It's about 5:00pm on June 27th - approximately 5 days past my due date. In the past week I've lost bits of my mucous plug, babe has gone from fully engaged and ready to go, to breech, and then back again, I've experienced hundreds of "practice" contractions, I've seen an RMT and acupuncturist, and I've crawled around on my hands and knees for hours trying to turn a stubborn, posterior little peanut. I'm exhausted, and feeling rotten. My hopes for a peaceful, natural home birth are starting to fade away as the looming, mandatory "induction date" draws near. I worry not about the pain of labour, but about being strapped to a bed, hooked up to multiples wires and IV's, turning this beautiful, natural event into a standardized "procedure" in a hospital where sick people stay, and nurses tell you how you should labour, and a doctor we've never met before enters the birthing room with a moment to spare, and catches our baby without even introducing himself. That's what I fear. I don't fear contractions, or transition, or pushing... I am a woman, and my body was made for this. I am capable of miracles, and I am determined to prove that. (To who? Mostly just to myself. Also to my baby...she deserves a peaceful entrance into this earth, and I want to give it to her more than anything)
Finally, a wave of intensity comes over me, and I feel my belly tightening. This is it - I'm so sure this is the start of labour, and I begin to prepare. I tidy the house, I make necessary phone calls (to family mostly, not to the midwife or doula quite yet), and I lean over my birthing ball, rocking back and forth, encouraging my baby to turn anterior. The intensity of the contractions increase, but the timing is still extremely inconsistent. I take a bath, and decide to lay down, resting while I can. I snuggle comfortably into bed, only to realize that someone else has decided to snuggle down for the night - the contractions stop. This little girl is not quite ready yet, and we both drift off to sleep.
At 3:00 am, I am jolted awake by strong pressure and a big contraction. I walk the halls of my new home, peeking in on children sleeping peacefully, and stopping every few minutes to give my whole self into each contraction, letting my body do it's natural work. This continues until dawn, and I watch the sun rise, exhausted but ready to greet this new day, and hopefully a new life. But once again, the contractions stop.
The rest of the house is awake, and I quietly make breakfast and school lunches. Although I am exhausted, I feel good. I have a burst of energy, and feel like I should make the most of the day, as it may be the last day I have, as a mom of 2.
A quick visit with my midwife that afternoon crushes my hopes that early labour had started, and that I was on my way to meeting my little girl. My cervix has not changed, and there's no sign of immediate labour. She doesn't anticipate it will be tonight, but gives me an encouraging hug and assures me that it will be soon. I head home and sulk a bit, slipping into that "woe is me" state for a while, unrealistically thinking I might just be pregnant forever. But it doesn't last long before the contractions start up again. I wish them away, knowing it's just a tease and that I'm no where near ready to give birth. I'm exhausted, and desperately want a good night's sleep.
Midnight quickly rolls around, though, and things are not slowing. The pain has gotten more intense, and I find myself focusing on my breathing, ensuring not to tense my shoulders with each wave. I lean over my birthing ball, with my laptop propped on the couch. I distract myself with mindless chatter on Skype, with a few good friends who anxiously count contractions with me. I talk to my mom briefly, to cry that it's happening again, that I'm exhausted and just need to sleep, and that it's not fair. She tells me she'll come whenever I need her, but I'm so sure they're going to stop any minute, and that my little girl is going to snuggle into the womb for the night again. I tell my mom not to worry, and that I will call her in the morning. I head to bed.
The pain while lying down is unbearable. My back throbs, and my knees curl up to my chest with each contraction. I try desperately to sleep, but it's just not possible. I decide to take a warm bath. I find comfort in the warmth of the water, and doze in and out of consciousness for a few moments. It feels so good to close my eyes. The bath turns cold though, and I get up to walk the halls some more. I see my mom is still online, probably too anxious about the pending arrival of her new grand daughter to sleep. We chat for a few minutes, and somehow she knows it's time. She insists she comes over, and tells me she will be here soon.
I'm relieved. I don't want to be alone, but know Trevor will be too tired to be of help if I wake him. So, I patiently wait for my mom.
When she arrives (about 2:00am), I am getting antsy, tensing up through each contraction, and forgetting to breathe. She rubs my back, brushes my hair, and calms me down. Moms are good like that. Maybe this really is it...maybe it's almost time to meet this baby! We spend the night trying to sleep through contractions, but not having much luck. I have another bath, while she rests, and I text one of my closest friends in Vancouver. I'm grateful for the time difference, as she is still awake, and offers some words of encouragement.
The sun rises once again, but this time the contractions aren't slowing. The pattern is feeling more regular, offering about 5-8 minutes between each one. The rest of the household wakes, and is surprised to see me breathing heavily through each contraction. Trevor, not sure what to think, packs his golf clubs into the car, in hopes that he will be swinging for par after work, just like he does every Wednesday. This gives me a good laugh, and I tell him I think I will be seeing him before then.
