The following was written on Thanksgiving weekend but I have finally found the time to finish writing it and to share it with those interested. It is quite a personal story and contains "too much information" at times but I want to remember every detail of one of the most important events in my life and how our little offspring came to be - and let's face it, as beautiful a thing as making a baby is, giving birth is not necessarily "pretty"....oh and because of all the details, it is quite lengthy. It starts from the TTC stage (trying to conceive) but if you are interested in just the labour, scroll down to the heading "...Then Comes a Baby in a Baby Carriage".
I have been feeling inspired to write for a long time now. It has been 8 weeks since I gave birth to our son Lennon and I regretfully have not even written my birth story yet but trying to balance this with being a new mom and the demands of a newborn baby (which comes with a lot of sleep deprivation) has proved to be challenging. Even now, I am writing this on an iPhone notepad as Lennon has a nap on me - which I would not trade for anything as I love his cuddles! I have finally found some downtime this Thanksgiving weekend to sit down and write (...I mean type) and it being Thanksgiving I thought what better thing to write about than my birth story (FINALLY) and the person I am most thankful for this year, that being our son Lennon! They say to write down your birth story as soon as you can after the birth as the details and emotions will change and get blurry the longer you leave it. It has been just over 8 weeks since Lennon entered this world but I like to think that I haven't forgotten the birth and my journey into motherhood,
On New Year’s Day of this year, I made a "gratitude jar" for my husband and I in an effort to "always look on the bright side of life" and be more positive. The goal was to write down something - anything - that we were thankful for at least once a day. We had been trying to conceive for a little over a year and it wasn't always the best of times, often feeling stressed, discouraged and hopeless so having something to keep us positive seemed like a good idea. On multiple occasions, Aunt Flo was about two weeks past due (when she had always been regular). The first two times Aunt Flo was late, I felt hopeful and completed a pregnancy test, both times coming out negative and not knowing if I had had a chemical pregnancy (a miscarriage in early pregnancy). We were in the process of having fertility testing done to see if there was a reason why it wasn't happening for us. Perry was feeling extremely uncomfortable with the sperm sample testing. This has a funny story associated with it involving the need to get the sample to the lab within half an hour of producing it and not having any car2go vehicles available anywhere nearby when he needed to go ( we didn't have a car at the time). He ended up having to run to the bus stop and take public transit to the lab. The reason why this is funny is because it was all unnecessary! Unbeknownst to us, I was actually pregnant at the time, having just conceived a week or two earlier (one of those "Christmas babies" if you're wondering..TMI?). I had given up hope so when I had missed periods, I didn't even consider I could be pregnant anymore.
On January 24th, Perry and I were having a date night. We were having Mexican food at Poncho's on Denman street. After a nacho starter, my enchilada entree was served and I had two bites and suddenly felt really full. All week I had been having indigestion problems. I never really had an indigestion problem before. At the beginning of the week, I had made a massive dish of quinoa stuffed vegetables and eaten some every day. After complaining of the indigestion to my mom she suggested maybe I was eating too much quinoa and sent me a bunch of internet links as to what could happen if you eat too much quinoa. My "symptoms" seemed to be pretty consistent with what I was reading so I figured that I had eaten too much quinoa and left it at that. But when I could only eat two bites of my enchilada before feeling absolutely full, that was a huge warning sign! You see, I love food and am always finishing any food in front of me, no matter if I'm hungry or full, be it on my plate, my husband's plate, a friend's plate. I felt extremely bloated and as I excused myself to see if I was going to be sick in the toilet, I started to put the signs together and think that maybe it was time to try another pregnancy test. I also remembered that earlier in the week, I came home from work and started crying cause I felt so tired. I even said “I’m soooo tired and I don’t know why!” – This should have been a giveaway! I returned to the table and, as I unassumingly finished my glass of sangria, suggested to Perry that perhaps we stop at the drugstore on the way to the movie theatre to pick up a test. We did just that, asking the pharmacist when I should do the test. He recommended the morning as that's when the pee is most concentrated. Pfft yeah right! Wait another 12 hours? Impatient me couldn't handle the anticipation. We had arrived at the cinema early AND they had plenty of unoccupied bathroom stalls - how convenient! I couldn't sit through Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part 1 knowing this could be it so in the bathroom I went while Perry awaited the results in the lobby. As I took the test out of the box, clumsy me dropped it, falling right under the occupied neighbouring stall. Boy this was turning out to be like a comedy of errors. I picked up the test quicker than you can say "baby on board" hoping that my neighbour thought it was a tampon and not really caring too much. I went about my business and waited for the moment of truth (1 line = negative, 2 lines = positive) which, according to the instructions takes about 3 minutes. After 30 seconds, a second line began to appear. It was a very faint second line which, according to the instructions, still means positive and even though the instructions mentioned this, I still didn't want to get my hopes up so I didn't fully accept that I could be pregnant. I exited the bathroom and returned to my eagerly awaiting husband. I told him it was a faint line and discreetly showed him and we both agreed that, even though the box says "a faint line is positive", we were going to not accept the news as we didn't want any more disappointment and try again in the morning. And we did just that, watching Mockingjay with the thought that I could be pregnant lingering deep in my mind, and funny enough using the Run Pee app for the first time as my bladder was weak (which I didn't even think anything of at the time)! The next morning, at the recommendation of the pharmacist, I awoke to do another test. This time, the line was definitely not faint! Still, this was not enough for my husband and I to fully admit that we were expecting. We needed to hear it from a professional so we headed to the nearby walk in clinic. After my third test, the doctor confirmed what we already knew but weren't admitting. It was now official, we were expecting! My reaction?: "Now what???"
Next came all the fun and not so fun parts of the pregnancy adventure (in no particular order): telling our friends and family the news (see below for our birth announcement video), going for ultrasounds, hearing baby's heartbeat, taking a break from beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages, planning and going on a babymoon, shopping for maternity clothes, watching my belly grow, taking baby bump photos, shopping for and collecting baby items, painting and decorating the nursery, having a scare at 11 weeks when our doctor couldn't find the heartbeat, having another scare when I was spotting, finding an amazing midwife team (Strathcona Midwifery Collective - highly recommended), taking a great prenatal course and learning A LOT (the Bradley Method - highly recommended), developing sciatic back pain and tossing and turning all night long, having an extremely weak bladder and consequently having to plan every route taken based on bathroom availability, throwing a gender reveal party and finding out we were going to have a boy, and generally enjoying the moment and what was about to change our lives for the better.
...Then Comes A Baby in a Baby Carriage
Fast forward to August. I was in my third trimester and despite having sciatic back pain and major hip pain which made for an uncomfortable sleep, I was loving being pregnant (except for sometimes during the heat wave). All the tests taken determined that everything was looking good with baby and I. They say that there is a relationship between the term of your mom's pregnancy and your pregnancy. My mom delivered past her due date with my two sisters and I and so did my sister with her daughter so all signs pointed to me delivering past my due date. According to this statistic, we figured we would be late but as we got closer to the September 18th due date we began to feel like our little offspring was going to arrive early!
