I woke up on Tuesday, April 21 with a very light period cramp feeling. More than two weeks earlier I had some false labor contractions, so I knew not to get my hopes up, but to just observe. I was 3 days past my due date; somewhere I never thought I would be after our first two children. Penelope was born 41 days early, and Elliot 11 days early. Often you read about each child coming earlier than the last. This was a stat that gave me anxiety in both pregnancies after Penelope. Lucky for me, that stat didn't apply to me.
Later that morning I went to my 40 week midwife appointment. Keep in mind these are Covid times. All clients are being seen as minimally as possible, but the 40 week appointment is an important one to hear the baby and make sure everything is safe and ready to go before birth. No one was in the clinic. Hand sanitizing, lysol wiping, mask wearing (both me and my midwife). I asked her to give me a cervical sweep to see if we could get things moving as I was past my due date, she said there were other women more pregnant that needed to be 'swept' first. Luckily, she still checked to see how I was doing down there. I was happy to find out I was 2cm dilated. That's what the cramping had done, it started to open my cervix. Yay! She said that is good, but it could still be days and days. Now I needed to get contractions to see further progress.
I went home, and my mom came by shortly after. It was one of the most beautiful days of the year at that point. We sat outside and my mom said she thinks things will start to happen soon. I felt really good. Strong, happy and energized. Some of the days before I felt impatient, anxious, low, and even frustrated. Looking back, I understand why Gemini waited for a beautiful day and a happy mom to enter the world. With the good energy and high vibes flowing, I went for the longest walk I'd been on in months around 2:30 PM. I listened to my most favourite music. Lots of 90s, barre music, and songs from my childhood to keep my spirits and energy high. The sun beamed. I walked with a heavier step, trying to lower the baby. When I would feel a small rush (I referred to them as rushes or waves - in hypnobirth they talk about the power of language to change how things feel – ‘rush’ to replace contraction) I would visualize and say 'open open open, down, down, down'. I'd imagine my cervix opening like melting butter easily to 10 cm. I would open my hands past 10 cm at the same time, helping everything be aligned and open. I felt amazing. I thought ‘this is a great day to come’, but I released expectations. I'd encourage baby and tell them they are doing a great job and that their siblings are so excited to meet them. I felt a strong connection to her. I felt how strong she was, and knew we were going to have a really good birth.
After an hour and a bit of walking, Mark brought the kids out to join for the walk. No offence to them but they were distracting me and taking me away from my vibe and my focus. I said I wanted to keep walking and staying in my zone where I felt I could progress. At this point I was walking around our cul-de-sac slowly with intense focus, and stopping when a rush would come. I'd close my eyes and focus on my open/down mantra. By 4:30 PM I told Mark to get my dad to come get the kids. I didn't feel like I could confirm labor was really happening, but it would help to focus if I didn't have to take care of the kids. I kept walking the block and my dad came in an hour to get the kids. I made a peanut butter banana chocolate milkshake and we called the midwife at 6 pm. She said to wait till things felt more intense. Shortly after I got in the bath. I turned on my hypnobirth affirmations track on the speaker. Had very dim lights, and just went into a calm peaceful state. Breathing through rushes, they were really mild, but I felt like things were still going in the right direction. Mark was hustling around the house. Prepping last minutes additions to the hospital bag, tidying up and making sure we were ready for home or hospital. I could tell he was excited and wanting to check in with me lots, but also to give me space and let me stay in my zone. This was helpful. Things started to feel more intense. I waited until I had 4 intense ones in a row, around 8PM, and we called the midwife over. She arrived around 9PM. I appreciated her quiet, calm energy. She listened to the baby with the doppler – baby’s heartrate was always reassuring and in a great zone. Then the midwife checked my cervix length. In both my other births I got checked at a point in labor that felt very very hard - where I felt like I needed relief, both times I felt like I was very close to the finish line, and both times I was only 4cm. Each time was really defeating. The first led to an epidural, and the second I took morphine. Both times I stayed at that painful and distant 4cm. So this time with Gemini, my expectations were really low. Especially because it didn't seem too bad with the hypnobirth tracks and breathing. She checked me and I was 5-6 cm. I was shocked. And pumped! I breezed through something that was such a road bump before. This was great news. She reassured us we were in a good place to deliver here at home. Mark and I discussed a lot before thankfully. We believed in my abilities and the health of our baby, but if we ever needed anything or any help she couldn't give, we wanted to be close to that help at the hospital. As much as I was intrigued at the thought of a home birth, it was more important to me that Mark and I both felt comfortable. So we packed up and headed for the hospital. We were supposed to deliver at rockyview (where me, my sister, and Penelope had all been born), but with Covid-19, all midwifery patients were redirected to the foothills literally the day before. This was something I was bummed about initially, but it's just another one of these things we had to roll with in during the epidemic. A few days before when we heard this plan, Mark and I drove to the foothills together to make sure we knew where to go/park. We brought some sage and did a little cleanse/prayer on the side of the building.
Back at the house before we left, Mark outfitted me with my thrift store sunglasses and black ball cap (I didn't want any bright lights, in labor you want things dark, so I wanted to avoid that hospital harshness with my H8r blockers LOL see photo). I also adorned my plush robe, giant sweatpants, mumu, and 90s white grandpa reebok sneaks (see other photo). It was a good look. Mark rolled me into the foothills in a wheelchair. I had my earbuds in since we left the house, listening to the same affirmation track over and over. We got to our room and although it was really small, someone said there was a tub and I was like BOOYA and started filling it immediately. Sunglasses still on. I was happy about the tub because I made such great and easy progress in water at home. Something about water and weightlessness really eases pain. I spent the next 2 hours with my earbuds in, sunglasses on, breathing through intensifying rushes. Mark sat on a chair next to me in the tiny dark bathroom. The midwife checked baby's heartrate every 15ish minutes. I started to pull Mark in for kisses when I'd have a big rush. They (Ina May), say that the oxytocin from kissing really helps a woman progress. I'd grab his shirt or ear or hair and give him probably the worst kiss ever and then push him away when it was done. Sorry Mark lol. It was quite the state. Things were picking up. I had no concept of time or how many minutes apart anything was but I needed an idea of where I was, so I could mentally prep for the long haul if I needed to. I got out of the tub so they could check how dilated I was. I had an intense rush had to hold on to the bathroom counter to get through it. I also had rented a TENS machine (A small device that sticks on your lower back and sends electrical pulses to the body, like little electric shocks. This can help to ease pain in some people with certain types of pain) so I wanted to get it on right away as the pain felt worse out of the tub. Mark slapped it on me and I was trying to figure out the remote. I got it going. It's always funny taking something thinking its going to feel like drug A, but really its just a twitching feeling in your back. So as I was wrapping my brain around the back twitcher, the intensifying rushes, and trying to find a way to lie or sit comfortably (there were none), my midwife checked me (I don't even remember feeling it happen). She said I was 10cm with a little lip. I was generally in another world, trying to focus. I felt the intense need to pee and poop (SORRY YALL). I went to the bathroom and it hurt SO much to sit down, and I couldn't poop. Ugh. I went back to the bed and I was finding it so hard to focus and breath. I was no longer calm and quiet like I was in the baths. I kept feeling the urge to pee but at that point I said I can't keep going back to the toilet, and it also felt uncontrollable (fun). I was like 'sorry guys I'll be peeing the bed from now on'. I got on all fours and grabbed at the head of the bed. Trying to breath through 'rushes' - they were awful contractions at that point. I was getting louder. My body was involuntarily pushing. I hadn't wrapped my brain around the fact that 10 cm is when you're supposed to push. The baby just felt like it was still really high. It all seemed so fast. I had my earbuds in still, which in a way muted myself, for me. I was still very loud to everyone else. I think I sounded like a dying cow. Ask Mark tho. The midwives then said the pooping urge was my baby coming and that I needed to push. I needed to take the sounds I was making, and go inward and push like I was actually pooping (LOL to people hearing this for the first time). This really helped as I wasn't doing the right motion (funny, considering it was my third time doing this). Things felt INTENSE. I remember gripping the bed thinking yes this is when pain relief would be handy af. I also asked the midwives to do more for me lol. I said something like "can you just stretch my vagina with your hands I need more help plz". Mark says it was more like “can you just open it up for me”. One of the midwives went and grabbed a bar that attached close to the foot of the bed. It was for hanging off of like a monkey, lol, in a deep squat position to push a baby out easier. This helped. I think? Everything hurt so much and was so hard. I would push with all my might, then need a break and feel baby slink back up inside me. This happened a couple times at least. They kept cheering me on and encouraging me to keep going, keep pushing, keep breathing, GO! I got to the infamous ring of fire. GD it did burn. Aptly named. My other two births I had epidurals and felt this ring of fire. They were still intense and painful with incredible numbing drugs. So with no drugs, it was so VERY intense and firey. But weirdly, something felt good about it because it meant the head was at its biggest, and in a matter of seconds, I would be on the downhill. That feeling of moving past the head, and feeling the neck, such a bizarre feeling. Now only shoulders to go, which are easier than the head. I remember the 'pop pop slide' feeling from the other two, but again with no pain relief, things felt more intense, and time stood still longer. The midwife checked to make sure the cord wasn't wrapped around her head, and encouraged me to keep pushing. Pop, pop, slide! She was out. At 2:33AM on April 22. Earth Day. I was so stunned. It turned out that her cord was wrapped around her neck and body twice, but the midwife couldn't see that when she was still inside me. She came out a little limp and blue, but they passed her to me and did the tickling and rubbing to get her to start crying and breathing. The two minutes after her birth I was so euphoric, shocked, emotional, happy, elated, relieved and astounded she was here. I had her on my chest, she was screaming, cord was attached to the placenta inside me still. I just couldn't believe I did it and that she was here and real. After those two minutes I felt intense pain. The cramping of my uterus to get the placenta out was brutal. This is where I appreciated the epidural too, as I felt the pain take away from the moment with Gemini. Side note: I had an ultrasound at 30 weeks when I had a preterm labor scare. I had consistent braxton hicks for one night, so they wanted to check my cervix status. At this appointment I discussed with the tech how excited we were to have a surprise at birth to find out what we were having. We talked about her sister doing it and loving for almost the whole time I was in the room. She went and typed up the report for the doctor to read to me. In the room with the doctor he started going through the report and my eyes went to the next line SEX: APPEARS FEMALE. I was crushed the surprise was ruined. I yelled noooooo! seriously??? He felt so bad. It made me think the tech was on cocaine or something. She was insanely fast also. Ugh. I kept my secret safe with me. I
wanted Mark to get the surprise I didn't get. So I knew about Gemini for 10 weeks. It was a sweet surprise. I got to connect with her and have that special knowing with just her. What do you do? Back to the birth story: I took tylenol or advil right away and breathed through them while holding her. She continued to cry for another 30 minutes until she was under the heat light when they took measurements. She was just cold. Mark, who wore a mask the entire time we were in the hospital, except for the bathtub kisses), just kept saying that was so intense, and what a great job I did. The cramping kept going but I stood up to be next to Gemini for her measurements. The scale read 9lbs 0 oz. Stunned again. She was nearly double Penelope's birth weight of 5 pounds. I couldn't believe it. What seemed like five minutes later they said it was time to go. I felt like I was bleeding a ton, going through those beautiful lady diapers like crazy, but also wanting to get out of the hospital. We packed up and were in the car less than 3 hours after her birth.
With Penelope, she came at 34 weeks, and needed time in the NICU before we could take her home. The first night leaving the hospital without her was one of the hardest I've had. I remember seeing people walk out with their seemingly huge babies and my heart ached as I walked out without her. This time, to be leaving the hospital in three hours, something I glamourized in my mind, it felt really rushed. There was no recovery or care there. I do hope first time moms have different experiences even in these covid times. Especially to get established breastfeeding help before they leave the premises. It's just too much to recover from and wrap your brain around.
I remember being in the car at 5:30AM and being so astonished and stunned. Like what time is it? Where are we? We have a baby? It's over? What? All so bizarre, surreal and mind-blowing. We had a baby during a pandemic. We did it. Mark was able to be there. I was able to birth her safely in a hospital. She was here. Wow. We made it. Thankful. Thankful. Thankful.
As I write this 12 days post-partum, I have so many thoughts and feelings. Post-partum is so huge and hard and important but there is so much less information about it. Every week of pregnancy there are apps telling you what vegetable your baby is, videos of your baby simulated moving, and updates galore. Then PP happens and it feels like you're on your own recovering from the greatest physical change any human being can go through. Let alone to care for a child. It's such a roller
coaster. The hormones. The bleeding. The milk and changing boobs. The non sleep. I'm only 12 days in! Some days feel divine, perfect, golden, beautiful. Some days feel heavy, cloudy, hard, tearful. There are natural ups and downs, and baby blues that occur in those early days. So much to navigate. Even though this is my third time, I absolutely feel like a rookie most days. I am thankful for Mark. His empathy, patience, and help. And the fact he is doing all the parenting and work for P and E. I am thankful for a happy, healthy baby. Gemini really is sweetness. She has been lying asleep in my lap the whole time I typed this. She did have a more tear filled day, and is probably tired from it, but still. I am thankful for my strong and recovering body. Every day I feel like I have better bladder control (oh yes that is impacted), and more normal BMs. Gross but true. My body has gone through so much, and it was followed up with a lack of sleep, and engorged boobs. Sleep will continue to improve and my boobs have started to level out. All huge wins.
I look forward to moving my body and gaining strength, but I don't want to rush anything. Babies are babies for such a short period of time. I don't want to wish it away. I'll be over here, spending most of my time on the couch feeding and cuddling. Before I know it she will be moving and crawling and eating solids. I'll take it one day at a time.
I look at all my births with so much love and respect. I look at all births that way. I want to be honest, but I hope not to scare anyone. Nothing was scary. It was all powerful, intense, and beautiful. I wouldn't change anything.