In my first pregnancy I never truly believed that I was strong enough to physically give birth. I tried with all my might to convince myself with positive birth stories and an understanding of the power of our divine feminine physiology. As miraculous as it all sounded, well – I just never fully bought it. I was terrified of a pain I had never known. In a sense, I played a role in manifesting Dane’s birth story. After all, everything happens for a reason. There are lessons everywhere if we choose to see them. After he was determined to be breach and birthed by elective cesarean, I now understand that birth takes on all shapes and forms. All births require extreme courage, trust and love. Dane’s birth taught me to trust.
My second pregnancy, while still colored by the incessant and debilitating hyperemesis, was also shaded by an optimistic trust. The blinding fear of pain that I had experienced with my first faded away like the steam on my breath on a cold November night. I didn’t expect it to feel comfortable. I knew it would be hard work. But I also knew I could do it. Here’s how baby Kai was born.
In my final weeks of pregnancy, not only was I really ‘over it’, but I started to measure ‘big’. Two ultrasounds confirmed ‘big baby’ and I felt more anxious the longer he was cooking because I was already being watched closely as a VBAC.
On Remembrance Day 2015 at 10pm, 4 days after my due date, it started. Just as we were dozing off to sleep, I felt the baby move, and with it, I felt a burst of hot fluid down my thigh. I jolted awake and startled my poor husband with “My water just broke.”
After a slightly comical period of waddling between the bedroom and bathroom gushing water all over the floor, with John finding more and more towels to sop it up, we called our midwife and doula and determined that since there was no action happening, I go back to bed to get as much sleep as possible. Ya right – my adrenaline was pumping so hard I was twitching but sleep, yes ok let’s get some sleep. NOT.
Clearly Kai had other plans. At 10:30pm I experience my first contraction. I knew what it was instantly. Like ‘oh – ya that’s a contraction’. Funny because I had just been chatting to my friend the day before about how sometimes you don’t know what they are. This was unmistakable. Also unfortunately unsleepable, and their rhythm and intensity promptly increased over the next few hours.
Remarkably Dane didn’t even stir while I labored upstairs in the adjacent room. My mom or John pushing with all their might on my sacrum with each contraction. “Harder!” I’d ask.
John and our doula Johanna were a dream team. They seemed cool as cucumbers (or at least that’s what I remember from my endorphin laden state.) They were timing everything and calling our midwife Jill as needed. They fed me water and made me go up a flight of stairs (against my will) at regular intervals to pee, puke etc. (Basic full body evac!) During each contraction, I hugged Johanna’s thighs and swayed my hips as she scratched my low back.
Leaving my mom at home with Dane, at 430am we piled into the car to head to the hospital. (But not until after John had to rip two car seats out of the car.) Our coping ritual continued in the back seat and all I really remember from the car ride was yelling for John to STOP THE CAR during one of my contractions (thankfully it was the middle of the night and there was no-one on the road). In spite of my hormonal fog I had a vague awareness of where we were despite never looking out the window.
We joked in between contractions and I remember leaning on our parked car, a hand sanitizing station in the lobby, the elevator, and then the check-in desk to cope with their rolling waves. The nurses joked that I was signing away all my savings to them as I autographed something or other and then directed us towards Room #7. Lucky number seven. My favorite number. Oh Universe, you got my back. Thanks girl.
My memory here gets kind of hazy. Johanna claims I was sitting on a chair in the corner for ages and refused to move. I don’t really remember that but it sounds accurate. I requested an epidural straight away but it would take until after 6am for an anesthetist to be available. In the meantime I went into a trance. Sitting on the edge of the bed I remember the contractions getting longer and more intense. Some with double peaks. In between I sat as still as a statue and hardly breathed. The only other time I’ve had such divine control over almost stopping my breathe was at a meditation retreat. I remember someone in lucky Room 7 saying “She looks like Buddha she’s so still.” And so it goes – my pranayama practice took itself to new heights.
I’ll never forget the look on the anesthetists face as he came in the door. I was buck naked and he shyly averted his gaze as he asked if he should come in or not. I yelled and motioned to ‘get in here!!’ Once that was all done, Jill checked me again and I was only 4cm. You’ve got to be kidding me. I was 3cm before labor even began and now 8hours of contractions later I’m only 4cm? I felt so defeated. Jill had to head off to a meeting so our other midwife Julia stayed with us until Jill could return. I feel so special to have had them both there, it was all so serendipitous.
Since there was nothing to do but wait, I was instructed to rest. I lay there and imagined my cervix opening. I imagined with each wave, a door opening to let this tiny person out of my body and into the world. Two hours later (and after very little shuteye – hospitals are NOT easy places to rest!), Julia checked again. Thinner but still 4cm. Tears.
I had been sure this whole 9months that it was all just going to be ok. And here we are having the discussion of a possible cesarean due to failure to progress. John and I bawled. Of course it would be ok. I had done it before. I just had this feeling that it was all going to be fine so I hadn’t even really considered the alternative other then to say ‘if I have to it’s ok but…’ The peppy little OB was called in to check mine and Kai’s vitals. With her blessing we were given another 2 hours to wait to see how things unfolded.
More trying to ‘rest’. I sipped hot beef broth through a straw (which while a bit gross was delicious considering I was STARVING and not allowed to eat).
Two hours later, Jill checked me again and low and behold I was 6cm! Happy tears streamed down my cheeks. We had just bought ourselves another 2 hours!
Two hours later, at around 230pm I measured 9.5cms! I cried I was so proud! It was almost time to push! At some point during the afternoon they turned down my epidural so that I’d feel my contractions better when it came time to push. A concerning side effect to this was sharp pain right on my scar. A nervous nurse, side stepping Jills authority, called in the OB who raced up from another floor. (I discovered post birth there was evidently a lot of politics going on in Room 7 that day that I was unaware of.) Concerned, but jolly, the pocket-rocket OB checked me. Scar was fine. It was Kai’s shoulder pressing against my pubic bone that was causing my pain. I was free to start pushing!
Pushing was a blur. It was my least confident part of labor because I doubted my ability to feel my contraction. Johanna coached me to get out of my head and she was dead right. The waves had slowed and it seemed to take forever. A lot of different people shared the load of holding up my legs for the 2 hours of pushing. (Though because contractions were so infrequent at 1 every 6 minutes, I guess it wasn’t really that long.) I found out afterwards that Jill had to slide her fingers around Kai’s head and pull my pelvic bones apart with each contraction to make space for his 38cm head! Remarkably my undercarriage remained in tact thanks to her skillful hands.
I’ll never forget the feeling of Kai’s head and then his body being pushed out into the world and quietly onto my chest. Like I’ll never forget the sensation of Dane’s being pulled out with a giant roar! Both magic. Both perfectly them. And perfectly me. The me I was at each point in my life. We’re always changing and always evolving. Kai’s birth was not possible without the lessons learned from Danes’. Big brother paving the way for his little. I’m so grateful.
Kai Christopher Andreasen was born at 4:11pm on Thursday November 12th 2015. Narrowly missing a Remembrance Day or a Friday 13th birthday (phew!) He was 10lbs 6oz. I’m grateful I was unaware of his true size until after his birth. I still can’t believe it. VBAC. Big baby. The murmurs on the ward floor were spot on. All they were missing was the glimmer of an optimistic and powerful mother.
I did it. I still can’t believe it did it. I am SO proud.