Then came Wednesday August 12th. We went to visit my friend Diana who was in town from Calgary with her 10 month old. We talked a lot about my pregnancy and upcoming motherhood. I mentioned that it seemed like everyone was having their babies early - specifically 5 weeks early. There had been about 5 recent occurrences of people we know or had recently met that had their babies 5 weeks early. I don't know why this stuck with me, but it did. For example: when we went to get our anatomy scan at 20 weeks, there was a couple leaving the hospital with their newborn. We went to congratulate them and commented on their beautiful daughter. They told us she was 5 weeks early. Another occurrence: we sold a stroller on Craigslist (yes before baby came as we had 3) to a couple that needed something quick as their baby arrived 5 weeks early and they were not prepared (are you ever really prepared for a baby though)! Then there were friends and acquaintances that had their babies 5 weeks early. I was in my 34th week....2 days before week 35. We returned home after the visit and went to sleep. I awoke in the wee hours of Thursday August 13th, around 2am to go to the bathroom. I noticed a few small drops of blood in my urine accompanied by some cramping in my stomach. I disregarded this as I thought it was normal to have a bit of spotting and cramping during your pregnancy. I had some in my second trimester and got really worried but all was fine so I was trying not to get worried! I went back to sleep telling myself that everything was fine. A couple of hours later, I went to the bathroom again to see a tiny bit more blood. At this point I turned to Dr.Google as I didn't want to be paging the midwives with what I thought was not serious. Dr. Google did say that blood in the third trimester could be problematic so I became a bit concerned and sent the midwives an email (at 4:44am) describing the situation. I finished the email by apologizing for yet another email and saying "I'm trying to not be concerned and to disregard little things like this but there is constantly a little voice in my head that says 'but what if'?" I was starting to feel a bit nervous but had felt baby kick so that was reassuring me. Around 7am, I got up for work and again some more blood. This time there seemed to be a bit of mucous like discharge so I emailed a follow up to the midwives at 7:42am explaining this. Again I turned to Dr.Google while I awaited a response from the midwives and it sounded like this could be my mucous plug or "bloody show" which happens before going into labour (but it could be days or weeks before). I texted my friend Diana and told her what happened and she told me that this same thing happened to her and that her baby arrived 24 hours later. I told her I had a feeling baby would arrive early but not yet- maybe in 3 weeks or so. I also texted my mom and told her that I felt that baby would be coming early. I got to work for 8am thinking that I was meant to start earlier than my normal 8:30 start time but got my days mixed up and arrived half an hour earlier. Boy was I having an off day!!! At 8:30am, I received a missed call from one of the midwives. I immediately returned her call and after retelling her my symptoms she expressed that she was concerned as I was showing signs of preterm labour. When she said this, I took preterm to mean anything before 40 weeks so I figured that baby could come in a few weeks time. She asked if I could come to the clinic for an assessment but I told her it was difficult as I was working. She knew I worked as a nanny and was very active. Her response: "Katerina, you can't be working, especially with children! You need to go home and rest. Your baby could be coming TONIGHT!!!" Whoa whoa whoa. Hold on now. What??? I definitely needed a moment to process that information! Baby couldn't come yet! I had yet to have my baby shower which was just 3 days away and I had yet to have my maternity photo shoot which was 5 days away (and I had gotten a maternity gown made just 2 days before). I still hadn’t done a belly cast of my baby bump. My sister's birthday was also 1 day away and we had dinner plans. I had plans and baby coming early was not in those plans! I took a deep breath and told her I would talk to the parents I work for and explain the situation. As I expected, the parents were extremely supportive and extremely excited (the mom is also pregnant with baby number 2). They were definitely more excited than I. I was nervous and I believe it hadn't sunk in yet. The mom dropped me off at the midwifery clinic and Cora, the midwife I saw checked to make sure my water hadn't broken. She took a urine sample to see if I had a bladder infection which could trigger labour but we wouldn't know the results of that for a few days. She suggested I go on bed rest and take it easy to try and keep baby from coming early. We were hoping for a home birth but that could only happen at 37+ weeks and I was only at 34 weeks and 6 days. I enquired about going to my baby shower and maternity photo shoot. She didn't seem impressed by these questions. I really don't know how to take it easy or the meaning of "relaxing"! So I went home and lay in bed for a majority of the day letting my family know the situation and contacting my employers to do the same. My friend Diana was constantly texting me to see if there were any updates. I began to feel that nothing exciting was going to happen just yet. Perry got home in the evening and gave baby bump a talking to, asking him to stay in a couple more weeks. I instantly wanted to go through all the baby clothes and organize them into the various sizes (newborn, 3 months, 6 months etc) and tidy up the nursery a bit. I made a pile of newborn clothes and Perry was going to take them to the laundromat the next day. I definitely went into "nesting" mode. We then went and sat outside for a bit for some fresh air and called it a night. As I was tucking myself into bed, I checked my messages and noticed a couple from Diana asking how I was and if there was any progress. Our conversation, which also had Diana mentioning to make sure that a symptom I had wasn't my water breaking, ended at 10:43pm. Two minutes later, literally, I turned over in bed and felt something drop in my uterus. It was a sensation I had never felt and the best way I could describe it was simply a drop. I stood up being weirded out by this sensation and felt like there was a bit of dripping coming from in between my legs. It wasn't gushing water, just a little bit of dripping. My midwife had told me to wear a pad and page her if it got drenched with liquid/discharge. It seemed to be now so I paged her at 10:50 and explained what happened. As I was on the phone with her, I felt a mild cramping similar to menstrual cramps and thought it could be my first contraction. She asked me to meet her at the hospital for an assessment and she recommended I pack a hospital bag. I packed some books, music, headphones, my Bradley Method manual etc figuring it would be a looooong night/day if I were to go into labor but still not fully comprehending what was happening as I felt really calm. I had written a long list of things to bring to the hospital months prior but had not packed my bag as I saw no reason to yet. I had a short nervous moment with Perry where we held each other, I had a little cry and said "this could be it" as we got ready to leave our suite. In the car, I began having what I assumed were contractions every couple of minutes but they were bearable. We arrived at the hospital at 11:45 pm. I filled out some forms and at midnight, Cora completed an assessment proving that my water had in fact broken and I was 3cm dilated out of the 10cm needed to push. This WAS it! What now? Do I call my family and let them know or just continue with Perry as my "coach" and see what happens? Everything was happening so quickly, I really couldn't think straight so we just decided to not call anyone for the time being. This was going to be a long night, or so we thought.
All the stories I had heard, books I had read, examples I had seen led me to believe that the first birth could be anywhere from 12-48+ hours. As Cora assessed me, a whole lot of amniotic fluid gushed out and from that moment things progressed very quickly. Out of nowhere, I felt like I had to vomit, which I did. I was then introduced to Shavon who would be our nurse for the evening/wee hours until the shift change at 7am. She brought me to delivery room number 8, which she told us is a special room as she delivered one (or was it both) of her babies there. I remember number 8 as it’s my favourite number! I did not expect that we would have a one to one nurse! I figured we would be with the midwife while the nurse made her rounds to other patients. This was a bonus as I didn't want doctors and nurses coming in and out interfering constantly during my labour. So there we were: Cora the midwife, Shavon the nurse, Perry the husband and I, the woman in labour! Oh, and The Shirelles. I can't forget The Shirelles! Throughout my pregnancy, I was envisioning me being completely empowered and that my labour would consist of a dance party. I had made a list of songs I wanted for this dance party including Salt n Peppa's "Push It", Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered", Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" and many other songs which have nothing to do with pregnancy except for the odd word or term that related to giving birth. Ridiculous, I know but hearing these songs got me so excited and pumped to give birth! Unfortunately I didn't make the playlist in time so Perry chose to play the Shirelles Greatest Hits over...and over...and over again, which was (emphasis on the was) one of my favorite albums. It was a little bit too slow for the atmosphere I wanted but I wanted him by my side so changing the music wasn't really a priority. Plus I was extremely hormonal and don't think I could have settled on any music myself. So there we were in delivery room number 8. My contractions were about 2 minutes apart and they started off being bearable. I could feel pain but I was still managing to completely relax through them - something we were encouraged to do in our Bradley Method class. I was stood up with my forearms and head leaning into the bed and swaying from side to side. The entire time I felt like I had to go number two but Cora assured me that that is what I should be feeling and unfortunately this feeling would last the duration of labor. Eventually Cora asked if I wanted to try a different position and she suggested I try sitting on the birthing ball which results in a kind of squat position. We were told in our prenatal class that squatting shortens the birth canal by 10% and as soon as I tried this position, things progressed, and quickly! The contractions started to get more intense and about a minute apart and I started to feel significantly more uncomfortable. The squatting position was increasing the pain so I tried changing positions but the pain was too intense to be comfortable in any of the positions that I tried. Lying down on my side was the worst and relaxing through the contractions was becoming impossible. Cora suggested I face the back of the bed (which was in an upright position instead of reclined), lean into it and place my arms on top with my head resting on my arms. I did this and it felt okay (relatively speaking) in between contractions but when the contractions came my body would just tense up and flail around as the pain got more intense - pretty much exactly the opposite of relaxing through the contractions. I remember feeling like the girl from The Exorcist in my white gown, flailing around like a mad woman! Perry had to hold me still a couple times and calm me down. The pain was really excruciating around the hips. This is technically a good thing as they're basically loosening up and getting ready to push out a baby but it was really intense. Cora and Perry, and maybe Shavon too, took turns applying counter pressure to the hips when the contraction came and this really helped. As I was leaning against the bed, I clearly remember two thoughts going through my head:
A) it's only been a couple of hours and the pain is already bad...how am I going to last another 12+ hours without drugs?? I'm going to need drugs! I haven't even gotten to the "transition" stage which we learned in our course is the stage between active labour and pushing and the part where you are roughly between 8-10cm dilated and you want to give up and/or take drugs if you haven't already etc. I hadn't even got to the transition and I was already feeling like giving up and saying that I couldn't do it when I was flailing around like the girl from the exorcist! If I was feeling like this during active labour, how would I feel during the transition??
