This is my long overdue birth story number 2!
Prelude (WARNING: I talk about my vagina here, so if you’re uncomfortable with that, skip ahead to the next section).
Around month 6 of my pregnancy, varicose veins popped up all over my vulva.
This was a result of pushing for 3 hours during my first labour.
Had I gone to my postpartum appointment (big whoops – completely forgot to go), I would have learned that pushing for that length of time is very hard on your vagina, and I should’ve undergone physical therapy for my pelvic wall. Because the area never had a chance to heal properly, the pressure of a new growing baby plus the body’s increased blood flow during pregnancy resulted in vulvar varicose veins.
Oh the joys of child bearing.
The concern (besides extreme swelling and discomfort), was that if these veins were to tear or be cut, I may hemorrhage.
To avoid any cutting, I would not be allowed an episiotomy (so no vacuum or forcep delivery – fine by me).
To avoid tearing, my nurse practitioner explained I would need full mobility to labour in various positions. Gravity would assist in the pushing and therefore ease the pressure on my vulva (and veins).
This also meant: no epidural (well, to clarify, I could have one, but she highly recommended I didn’t).
I was completely ok with that.
My goal this time around was to have a drug-free labour.
Partly as a personal challenge (women have been doing this drug-free for a zillion years; surely I can do it too),
and partly because I suspect (you may disagree), that it’s better for the baby and recovery-time for the mom.
I asked our nurse practitioner if we should hire a doula.
She responded, “PLEASE hire a doula”. And she gave us a list of referrals.
I often get asked what a doula is, so I’ll explain here.
A doula is a labour coach/assistant. They do not perform any medical procedures (you would still require a doctor or midwife). A doula literally coaches you through labour.
I wish I would have hired one the first time around.
Women (myself included), we will hire someone to style our hair, paint our nails, clean our house, train us at the gym. Why not hire someone to assist you through the birth of your child? It is such a momentous occasion.
And it’s completely foreign territory.
Did you know how to labour before you did it?
I sure didn’t.
I was still clueless even after my first.
Hell, even now after my second.
Nurses only offer you “PUSH NOW!” instructions.
And though husbands offer emotional support, they really have no idea how to actually help you push out a baby.
(Note: you do not have to have a drug-free labour to hire a doula. During the interview process, I asked ours “what if I decide I want an epidural halfway through my labour?”. She responded, “I am here to support you. It’s your body, your labour. I’ve even had people hire me for elective c-sections.”)
I was so pleasantly surprised at how much my nurse practitioner, doctor and our hospital (St.Mary’s for those of you in the area) embraced hiring a doula. I was expecting indifference or even some hesitation. It’s a testament to how progressive they are.
Ok back to the action…
2:00 am (3 days post due date)
Woke up to go to the washroom. Started having contractions. I’d been having occasional strong contractions here and there for the previous 2 weeks so I thought: “I’ll pay attention, though I’m not sure if this is it”.
I decided to have a bath. I figured that either way, it’d relieve some pain.
The contractions were 10 minutes apart. And STRONG.
During my labour with Caio, my contractions were up high and felt like extreme food poisoning cramps.
This time they were low. More along the lines of severe menstrual pain that radiated through my bones.
The bath seemed to do little. Every time I had a contraction, I’d kneel on all fours just to find some relief.
Woke up Gino.
My contractions were now 5 minutes apart and our doula had warned me not to delay with second-time-around labours, as they are generally fast and furious. Plus we live about an hour from the hospital.
Gino called his mom (she would be watching Caio).
Blow dried my hair.
Or maybe I AM WOMAN-ish.
Who blow dries their hair while moving a baby through their birth canal at the same time?
Apparently I do.
My contractions were now 2-3 minutes apart.
I called our doula Millie.
She recommended that we pack up and meet her at the hospital.
She said if I was not in good labour yet, we’d walk around or go for a coffee.
Gino’s mom arrived and we left the house.
The car ride to the hospital during my first labour was very pretty and polite compared to this time around.
With Caio, I chatted lightly with Gino and my father-in-law, paused to breathe calmly through a contraction, and then continued on conversing.
And what was this time like you ask?
I couldn’t even sit.
I tried to get in the front seat and just about screamed.
Instead picture me keeled over on all fours in the back seat, with my face in a nursing pillow that was sitting on a toddler carseat.
My contractions were now 2 minutes apart.
And let me tell ya, there was nothing polite and pretty about these ones.
I was gripping anything around me, half yelling/half moaning, swaying my hips back and forth.
We met our doula Millie in the hospital parking lot.
She looked at me and said “Yeah I think we’ll go up and admit you”.
I had to stop every 10 steps or so to lean over and have a contraction.
Millie would massage by back and hips and talk me through my breathing.
A doctor in triage gave me an internal exam and informed me that I was 7cm dilated and my membranes were bulging.
They skipped hooking me up to a monitoring system and directed me to go straight to a delivery room.
I began to sweat.
Marathon amounts of sweat.
Not from nerves or heat, just seemingly randomly.
My doula explained this signifies a hormonal change in your body and the baby would be here very soon.
Hobbled into the delivery room.
I could feel a bit of leaking as I approached the bed.
Me: “Um, I think my water is breaking?”
POP ( it sounded exactly what you’d expect a breaking bag of water to sound like).
Water and blood gushed everywhere.
And the pain went from a 7 to a 10 (the amniotic fluid that had been providing some cushioning between my bones and the baby’s head was now all over the floor) and then my legs buckled.
“Can you get on the bed?” my doula asked.
“No I can’t!” I wailed sadly.
She lowered the bed and rolled me onto it.
Millie told me later that she could see the baby’s head at this point.
Gino appeared (he had gone to the washroom expecting he’d have a lot of time) to a chaotic scene of nurses, blood and amniotic fluid galore.
He panicked assuming something was wrong.
Millie assured him all was well.
One nurse announced “Now THIS is how you come to the hospital in labour!”.
Apparently most of us go way too early.
I was overcome by the need to push.
It’s unbelievable how labour takes over. Like a freight train charging down a track – it’s this force that moves through your body and you feel it. You feel ALL of it. But with no control.
I can’t even really explain it, but truthfully?
It was brutal.
Sounds were coming out of my mouth that I wasn’t consciously making.
Gino said I was just quietly saying “ahhhhhh!!!”, though in my mind I was full out yelling.
And I consider myself to have a high pain tolerance.
(Note to all of the moms-to-be out there: I know many people who have had very easy natural labours. No sweating. No screaming. Just 3 pushes and baby appears. So it may be that way for you! Please don’t think my experience will be your experience. I’m just providing an honest account of what this labour was like for me).
There was no way I would’ve been able to have a natural labour without a doula.
I think I would have panicked.
Millie was there instructing me through every contraction (“Chin down! You’ll get a better push!”) and breaking the pain down into small, bite-sized bits (“Use this contraction! The harder a contraction the more it’s actually moving the baby.”)
It never felt cheerleader coaching-esque.
She gave thoughtful, helpful, useful instructions.
March 26, 2014 at 7:56 am
After 6 hours of labour from start to finish including 20 minutes of pushing,
Elika Mae Cocomello was born!
8 lbs, 8 ounces and 22 inches.
They lay her on my chest and asked, “What do you think it is Mama?” (we chose not to find out the sex beforehand)
And I responded, “A girl!”
And I was right. :)