Belated Baby: the Birth Story!
People say you can have all the birth plans you want, but baby always has their own plans. And this was so true for us! Even though we didn’t get the natural med-free birth we wanted, we are just glad that baby and mom are safe and healthy. We would love to share our birth story and lessons learned (coming soon!) with anyone going to be new parents soon!
[Trigger warning: traumatic birth, pregnancy past 42 weeks, prolonged labor, emergency c-section]
How it went…before the birth story begins
When talking about the anticipation of birth to come, it is not surprising to be obsessed about the due date. To make it even more sentimental, our baby’s due date was our 1 year 9 months wedding anniversary!
If you have been following our Belated Baby diary series, you would know that I began taking my maternity leave a month prior to the due date. Except for the late pregnancy discomfort, it was a relaxing time. I was off from work and enjoyed baking and cooking. This time period was nice and sweet until… our due date came!
Though first babies are known to come late, seeing the due date come and go does put the pressure on. In-laws were calling us every day to see “how Brenda is feeling”, which basically is a way of asking, “has contraction has started yet?” Text messages came flooding in with people checking in on us to ask if the baby has come yet. We started almost all phone calls and text conversations with “nope, not yet”!
Overdue decisions and measures
We were anxious for birth to come. However, we were also able to have rest assured that the baby was fine. As the due date passed, the baby was under close monitoring with frequent ultrasound examinations as well as fetal heartbeat checks. As a post-date baby myself, my parents were also pretty relaxed as we waited past the due date and we didn’t talk or think about induction at this point.
From my parent’s experience and our research, we learned that Pitocin induction is associated with more use of epidural and caesarian sections. I was especially fearful of the quick acceleration of labor progress with induction. It could go so fast that my body may not be able to gradually cope with it. Therefore we decided to wait for natural labor to begin, in hopes that we can still go to the Toronto Birth Centre for a natural unmedicated birth.
The check for dilation I
We originally planned to decline any vaginal examinations before natural labor begins, as the number of centimeters dilated did not really reflect labor progress but only a part of it. However as we got to 40 weeks, we accepted our midwife’s offer to do the examination, just to see if she can do a membrane sweep to get things going naturally.
Then, BANG, reality hit! The cervix is still firm and closed (sorry, sweep is not possible yet!) while baby’s head is very low past the cervix! Oh, and she gave us a warm heads up too: I will feel the intense pressure and the pain very soon when labor begins.
I was like: WHAT? Didn’t all the pregnancy apps say that the cervix will begin to dilate weeks before for the first baby? Wasn’t that the reason for all the 4-7 dates I have been eating to increase the chance of natural labor at term? Why did all the squats and walking I did diligently only made my baby drop past the cervix and not against it?
Therefore, week 40 was a lot of self doubt in me. This also came along with the daunting scenes of hooking up to IV Pitocin and even behind a Caesarian section curtain flew across my mind.
In an attempt to get things going as natural as possible, I started taking evening primrose oil orally and vaginally to help soften the cervix. I also ramped up my red raspberry leaf tea intake to hopefully help stimulate uterine contraction.
Em… are these contractions?
On Sunday, April 25th 2021, on the 41st week + 5 days, this day seemed to be a start of any normal day. I did my usual weekend baking and had a call with my mom in the morning. However, there were very slight period-like cramps that lingered throughout the morning, but were pretty easily forgettable with distractions.
Near noon, I started to feel the cramps come and go that I had to somehow slow down and cope with it. I messaged a sister from church if these can be contractions. She said this might be it and will pray for me.
Things to do during early labor
Couple weeks prior, I started putting together a list of “Things to do at home during early labor”. While I was uncertain if this is going to be the start of real contractions, hubby suggested to start going through the list anyways and he was right!
While the cramp was still very manageable, I watered my succulents, fed my sourdough starter. We even got A&W delivered for lunch and binge watched some episodes of Lovely Complex, one of my hubby’s all time favorite anime (don’t ask me why).
When the night came
As the sky got dark, the sensations got a lot more intense. As my midwife had mentioned would happen, I started to feel both contraction-like pain and strong pelvic pressure at the same time. This is when I had to get on my elbows and knees in our living room, and use breathing techniques to cope with every single contraction that came. I also had my hubby do the double hip squeeze for me for countering the intense pressure I was feeling.
At this point, we turned off the TV as I couldn’t keep up with the progress of the anime anymore. We kept the lights dimmed, and started playing our labor music playlist of natural sounds and classical music.
This is the beginning of our birth story. We should be able to conclude it in the next day or so, or so we thought…
What? Not time to go yet?
Later that night, we started to see irregular 5, 6, 7 minutes interval time between contractions. I began to take Tylenol during this time, but it seemed to not be doing much for me. The pain and pressure was really intense so we paged our midwife. By the 4-1-1 rule (i.e. contractions that are four minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for 1 hour), this was still not the time to go yet. But what was more disappointing was that while we were on the call with our midwife, contractions started becoming less frequent at 12 minutes apart! Our midwife said, “You are still in very early labor. Don’t need to track now. Just relax and cope with each one as it comes. You will know when active labor starts and you can track and call us then.”
It was hard.
Later that night we then moved to our master bedroom for more comfort there. Little did I know it will be where I stay for the coming few days without even stepping out of the bedroom door.
The longest 4 days leading up to the birth
The second day
The birth story continues.
My hubby stayed up all night with me for to help squeeze my hips through every contraction to relieve the pressure. While there were no signs of getting closer to active labor, we were both very tired and hungry. We ordered some food delivery for lunch then.
Although contractions were 10-12 minutes apart, the lingering pelvic pressure made it feel a lot closer together. The breaks between contractions were so unbearably short that I was hardly able to get a spoonful of congee in my mouth! The Tylenol I took apparently suppressed my appetite and that was definitely not helping me stay energized.
My limbs started shaking uncontrollably in between contractions as well. Fortunately I had seen this in Erin’s birth story, so I wasn’t surprised when it happened. I could only tell myself to relax one limb at a time with quick exhales. The more I can relax and stop the shaking, the more energy I can conserve for labor. But it did stress me out every time when I just CANNOT STAY RELAXED!!!
In an attempt to relax my shaking limbs, we tried the bath this day. It was always intense shaking at first from the cold, then maybe 5 minutes later is when I can gradually relax myself and stop shaking. Rocking back and forth in the water on elbows and knees also helped relieve the pressure from baby’s weight. However such relaxation technique only worked for a little while like over one or two contractions. After that it stopped working and we had to rush to dry and get clothed again before next contraction comes.
Diarrhea!! A sign of hope or risk?
To make the matter worse, I got a diarrhea after having the takeout congee. At first we thought, active labor must be approaching soon as diarrhea can be a sign! However this worried our midwife a lot. She was concerned that I might become dehydrated from diarrhea that can cause harm to baby. Thus, she suggested me to drink more water, as well as switching to eating exclusively homecooked meals instead.
Sadly, my hubby and cooking have never ever been put in the same sentence. I did prepare some food in the freezer for postpartum emergency meals, but not congee for myself during labor. Therefore in desperation, we called our in-laws late at night to make congee for me. My hubby also made his first attempt in making congee with slowcooker for the next day just with my verbal instructions. Impressive!!
The check for dilation II
Our midwife visited that night and my cervix was 3 cm dilated. She offered the membrane sweep as well. At that moment, I was so exhausted from over a day of labor. All I wanted was a way out, like EPIDURAL RIGHT NOW! Getting the membrane sweep would mean a quick progress of labor that I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle any more.
I declined the membrane sweep in hopes that I will gradually get to active labor that night or have a place for epidural and induction the next day. Safe to say, I regretted it, but I will address later in this post.
The third day
This marks the day of 42 week gestation. We finally made the decision to book an induction at the hospital and let go of our birth center plan. Unfortunately, the earliest booking for induction was for the day after. Therefore if I didn’t go into active labor the day of, it will be another painful sleepless night to endure.
The ultrasound scramble
Our midwife stressed that we should get an ultrasound this day to make sure baby is still doing well. So we scrambled to try make an appointment for ultrasound the day of. Got rejected, then took a while to get hold of our midwife to make the urgent appointment request directly. However as the appointment time was getting close, we felt there was simply no way I could get out of the house. Let alone walking downstairs to the ultrasound clinic and endure the contractions on that hard ultrasound table.
Therefore we stayed home and hoping baby will be fine, and my hormones will do its magic that night.
At this point, my hip bones were so sore from the double hip squeeze and my hubby’s arms were extremely tired. We switched to a direct pressure with a fist on the tail bone instead.
Exhausted from staying up all night, we had to get some sleep if nothing happened. I took some Gravol that a friend of ours kindly delivered to us through Instacart that night. This allowed me to at least doze off a bit in between contractions. And hubby was allowed to rest while I try to get through each contraction the best I can by myself.