B) there is no way I am having a second baby and going through this again!
Cora also tried to help me relax during the contractions by telling me to "breathe it away". Those three simple words helped a great deal. Instead of flailing around, which I felt I couldn't help but do, I tried breathing those contractions away. I actually closed my eyes and envisioned them disappearing into thin air as I breathed them away. Moments later, during another contraction, I couldn't hold it back and let out a big loud yell. I remember Cora saying something along the lines of "that's really good that's what we want to hear" followed by another contraction (or maybe 2 or 3...it felt like it was only one) and her saying "okay I think it's time to push"! I stopped dead in my tracks. All of a sudden I had forgotten about the contractions! What??? Aren't I supposed to be doing this for another 12+ hours?? Isn't the pain supposed to get a million times worse? Was that the transition stage?? I was excited but also didn't want her to check for fear that I wasn't actually dilated enough and would be discouraged to continue. Cora quickly checked and somehow, around 3am, 3 hours after I was confirmed to be in labour, I was given the okay to start pushing. To say I was over the moon is an understatement. Perry said I was like a kid in a candy store. I forgot about all the pain I had just experienced and felt a surge of energy enter my body. Let’s do this baby!! I was excited! I was ready to give 'er some! A few months into my pregnancy, I had a dream that I had two contractions and then baby came. I was home alone and I didn't even know if I should call the midwife as the baby had already arrived (and was already talking). I wonder if this was a premonition of an extremely quick labour!
The pushing stage was a whole new level of pain but it was pain with a nearly there purpose and a result so I felt empowered. While I pushed, I couldn't help but yell like I've never yelled before. I didn't even know my vocal chords were capable of producing the screams that they did! I felt like a lion roaring in the jungle or a bear growling in the forest. I also remember feeling really bad for the others in labour on the unit (and beyond - I'm sure you could hear me from miles away)! I know I wouldn't want to hear screams like that from another laboring woman, especially if I was in early labor (and luckily I didn't), but I just couldn't help it. It's what my body needed to do to get through the pain and get that baby out. I couldn't believe we were about to meet the little human we created! I was also nervous as mostly everything is uncertain and unknown during pregnancy, even the gender of the baby is not guaranteed. I knew we would love this little person no matter what, we already did! And that's all I knew. At 3:18am, after 13 minutes of pushing and screaming, and to be honest, like I was relieving myself, out came our son Lennon. He was a boy, he had 10 fingers and toes, he was relatively healthy despite being 5 weeks early and he was ours - a new human to love no matter boy or girl, 10 fingers or 6, healthy or unhealthy. Our hearts grew a thousand times bigger. We were suddenly parents and a family of three and we haven't looked back since. I asked my mom to get us a lottery ticket that day as we were extremely lucky with everything that had just happened but no prize could top the gift we were given on August 14th, 2015!
The maternity photo shoot was replaced by a newborn one, molds of Lennon’s hand and foot prints replaced the belly cast, the baby shower was postponed for September and was more of a meet and greet and the planned home birth did not go according to plan. As John Lennon sings in his song “Beautiful Boy”, which we often played for my baby bump while I was pregnant, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” and that is exactly what happened with our own beautiful boy: he entered this world as we were busy making other plans - and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Some snaps of the journey: