Being pregnant

Birth story: Not at all as expected

In her final post for Pregnant Pause, Karen recounts how her delivery didn’t go quite as planned.

Matilda Grace, 2 weeks old.

A sunny fall afternoon that was supposed to involve a coffee date and dog walk with a friend ended sans latte or pooch. Here’s what happened two Thursdays ago.

Before meeting my friend I had my standard 39-week appointment booked with my midwife. I thought I’d just pop in, pee on the stick, check my weight, have a nice chat and be on my way. I was so wrong.

I felt good that day and we were talking about how I was going to spend my final few days of the pregnancy (cooking, cleaning, watching girly movies in bed on Netflix). The appointment seemed to be going along per usual until, that is, she checked my blood pressure. Before I knew it I was being instructed to go home and collect my hospital bag — and my husband — and meet her at triage in two hours. I thought she just wanted to run some tests. I suspected she was being overly precautious. I felt fine, after all. I didn’t need a trip to the hospital. It took about 20 minutes of her repeating herself for it to finally sink in: I was going to have my baby. Now.

Since the baby was full-term there was no sense taking any risks, my midwives reasoned. I supposed this made sense, but what about my coffee date? Should I text my friend that I’d be late? (The reality really wasn’t sinking in.) Once Barry and I made it through admitting and up to triage my midwives consulted with the on-call obstetrician. Within a few hours I was receiving blood pressure medication and oxytocin to induce labour. At some point during the night — at about 6 cm dilated — my readings started to creep up again despite the meds and I was encouraged to have an epidural, which has the fringe benefit of lowering blood pressure. I was happy to receive the help — and, frankly, the pain relief. Sadly, it didn’t totally take on one side and required several top-ups as the hours marched on.

By noon the following day I was fully dilated but, after two hours of pushing, baby’s head just wasn’t quite making it through. Another consult with the OB left me with two choices: Forceps and an episiotomy or vacuum and an episiotomy. I wasn’t thrilled with either but opted for the latter — I figured at least my baby wouldn’t be left with a cone head.

About a dozen doctors and interns filed in as my legs were unceremoniously thrown into the stirrups. (I seriously thought this scene only happened in movies!) Over my knees I glimpsed at their faces as they stood in a large semi-circle around my vagina. I couldn’t stop thinking about how young some of them looked — like babies. After a new anesthesiologist gave me yet another top-up Barry held my hand while the OB and his crew did their work down there and I pushed baby Matilda out into the world. Barry cut the cord and they brought our baby up onto my chest. I couldn’t stop staring at her scrunched little face and beautiful bow-shaped lips. I wept tears of joy as I felt her breathing against my chest. I was so relieved that the ordeal was over and I had this precious little girl to show for it. Little did I know we were actually far from the finish line.

The placenta was removed and the midwives were showing us some of it’s irregularities, which could account for the high blood pressure I’d experienced, when the room started to spin and the coconut water, protein bars and apple juice — power snacks Barry had lovingly fed to me hours earlier — started to violently reappear. I could literally feel the blood draining from my face as I started to hemorrhage. One of midwives started performing contractions on my abdomen (which felt more brutal than the birth, by the way) to free any major blood clots or pieces of the placenta that may have remained. Then the OB reappeared. I cried for the second time, now out of fear, as I was suddenly being wheeled away, and looked back to see the look on my husband’s face as he clutched our newborn. We made a hasty trip down the hall to the OR where I was scraped free of any final clots and packed to stop the bleeding. Later Barry told me that the delivery suite looked like Dexter’s kill room — blood everywhere.

We spent two nights in the hospital and were finally discharged on the Sunday. I’ve never been so happy to come home as that evening when I stepped into my warm, bright and newly-cleaned house and sat down to a delicious meal. (Thank you, Debbie, the world’s best mother-in-law!)

This isn’t the birth story that I’d wanted to tell. For months we talked about how we’d labour in the comfort of home for as long as possible, deliver at the hospital and then, fingers crossed, be discharged under our midwife’s care just hours after the birth. Unfortunately, this wasn’t meant to be, but in the end we have a beautiful and healthy baby girl to show for it so I’m thankful for the happy ending at least.

I’d also like to sincerely thank Zuzana, our primary midwife, as well as Carmen and Lisa from the Midwives Collective of Toronto, for the incredible level of care and support they provided. Despite all the interventions I required they were there with us every step of the way, liaising with the hospital staff, advocating for our best interests, holding my hand and whispering reassurances when things got rough. Plus, Zuzana came to our house almost daily for two weeks following the birth to check in on Matilda and do the required blood work and blood pressure follow-ups for me as she continued to consult with the hospital about my recovery. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthing team.

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