So I know you’re probably expecting this flowery post about a beautiful homebirth with nothing but my holistic-loving doula by my side, in a warm bath with candles and yoga stretches, and essential oils, as I faced the pain of labor au naturel.
Well my friend, that is not my story; most of my labor did not go as planned but I’m not disappointed!
In fact I’ve discovered that my story is just that, my story - full of its ups and downs, its pain, its joy, its hilarious moments (although that could have been the drugs), and mostly the pure joy and beauty at the end of it all, a beautiful little baby Owen Taylor.
So here’s to my attempt to write the birth story you’ll actually read until the end and give mamas-to-be a few things I think they should know!
1. “You’ll know when you know”
People told me that all the time, “you’ll just know when you’re in labor.” Well on February 10th at 7:30am, my contractions were my alarm clock! I told Aaron (who didn’t understand just how serious I was) that THIS WAS IT!
2. Your husband will not necessarily “know when you know”!
Aaron came home and said, “So we’ll leave in a few hours?” I looked at him with an intense blank stare until I said “Uuuuuh…no, like we need to go right now!”
3. Prepare for Strange Coping Mechanisms
Because I woke up with contractions, I felt unable to eat breakfast and despite my attempts, I couldn’t keep any food down. I quickly learned that apparently I manage pain by humming; yes, humming. I was humming Christmas songs out of nowhere, and what I later realized was "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" – I have no idea why!
4. At some point you may either want to lose your mind or laugh uncontrollably
We stood at the waiting desk of the hospital for what seemed like an eternity, surrounded by nurses not paying much attention to us; I wanted to yell “HEY! I’M IN LABOUR!!!” but I bit my tongue.
They finally ushered us into this little “pre-room” waiting room, basically a four bed shared room, with only the privacy of a small curtain.
Enter four pregnant women + their spouses/boyfriends/significant others + one shared bathroom…
Just as I got up to use this only bathroom, one of the significant others got the same idea. And let’s be real here, he wasn’t…
a. In labor
b. Experiencing contractions
c. Connected to monitors
d. Ready to lose his mind, and could have walked down the hall for the regular bathroom a lot easier than any of us!
After waiting several minutes I finally knocked, rather loudly, to which I heard mumbling and finally the door opening. Except as I walked in...OH MY. I don’t need to go into any unnecessary detail here for you to get the picture…as you can expect, I literally almost threw up from the smell. Why oh why!? SO GROSS.
I returned from the bathroom greeted by my hospital lunch.
Gamey beef + queasy stomach + contractions = throwing up. Again.
And then my nurse arrived…
5. Having a nurse that speaks your language is something not to take for granted!
She came in mid-contraction and stood there uncomfortably watching me, until she came closer and rambled a few things in French. To which I apologetically (as usual) replied, “Oh I’m sorry I don’t speak French. Can you please speak in English?”
To which she replied very slowly “My English…is…not good.”
Oh no. This was my other reoccurring pregnancy nightmare!
We struggled to communicate a few sentences for a few minutes.
Me: “Ooooh no. This is not going to work…Is there another nurse that speaks English I can see?”
Nurse: “No, just me”
Me: (motioning to the clock) “When…are…you…done work?”
Nurse: “Two hours.”
After my sweet husband made our request to the charge nurse, they found us an English-speaking nurse! Yay! Point to remember: always ask the charge nurse!
6. Leave your pride at home and (maybe) pick it up later
They say you leave your dignity at the door when you show up to deliver. Uh huh, they are not lying. When the new nurse walked in, I was mid contraction and going to the bathroom - there’s nothing like meeting someone for the first time when you’re completely naked and in pain.
7. When the thought of an epidural enters your mind, there’s no going back (in my experience)
At this point, I had been in pain for about seven hours. And still, with every contraction, I either threw up or was on the verge of it. Not to mention, the nurse was concerned, as baby Owen’s heart beat would drop every time I contracted.
I suddenly was at the pivotal fork in the road. I thought I would never even consider, but... “Do...I get...an epidural?”
As I contemplated my decision, all I could hear echoing in my head was my other new mama friend when she told me “Epidurals like a drrreeeam; It’s like tiny little angels kissing your uterus!”
So there it was. The thing I swore I wasn’t going to do just crossed my mind. And when a thought like that crosses your mind when you’re in the middle of pain and vomiting like that, the struggle is real.
So there I was frantically texting my midwife friend, asking her, “Why was I doing this again? What was I trying to prove? Was I going to hurt the baby in any way by having one?” Having her to reaffirm whatever decision I chose was huge in that moment; it helped to realize I did have a choice and eliminated any shame or feeling like “I failed.”
8. There’s no “failing” in child birthing
Because the truth is exactly what everyone says, the goal is to deliver a healthy baby, there is no “failing.” It’s funny how this has become such a public question so quickly asked, “Did you do it naturally?” as if there is greater merit or accomplishment if you did and almost shame and disapproval if you didn’t. This really shouldn't be.
With that being said, kudos to all the women who have had a home birth or done things naturally in a hospital, you’ll remain my heroes! But let me also say there shouldn’t be any failure felt by those who haven’t. I can tell you I still felt every push and pain and it was still a lot of work and I did it, I birthed a precious little human!! That is accomplishment enough for me!
So with that, I said “Give me the drugs!”
And it’s true…life felt like a beautiful and funny dream after that! I know a million ridiculous things came out of my mouth over the next four hours, most of which I can’t fully remember…all I remember was using a lot of emoticons while (to their surprise) texting my friends! To top it off, my vomiting completely stopped and Owen’s heart rate also improved!
So there it is, no shame, I took the drugs and I’m glad I did!
9. Don’t eat Jell-o right before you give birth
Seems obvious, right? But because of my nausea I hadn’t eaten anything all day but now that I took the epidural I wasn’t allowed to eat anything; I was so hungry! The nurses said I could eat a liquid diet. So suddenly, I was wolfing down vegetable broth and Jell-O, lots and lots of Jell-O. The nurse even went to hunt me down extra Jello-0!
Unfortunately, little did I know that I was about to quickly enter into the intense and final part of labor. So here I was, the last half an hour of delivery, full of Jell-O and having heartburn in-between my pushes! Heartburn right until the end! I was literally burping myself and then intense pushing, back to back. I laughed with my favorite nurse and said “I think it’s the Jell-O!”
10. You will get through it!
I was surrounded by nurses, some whose voices were way too intense for me. The “PUSH! YOU CAN DO THIS! PUSH AGAIN” were not my style. I finally said to my favorite nurse, Jo, who had the most soothing voice in the world, “I like your voice, yours is relaxing.” My nice way of saying, please keep that other nurse away from me! Thankfully it was her that coached me through the final moments.
After an intense 26 minutes, my little man was out, cleaned up, and lying on my chest. I’ll never forget those first moments; he literally turned his head upward to look at me with those gorgeous eyes. That moment is forever engraved in my heart. Aaron cut the cord and we spent the next hour and a half, lying with him, holding him skin to skin. It was beautiful; it was precious. It was so surreal and still is many days.
11. It’s all more than worth it
In the end, it wasn’t having a perfectly followed birth plan that mattered, it was holding that little boy for the first time. It was becoming a mom. It was becoming parents together. It was so much more than what I did or didn’t do during labor. It was my story. It was our story. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.