In the wee hours of August 19th, Rich & I welcomed a second miracle into our lives and family. A miracle that warms my heart each time I relive the experience in my mind.
In November, we found out I was expecting our second child. We had been planning for this but were still amazed it had happened, again. Being new to Calgary, we really hadn't established a "family doctor" so I wasn't sure who to go to for my prenatal care. Shopping around for a doctor can take a long time and even if you find a good one, they're usually not taking new patients. My husband had a friend at work who, with his wife, had recently had a baby through the Foothills Midwifery Program. They went on about how wonderful it had been and recommended it thoroughly. I hadn't ever really considered midwifery, for no other reason than I didn't know that much about it then, and hadn’t thought it would be covered by our medical. However, after making a few calls, I decided to give them a try. We met Meryl in January, and felt very at ease and in good hands. She welcomed not just myself, but Rich and our son Ryan, and seemed glad the whole family was involved. She told me all about the program and what I could expect, so there were no surprises. I was a bit concerned about the early discharge, but was told that if, for some reason I did need to stay at the hospital, I wouldn't just be sent away. That put my mind at ease. After all, I could remember wanting to get home from the hospital a little while after I had given birth to Ryan but having to stay. We booked my next prenatal and knew from then on that I would be safe and happy here, with all three of my midwives.
I remember thinking how wonderful it was that I could weigh myself at each appointment and test my own urine for protein and sugar. That made me feel like I was really the one responsible for me, and that I was trusted by my midwives. They never told me I was gaining too much, or lectured me on the text book 25 - 35 pound gain that women should allow for. They did tell me that as long as I was eating good foods, that the actual weight didn't matter, as long as I was gaining. This was all so very different from my first prenatal experience a couple of years ago.
Throughout my prenatal visits, I met with my other two midwives, Joy and Penny. I remember thinking how I would love anyone of these women at my birth. They were all very thorough and took all the time I needed at my prenatal appointments. They always remained my professional midwives, however, they had become my friends, as well, and I looked forward to each visit with them.
Close to the end of my third term, I started to experience a mild case of higher than normal blood pressure. This had happened with my first baby, and all I had been told by that doctor was to take medication. I remember how that worried me; taking serious medication while pregnant, even though it was prescribed by my doctor. My midwives had many other options for me, and put them into play in hopes of eliminating any problems before they arose. They told me to slow down and put my feet up, to consume a lot of protein, to lie on my left side, and to drink a whole lot of water. All these things were enough to put any blood pressure back to normal- no medication necessary. I remember feeling disappointed in my first baby's doctor, and wondering why he hadn't told me about these things before trying medication. But I also remember gaining even more trust in my midwives and in all the knowledge they not only had, but used.
Time slowly marched on in the warm August heat and I remember feeling very pregnant and a bit frustrated because so many other pregnant women in our neighbourhood had been early. I was wanting to be "delivered". I expressed my mounting frustration to Joy, who reassured me that my time would eventually come and reminded me that this really was a temporary state. I remember asking her at my prenatal appointment a couple of days before my due date, to check me to see if my body was even the least bit getting ready for labour. To my delight, she found me to be 2 cm. dilated and that I had already lost my mucus plug. She was a bit relieved, too. She said many women ask her to check them close to their due dates, and if their body's haven't made any progress towards imminent birth, well, it's pretty frustrating for the mom's. She asked if I wanted her to sort of squeeze the cervix a little, to release a bit of natural prostaglandin. I was for anything that could bring about eventual birth, so that was fine! She also asked if I was taking the Evening Primrose Oil, which I had not. She recommended I start, and so off I went after that prenatal, to the vitamin place!
My actual due date was Aug. 18th and I had been having on and off false labour since about the 16th. I had been told that false labour was common in second and subsequent pregnancy's, so I was prepared for that. I didn't mind having the false labour because the mild contractions were probably doing a bit of good, and they were just that, very mild. The 18th came and I felt I couldn't just sit around waiting for this baby to make itself known, so Ryan (our two year old) and I went outside to mow the lawn. Our neighbours had a good laugh, but it felt good to do something else instead of count mini-contractions and wait. Rich would call from work every now and again, just to see how things were. He was eagerly anticipating my delivery, as well. When he got home from work, things were still irregular and far apart. And after all, who actually delivers on their due-date, so we weren't expecting anything big to happen. He had a soccer game that night, and though I still didn't think this was real labour, we felt that to be safe, we should all go. Ryan and I watched from the sidelines and chased each other around. We stopped to sit for a while and I noticed the contractions were becoming a bit more regular. I started to time a couple, just to see. They were about 15 minutes apart, and fairly mild. Nothing to stop the game over. Rich came over a couple of times to see how I was. I told him the update and that I'd let him know if things got big, quickly. By the time the game was over, the contractions had stayed pretty much the same, perhaps just a bit closer together. We drove home and I remember thinking I should call my midwife when we get home, just to let her know that things may be happening.
We arrived home around 9:30pm and I called their beeper number. Joy was on-call that night and I told her what had been happening. She told me to go have a warm bath and that if it was real labour, that wouldn't stop it. She also told me to get some sleep and to call when things got to be more consistent and stronger. With that, we tucked Ryan into bed and I hopped into the tub. I hung out there for a while until I thought I'd soaked enough. The contractions were a bit closer now and though mild, were becoming a bit more "real". I climbed into bed and tried to get some sleep. By this time it was 11:30pm or so and I was partly uncomfortable from the contractions, and partly excited that I felt this was going to be it! I lied there for a half of an hour of so, timing some contractions and vainly trying to get some sleep. But I soon realized that this was getting me nowhere and I felt like soaking in the tub again. I drew another tub and sank into the water. I had only been there for about 10 minutes when I realized that the water was too hot and I needed to cool down to be comfortable with the contractions. I took some towels and laid them on the couch so I wouldn't get it all wet. I just laid there naked and wondered if I was going to get a bit of sleep out here. But the contractions were becoming increasingly more uncomfortable and I thought I could use some help from Rich, who had been sleeping and unaware of what had been going on. I woke him and told him that I needed his help a bit, now. I knelt down beside the bed with my arms and head on the bed and when a contraction came, he'd rub my lower back. It was around 1:00am now and I remember thinking how fast time had passed since I'd last looked at the clock. The room was dark and Rich asked me if he should time a couple of contractions to see how far apart they were. At first I didn't want him to, but eventually I thought we should. They were about 8 or 9 minutes apart and I was still feeling in control. I was concentrating very hard on letting my lower abdomen relax and not tensing up my body with the contractions.
Pretty soon, I wanted back in the tub again, which had cooled off a bit since my previous dip. Rich asked if he could help, but I told him to rest and that I'd call him if I needed help. The water was perfect and I just submerged my belly and felt warm. I remember actually nodding off a bit between contractions and getting a bit of rest, much to my surprise. Soon though, I needed Rich, and I went back to the bedroom to let him know. He got out some cream and massaged my lower back with the contractions. I went from kneeling beside the bed, to down on all fours, to leaning against the wall. Being down on all fours and rocking back and forth felt good and I used that position a lot. Rich suggested that I go back to the tub, but I didn't want to lie down at that point. He suggested a shower then, and that sounded a lot better. The water was nice and I remember leaning on the shower wall and letting the water run on my back. I used the down on all fours position in there, too and it felt nice as well. I remember thinking that I was still feeling in control of the contractions and that was reassuring. I got out of the shower and found Rich in the living waiting for me with timer in hand. I sat in our wooden rocking chair and rocked through several contractions. I started making a low noise with each contraction and it seemed to help release a bit of tension. Rich commented that he remembered me making that noise when I was in labour with Ryan. I have tried to repeat that noise since, but have been unsuccessful. It must be a unique labour tool that is only found when one really needs it. I got Rich to time some of the contractions again, and found them to be around 4 minutes apart. He asked me how they were feeling, and I would tell him either strong or very strong. Things were really coming on quite quickly now and I was starting to feel like I was losing some of that control that I'd been able to keep until then. I asked him to call Joy again, to see what she thought. It was around 4:25am by this time, so we woke her up, but she was very fine with that and asked to speak to me. Rich handed me the phone and I talked to her a bit. I let her know that my legs were a bit shaky and that I was either in transition or just really excited. She mentioned that we should all go to the hospital to see how things were coming, and as another contraction came, we said goodbye. We called a friend whom we'd prearranged to have come over when we went to the hospital, to watch Ryan. As soon as she came, we left and began the drive from the southeast to the northwest. (I'm very pro-homebirth, now...)
Being that it was 4:30 in the morning, there was no traffic so, thankfully, we made the trip in about 15 minutes. The car was the worst place to have contractions and they were coming right on top of each other by this time. I'd pretty much lost the rest of control I had left and was just praying to make it to the hospital soon so I could get out of the car. When we got there, Rich asked if he should drop me off and then park. I didn't want to do that because I didn't want to be away from him, so we found a parking spot and very slowly, made our way into the hospital. I remember being shy to have contractions around strangers in the entrance-way and throughout the hallways, but by that time I also wasn't much good at pretending I wasn't in labour. We found our way up to maternity, and gave the nurses my little blue card. We were put into the "good room" and as soon as we got there, I got undressed and into the tub, hoping for a bit of a break from the intense contractions that I'd been feeling in the car and up to maternity. I soon realized that the water filling the tub was not warm, but at least I wasn't in the car. I asked Rich to find out how to make the water warm, and he was told that the warm water had just been turned on for that room and it would be a while. As I sat in the cool water, I, all of a sudden, had that first feeling that I needed to push. I was so surprised! I told Rich this, and he ran out to tell the nurse, who was setting up all manner of instruments in preparation for this birth. She told me to come out of the tub and that she'd check me. Joy hadn't made it there yet and the nurses were making preparations in case she didn't make it there in time. I got out of the tub and put on a gown. I then climbed onto the bed and was checked. I was 8 cm. dilated! Nurses were called in to help and someone was looking between my legs to see if the head was visible yet. An obstetrician came in to oversee the whole thing until Joy arrived. I was told I could push whenever I wanted to and I could hardly believe it had come down to this already. The nurses asked me to push hard with each contraction and I remember thinking this really wasn't feeling any good at all. It seemed like too much work and I was pretty tired. Luckily Joy arrived next and the whole room seemed to empty out except one nurse. I asked to change positions and went from my side to a semi-reclined position. That felt better but I still didn't want to push hard. Joy informed me that this baby was coming with just the contractions and that if I didn't want to push, I didn't have to. Great relief was felt and I was able to let my body do its job without interfering. Next thing I knew, my water broke and I felt a great sense of released pressure. Then our baby's head was crowning. That famous burning sensation was incredible and soon the head was out and Rich took a long look at this beautiful head. I was asked if I wanted to take a look at our little one, but I was just worn right out and in my feeble attempt to look, I could only see my belly. Soon the little shoulders were out and the rest of him just slipped right out after. I remember reaching down to take our newest son into my arms and saying, "Come here Sweetheart... Come here Sweetheart". Rich turned to me and through his smiles, said a couple of times, "You did it!". At 5:25am, it was finally over and our little one was safe in my arms and looking up at us. When the umbilical cord stopped quivering, Rich cut it. There had been no tearing so no repairing was necessary and Michael nursed the placenta out. The sun had started to sneak up over the horizon and Michael and I headed for our first bath together. I remember thinking that this whole experience had been incredible and much better than my first birth. I was left feeling tired but exhilarated at the same time. We had been a part of something very spiritual.
With our late arrival to the hospital, we had to be admitted before we could be released, so we had to wait around for a while until the paper chain had found it's way to the right person. That was okay because we were just reveling in the mornings events, calling relatives, and enjoying our baby. A doctor came in to check over our Michael and give us the technical ‘okay’ to leave whenever the paperwork was done. Later, someone came in to let us know that our paper work had gotten lost and that if Rich could go to some place in admitting to pick up some papers, we'd be out of there as soon as possible. We finally got all that stuff squared away and we were free to leave for home. It was around 9:30am.
I couldn't believe how great I felt and how wonderful it was to leave the hospital and go home to my own bed and sleep off the morning with our little one. As we walked out of labour and delivery, a couple of people 'oohed and ahhed' at our sweet little son as we passed by. This had been a great morning.
I was followed up with several home visits by my midwives and each time, they took time to not only check my important physical healing, but check my emotional well being, also. They were a great support to me and my family with everything and let me know that if I needed to ask them anything or check about something I felt unsure about, that I could page whomever was on call and they'd call me right back. I, not once, felt alone.
I learned a great deal from this entire experience. The first thing I learned was that I was so thankful for midwives. I had found out what they were all about and was so grateful I had. I went from feeling a bit hesitant to very gung-ho about midwifery, in just a matter of visits. Penny, Joy and Meryl had made a huge impact on my pregnancy, birth and life and I cannot fathom another pregnancy without them there with me. They had been very professional and incredibly knowledgeable, but still kind, caring and reassuring. I appreciated all their time and effort.
Secondly, I learned that my body has great power to do it's job properly when given the chance. I was never so educated about this than when I was with my midwives. They trusted my body, and passed that trust on to me through sharing knowledge and giving me time. This is an invaluable gift. Next time, I will trust my body to birth at home and, thankfully, skip that drive to the hospital.
Of course there's a great deal more that I learned and there's still lots more out there to learn, but I think I have the basics, thanks to the three wonderful women who changed our lives forever.
- Heather McCue
Other birth stories by Heather: