Before I get started and let you into probably one of the most intimate and personal experiences one can have in life, let me first introduce myself. My name is Michelle and I’m a 28 year old first time, working mama that works as a project manager for Mom Suite, I’m a proud mama to a beautiful baby girl named Lily who is currently 6 months and 2 weeks old. That’s right, I’m in the thick of it right here with you other mamas between teething, diaper blow outs and being desperately sleep deprived.
I want to share this story with you all because I know when I was pregnant I spent countless nights on the internet looking for unedited, real, raw birth stories (not the beautiful serene rose-tinted-glasses versions) and let’s just say I came up short. I don’t want that to be the case for any mamas out there who are wondering what it’s really going to be like and that’s why we’re here – to share, guide and support each other!
So first things first in my birth story – finding out we were pregnant was definitely a BIG surprise (I don’t think people use the term “accident” anymore, right?) Being totally unprepared with exactly zero friends with babies, we started as one does by learning things on the internet, buying books and then finally making the wise choice to attend an antenatal class to bulk up on our limited baby knowledge. This was the BEST decision we could’ve made because, seriously, we were clueless…most days we still are…
Around 7 months in we finally felt like experts. We had done all the labour practice exercises, read the books, knew practically every parent blog on youtube, we chose to have a Doula support us during pregnancy and birth, our hospital bags were packed and our birth plan was printed out. We knew exactly what was going to happen – we were going to have an all-natural, unmedicated birth.
Now let’s just all take a minute and laugh because as any new parent will know, things don’t always go according to plan especially when there’s a baby involved. I ended up going 2 full weeks past my due date (which felt like 7 years and was NOT part of my birth plan) so I was scheduled to be induced on a Tuesday morning at 5am. Let me tell you, I was terrified! I had heard so many horror stories about induction and the pain and harshness of the contractions and knew that even with the induction there may even be a chance of going through all that pain and effort only to have it end up in a c-section. So there we have it – bye-bye natural birth plan! In a fit of severe self-pity I threw away my perfectly planned and printed out birth plan.
My partner, Chris, dropped me off at the hospital at 4pm on Monday afternoon to get settled in and mentally prepare for what was to come the next day. Now wouldn’t luck just have it, 2 hours after being dropped off…guess who started having all natural contractions… HINT, it’s the girl who threw out her birth plan!!
So there I was, in the hospital contracting away and I couldn’t have been more excited! Partly because this meant no more induction but mainly because I knew this was it – it was finally happening and I could basically see the finish line after what had been a marathon of a pregnancy and soon I was gonna get my chubby cheeked little trophy. I was feeling pumped.
Well, that excitement lasted all of 5 minutes because it was 7pm and the maternity ward was now closed to outsiders and since I was “only in early labour” I would have to tough it out on my own until I was 4cm dilated (now just remember – this was just my experience and does not mean it’s what is going to happen at your hospital mama.)
This was sad news but I knew I was going to get to 4cm within the hour, piece of cake. At this stage I had just had a full meal, I slept the night before, I was excited and felt energized, and the contractions felt like very intense period cramps but were very manageable and they only came along every 15 to 20 minutes and lasted for maybe a minute or two. So there I was squat-walking up and down the corridors feeling like each step brought me at least a half cm closer to my 4cm goal. This was the first of many lies I was about to tell myself.
Six hours, approximately 10,000 steps and three very uncomfortable cervical examinations later, I was sure that this was gonna be it. I was being placed on a fetal monitor every 2 hours and by now my contractions were about 7 to 8 minutes apart and although they were painful it was still manageable with some deep breathing and fist clutching. I was now getting my 4th exam to check dilation (I won’t lie, for me these exams were very uncomfortable because let’s face it, someone’s shoving their hand up your vagina and although it’s quick, you still feel it) and looking to hear the good news of how far I’ve come only to hear that after all that, I was only 1cm.
This is where my positivity and strength started to crumble. It was 4am, I was alone, I was in pain and apparently I was gonna be feeling like this for at least another day. I went to the bathroom to wash the tears off my face and relieve my over full bladder, and as I sat down a glob of blood tinged mucus plonked into the water. That’s when the rational side of me decided that she no longer needed to hang around, and it was time for a full scale emotional breakdown. Even though mentally I knew and had learned that this was me passing my mucus plus, my brain of course told me I must be dying and everything is going terribly terribly wrong. Whether it was this emotional shift or just the passing of time from here on out, being in labour started to really suck and I was no longer having a good time.
My long walks in the corridors felt like they had happened weeks rather than hours ago and now when a contraction came along, it ripped through all the way from my neck down to my legs. I couldn’t talk or breathe through it and I found myself curled over the side of the bed just holding on waiting for it to pass. Here’s the good news though mama – as tough as the contractions can be, they do pass and you get a break. A minute or two of deep, radiating pain and then, as if by the flick of a switch, you feel normal and the pain completely disappears.
Tuesday morning at 8am my savior arrived. I was in the middle of another agonizing session of being stuck in the bed, strapped to the fetal monitor and getting another cervical exam when my Doula’s smiling face turned the corner. I balled like a little girl when she hugged me, just knowing that someone was here and could hold my hand was everything I needed at that stage to get through this. From here, even though things didn’t get easier, I felt stronger. It was like the passing of time changed and I felt like I had been going through this for days but in reality it had only been 12 hours by now. We had our own little routine where we would sit on the bed chatting like old friends and then my body would stiffen and I would fall silent triggering her to know a contraction had arrived. I spent most of that morning curled over the side of the bed as my Doula massaged my back or squeezed my hips till the contraction passed (if you haven’t heard of this, go read up on hip squeezes – it was the only thing that offered me some pain relief) and by now I needed help getting to and from the bathroom as the pressure was immense. Now to each their own on how they want to give birth but for me having my Doula – my own personal cheerleader, masseuse and knowledgeable expert – right there holding my hand was without a doubt a necessity, especially since my partner was not allowed in yet and I knew within myself I just didn’t want to be alone at this point.
My next cervical exam came and as I steeled myself for the news that I had only progressed maybe another centimeter, my squeal of excitement couldn’t be contained when the nurse said I was at 4cm. It was like an angel chorus was singing in the background. I did it!! I got where I needed to be, and now my amazing boyfriend could come so that I could squeeze all the blood from his limbs for being a part of the reason that I was in pain. Joy.
After Chris’ arrival, as much as I tried to remember every moment for future telling’s of this story, there are some lapses in my memory whether the pain blocked it out or because time just swirled into one big never-ending loop. I don’t know, but what I do know is that the 7 hours that followed were damned hard. I was exhausted and hungry but also nauseous and I was throwing up anything I tried to eat or drink. The contractions were now only a few minutes apart, I was progressing faster and relief now came from a soaking tub – the hot water and feeling of floating was like magic to my tired body.
I have this vague memory of when the doctor came around to check in with me and she asked if I still wanted to do this naturally and unmedicated. My heart just stopped – FINALLY I didn’t have to suffer like this anymore! But as I was about to say, “Yes give me the drugs!”, Chris turns to me all sparkly eyed, nodding and smiling. Did his stupid face not understand that I was tired and this woman was offering me a reprieve? I wanted to punch him right between the legs. Nonetheless, I politely nodded as a little tear rolled down my cheek.
Now when I first arrived all the nurses told me the main thing to do is push when we tell you to push and if you feel like it’s time to start pushing then tell us. Finally, after 18 hours, I felt like it was my time to start pushing. It feels like the pressure just becomes so unbearable, like a bowling ball is sitting between your legs and you just need to get it out as soon as possible by any means necessary.
My water hadn’t naturally broken so the nurses had to insert what looked like a crocheting needle to rupture the membranes and it felt like I had wet the bed. Then the pushing started. You’d think it would feel good to finally get here, it did not. I was trying to push out a person! My hips felt like they were locking in place and it felt like there was no possible way that a baby could fit through. I felt like I had started to become a different person – I was grunting and groaning, I felt almost primal instincts and sometimes I would get on all fours, groaning and kicking at the end of the bed. Other times I just let out random bursts of guttural noises as I tried to find a comfortable pushing position. There was an honest minute where there was no one else in the room and I saw the tray of surgical instruments and thought to myself (in an obvious moment of insanity) that I could just grab that scalpel and cut this baby out right now, I’d watched Grey’s Anatomy. Luckily they all returned swiftly.
I was surrounded by my partner holding my hand on the left (I did not want him in view of the destruction zone) my doula at the foot of the bed and the 2 midwives next to her. By now all I knew was I wanted this over (apparently right before I had started pushing I got up off the bed and told everyone that I was done and was going home now, we could try again later – I don’t even remember this). Everyone kept yelling “one more push, one more push” and I knew they were lying because it had already been about 17 pushes and I still didn’t see a baby anywhere. I don’t know what was stretched thinner – my patience or my perineum.
Then Chris and my Doula came into view with serious faces. They told me that my baby needed me right now, they could see her head and she needed to get out now and that I had to be strong and do this for her. I started pushing again and then I felt it…the ring of fire… (not just a catchy Johnny Cash reference). It felt like I was being ripped open like a Christmas present as the burning sensation radiated throughout my body and I had been actively pushing for almost an hour. In this moment I remembered a story where someone had said becoming a mother means a piece of you has to die so that you can be reborn to become the strong mother that you need to be. That’s exactly how it felt, like the weaker parts of me had died and then it just stopped as my daughters head and shoulders pushed through and the rest of her body easily slid out.
There are not really any words to describe that moment. It was like time had stopped and all the pain was gone in an instant – everything stood still and nothing in my entire life up until this moment had mattered. My daughter was here and she was perfect, everything was perfect.
As perfect as everything felt, she had been born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, which meant that Chris couldn’t cut the cord as he had so been hoping to do. They quickly whisked her to the other end of the room to tend to her, and as they cut the cord a squirt of blood flew about 3m across the room and hit Chris in the face (you’ll actually see the blood on his face in our first picture together) so I guess he did have a part in it after all. All of this took less than a minute before she was in my arms. I did it. I became a mama.
In the end we ended up having the birth we wanted. It was all-natural with no interventions and our little Lily was perfect and healthy. Despite the tough parts and the pain, I would do it again 100 times over, because as soon as it was done I instantly thought “wow, I could definitely do this again some day” – and that’s how nature tricks us into becoming mamas again! But all jokes aside, giving birth is absolutely beautiful no matter how it happens as long as you remember that it’s YOUR birth and YOUR story mama!
This is us with our beautiful little 6 month old Lily