am grateful for their help throughout this pregnancy and birth.
The pregnancy went very well and I particularly
enjoyed the home prenatal visits. The problem of elevated blood pressure
that I had experienced in my previous three pregnancies seemed to have
resolved itself and I was able to go through this pregnancy feeling
empowered and healthy.
We had fun trying to determine a ‘due date’ of
sorts. Having only had one period between my last baby and this pregnancy,
we didn’t have a lot of history to go on. If we only used the typical
calculations, April 29th would have been the date. But I knew
that my cycles from years ago were significantly longer than average so we
added some time onto that date. I picked May 7th for no
particular reason, and figured that early May sometime would be likely.
quickly than I had anticipated, April flew by and May settled in. Part of
me was feeling ready to welcome this birth and baby, but another part of
me wanted to keep this baby inside forever, as I had been preparing for
this to be my last pregnancy. Then we received news that my husband was to
take a job in Victoria, B.C. and it would be starting June 1st.
Life went into fast forward at this point with fixing up our home to be
sold, getting it ready for showings, etc. I started to grow weary of
lugging around this large belly with so much else to do. And as the first
two weeks of May passed with no significant signs of labour starting, I
began to grow a bit impatient. That impatience was magnified with news
that my mother was terminally ill and awaiting our arrival to Vancouver
Despite all the goings on though, I tried to remember
to enjoy those last days of pregnancy, and was successful some days, not
so on others. I knew this would be the last time I’d feel a little
person kicking me from the inside. I knew I would miss my round swollen
belly, despite my uncomfort, soon after the birth was over. And each
morning when I woke up still pregnant, I knew this would be one of the
last magical days I’d have to wonder if this would be the day our baby
would arrive. Conversely, other days I just had to lie down and cry
because I couldn’t field another phone call from someone asking if I’d
had the baby yet, but on the most part, I tried to stay positive.
Finally on May 21st, and only when my body was ready, I awoke to mild contractions around 4:30 in the morning. They were not particularly painful, and they were too close together to make me think that this was the real thing, but they were consistent enough to catch my attention. I got out of bed around 5:00am and figured a warm bath would either stop or magnify these labour sensations. After soaking for a while, I got out and decided that I needed to stop wondering if this was the start of labour or not, and maybe get some more sleep. I lied down in the bedroom downstairs, so as not to awaken my husband or 22-month-old son. But sleep was futile. I was too excited that this may be it, as well as nervous that this may be it. I got up and did some computer work while the house was still quiet. As I sat at the desk, I began to notice that my attention would wander from the screen when a contraction came. I found myself doubting less and less that these labour sensations would dissipate. After coming to this conclusion, I decided to call my traditional birth attendants to give them a heads up that today may in fact be the day my baby was to arrive. I woke Sandra up around 6:30am to let her know and told her I’d call her when I needed her to come over. After that, I began wandering around the house and feeling the sensations becoming slightly more intense. At some point, I got back into the tub to enjoy the water a bit more. The contractions became a bit stronger after that, but I was still feeling good and in control.
Soon, the household began to wake up. My oldest, Ryan, was more than surprised to see me awake before him, and also to be in the tub. I let him know that it looked like the baby would arrive today and he replied with an, “Oh, okay”. Not long after that, I decided that I could use Rich’s help and support. He came to the bathroom door soon after I paged him, and let him know that it was looking more and more like today would be the day. He asked if he should have the Nadine and Sandra come to the house yet, but I told him not yet, as I was still feeling like labour was only just beginning. But soon, I recognized the signs of increasing intensity and knew, from past experience, that if we didn’t call now, there would be a mad dash later.
Sandra and Nadine arrived around 8:00am and came into the bathroom to talk with me and see how I was doing and what I was wanting at the time from them. I let them know that I was doing fine and that they could go about setting up their stuff. Part of me hoped that we hadn’t called them too early, but I also knew that they wouldn’t mind even if we had. But soon enough the sensations got more and more intense and I found myself having to really concentrate and focus on relaxing through them.
Sandra and Nadine had finished setting up their things and had settled into the bathroom with me. They knew from previous visits that I wanted to have a very hands-off, independent birth experience, so they watched quietly and asked before they did anything. I really appreciated their respect and care.
Pretty soon I was getting vocal through the transition contractions. And before I knew it, I was taken by surprise by that very unmistakable sensation of wanting to push. Unfortunately, I would willingly take a few more hours of cervical dilation contractions over the pushing contractions, as I find those ones to be very overpowering for me at times. I got very vocal at this point so Rich took the last of our three sons over to a neighbours house.
At this point, I felt like a ship being tossed at sea, and wasn’t sure what I wanted or where I wanted to birth. The bathtub was nice, but I had a hard time getting into a comfortable position. I briefly thought about moving to the bedroom, but could imagine getting there. I also was really hoping for a water birth, so I found a position I could be comfortable in.
As I kneeled down and leaned over the side of the tub, I would grab Rich’s hand and either Sandra or Nadine’s, and squeeze their hands into my face. I don’t know why that relieved some tension, but it did. And pretty soon, I felt that incredible feeling of having the baby slip through and past my cervix and down my birth canal. I announced to everyone that the baby was coming and began the task of trying to breath out the baby’s head. Sandra asked me if I still was going to catch my own baby, but I could only feel the intensity of birth at this point and didn’t feel I was emotionally able to do so. Though I regret I chose not to catch my own baby, I also recognize that I had to respect my feelings at the time. And at the time, I was so very much into my own sensations that I couldn’t reach beyond that. I will honor that decision.
After that exquisite pain of feeling the head pass through my vagina, followed by the shoulders, my baby was born into the water at 9:19am. Sandra and Nadine were there to help the baby out of the water and hand her to me. Nadine was concerned that the membrane, which ruptured at the very end of the birth, was still covering her face, so tried to wipe away any membrane that may have been left. Sandra noticed that copious amounts of brown meconium filled the bathtub after the sac broke and knew that she would be watching the baby closely for signs of problems. They gently did a bit of suction to help clear any meconium that may have been present.
Rich and I looked over this beautiful little baby as I cuddled her in the tub. She was definitely not overdue judging from the amount of vernix covering her. When we remembered, we took a moment to see if we had been blessed with a beautiful fourth baby boy or with our first daughter. To our complete surprise, we saw she was just that, a little girl. We actually had a baby girl! Finally, those girl hand-me-downs from friends and relatives would have someone to wear them!
We got out of the tub a little while later and went to lie down in our bed. There, we cuddled our newest little member and enjoyed counting fingers and toes. Sandra and Nadine noticed that I was bleeding a bit more than they were comfortable with, so we decided we needed to get my placenta out. I was also very uncomfortable from the contractions that were trying to push my placenta out. We think the placenta was caught up a bit in my cervix and was causing me the pain. With some active pushing, it finally came out. That was about an hour after she was born. And with the birth of the placenta, my bleeding slowed down and no longer was a concern.
By that time, Emily was sucking on her fingers, so we knew she was ready to begin breastfeeding. She took to that like a veteran and we haven’t had any breastfeeding problems, thankfully. Rich went and got the boys from next door and invited them to come meet their new little sister. Michael and Matthew were anxious to see her, but Ryan decided to wait a while. When he was ready, he, too, came back home and all three boys loved up their sister and took turns holding her and introducing themselves. When the novelty wore off a bit, they went with other friends for a day at the lake on a powerboat. They were loving life!
Thankfully, Emily had no problems from the meconium that had been present in her little sac that had actually been stained brown. We watched some possible chest retractions closely but they ended up being nothing and we’re so grateful she is a healthy, thriving baby. We weighed her a little while later and her chubby little body came in at 9lbs. 10 oz. I was particularly pleased with myself at that point! And not a tear or road rash to speak of.
When all the checks, cleanup and rechecks were complete, my traditional birth attendants posted a wonderful notice of birth on the front door, let me know they could be reached for anything, and left us to enjoy our new baby. We snuggled under the covers and enjoyed new baby smells that are indescribable.
I’m so grateful for this last birth experience. It was quick and intense but it was empowering and beautiful. I had quiet moments that were reflective and relaxing, and times when I roared out from deep within my soul and felt great power run through my body. I’m so glad Nadine and Sandra were there with us to share the experience. Their quiet, unobtrusive presence was comforting and supportive. And when things varied from normal slightly, there wasn’t the medical drama that sometimes follows, but instead, careful and quiet readiness with professional attention.
Emily Susan McCue joined our family on May 21st and has enriched our family immensely.
- Heather McCue
Other birth stories by Heather: