Celebrating Amelia’s first birthday was, simply put, awesome! Thinking about how far she’s come, how special she is, and imagining what another year has to offer her. Of course her birthday has me thinking back to the night(s) she was born. The MOST amazing moments of my life. I’d be lying if I said her birth was everything I imagined it would be but, the moment she paused and looked up at my face with curious eyes as if to connect the sound of my voice to a new face made it all worth it.
I feel like it’s important to share our birth stories as mothers. Only we as women can understand what comes with bringing a child into this world. When we become mothers we learn that sometimes plans change. I say this because my birth plan went right out the window and it took me a long time to be comfortable with that.
I’ll start from the beginning. I knew early on in my pregnancy that I wanted to have a natural labour. So much so that I didn’t often say “we’ll see how it goes”. I had faith in my body. After all, “women have been giving birth for centuries”, it’s what a women’s body is meant to do (even typing this I get emotional). Rather than buying the traditional What to Expect when You’re Expecting, I bought The Mindful Mom-To-Be: A Modern Doula’s Guide to Building A Healthy Foundation from Pregnancy through Birth in anticipation. I loved reading how Amelia was developing each month and what I could do to take care of myself and prepare for her arrival. I stayed active during my pregnancy, I researched techniques, I bought essential oils, and I was mentally prepared. People asked me as my due date neared if I was scared. I wasn’t scared, I knew there would be pain but for a purpose.
My bags were packed. I had my book, my essential oils, a water bottle (with a straw – the straw was very important to me, ask my husband), and snacks to fuel me. My due date, December 28, came and it went. At my weekly check up my doctor scheduled an induction for January 4. My first response was to ask what I could do to help labour come on naturally to avoid induction. I really felt like my body would know what to do. But, nothing. NOTHING. I was uncomfortable but zero signs of contractions. I stayed present but knew that there was a date planned if need be. We scheduled a check up for January 3 so the night before I set an alarm to take a shower knowing that the next day was the big day.
When I woke up at 6:00 AM on the 3rd I showered and started to feel cramping. I had cramping for weeks so I didn’t think anything of it. Then I started to notice I could keep track of the time between the cramping – these were contractions! What!! My doctor confirmed at my check up that I was in early labour and didn’t need the induction. I was thrilled – as thrilled as a woman in labour can be. I was three centimeters dilated and was sent home with instruction to come back when my contractions were five minutes apart. At five minutes apart, we go back to the hospital … no progress. Now, go home until the contractions are stronger or my water breaks. Back home we go. Sometime that evening (I’ve lost track of time) my water broke. I’m thinking, this is it! Finally. When I arrive at the hospital the nurse shares that I’m still only 3 centimeters dilated …….. HOW! She told me to walk for one hour and she’d reassess then. I’d like to say that was the longest hour but it was just the beginning. I still didn’t dilate any further. Huh? How does this work? Nonetheless, since my water broke I was admitted. I believe it was 11:00 PM by now. The nurse asked me what my plan was for pain management to which I replied I wanted to have a natural birth. She, and the other nurses, were super supportive of that.
I told Arthur he should let our families know we were admitted. We both wanted time to spend time with our daughter after she was born before the wave of visitors came in so we asked our families not to come to hospital but that we would let them know when it was showtime. He said, “why? By the morning, she’ll be here and we can tell them to come meet her”. I loved this. No one would be rushing the room. We’d have time to meet our daughter and bond as a family. I agreed.
Since I was experiencing intense back labour I learned Amelia was in a posterior position. Arthur lathered oil on my back, we tried different positions, I paced the room. I tried desperately to help her turn to a more optimal position. Nothing. On top of that I STILL was not dilating. By 5:00 AM on January 4 my doctor thought I was nine centimeters. In my mind it would be time to push soon. The pain has a purpose. At 7:00 I hadn’t dilated any further. It wasn’t time. The lack of progress with my labour was an ongoing issue since early labour (remember the walk with zero results) and my energy, both mentally and physically, was depleting.
At the end of a contraction I caught a glimpse of the warmer where they would check her after she was born out of the corner of my eye. My maternal instinct kicked and I knew this wasn’t a sprint but a marathon. I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, I had hardly eaten, and I was exhausted. How was I going to be able to take care of her when she finally arrived. I needed to change my plan. I asked for an epidural.
I am not kidding when I say that I got the BEST 45 minute sleep of my life after the epidural. I felt amazing. Then came the letdown … I was actually more like seven centimeters dilated and my contractions were still inconsistent. Now the new plan was to give me pitocin to help my labour progress. After a number of hours and a max dose of pitocin there was no change. My doctor and a colleague said they thought it was time to talk about a c-section. There was no pressure to have the c-section, just advice. The goal was to deliver Amelia safely – if the doctors thought that was the safest way then my mind was made up. In the moment, I didn’t care how she was born, just that she was here.
At 4:34 PM I heard my doctor say “Happy Birthday” and Amelia cry. I felt such an overwhelming sense of relief. The pain had a purpose.
It wasn’t until days later that I became truly saddened by how Amelia’s delivery went. My body had let me down. If my body was meant to do this, what did that say about me. When we struggled with breastfeeding I blamed myself because we didn’t get to have skin to skin time immediately after her birth. In months to follow I felt heartbroken when my friends were able to deliver their babies. What was wrong with me?
I know now that there is nothing wrong with me but the words “women have been delivering babies for centuries” stung for a long time. The goal was to bring a healthy baby into the world, and my body did exactly that, no matter how it happened. The reason I feel it’s important to share Amelia’s birth story is because sometimes it just does not go according to plan.
There is a lot I’ve learned since Amelia was born that I’ll carry into a future pregnancy. Regular visits with an osteopath can help with proper alignment and prenatal yoga can be beneficial. I don’t know whether I’ll need another c-section down the line but if I can I will try for another natural birth. If I can’t, I’ll remember what the goal is – to deliver a healthy baby, no matter how that happens. I am not afraid of another c-section but there are a few things I’d do differently. I was so unprepared for the c-section that I didn’t know to advocate for anything. I’d like to have skin to skin time in the operating room and I’d like to breastfeed right away.
It’s funny that after one year with Amelia her delivery seems less surprising. Amelia is such a content little girl, never in a rush, and beats to her own drum. She and I are also very attached. Perhaps she didn’t feel the need to rush into this big, new world. I can remember in the hospital the moment I held her she would stop crying, and that hasn’t changed. Welcoming Amelia into the world has changed me, for the better. I am proud of my body for growing and nourishing a healthy, happy girl who will do great things one day.