Her arrival was unexpected. Never did I think she would arrive on her exact due date, something I kept secret and did not disclose to many people in order to avoid the “Is the baby here yet?” question, as well as I don’t believe in due dates. Babies come when they are ready, and that’s what I was telling her all throughout my pregnancy. She chose her perfect birthday, alright, and ended up becoming a part of the 5% of babies that do arrive at 40 weeks.
Around 12:30 am, June 26, Friday morning, I experienced what I thought was Braxton Hicks. For weeks I was experiencing these sensations every other day, so I assumed that this was just another one of those nights. But, these didn’t feel like the Braxton Hicks I felt before. I went to bed as usual, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake off the uncomfortable cramping feeling.
I messaged my eldest sister and asked what real contractions felt like, having had 4 babies herself. However, I wasn’t experiencing what she described. Hmm, must be Braxton Hicks then!
I ended up moving to the couch around 3 am, hoping that laying there would make me fall asleep. I usually do fall asleep instantly when I lay down on the couch, it’s that comfy! And I was right. The comfort and familiarity from all the pregnancy naps I had there, helped me fall asleep and ignore the cramping sensations.
I woke up around 6 am when Matt got up for work, and usually, when I end up in the living room, I move back to the bedroom to continue sleeping. I was expecting the sensations to be gone since a few hours passed, but to my surprise, I was still feeling them! There was no consistent pattern, and if what I was feeling was the start to real labour or not. Matt asked if he should stay home, but I told him, “No, go to work as usual. I think it’s just more practice labour and it will fade away since it’s morning. If it is real labour, it will pick up again by evening, or maybe not at all. We’ll see.”
Safe to say, I was in denial that it was the real thing.
Around 8 am, Matt left for work, and I decided to reach out in a birthing group I’m in on Facebook. I wanted to know if anyone else experienced what I currently was. I described what I was feeling, and asked what contractions were supposed to feel like, if this was the real deal or not. Within an hour, I received tons of comments, and all the women who responded said, “Yes, that’s EXACTLY how my labour started!” Being in denial started to fade quickly, and realization set in that this could be it. A few wished me luck and recommended that I just relax and rest as much as I can.
Around 9 am I contacted my doula, explained the situation, what I was feeling, and asked what she thought. She confirmed it sounded like early labour, and to rest as much as possible and keep her updated.
(Disclosure: Talk of birth, fluids, use of birthing terms and language are used.)
Knowing that this could be baby day, I tried to rest as much as possible. I laboured alone around the house, did some light housework, and went into the bathtub occasionally to help with the cramping. Hot water while in labour is AMAZING! Highly recommend.
I contacted Matt and let him know it may possibly be baby day, but not to feel rushed and leave work right away. He said he would work for a few hours and come home.
Around 11 am Matt returned home and got to work, and by work, I mean housework. While I laboured on my own, he got to cleaning. He vacuumed the whole house, changed our bedsheets and the crib sheets, brought out the spare mattress to the living room in case I used it for labour or for giving birth, and tidied the kitchen. It definitely made me feel better knowing if it truly was baby day, at least my house was clean for our birthing team, and to ease my mind overall.
I went to our bedroom and tried to sleep for as long as possible. I managed to get maybe an hour’s worth before I decided I needed to labour in the bathtub again. Things were definitely getting more intense. Although I was still aware and social (a sign of early labour), I did need to stop and breathe through the cramping, a sign that things were progressing. I also noticed I began losing bits of my mucus plug, another sign it was possibly real labour.
Matt ended up calling the doula for me around 4 pm, not only to help with birth pool set-up and pain management, but also to give him peace of mind that all was well and normal since things were amping up as each hour passed.
She arrived soon after that phone call, and helped me with breathing and relaxing in the tub, giving me a cup of soup and water to keep my energy up. We talked for a bit whenever I had a break from a contraction, and I played my birthing playlist from my phone, a combination of indie, worship music, instrumental, and ambient. Eventually the water got cold and I wanted to get out and walk around the house.
This wasn’t a mistake per say, but labouring in hot water felt so much better than without. Once I dried off and got dressed, the pain intensified. My doula began comfort measures on my back and hips as I went on my knees and leaned over my birthing ball on the mattress in the living room, moaning and breathing through the pain. She asked if I wanted to use the Tens unit, which I agreed to quickly. It helped distract me from the actual pain, and I was able to see how far apart the sensations were and how long they lasted.
I’m not sure how long I laboured that way for, but it was around 7 pm when Matt and the doula figured it was a good time to call the midwife and give her and her assistant a heads up. Around this time, I was entering into active labour.
The midwife arrived around 8 pm and by then, everything is a blur, and by blur, I mean I lost all sense of time. I entered this zone, where my mind focused on what was happening to my body, surrendering to the process and having no choice but to go along with it. I was definitely no longer in denial.
The time from 8 pm to 4 am the next morning is merged together. I believe I laboured on the mattress with the Tens unit and my birthing ball for a while longer. At some point, I said I wanted to go back into the water. I was desperate for hot water.
Everyone went into my birthing room to set-up the pool, fill it with water, and for the midwife to set up all her equipment.
This is when the bad news was broken to me. The pump used to fill the birthing pool with air wasn’t charged, which meant I couldn’t use it to continue labouring, and that if it didn’t charge in time, I may not possibly be able to use for birthing either.
Fortunately, I’m a flexible person. Being a doula, I know birth plans change, and that’s the point of having a birthing plan. It’s to show your requests and what you want, but you also have to understand that some things may not be possible depending on the circumstance. At this point, I was in the comfort of my home, that’s all that mattered, I didn’t care if I had a water birth or not. I said I would give birth anywhere, but to please let me labour in the bathtub. I wanted to get in hot water immediately. My doula quickly got to work and cleaned the bathtub and filled it while I waited.
Well, bad news #2, we ran out of hot water! Because I laboured in the tub 2 times throughout the day already, by nighttime, there was none left. So what did we do? My doula and Matt got to boiling water on the stove in all the pots we had available and the kettle. They would bring in one pot at a time, where my midwife and her assistant distributed it throughout the tub, taking out the old, lukewarm water and making room for the hot. Talk about old-school!
They kept me hydrated by giving me ice water and feeding, yes, hand-feeding me, light fruit. I remember eating strawberries, maybe blueberries and some raspberries, too, I’m not sure. I was just too far gone in my zone. I’m also not sure how long I was in there for, but it must have been an hour or so, maybe longer. As I said, all sense of time was gone and a lot of things from 8 pm onward is a blur.
Eventually, I was asked if I wanted to labour outside the tub, walk around and maybe rest for a bit. I did get out, but I have no idea where I ended up from there. Did I go to the living room? Bedroom? Did I remain in the bathroom? I have no clue, so I’ll just jump to the next thing I do remember.
The contractions intensified, which meant the pain did, too. Vocally, I was getting louder, and I was reminded every minute to breathe low, to not yell or scream if I could help it, or else I was wasting energy and my throat would hurt from doing so. Because the pain was so intense, I ended up throwing up all those fruits I ate previously. I couldn’t get up off the floor after that, so I just hung onto the toilet, on my knees and my hands gripping the sides as I felt this intense pressure, almost like I wanted to push. I couldn’t ignore that pressure, so I just went along with what my body was feeling and began barring down.
All those early labour signs most people have started in succession. First, my amniotic fluid, aka, my waters, broke, but not the burst you see in movies (fun fact, that’s not really a real thing, it’s actually quite rare), but more like a slow leak. Then I lost the remaining of my mucus plug, and then bloody show after that. I was in full-on transition.
At this point, I was finished. I said I couldn’t do it anymore, that I give up. I’m pretty sure I said that a handful of times. My doula, Matt, and the midwives encouraged me to keep going, that I was almost there. I was strong enough to do this and to continue breathing deep and low, and that I would meet my baby soon.
I even had the fleeting thought of transferring to the hospital, not for an emergency reason, but just to get something for the pain. At the same time, I thought, “Do I really want to get into a moving vehicle right now? Do I really want to get dressed, or be strapped laying down on a gurney? Heck no!” I felt better staying low to the ground on my hands and knees or barring down, following my body. I did not want to leave the comfort of my home for something as trivial as pain relief, where I knew a cascade of interventions would occur and I would be disappointed in myself for caving in. And being a doula, I knew I was too far along to even receive anything for the pain. The thought of giving up and transferring went out the window quickly, and I knew I had to focus and keep going. There was no turning back.
To note, not once was a transfer offered or mentioned by the midwives. They saw I was progressing well, baby and I were safe and healthy, and I was left to continue the process of my normal, physiological birth.
This entire moment in my mind felt like it was only 20 minutes, and that I would meet my baby any minute with the way I was feeling, the intensity of the contractions, the fact that I wanted to give up and the barring down feeling I had. It wasn’t until after giving birth and asking Matt, he said it was more like 2-3 hours of labouring that way, gripping with all my might to the side of the toilet, on my knees as I groaned/screamed through the pain. Before that, also a good 2 hours in the tub. This is what I meant by no sense of time. What felt like mere minutes was actually hours.
Labouring this way wasn’t helping me progress anymore, and my midwife knew I was at the point of pushing, but something was stopping Chloë from descending that last bit. She recommended I get up and walk around and see if things changed. I did my best to walk, but I needed two people to hold onto me. Each time a contraction came on, I had to go down low to the ground in a squatting position. I couldn’t stand. I made my way to the mattress in the living room. I ended up laying on my side and tried to rest and relax, allowing my body to finish dilating and allow for the baby to fully descend.
After about this half-hour break, I was considered fully dilated, the pressure was intense and I knew it was time to meet my baby. I continued laying on my side, being the most comfortable position rather than straight on my back, and began the process of bringing my baby earthside. Matt said that through the entire labour I was so emotional, crying, wanting to give up. But once it came to this moment of finally meeting our baby girl, this peace washed over me, and that it looked like I almost enjoyed it. Well, I didn’t enjoy it, but I did feel at peace, probably because I knew the end was near and I would hold my baby in my arms, and that all the pain would go away.
After 40 minutes of slow, gentle, non-coached pushing, allowing my body to do most of the work and pushing only when I felt the urge to, Chloë was born on Saturday June 27 at 5:23 am. She was caught by Matt (so awesome for him to be involved in Chloë’s birth this way) and partially by the midwife. This is where the rest of my waters broke, which surprised Matt and still makes me laugh weeks later. She was given straight to me onto my chest, and we met face to face for the first time. She was perfect and healthy. We did delayed cord clamping, not sure for how long, but I believe it was a good 10 minutes at least and the cord was white, which meant baby received all her remaining blood. Matt cut the cord (another awesome involvement for him), and he and Chloë went away to be weighed and measured.
I could go into detail about delivering the placenta and cleaning up, but let’s not go there. However, while I was dealing with that, Matt had his time of doing skin to skin and beginning the bonding process with Chloë. It was such a lovely sight, and I was so happy to see him finally hold the baby he wanted for so long.
Once I showered and was tucked into bad with my newborn, my husband by my side and my dog at the foot of the bed, I was finally able to relax and take in my new baby, and process the journey I had just experienced.
Our midwives and doula did a fantastic job cleaning everything up. They hung around for about 2 hours to make sure everything was cleaned, packed away, and all the paperwork was completed. Our doula said her goodbyes and went home to get a well-deserved sleep. The midwives left soon after. We were left alone, now a family of 5, our newborn tucked between us as we starred at the miracle we created together, the beginning of the newest chapter of our lives as human parents.