Finding out I was pregnant was probably the most exciting time in my life, but right after you see that positive sign on the stick you wonder, “What now?” I always wanted to have a natural birth—no drugs, no interventions—and in a perfect world a short labour and delivery like my Mom. She had 4 children, all natural and the longest labour was less than 5 hours from start to crying baby, and the shortest delivery was 1 hour 45min, so naturally I thought this would be a breeze. There was no question about choosing to be with a midwife instead of an OB/Gyn. The one-on-one attention, the fact that they stay with you through it all, the home visits and labouring at home, it all made my decision very easy. I did want to deliver in a hospital though. I must say it was interesting explaining my decision to my family, but after explaining all the perks, they all understood. I’m originally from South Africa and, sad to say, I do not think midwives play a big role there.
I was blessed with an easy pregnancy and I loved being pregnant. We went to a prenatal class over a weekend and I must admit that I felt a bit more nervous afterwards. In one exercise we had to hold onto a piece of ice for about a minute (how long she said a contraction may last) and try 4 different pain deflecting techniques during this minute. And I clearly remember her saying that you can do anything for a minute. All I could think was that this piece of ice is extremely painful to hold and I almost didn’t make it each minute, so how the hell was I going to go through labour? Unfortunately, something else happened that would make that point a potentially moot one.
Part way through my pregnancy, I found out that my baby was breech. I didn’t really know what to think about it at first. My midwives referred me to a great doctor that confirmed the Frank breech position. He gave me a lot of information on what we could do. I did not want to try the aversion method where they try and push/pull the baby in the right position (the doctor gave me a little push and pull at half the pressure and I was in pain for a few days) but I did try the acupuncture and moxa burning to no avail. My baby was apparently very happy being head up and bum down. I also carried very small, so there was very little space for the baby to move. My options were a breach birth or a c-section. I chose a c-section. Some people might say I chose the easy option, but I was honestly scared of a vaginal breech birth, and after the ice episode and a little poke from my doctor I started to think I had zero pain tolerance. This was also before all the research came out touting the minimal risks of vaginal breech births and so the information I had was still that it was a very risky procedure, even though I had a midwife who was fully trained in delivering breech babies vaginally.
The biggest shock came when on a Monday morning in May of 2010 I got a call from the hospital telling me that I was having my baby tomorrow! I can’t begin to describe my excitement. That night I should’ve gone to bed early, but by midnight my husband and I were still hanging up pictures on the walls, something that we had postponed for the longest time. We woke up early the next morning, took a nice long shower and got in the car with our car seat, pillows and bag, ready to meet our baby. I was not nervous at all, just super excited and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. At one stage my husband said I should put up a nervous face for a photo, but I couldn’t, I was too happy.
For anyone who doesn’t know, with a c-section in Canada you wait in a hallway then get taken to a large room with a lot of beds. The nurse gives you a bag for your clothes and your hospital gown and booties. After you change they get you on a bed to check your baby’s heart beat and another quick ultra sound to see if the baby has moved. You have to take Zantac and then wait a little more before they take you into the theatre. At the prenatal class we went through c-sections, but she made it sound very claustrophobic with everyone right at your head, etc. Even though in the class they said it would be claustrophobic it wasn’t. The room was huge and I didn’t notice the people behind me or the people at the bottom of the bed, since the curtain was there. They were nice enough to move the curtain a little lower so it didn’t touch my face, and I didn’t feel claustrophobic. Now there were a lot of people and they were very nice, each one introducing him/herself to me, but all I kept thinking was “I want to see my baby, so can we get on with it?” I don’t think I ever really remembered any of their names!
Because my care started with midwives, I was able to have my midwife with me during the whole experience and she was there for my spinal. Husbands have to wait outside and afterwards I realized why. This is the part that I HATED, getting the spinal. I had to sit on the bed and lean into my midwife’s arms (a nurse if you’re not with a midwife) They explain in great detail what you will experience so you kind of think you know what will happen. The anesthesiologist had a student with him too, so he was showing this student where you should insert the needle and what to do and not to do, all while I was anticipating this jab in my back. When I finally got the injection I could really feel it, and the sensation running down your back is extremely strange. It’s warming and numbing and hard to explain. The part I really didn’t like was how faint I felt. They kept on asking if I was okay, because I was white as a sheet and their voices sounded far away. I knew that if my hubby saw me now he would probably freak out a bit. It takes a while for you to feel “normal” again and then you have a nurse sliding ice blocks down your side to see which areas are numb. It’s really weird losing sensation from your boobs on down and honestly I didn’t like it one bit. They move your body around and you have no control. My midwife was amazing and just kept on talking about anything under the sun to distract me. Amazingly, it kind of worked.
When I was numb enough, the doctor was ready to begin except for one thing… my husband was still outside. They almost forgot to call him back in. He said that the moment he stepped in the door they did the first cut. One thing I didn’t expect was to “feel” so much. No pain, just a lot of pushing and pulling and your whole body moving. It felt like I was going to roll off the table. My husband kept on standing up and looking over the little curtain and I kept on asking if he could see the baby yet. One part I loved was when my son was born they held him up so my husband could see him and announce the sex since it was a surprise. He was so overwhelmed he could barely speak, but eventually he managed to announce that we had a son! We originally wanted my husband to cut the cord with a vaginal birth, but you can’t do that in a c-section, so at least they included him this way.
Everything after that was a blur. My husband followed my son being weighed and measured, then he was bundled up and brought to me to meet him. My midwife stayed next to my side when my husband went with my son. And then took over the camera again and snapped away. All the time I could just hear my boy’s cries and I couldn’t help but smile. I was oblivious to anything happening to my own body at this time. One thing I will never understand is why they put your baby so close to your face. I see them do that on TV too. I can’t see him that close to me. All I could think is how beautiful he was, but I really couldn’t see too clearly (luckily when I saw him again, my beautiful thoughts were confirmed). My midwife asked my husband if he wants to do skin to skin with him and without hesitation he took his shirt off and cuddled with his son. It was beautiful.
Before I knew it, I had my son in my arms and was being rolled into recovery. I have no idea how long I was in there, but it felt like minutes. My midwife helped me to get my son to latch on and to start breast feeding. We were eventually taken to our private room, just the three of us. We stayed in the hospital for 3 nights with nurses coming in and out all times of the day and night. What I really wasn’t prepared for was the jelly legs, no abdominal strength and the pain. It was hard to walk around and stand up straight and even though my son was in a bassinet next to me, I had to ask someone to hand him to me because I couldn’t twist and take him. By the 4th day I was more than ready to go home.
Even though my experience was stress free and everything went like planned, I really hope for a natural birth next time. I did not like the recovery, feeling useless and the long stay in the hospital. C-sections are not fun at all (though less scary than people make them out to be), but it’s the way my boy was born. It doesn’t make me less of a mom or make me love him less, it just confirms what we now know 17 months later – he is a strong-willed kid who does things his own way!