The fourth day
So as you can tell, labor did not progress through the night and our birth story hadn’t ended yet. Contractions were still 10 to 12 minutes apart. The same playlist of classical music with nature sounds was playing in the background (yes, for 4 straight days non-stop). The only difference this day was that the pain and pressure was actually turning into numbness.
Yes, I was NUMB.
We decided to call our postpartum doula early to prepare some food for us before getting to the hospital for induction (or more precisely, labor augmentation). That was quite a scramble in the morning as:
- I tried to climb down the stairs on my hands and knees
- Hubby tried to pack everything we need to the hospital (yes it was a lot more than what we packed away in the hospital bag)
- Doula had to cook and get to our house in a rush to give us the food
- Midwife wanted us to get to the hospital ASAP to talk before transfer of care to the hospital staff
It was midday as we got into the car. The sky was dark with heavy downpour and thunder and lightning. I eventually made my way onto the car with hubby’s help. There was one contraction to breathe through while I was in the car while hubby was doing his final check in the house, and that was still kinda hard.
The hospital birth story
Yes, we finally are about to conclude our birth story.
Surprisingly, the ride was actually not that bad. The bumpiness on the road, a new playlist of songs (we played Shane & Shane’s Psalms II album), combined with hopes of seeing our child in our arms soon, gave us encouragement. It was a peaceful ride. I managed to stuff myself with a bit of our doula’s food as well.
Arriving at the hospital ground, it took us some time to settle in:
- Finding a parking spot. Thankfully parking is now free because of the pandemic (this is the year 2021)!
- Searching for a wheelchair to roll me in. Because walking upright was SO HARD at that point.
- Getting screened for covid at hospital foyer. Also we got wristbands so that we cannot re-enter once we exit the hospital and leave the doors. Oh well, we forgot to take the car seat with us so they gave us an excemption for that, thankfully.
- Looking for the maternal family unit. Navigating through a maze, all things new to us, under the stress that wasn’t all that fun, but hey, at least we made it.
- Checking in at the maternal family unit. It felt like it was taking forever… like over a few contractions kind of forever. Being still felt the worst to me, so I asked my hubby to rock my wheelchair back and forth while we were waiting at the registration front desk
The initial assessment room
“Please go into that room with your belongings, your husband will have to wait outside the maternity unit.” NOOOOOOO… is covid really screwing over my first ever birth experience? I cannot imagine laboring and giving birth without his support!!
The clarification gave me quite some relief. My hubby just had to wait outside during the initial assessment time, but he can join me in the delivery room after. This is the time when I had to make some decisions alone over a few things.
I was greeted by a nurse who hooked me up to continuous monitoring of contractions and baby’s heartbeat. She also asked me my family history, any pregnancy complications, gestational age of baby, etc. Oh, and she told me her husband works in the same GIS (i.e. Geographic Information Systems) field as myself too!
The check for dilation III
The OB on call then came to check for dilation. I would say she had no hesitations nor any intentions to go gently. She didn’t give any heads up to take a deep breath, prepare for increasing pressure and possible pain. Anyways, the dilation was 3 cm.
Yep, 3 cm. No progress since day 2 evening.
After that, the nurse asked me for consent on setting up IV with antibiotics due to me being GBS positive. In our birth plan, we preferred no antibiotics unless vitals tells us it is necessary. We know that antibiotics can kill both the good and bad bacteria, making us lose the chance of providing healthy microbes to baby in a vaginal birth scenario. Regarding that, our midwife had already warned us about doctors will likely push for the use of antibiotics.
At least when we questioned the doctors, they were patient and honest in explaining the pros and cons. They also explained if emergency c-section happens, the IV and antibiotics would be necessary so might as well get it now. We finally decided to consent to the IV and administration of the antibiotics.
The hardest task so far!
Before moving to the delivery room, the nurse urged me to go washroom as my bladder was full. Did I not mention that going to the washroom was one of the hardest tasks in the past 4 days? At home, I had to crawl to the master bathroom on my hands and knees, feeling the pressure and the pain when sitting, straining hard, and disappointingly just passing a little bit of urine before the next contraction began.
However, with the new environment of hospital and the nurse’s urging for me to hurry and get it done seemed to help! In desperation, I walked to the washroom with the IV pole as support. Then found out a way to actually go pee! (If you don’t mind being TMI, it was simply stand up, push the lower abdomen, then sit down and strain. Repeat until bladder is fully emptied) How did I not figure this out for the whole 4 days??
The labor and “delivery” room
After changing into the patient gown and being tied to the IV, I walked to the room assigned for us and was so glad to see my hubby again. Looking around the room, there was a board indicating my baby’s gestational age, my GBS positive status, name of OB and name of my nurse. Taking a closer look at my bed, it was the kind of labor bed that this video talks about!! “Okay, so this has to be where the birth story happens”, so I thought.
My assigned nurse in the delivery room asked me again all the questions I had answered in the initial assessment room. When she asked me when did labor contractions start, I said Sunday, so 3 days ago this is the fourth day. She was like, “no way your labor lasted that long, tell me again when did your REAL contractions start?” With unbelief in her eyes, she typed in the sure answer I had.
From here it was a whirlwind of events.
The nurse put the continuous monitoring on me. They started to see some dropping of baby’s heart rate with each contractions, but no one was too worried.
Pain relief options
I requested for ordering the epidural. I wanted to avoid using the epidural, but nitrous oxide was not an option at the hospital and morphine wouldn’t be as effective. Plus, taking morphine has that palliative care connotation to me that I felt uneasy about.
Honestly, I was already at the max of my endurance after the past few days. So if epidural can give me a way out before things get any worse, I will take it.
Membrane sweep and the check for dilation IV
OB came again to begin the induction process. She first tried to do a membrane sweep as a natural means to speed up labor. The next thing I heard was “oops I think I broke the water too.”
WHAT!!!! DON’T BREAK MY WATER UNTIL MY EPIDURAL COMES!!!! (because artificial rupture of membrane, aka breaking the water, can quickly accelerate labor progress)
Shortly after (it felt like only minutes passed), she checked again and my cervix dilated to 4-5 cm.
Oh yes! Here comes my epidural!
Fortunately anesthesiologist came to administer the epidural before I felt any increase in pain. He was the most humorous doctor I met during the hospital stay. This guy had his magic to make me trust him and the process.
He told me to sit on the edge of bed, just like the classic epidural administration scene I have pictured. I felt like a failure to give in at that point, to allow an injection of a huge syringe of medication, to open the possibility to lifelong backache. However at the moment there was no turning back, and it was necessary to keep me sane until baby comes.
While we were waiting for the epidural to work, he enthusiastically shared with my hubby his knowledge and experience in maintaining the greenest lawn in the block. 20-30 mins later he said, “You don’t feel pain anymore right? See, my hypnosis worked!”
I think this anesthesiologist I met deserves the best resident comedian award.
Baby’s heartrate dropped
As labor was picking up and progressing, something alarming appeared on the continuous monitoring screen. Baby’s heartrate seemed to be dropping lower and lower with each contraction. The nurse’s face seemed a little concerned so she called the OB to come back and check.
Moments later, OB came and saw not only the drop, but also when the machine could not detect baby’s heartbeat! I thought it was only a machine error (which it could probably be). The next second, a siren went off and a whole squad of doctors and nurses rushed into our room.
To detect and monitor baby’s heartrate more accurately, the OB asked for our consent to use a device that pricks into the skin of baby’s head. She also gave us a heads up that if baby’s heartrate is not getting better, it might end up in emergency c-section. I started to feel heavy in my heart and hubby’s face turned more serious as well.
With a little hope in me that baby’s heartrate would pickup again, we moved on with the prick method monitoring. OB also suspected that the drop in amniotic fluid could be the cause of fetal stress, so we consented to the artificial amniotic fluid instillation.
With much disappointment, baby’s heartrate continued to drop to 80 then 60 bpm (normal should be above 100 bpm). At this point, the OB urgently recommended an emergency c-section to get the baby out as baby would probably not make it to wait until I am 10 cm dilated to push. Though our hearts were heavy to hear this, we tried our best to stay calm. After clarifying the pros and cons, as well as getting in touch with our midwife for some counsel, we gave the consent to proceed with the recommended Caesarian section.
The real delivery room – where the birth happened
Right after I dropped the pen from signing the consent to operation, I was pushed in my bed to the bright operating room (with some door angle problems). There were a few conversations I remember before the surgery started:
- “Will my husband be here with me?” “Yes he is getting ready in the room next door and will join you when the surgery begins.”
That was quite reassuring as I would need his support and didn’t want him to miss the moment when our child would be born
- “No vitamin K shots and no eye drops please. We brought our oral vitamin K.” “Yes our pediatrician has got it.”