He leaves for work, Cheyna leaves for school, and my mother in law runs out with a list I have given her. What kind of things does a woman in labour request? Fruit, scones, muffins and lot's of tea!! We're having guests, don't you know? And, we need to keep them fed and happy. It's a celebration, and even in the midst of an intense contraction, I worry myself with hostess duties. It may seem silly to some, but it was important to me - I needed everything to be just right, and seeing to it brought me joy.
It's finally time to call the doula! She tells me she will be here in an hour. I still feel unsure, praying labour doesn't stop suddenly. But I carry on, breathing through each contraction.
As promised, my doula arrives quickly. She walks in right as a contraction comes over me, and wastes no time, offering counter hip pressure and words of encouragement. I sigh a big sigh of relief, happy to have her there. My mom looks after Jaxson, making him breakfast and keeping him entertained so he is not worrying about mama.
We spend the morning working into our comfort zone as doula and mama. We discover pain relief that works for both of us, and I allow myself to open up and be completely comfortable and present. I know I can't hold back, or let any reservations take over. I'm comfortable, and I'm glad I have her here. She encourages me to rest, and tells me it may still be a while before this baby is ready to meet us. She reminds me that we could be doing this all day, and even all night again, and that I need to store my energy.
Around noon, things start to change. The pain is getting intense, and I am finding less and less relief. I feel my eyes burning with tears as each contraction hits me, and I am unaware of the timing, but I know they must be getting closer, as it feels like the breaks are becoming few and far between. With the next wave of pain, I lean over the kitchen island, and feel a rush of emotion come over me. The tears flow freely, and I start to feel unsure. I'm tired....so, so tired, and the pain is so intense that I'm not sure how much more I can take. I start to doubt myself, and wonder if I am really comfortable with a home birth. I turn to my mom for comfort, just needing a hug and some reassurance that I'm doing just fine.
The look my doula exchanges with my mom lets me know that she's seen something - she's seen a change, and is wondering if things are picking up faster than she anticipated. She encourages me to call my midwife, and let her know that things are happening...that we're not ready for her yet, but to be prepared for our phone call later on. So, I do. My midwife sounds excited, surprised to hear how things have progressed since I saw her yesterday afternoon. She tells me she is just about to go off call for 3 short hours, for her sons graduation, but that I can call my backup if I need anything at all. She reassures me that she'll be back on in no time, and that she will see me soon. We hang up.
I feel myself holding something back. I realize I'm trying to hide the pain from Jaxson - he's just 2, and he must be scared. I don't want him to worry about me, and I beg my mom to take him away..to take him for a walk so he doesn't have to be scared. I exchange a few texts with my husband, telling him I'm struggling, and that I may need him soon.
Jaxson and mom leave, and I release the tension and anxiety I was holding in. I give into the pain, and let myself be overcome with the intensity. I retract into my own world, pushing my doula away, needing a few minutes alone. I rock on my birthing ball, in complete silence, feeling the waves coming closer and closer together. My doula speaks quietly, and tells me it's time to call the midwife. It hasn't been 3 hours, and we need to call the backup. I quickly ask her to call for me, not wanting to leave this zone of focus. I am aware that she's talking on the phone, but I am not really aware of what she's saying. I hear something about being unsure how far we are, but that she thinks I need to be checked as she sees that something has changed. I know she's right, and I rest on my birthing ball, relieved that someone is coming. I send one final message to Trevor, begging him to come home quickly. I'm finally convinced that it's time...we're having a baby very soon.
I can't recall who came first - the midwife or Trevor. It's all such a blur. I remember the look of concern on Trevor's face, as he watched me leaning over the railing of our staircase. He's unsure what to do, so just stands with me, which is exactly what I need. I know he's here now, and I know I can give in fully to my labour. I yell at him to quickly have a shower, as I can't stand the smell of his workplace on him in this moment. Everyone kind of chuckles, and he looks a little shocked that a shower is of importance right now. But, he complies like the good husband that he is ;-)
I'm not exactly sure what happens in the moments that follow. The midwife is here, but I'm hardly aware of her presence. She's in the bedroom, setting up, and checking the babies heart rate every so often. Although we've only met once before, her presence is calming for me, and I am completely okay with her replacing my primary midwife for the time being. I know she will be here soon, and I continue on.
I think I have an internal exam somewhere around this point, but I'm not really sure. Things happened really fast from this moment, and in my mind, it plays back like a slide show. I remember flashes of moments, but the memories that stick the most are simply the feelings tht came with each contraction, and the anticipation of meeting our daughter. The pain is strong, but I am okay with it. I know I am working towards a huge reward, and that it will all be over soon. I never even consider medication for relief, or heading to the hospital.
I remember standing in the shower, with Trevor running the shower head over my back. I remember that helped a lot. I remember stepping out of the water a few times, to have the baby's heart rate checked. I remember it sounded perfect. I remember Trevor, my mom and my doula offering comfort at different times, in different ways. I remember walking back to my room, putting a bra and underwear on, to preserve the modesty that was important to me for this birth. I remember Jaxson waking from his nap, and reassuring Trevor that I was okay, and that he should go be with him. I remember the moment of transition - it's so clear in my mind. I stood by my bedroom window, overcome by an intense sensation of tightening and burning. My back was on fire, and I yelled for the first time, as I was overcome with extreme pressure. For the first time, I was unsure that I could do this...I wanted to go to the hospital...what if something went wrong? But the thought was whisked away by another wave of intense pressure. I started to repeat "I can't do it, I can't do it..." and I remember my doulas words in that moment. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I don't think I'll ever forget it. She said, "You're already doing it...you don't have to do anything more than you're doing right now. Your body is doing it for you". It was so simple, yet so profound. This was happening, whether I was ready or not. My body was working so hard, and all I had to do was give into it, and let it happen. I was ready.
I leaned over my dresser, and whispered that something was leaking. I remember the tension in the room at this point - suddenly, everyone was rushing around, and I felt a bit of panic from everyone present. (Although looking back, it wasn't actually panic - just my team realizing that a baby was about to come earth side, and trying to make sure everything was ready FAST!)
Someone told me to lay down on the bed - I needed to be checked. I was leaking amniotic fluid, and they needed to be sure it was clear. I was also presenting a posterior baby up until this point, and they needed to check that she had turned. I ended up on the bed somehow, but don't recall how I got there. I lay in a semi reclined position, with my doula supporting me from behind. I yelled at my mom to go get my husband, and she was afraid she would miss the birth. I yelled louder, and she knew I meant business! (Sorry, mom!) The next contraction came quickly, and with it came a big push that my body let out without any coaching. My bag of waters shot across the room, and I panicked for a moment, not sure what had just happened. Trevor came in, my mom soon followed, and I wondered who was with Jaxson, but couldn't focus on that right now. This baby was coming fast!
I remember giving a few big pushes. I could feel my baby descending, and knew it wouldn't be long. What an amazing feeling. I gave a few yells as she crowned, and everyone cried that she had dark hair. My midwife told me to breathe, and give short, small pushes. My body wanted to push hard, but I held back, eased my babies head out in a few smaller pushes. Everyone swooned that I was doing great, and that she would be here in one more push. The next contraction came and with hardly any effort, my baby slid out and they pulled her right up onto my belly! A huge sigh of relief came from everyone, as she opened her eyes and let out a few small cries. "She's here", I cried. My mom reminded me to check if she was actually a girl...she was. A beautiful, baby girl!!! Novelle Audrey Kathleen Schnarr was born at 3:35pm, on June 29th, weighing 7 pounds 10 ounces, and measuring 20 inches long.
I realized another midwife had joined us, though I don't remember her coming in. I remember asking how badly I tore, and the midwife happily telling me I didn't tear at all. I was so relieved! In the moments that followed, I delivered the placenta, Trevor cut the cord, and my mother in law, my kids, and my primary midwife all joined us. We laughed, we cried, and we celebrated.
After Novelle was placed on my tummy, she did the "breast crawl" that I had so often heard about. I always doubted how a newborn could do something so amazing, and was in complete awe that she wiggled her way right up, and began to nurse immediately. It was magical. She nursed for what seemed like ever, before anyone took her away from me. I think it was about an hour later that they took her to be weighed and checked out, with daddy and her big brother and big sister. I took the opportunity to take a shower! I felt so amazing... I couldn't believe it. I wasn't in any pain, and was completely over come with love for our new family of 5.
I got out of the shower quickly, and the midwife and doula encouraged me to get back into bed. Everyone had a good laugh when I insisted I do my hair quickly :) You would never know I had just given birth.
The 5 of us snuggled in on our big bed, and we marvelled over the newest member. Jaxson and Cheyna were instantly in love, offering loads of hugs and kisses. My mom and mother in law watched lovingly, and took any photo opportunity they could get. We laughed that Trevor could still make his weekly golf game if he wanted! We also laughed at how our Midwife was off call for 3 short hours that entire week, and our baby had to be born at that moment.
My midwives and doula sat downstairs, enjoying some tea and snacks while our new little family got acquainted with each other. It was so comfortable and peaceful...I was so happy to know they were all making themselves at home.
A couple hours later, the midwives came up to say goodbye, with a promise to return soon. My doula tucked Novelle and I in, took care of all of the laundry, and joined my family downstairs for dinner before she left to get home to her family. She still laughs today, that a doula rarely experiences a 9-5 shift (I think it was 8-7, to be exact), and that she happily stayed for fish and chips with my family, while her husband took care of dinner and bedtime at home with her kids.
Novelle's birth was truly magical, and there's not one thing I would change about any of it. It's the kind of birth I had always dreamed of having, and I'm so glad we were all able to experience this.