I have been wanting to write the story of Finn’s birth for some time- I don’t get too down and dirty with the details, but enough for those who wish to know how beautiful the experience was!
I think I should start off my birth story with talking about my expectation for the birth. After many months of a joyful easy pregnancy I really believed that the birth would also be so- joyful, easy, and most importantly a pain-free experience. I had in my mind for a long time that birth would just BE, and that to use words like ‘pain’ only encouraged my mind to attach a negative expectation to what kind of time I was going to have- and I truly expected to have a pain-free birth! What do I mean by that? Well, I anticipated staying on the bright side of the line- that I could direct the experience of my body by giving it positive energy, with love and smiling and laughing. That I could, as Ina May Gaskin writes about, observe the contractions (rushes) as intense experiences that require the utmost attention. I didn’t do anything special to prepare myself for this, but I held firmly in my mind throughout my pregnancy that my birth would be powerful, fun, and a really pleasurable experience… And it was!
So here’s the story of what happened:
On the Monday or Tuesday of that week I was having a conversation with a friend about feeling ‘ready’- she was wondering if I had got to that point yet in the pregnancy, wanting it over? being ‘ready’ to meet the baby? I honestly hadn’t ever got to that point, even at the biggest size of 39 weeks, I still enjoying it so much- all the attention and care that pregnancy garners, the looks and smiles and warm wishes from strangers. Never in my life had I felt so cared for, so looked upon with love by my world… It was such a warm feeling I’ll never forget. Anyway, I knew Dustin had a big meeting on Friday morning, and I had my last session of my art group on the Friday, so I jokingly said to the friend- well if I can just get through Friday’s meetings!
Well, Friday arrived, and I felt just the same as all days before. I headed off for my meeting at 10am, had a great time- the gals made a mothering mobile for me, with the most beautiful intentions and wishes attached to each decoration… I was planning to have lunch with a friend at 1pm, so I got up to leave around 12:45, took one step and SPLOOSH- there went my water! I was in such shock! I just started yelling “I think my water broke! I’m leaking all over!” All the ladies were so excited, cheering and yelling and holding my hands, it was like some welcome to motherhood celebration- “YEAH! It’ll be wonderful! You’re going to meet your baby so soon!!” I felt so loved! And I was amazed at how much water came out- it just kept leaking every time I stood up… I headed to the bathroom with garbage bags, spare clothes, paper towels, where I stood trying to clean up as best I could. Every time I talked, more water leaked out. Every time I took a step, or giggled… WATER! One of the daughters of the group, 10 year old Saphren, came to check on me in the WC- she stood there telling me how exciting it was that I was going to have a halloween baby! And that it would be so wonderful to give birth! (I later found out from her mum that she wants to be a midwife when she grows up! can you imagine from a 10 year old!? I was in love with this girl) I called Dustin to come pick up the car, and in the meantime, I was wrapped up and one of the gals drove me home. Dustin met me there around 2:30. Other than leaking all over, I didn’t have any indication of contractions at all- was this baby coming today? The midwife arrived at 3:00ish…
Early in the pregnancy I tested positive for GBS (Group B Strep, a type of bacteria found in about 1/4 of all women- not a big deal for mama, but can cause some serious complications for baby if they catch it), which means that once my water broke I needed to be administered antibiotics every 4 hours until the baby was born. And if I was at home having the baby, then I needed to be into active pushing labour by hour 18 or I needed to be transferred ot the hospital for intervention. The idea with the timeline and antibiotics is to prevent the baby from contracting the GBS on the way out of the birth canal, and the longer the baby is still inside after the water broke, the greater chance of them catching it…. So I knew from that 1pm moment, I had 18 hours- 7:00am the next morning- or I’d end up heading to the hospital. The antibiotics could be administered at home by the midwife, but the trick was finding a vein to put a tap into. So at 3:30pm, midwife trying to put in an IV, but unfortunately unsuccessful, so off we headed to the hospital just to get an IV put in, and my first round of antibiotics given, finally! around 6:00pm. We also met Renee there, my doula/accupuncturist, and she did some points to help speed up labour. I was given a stretch and sweep (yowza, what an accurate name), and found to only be about 2 cm dilated, with contractions about every 10-15 min apart… slow moving!
We headed home, stopping on the way to get some ingredients for a magical mystery drink- Verbina coctail?- that is shown to have good results in speeding up labour. We got home, and started setting up the house for our slowly progressing labour and soon to be baby! I made some phone calls, and just watched the clock as the contractions slowly gained in speed- by the time the midwife came back at 10:00pm for the next round of Antibiotics, I was about 5 min apart, and very quickly moved to about 3 min apart while she was giving me my IV. Another check revealed only about 3/4 cm advanced… tick tick tick… Our doula’s partner, Steffi, arrived about that time to help out. Renee had been at a birth for the past 3 days, so Steffi took over for our labour. I fell right into a great sync with her, labouring upstairs on the toilet, in the hallway, in the bedroom… It was around 11:30pm or so, with contractions rushing over me, standing in the hallway, Steffi encouraging me through, I felt a shift in my awareness- I remembered the kind of birth I wanted, and I realized I was heading down the wrong road- I was getting caught up in ‘pain!’ of the contractions, instead of finding the way to ‘integrate the rushes’ as Ina May Gaskin talks about. In the break between contractions, I told Steffi I was going to try something different in the next few, see how it would feel… So as it came on, I said to the rush- “I love you, welcome to my body, this feels so good, I love you!” over and over. It was so amazing, the shift happened immediately, and I put my arms up in the air and welcomed the next rush, one after the next, to the point where I was feeling quite ecstatic in the joy of it. It was so far from pain, an experience of bliss, even.
This went on for the next few hours, and when 3:00am rolled around for my next antibiotics and check of dialation, I was not opening as quickly as I needed to be- my midwife commented after she checked me the next time that I was doing a little ‘too good’ of a job easing my way through the labour- haha! I was still only at 4-5cm dialated at this point! Which meant that I needed to move ahead quickly in labour, or I would have to think about transferring to the hospital in the next hour or so. (remember that 7am magic hour? approaching quickly!) I heard her words and took them to heart- and felt so strongly about having that baby at home! It was 3:30am, I was laying on the futon, contractions rushing over me stronger and stronger- and I said out loud “I’m having this baby by 7:00”, very calm and serious as I’ve ever been about anything. The midwife smiled and said we’ll check back in an hour or so… and they carried on preparing their things… I was a little oblivious at this point to the other activities in the house, all I knew was that Dustin was on my one side, and Steffi on the other. Steffi and I agreed that she could place more accupuncture points, to help move me along if possible. So around 4:00am, I rolled over and she placed a few needles, a couple in my sacrum, and in my foot?, and within a matter of minutes I was rocking and rolling into labour land- I said that through a few contractions “rock and roll! Here we go!” It felt great to be diving in so deeply.
I was VERY vocal all the way through my labour, with a few key phrases just repeating over and over “I love this feeling! Go deeper, open wider!…” Throughout the labour, at different times, I experienced at least 5 or 6 contractions as the most delicious feelings I have ever felt, I felt like I could see this golden light rushing over my body, I’d have my arms raised high in the air welcoming the feeling, vibrations, oh it was nearly orgasmic. The most intense happened in the last couple hours of this labouring… so I was rock and rolling into labour, deeper and deeper, and then I could feel the big sensation of pushing just rumble through my body, that deep deep pressure, that starts at the back of your throat, and runs down your spine, and hits the uterus, and you just can’t help but give a push. I just started yelling “i’m feeling pushy!” and the midwife laughed and said that was a very good thing, but to just breath through those feelings for now. That went on for a while, until about 6:00am I was ready (yeah finally!) to get into the warm waters of the birthing pool. It was so welcoming! I could feel my body instantly relax as soon as I climbed in- I could feel myself ready for bringing out the baby now, like I found the right ‘environment’ to give birth! haha!
Oh- I forgot to mention the rests in between the contractions. All through the labour, I’d have these nice long breaks, several minutes each, where I could rest and recuperate, look around the room, feel a relief. It was so golden, each was a gift, and I know I said that many many times “what a gift this break is, I am ready for more”…
So then into the pool, pushy pushy! The midwife did another check, and I was already to 9cm!! And the head was starting to show! I was delighted! We were gonna have this baby at home!! Grace said that the baby needed to drop more, needed to tuck in their chin and come down further. After that with each contraction I kept saying to the baby “tuck and roll little baby! Tuck and roll! We are so excited to meet you! You can come down now!” Which had all the ladies laughing, for sure. The last hour was the most intense, as he was emerging slowly- as Grace put it- one step forward, two steps back… over and over and over as the baby’s head slowly pushes its way down the canal.
With a little help from Grace I got to 10cm and full open with room for the baby’s head to drop down. THAT was frickin intense, her giving me a stretch! Up to that point, it was the most intense feeling! Then the head kept dropping, and I would reach down and slowly feel the top of baby’s head. I was always amazed that he wasn’t out further than he was- it felt like I was stretched SO far open! But I had a long way to go. I was so anxious to meet baby, and to have the pushing part done. That was the most difficult part, to keep my head and heart in the joyful place, and not cross over into fear or pain. I heard Grace say “this is very safe, Dori”, so that became my little mantra after that “this is safe, I am safe, baby is safe” with each contraction- and the women all started to affirm it over and over, too. They could see I was struggling a bit with this last bit.
Pushing was unlike anything else I have ever experienced. I felt like my head might explode, there was nowhere else to go, every single ounce of energy and attention HAD to be channeled into that very tender very explosive part of the body, and feel the baby emerging, minute by minute, millimetre by millimetre. When it came time for that last hour or so of really pushing, I had to pull all my breath in, and when it was time to push- to PUSH with my breath held strong in my chest, not to breath past the pushing feeling like I has been doing up to that point. Baby’s head would sit there, pressing open wide my vagina, stretching a muscle to the maximum that has never been stretched like that before. It was then that my head felt like exploding. I just wanted to PUSH baby out! At one point someone made a joke during one of the rests between contractions- and I laughed deeply- Grace said “that was good! baby moved down a bit”, and Dustin reminded me that I wanted to laugh this baby out- Oh Yeah! I had a dream early in my pregnancy that I gave birth laughing! So I started to laugh deeply as the contractions came on, and it was perfect, the laughter engages the cervix, uterine, stomach muscles in the most perfect birthing way- and out he came into the world with mama- ha ha ha!- laughing and pushing the way out, (almost too fast! I did tear a little bit) that last bit as his head was coming it’s last distance, I honestly didn’t know which side was up- my whole body was in explosive attention, all my cells were on fire, and I just had to PUSH! Dustin’s hand was down in the water, he was saying “I can feel baby!” I felt the baby’s head, too, it was good way to connect to the experience- I was birthing a baby! Don’t forget the reason for all of this! And then Push Push Push (HAHAHA!!)! Out came the head WOWOWOWOWOW, then after that, a little more push, the shoulders slid free and baby came shooting out into Dustin’s (and Grace’s) waiting hands. It was 7:56am! The baby was in the water for a moment, Grace said to reach down and take hold of your baby- I leaned forward and brought him out of the water, and onto my stomach, and we wrestled with the blue hairy little creature, watching him take his first breath, trying not to pull too hard, with the umbilical cord to navigate. There was a camera flash going off (thank goodness!). And there he was, on my belly, all of a sudden HOLLARING!, letting the world know he arrived.
And all I could say was “I had a baby! It’s a baby!” which seemed to make everyone laugh- of course it was a baby! What kind of baby? It took us a minute of staring at him in awe to finally get the courage to look between his legs and discover he was a little boy. “Look at the size of his nutsack!” I yelled- more laughter! I looked up to see the sun had risen over the birthing pool, clear blue skies, with the leaves of the maple tree brilliant orange above us in the pool… after the evening of rain, lightly tapping a soft rhythm on to the skylight, it was such a surprise to see the sun shining- a gift!
So after a bit of time the cord was cut by Dustin, Finn was lifted off of me, and Dustin got to take him while they maneuvered me out of the tub onto the futon bed to birth the placenta- which was pretty ‘easy’ after birthing the baby. And then we tried nursing for the first time. It was very awkward lying down, birthing a placenta, and trying to nurse all at the same time (how the hell?) but I think he managed to latch on a bit right away- (we were at it again soon upstairs in bed, after I had a quick little shower, where he latched like a pro with those wide lips and a very hungry suck).
But even with all the feelings of awe and amazement, shock and joy of those first few minutes, then first few hours after everyone left and we settled into bed, I honestly didn’t feel a huge rush of LOVE like I anticipated I might. Looking back, I realize that we were two strangers in a strange new land that a chance encounter between an egg and a sperm a few months before had brought us to this moment of him, fresh and new, wet and bloody, screaming and fists flying… i didn’t know him, and he sure as hell didn’t know me… it definitely wasn’t the glorious ‘well hello there’ kind of moment I anticipated- for some reason I thought I might recognize him when he came out of me- that he might look like one of us, or one of our relatives (I dreamed he looked like my brother Dan, and for my entire pregnancy I secretly hoped he would).. but he was just him. Finn himself and no other, and I didn’t recognize him yet as my dearly beloved.
But then our life together began. The next 2 days were glowing post-birth still hormonal bliss and joy, (before I found out about my low milk supply and the really hard times began for the next couple weeks) and just a note about the love. It was a day after his birth when I got up to go to the bathroom, and came back into the room and saw him laying there on the bed, sleeping, when I was hit with the most intense feeling of LOVE, as if God had dropped a grenade down my throat. It was a feeling that went straight to my guts, and out the back of my head, vibrating through my scalp, and curling my toes… I just started sobbing in sheer LOVE! I put my face right up next to him, breathing in that newborn smell, he is the greatest gift I’ve ever received- He is my son, I am his mother, and it is each of us that made each other this way. My son! Oh I get it now, what other mothers have always said- you will be surprised at the size of your heart when your baby gets into it.
And that’s how I brought Finn into the world, with the help of some really spectacular people- Dearest Dustin, my hero and strength through the whole shebang, who listened to me and to his intuition to follow my needs just right, all night…
To Commercial Drive Midwifes- present at birth: Grace Brinkman, first attending midwife, Ashely, student midwife in training, Lindsay Tabah, second attending midwife- the birth flowed, and so did the laughter- and that was my dream!
And Corina Pautler, Grace, Lindsay and Ashely, who came to check on us almost daily after Finn’s birth for several days, guiding our unsure steps and holding our sensitive hearts in their hands- we have so much love for these women!!
And to Acumamas Doula and Acupuncture- Renee Taylor and Steffi Orta!! Two really spectacular women, who helped us achieve the home birth dream, with their magical needles and gorgeous energy. They both are so special!!