Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gwen's Birth Story - Part One

Part One – Pump Up the Jam!
(Part Two) (Part Three)

Wednesday, April 23rd
1pm – I get a “stretch and sweep” from Lillian. We had decided to do this because my blood pressure was borderline high – just high enough that the word “induction” had been mentioned a few times, and that I was doing two nonstress tests a week at the hospital. Rhea, a good friend who is also a midwife, had suggested a stretch and sweep not as a way to start labour, but as a way to make the induction more effective if it did need to happen. When Lillian asked if I was interested in having it done, I was more than agreeable.

The procedure itself was nothing exciting. A little uncomfortable and awkward. It was my first opportunity to find out what my cervix was up to: having heard about some women who were already 2 cm dilated for a couple of weeks before labour really began, I was eager to learn where I was at. There wasn’t much to learn, however; the cervix was still mostly posterior (though far enough forward that Lillian could reach it) and just a little bit effaced.

2pm – next time I went to the bathroom, there was the tiniest (dime-sized) bit of ‘something’ unfamiliar in the toilet. I wondered if it was the beginning of the mucus plug, but didn’t think too much about it.

12:30am – playing SingStar with Chris, Rhea, and Ian. The last song of the evening was “Pump Up the Jam” by Chris – all four of us were dancing around and goofing off, re-living the Much Music Video Dances of our youth.

1am - we went to bed – many hours later than my usual bedtime. As Chris and I lay in bed, I felt a very strange sensation. It took me a minute or two to realize what it was – a menstrual cramp. After all, it had been a long (LONG) time since I’d felt one of those! I reported this to Chris, who apparently took this quite seriously. Ten minutes later I felt another one. “Interesting,” I thought, and went to sleep.

Thursday, April 24th
5:00am - I woke up and went to the washroom. What I saw in my underwear proved that yesterday’s bit of ‘something’ was, in reality, only the tip of the mucous iceberg. ““Well, hello bloody show,” I thought to myself. I was still cognizant of the fact that the bloody show is no guarantee of baby’s imminent arrival, but that along with the crampiness was making me pretty antsy.

5:30am - still having cramps every 10 minutes, and they were uncomfortable enough that I wanted the hot water bottle to help me deal with them. As I got out of bed for the second time to go get it, Chris woke up.

6am - we decided it was time to contact our doulas.
- Called Janice; she was excited and giddy. I told her I didn’t know when the baby was coming – “It could still be four days of this,” I said – but I wanted to give her the information so she could decide whether and when to come. She agreed to call her boss and see what she could do.
- I didn’t know whether Sally would be up yet, so I asked Chris to email her instead, reasoning (incorrectly, it turned out) that she would check her email as soon as she got up.
- Soon after, Janice called back to say she had been able to get off work, and would be arriving around 1pm.

7am - we timed a few “cramptractions” and determined they were about 60 seconds long.
- I called both my mom and my sister, still clinging to the line that “it could be days”.
- Also, Rhea and Ian woke up, with Rhea of course advising me to just ignore the cramptractions as long as I possibly could. Taking this perhaps too much to heart, I spent the next couple of hours trying to downplay what I was feeling and not giving in to the sensations as much as I perhaps should have.
- Sally phoned, and though I again told her “it could be days” she was ready and willing to come. “If it’s days, then we’ll hang out and have some fun times together,” she said. I told her that Janice was already on her way as well. “Do you not want me to come, then?” Sally asked. I paused for a moment to assess how I really felt. “I want you to come,” I affirmed. To me, that was a big turning point, admitting that something was really happening and that I wanted my support gathered around me. “Okay, I’ll be there.” Sally checked the ferry schedule and said she would be in around 2pm.
- Chris left a message for Lillian.
- I asked Chris to make me some whole wheat pasta for breakfast – a strange request at that time of day, but I remembered that the complex carbs would serve me well if it turned out to be a long day and my appetite disappeared as my sister had predicted.

10am - we arrived at the TreeGo park (Chris and I were going to watch Rhea and Ian do the course) to find it closed. By this time, I was feeling pretty uncomfortable having contractions in the car, and I couldn’t really think of anything else to suggest. I really just wanted to go home and be in my comfort zone, so we said our goodbyes. Rhea and Ian headed on to Victoria and Chris and I headed home, where I focused on waiting for Janice because that was the next event in my day and I needed to focus on something.

From 10 am to 2pm is a blur. Chris and I tried many different techniques and positions, trying to find something comfortable and effective. He also reminded me to drink, and to go to the bathroom. We spent a lot of time on the upstairs landing. Eventually, it became clear that the best position was for me to be kneeling into his lap while he sat on a chair. This position also worked with me leaning over the back of the futon, or when standing, leaning against a wall. I’m not sure exactly when the back pain started, but it surprised me quite a lot when it did because I knew the baby was not in the “back labour” position. I wondered at the amount of pain I was having in my back, and wondered how actual back labour would feel. Chris started applying counterpressure to my back, which was really helpful. Sometime during this stage I put on my birthing necklace (which had beads from all the people who’d attended my blessingway) and started gripping the rock that my best friend Mike had given me. I’d also been given a candle that everyone at my blessingway had carved a word into, and we lit the candle during this stage. This was a good focal point at times, but I was still moving around so much that it wasn’t always in view. It was also around this time that we took those final belly pictures.

Though I have no memory of this, Chris reports that he was doing the deep ovarian breathing exercise with me at this time, as well as reminding me to relax certain parts of my body and making me drink some water or Gatorade after each contraction.

1pm - during one of my bathroom breaks, Janice arrived. Chris briefed her on what was going on, what was working, how she could help. She soon suggested putting the belly wrap around me to try and take the pressure off my belly. I remember telling Janice how frustrated I was that nothing seemed to work for very long – I wanted to find “the magic position” that would work through the whole labour, but I was also feeling pressure to change positions every few minutes.

I noticed that the cherry tree was in bloom. I had watched that tree throughout my bedrest, wondering when it would bloom and wondering when my baby would be born. Somehow I had decided these events would happen on the same day. Now, it seemed I was right.

2pm – Chris had to leave to go pick up Sally. I remember that it was me who pointed out what time it was and that he needed to go – not him. Surprising!

3pm - By the time Sally and Chris got back, Lillian was here. She observed me through a couple of contractions, and my mother phoned and I asked Janice to answer it and deal with it, which she did admirably. Lillian took me upstairs to check me – I was at 1cm and was so disappointed. However, the good news was that I was fully effaced and the baby was at -2 (she had been at -4 the day before). I was not able to hear the good news about the effacement, but Sally and Janice kept reminding me that the effacement had to happen first, and now it had, and that every contraction from now on would be an effective dilating contraction. Lillian went home to nap and await our next call.

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