To kickoff the start of this blog, I’d like to share my journey bringing baby June into the world. I reflect on June’s birth every day, and all of the big and little moments that took place. I’ll preface her birth by saying that pregnancy was not easy for me, which I will save for another post. To cope, I found myself reading other women’s pregnancy and birth stories. I’ll also preface June’s Birth Story by saying that my partner and I didn’t end up finding out the gender (June had her legs crossed at her 22 week ultrasound!). I decided to respect this and wait it out, which ended up being the best surprise.
On June 19, a week before my official due date, I woke up in the morning with mild cramps that were spaced apart by about 8-10 minutes. In the days leading up to this, I had felt lightheaded, and also noticed that my baby bump had dropped. I had also felt baby slowly moving down over the past few weeks, so I thought maybe she/he was just moving around. I was skeptical however, as I had been forewarned that many first time mothers experience ‘false labour’, and I had been feeling Braxton Hicks since month seven. I had also been told that first time Mama’s often go beyond their due date. It was the timing of the cramps that made me think that I was starting early labour, and I eagerly timed them while resting in bed. I texted my Mum and my Birth Doula, who was on her way that day from Vancouver, to let them know I was experiencing mild cramping. My Mum was ready in that moment to run down to Helijet from her office in downtown Vancouver, but I told her to wait until after I showered and rested for a little while. By the early afternoon, I trusted my instinct and told my Mum to head on over. She had been bringing her suitcase to work every morning in preparation for “the call”.
The mild cramps continued into the evening and the pain was manageable, to the point where I was sure it wasn’t actual labour. I ate dinner with my family, and went to bed early. Before I slept, my Doula massaged my belly which helped me to relax. Just before we turned the lights off, my partner made me laugh really hard, and then things really started to ramp up. I stayed in bed for an hour attempting to coach myself through the increasing contractions and to start to prepare myself for what was to come. My mantra throughout my pregnancy was my baby is safe and healthy and my body knows what to do. I continued to meditate on this throughout my labour. My Mum, who had arrived earlier in the evening, was staying in our guest room. I crawled into bed with her to let her know that the ‘cramps’ had turned into contractions. She went to wake up my Doula, who was also staying with us. My Mum and Doula really honoured my Birth Plan, which I will also share another day in a post. They followed my suggestions for helping me cope during early labour, so they ran me a bath to help manage the growing intensity of the contractions. I didn’t last very long in the bath and had trouble even standing up during a contraction, so I paged my midwife team at Old City Midwives to see if I could be assessed. My Mum and Doula woke up my partner, I packed the last few items in my hospital bag, and we made our way to the hospital at 1:00 a.m.
When we arrived in the Perinatal Unit at the Nanaimo General Hospital, I was assessed by my midwife. She let me know that I was only 1 cm dilated, which was so disappointing to hear. You have to be at least 4 cm dilated to be admitted, so I was encouraged to go home and rest. I accepted some morphine and went home to try and get some sleep. I slept from 3:00 a.m until around 10:30 a.m on June 20, waking up intermittently, but not overly bothered by the contractions. I didn’t have an appetite at all the next day, so I just rested on the couch and watched Netflix while my Doula brought me electrolytes. I had another bath and used Kalkáy Wild Rose Bath Salts by Sḵwálwen Botanicals, an Indigenous skincare company. I am certain that this also got things moving for me. My Mum, partner and Doula and I ordered some Vietnamese food, and after a few bites, I could no longer speak or stand during a contraction. I paged my midwife team again at 2:30 p.m, and let them know we were headed back to the hospital. I was assessed at 6 cm dilated and was admitted right away. I cried quietly and had my eyes closed until I was offered some gas, which really took the edge off. It also helped me cope with the epidural, which allowed me to rest and gather strength for the birth. Unfortunately, the epidural increased my heart rate which elevated the baby’s heart rate as well. My Doula was instrumental in this moment (and for many other moments during June’s birth) as the midwife and nurse had left the room. My Doula, who is also a midwifery student at UBC, was able to see that something wasn’t right on the monitor, and went to get the midwife and anesthesiologist. I was assured that I would be okay, however there was a bit of concern around baby’s heartbeat.
Following the epidural, I was able to rest from 6 cm – 10 cm. I didn’t feel a lot during this time and was able to speak with my Granny on the phone and joke around with my Mum and partner. At 8:00 p.m, my midwife broke my water and let me know it was time to start pushing. I had a difficult time pushing because of the epidural – I couldn’t feel where to push. I had limited feeling, and was encouraged to try different positions to make pushing easier for me. The contractions intensified and I felt a lot of pressure. I asked to take a few breaks so I could catch my breath and focus. During this time, I closed my eyes and visualized my baby coming out. I spoke to baby in my mind and ran my fingers up and down my belly to assure baby that we were going to be okay. After an hour of pushing, baby’s head was born. My partner got into position to catch the baby, and after one more big push, baby was out and on my chest. I remember saying ‘Hi my baby!’ over and over again. We stared at each other, and I encouraged baby to cry. The first face I saw was my Dads, as her big dark eyes blinked and starred into mine. In the meantime, my Mum said ‘well, is it a girl or a boy’!?. My partner grabbed baby’s leg and lifted them apart. IT’S A GIRL! After a few beautiful and surreal moments of locking eyes with my daughter, she still hadn’t cried. Her cord was cut, and she was taken to be assessed by the pediatrician beside my bed. I didn’t take my eyes off of her while she was surrounded by the pediatrician, our nurse and a few other people supporting her. I was told that she needed to be taken to the NICU. My birth plan indicated that if my baby needed to be taken from me, I wanted my partner to go with him or her and not leave their side. My partner went with baby, and I was able to kiss her goodbye. I was assured that no one would hold her until I could, which was very important to me. As she was wheeled away, I knew that she was going to be okay.
After June was brought to the NICU, I was coached by my midwife on how to begin breastfeeding my daughter. I stayed in the hospital room with my Mum, doula and in-laws until my partner came to bring me to the NICU in a wheelchair. He was so excited and emotional. I saw my daughter, eyes wide open, looking around the room and opening and closing her little fists. I was able to hold her and talk to her, although she had many cords attached to her and the tiniest oxygen mask.
June and I spent four days in the hospital after she was born. She stayed in the NICU for two days, and then we were encouraged to stay longer as she was developing jaundice. We were so desperate to go home and sleep in our own bed. When we were finally given the go ahead, we left the hospital and came home to a clean house, thanks to my Mum and doula. We had left in such a hurry to get to the hospital, and they insured that June’s first time in our Blue House was perfect. We popped some bubbly and I slow danced with my baby in the living room to Sweet Baby James by James Taylor. My sweet little girl – my June was home.