We decided to go with oral vitamin K we got from Smith’s Pharmacy instead of an injection. Administration of antibiotic eye drops is quite an outdated guideline that is not necessary now. We signed a waiver for it with our midwife in advance.
- “Would you like general anesthesia or to stay awake?” “I want to stay awake to witness my baby’s birth!“
Thinking back, I was really excited with my motherly instinct that overcame any fear being aware of the surgery happening. Plus being able to feel the warmth of my hubby’s hand was really crucial to me that we are going through this together. (Tearing up as I am typing this…)
- “Do you feel any pain?”, while doctors were testing my sensations to see the effectiveness of the anesthetic. “yeah still a bit…” “Okay we are at the maximum dosage for your weight now” “em… just feeling the pressure, no more pain now.“
- “You might feel nauseous from the anesthetic and we can give you medication for that.” “I am feeling nauseous now… what is that? Is it like Gravol?” “Yes this is an IV form of Gravol and you will feel better.”
While there was no music in the operating room as I picture in TV shows, it was quite a symphony of machines beeping. Doctors and nurses gathered around the end of the operating table for their pre-surgery briefing and cheer, then my hubby came in with a full head to toe gown to sit next to me.
The curtain was up and the surgery began.
The caesarian birth
The operation itself was quick. I guess this is just such a normal procedure for the doctors that they were so relaxed during the process. They even talked about where to get coffee afterwards?? The doctor told us afterwards that baby had the umbilical cord around his neck, that could be the cause of fetal stress and stalled labor.
I didn’t request for lowering the curtain to see baby being pulled out. I just couldn’t let this bloody scene get into my brain while I was still in shock for this emergency c-section. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly admire the moms who can do this.
It felt like only a few minutes passed that we heard the first cry of our child, baby Gideon, or as we like to call him, “Giddy“. There was a couple gentle wa wa’s, but definitely it melted our hearts to hear his cry for the first time. “I just gave birth to a child and he is forever my son, I am forever his mother!”
There were a few procedures done on our newborn baby inside the operating room. After Giddy was delivered, the nurses put him into a clear bassinet where they wiped him down and put tags on his ankles. This was my first impression of our child. Oh, what a precious little child of ours.
Here Giddy decided to impress us with a fountain stream of his first pee in life outside the womb. That was pretty cute, at least when we’re not the one’s who need to wipe the floor.
After that they weighed Giddy on a scale and asked my hubby to take a picture for the record. From his red face, I could tell it must have been quite a shock going from a warm cushiony womb to this cold hard surface.
Then the nurse swaddled him in a blanket and handed the little burrito to us for a picture!
Beyond the operating room
Soon after, I was transferred back to my bed from the operating table and wheeled to the observation room next door.
I didn’t have much memory about what happened there as I was so heavily drugged up. However my hubby did remember that I asked the nurse, “can I start breastfeeding now?” Of course the nurse gladly helped and that was our very first of many feedings that are to follow. My hubby is still recalling how surprised that my motherly instinct kicked in despite just coming out of a major surgery!
We then settled in a postpartum room. Although my work insurance covers only semi-private rooms, they gave us a room all to ourselves. There was the clear bassinet with Giddy inside on a rolling cabinet, an old rocking chair that squeaks and a futon (aka secret daddy’s bed).
Did I not mention that hospital actually delivered my dinner to the labor room? Sadly I didn’t get a chance to eat in the mist of all that craziness. Fortunately we brought food prepared by our postpartum doula the morning of! Hubby found the shared kitchen and helped microwave some containers of food.
When the container of warm pork ribs appeared on my bedside table, I was EXTREMELY starving from days of not eating much with the sudden relief of pressure on my stomach. I quickly chowed down the whole thing and not leaving a bit for my hubby!! He said he had never seen me eating that much so quickly since he met me!
The end of our birth story
So this concludes our long labor and birth story. Although it didn’t go as medication-free as we hoped, we are just thankful that both mother and baby are safe. (and that hubby had the energy to support me all the way too!) On a side note, the induction, c-section, and cord around the neck all happened when my mother gave birth to me! It even all happened in the same hospital, what a coincidence!
This is a very longwinded diary post as we wanted to record every little bit to reflect on our lessons learned and just to make sure the memory doesn’t fade away! So a big THANK YOU for sticking with me till the end!
Now that baby Giddy is out, a new exciting adventure begins as a family of three!! Please stay tuned for our 4th trimester diary for everything POSTPARTUM!