Becoming: A Birth Story
Content Advisory: This post contains details of a VBAC at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, in addition to photos showing non-graphic partial nudity in a childbirth context. Birth photos are included at the end of the birth story.
You are now three months old. I can't imagine this house without you in it.
You fill a spot that I wasn't entirely sure was there, my Last Baby. Our life was so busy before you were born that the idea of you didn't seem entirely real, even on that chilly April evening, when we were driving across the city to the birth center where you were born.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I was preoccupied with moving house and leaving the home where we had lived for 18 years. I was stressed about who would be at your birth, when circumstances beyond control had both of my midwives on leave during my pregnancy. I worried about how your siblings would adjust to a new house in a new town.
I was so focused on external things that I didn’t have the mental space or energy to focus on the internal -- never connecting to this pregnancy the way I did with most of my others. This was a blessing in disguise as, for the first time in years, I also didn't stress about the "what if's" pregnant women with history of loss obsess over.
And, if I'd had the space, there were lots of "what if's” to stress about.
I'm an older mum (43 when you were born), and my last birth was a c-section. I read all the information -- combing over statistics with a fine-toothed comb and applying them to my specific history. I met with the OB ahead of time, who (despite my "special scar") declared me an ideal VBAC candidate. I wavered on scheduling a surgical birth, but settled on a homebirth (HBAC) if you arrived before a certain date, with the birth center as our back-up option.
As things would have it, my water broke around 10:00am the morning after my HBAC deadline had passed. I was 38w4d -- earlier than any of my typically past dates babies were born.
All of the older kids were home from school due to the weather, which was great because it meant our childcare plans were simple. My primary midwife was still on leave, so I called in and spoke with a midwife I'd never met (no small achievement when you've been with the same practice as long as I have) to see if I should still go into the city for the ultrasound booked for that afternoon. I was given the green light to do it if I felt like it, with plans to swing by the clinic after for a check.
My early labour is typically very easy.
I hardly count it as labour, as it felt like more regular Braxton Hicks (which I start getting very early in pregnancy anyway). I made pasta salad for later, and we headed in for my appointments. In hindsight, I should have realized that pushing and prodding on a belly when one's water has broken could get messy and prepared differently, but it added a bit of levity and excitement to the clinic that day, I think. Then we headed to the midwives clinic, where I met the midwife who would be at my birth for the first time.
This was hard for me.
She was very lovely and I clicked with her, but I had been looking forward to my primary being there (as Claudia was doing the bulk of clinic visits instead, being most deservedly "semi-retired" now). My primary was on leave, though, which left my care provider up in the air at the last minute. I was trying to be okay with this, but asked my midwife to let Claudia know I was in labour if she spoke with her. I felt better knowing that she’d know, and it put my mind into the right space — a lot of labour is a mental game, and being in the right head space matters so much. I got the usual rundown on when to call and head to the birth center, and then we left to ran errands -- picking up something from Kijiji and some groceries before heading home.
I took a hot shower and then napped for a couple hours. At this point, things felt very much as they did with #Kid3 -- I would have been completely comfortable having a homebirth, to be honest, but was sticking to my plan as the ultrasound the previous week had estimated you to be over 8.5lbs. You could have potentially been 1/2lb to 1lb bigger by this point and if we needed a transfer for size reasons as we did last time, I wanted to be closer to my preferred hospitals. When I woke from my nap, I had some pasta and puttered about checking snacks, our birth bag, and doing last minute nest feathering in our bedroom.
And then, at 7:13pm, things changed.
By 7:25pm, I'd had two more contractions that told me it was time to call my midwife. At 7:29pm, I was on the phone with her and then getting into our Suburban for the 45 minute drive to the birth center. We arrived around 8:20pm.
When we pulled into the parking lot, I couldn't believe my eyes.
I almost burst into tears.
There was Claudia.
I'm so happy she was able to be with us for this last birth -- when I tell you midwives go above and beyond, I mean it. She has been an incredible support to me over the past 10 years — I’m not sure she realizes how very much this meant to me.
Now, I'd just like you to know that one of the biggest reasons I opted for the birth center over the hospital was the birthing tub.
The idea of laboring in that giant tub seemed like heaven.
You, of course, had other plans.
The reality was those tubs take a long time to fill and I'd arrived at 5-6cm dilated. I walked into my birthing suite around 8:30pm, stood at the back of a couch -- holding on for support -- while I tried and failed for about 10 minutes to get my phone to connect to the Bluetooth speaker. Your father, god love him, kept trying to troubleshoot but it was annoying me so much I told him to just play my music off my phone. The Crowded House "Recurring Dream" album has consistently been my go-to birthing music because I can sing/hum along without thinking about it.
The next 40 minutes were basically just a lot of standing up, gripping the couch, and moaning, humming, and swaying to the music. A 9:20pm, I moved to hands and knees on the bed. I asked for gas, but it didn't really seem to help, if I'm honest.
As crazy as it sounds, you were still just a vague idea to me. I knew, logically, that I was having a baby but that connection I'd felt with the others just wasn’t there. Then, at 9:30pm, I reached down and could cup the top of your head. I kept my hand there as you crowned.
Suddenly, you were real to me.
I can't put your "becoming" into words -- the way it made me feel was indescribable. I was giddy and so incredibly ecstatic. You were perfect, and you were mine, and you were my last. I don't think I've ever felt such pure joy before.
You were born into my hands at 9:32pm, after 2 minutes of pushing.
You weighed 3800g (8lbs-6oz), were 49cm (19.3in) long, with a head circumference of 38cm (15in). Not my biggest baby, but not my smallest, either.
Memory is a funny thing.
I'm glad to have a copy of my birth records and time-stamped photos to corroborate the timeline. We did skin-to-skin from birth and delayed cord-clamping. I cut your cord at 10:15pm. You nursed for the first time shortly after that. After some serious cuddling, you were bundled up and passed to your father so I could eat the hot meal provided to us by the birth centre.
We left the centre just before midnight. I clearly remember looking up at the clock and being amazed that it was just before midnight, and we'd been there less than 4 hours in total.
I didn't want to be away from you for a moment -- one of my favorite things about my homebirths was that I never had to have my baby out of my arms unless I wanted to -- so I sat in the back seat of the truck next to you on the drive home, before carefully carrying you up our front stairs into our room and settling you in bed between your father and me.
That is where you still sleep now and will for awhile yet. You, my last baby, are treasured. I celebrate all of your lasts with as full a heart as I celebrate your firsts.