My daughter was born 5 days early on June 23, 2013, so we were certain that baby number 2 would arrive on, or prior to his due date. Not quite! My due date came and went with no real signs of impending labour. He had been so low in my pelvis for weeks; I couldn’t believe it when I hit six days past my due date! Friends and family began to pepper me with concerned text messages and voicemails. All the while I knew he was happy and healthy on the inside as his kicks and wiggles continued to reassure me.
I decided I’d better make the best of my remaining days before he was born, so I booked a pedicure for the evening of May 6th. I was rushing to make the appointment on time, waddling down Bloor St. in full-on super prego fashion. Suddenly, I felt a big gush of warm fluid. “Game time” I thought and turned right back towards home.
Contractions started about thirty minutes later and were slight but regular about every 10-15 minutes. I spoke with my midwife, Elizabeth, to let her know my labour had begun. The excitement was palpable in our apartment amongst my husband, Michael and me, and I know my daughter sensed something was up. I was able to nurse her before bed, say goodnight, and tell her how much I loved her. I couldn’t believe the hours were numbered before she was no longer an only child! My midwife told me to page her once my contractions had increased in duration and frequency, so we ultimately decided to get some sleep if we could rather than continue walking to bring on labour. Shockingly, I was able to sleep somewhat in between contractions as they spaced out a bit more once I was lying down. Around 4am my hips ached so badly, I just couldn’t be in bed anymore and got into a warm bath. I texted my midwife, and we decided to meet at the Toronto Birth Centre around 6:30am.
Thankfully, it was only a five-minute drive to the TBC that early in the morning. Michael and I gazed at the sunrise on the horizon as we headed east. The world seemed so beautiful, peaceful, still and quiet. My contractions were pretty intense and coming every 2.5-3 min at that point and lasting 30 seconds. I had a strong contraction on the sidewalk outside of the birth centre that I had to stop and breathe through. I told Michael how I was envisioning the contraction as a giant tidal wave coming towards me, and that the only way to deal with the pain was to dive right into it like the wave, which seemed to help.
We checked in and put our bags down in the gorgeous, very Zen birth centre room. It was complete with a huge soaker birthing tub, a gas fireplace, and a double electronic bed. Vincia, the student who was training with my midwife performed my initial internal exam. I could hear her whisper to Elizabeth that she thought I was 4-5cm dilated. Okay, I thought, not so bad, I can do this. Elizabeth then checked me herself to verify this and said, “I have to disagree with your findings, Vincia. Deena, you’re EIGHT centimeters dilated and fully effaced. What you were feeling is the baby’s head. Lets fill the tub.” I think I must have already been in the zone at this point, because it didn’t truly register in my brain just how quickly things were progressing.
I ran to the bathroom and sat on the toilet through a few brutal contractions. I also sort of realized that the urge to push I had in the car earlier wasn’t totally in my head as shit was getting very real. I walked out of the bathroom, stripped off all my clothes, and basically dove into the tub while my husband called our Doula.
The warm water felt amazing, and the tub was absolutely enormous. I could completely stretch out and almost swim around it was so deep. My contractions continued to intensify and Michael was amazing, holding my hand at the top of the tub, coaching me to breathe slowly and deeply through the height of a rush until it began to taper off. He reminded me to keep my jaw and lips loose, which would in turn allow my pelvic floor to remain loose. The Doula arrived and took her place next to Michael at the top of the tub. In my haze, I barely noticed my backup midwife, Katrina arriving as well.
I began to feel such power in the contractions that at one point I heard and felt a loud “pop!” It felt like a water bullet was fired out of my vagina, but I think it was a pocket of amniotic fluid or my water breaking fully. Soon, the urge to push was imminent. My midwife told me not to be afraid of those intense feelings and to follow my body’s cues. I flipped over onto my hands and knees from lying on my back in the water. This gave me more leverage through the first few pushes as I was getting the hang of how to do it correctly. The intensity of my contractions was like a thunderstorm rolling through the mountains. My body existed in another world completely, and I tried to let my animal instincts take over. I vocalized in low tones to get through the pain, and it felt like such a natural way to proceed. I prayed to God to get me through it more than once and imagined the heavens above. I even repeated out loud at one point, “I can do it, I can do it!” Everyone around me was so supportive and encouraging.
The Doula, Geraldine, coached me on pushing, and I have to say, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I learned to hold my breath and bear down instead of breathing out to manage the pain. The midwives were amazing, showing me where to push, encouraging me with each one. I began to see excitement in Michael’s eyes when he could see the top of the baby’s head during one push. I had noticed concern and some fear in the moments prior, but it was all replaced by excitement now. I could feel my baby moving down through my bones, and at certain points my back hurt intensely. With each push, the baby would progress forward, and then move back up at the end of a rush. This frustrated me, as I wanted the pain to be over and to have my baby in my arms, but I also knew if I pushed too hard with all my might, I might tear to the bejeezus. The midwives reassured me that this back and forth dance was good, and that I was stretching nicely to make room for the baby’s head. I felt intense burning / ring of fire when I would push the baby’s head forward, so this cautioned me to take it slow despite wanting the pain to end.
I changed positions as the midwives suggested trying to sit on a birthing stool under the water in the tub. This really brought the baby down low, and I was very close to pushing him out in that position. It was just too intense for me. I tried it for a few contractions, and then moved back into a reclining position with Michael on one side holding my knee and Katrina on the other holding my hand and knee. I knew the end was near now and felt like I had given my all and more. Before the next contraction began, Katrina looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Deena, why don’t you just go ahead and push your baby out now?” I nodded at her and got down to business. With the most powerful rush yet, I bared my soul and pushed my baby out, head and shoulders. With a few more little pushes, the rest of his body was out! He came up out of the water and was perfect and warm, lying on my chest gazing up into my eyes. He cried out beautifully with big, full lips, and I told him what incredible work he did to get here and how much I loved him.
My placenta wasn’t ready to be delivered in the tub, so the midwives had me step out of the water holding the baby with the umbilical cord still attached. I felt like a proud lioness holding her newborn strutting through the wild jungle as I made my way over to the bed. The baby latched and began to nurse while the midwives administered a shot of oxytocin in my left thigh. Quickly after, I pushed out my placenta. They began to massage my uterus to get it to firm up, and I felt a lot of blood coming out. I was so obsessed with my new baby at the time, but I did notice a bit of concern on their faces as I was losing so much blood. They told me I lost enough for it to be considered a hemorrhage, but thankfully, my blood pressure never dropped.
I only tore very slightly along where my previous episiotomy scar had been from Natalie’s birth. The midwife said she didn’t really need to give me a stitch, but would do one just because she knew I had a toddler to care for at home and wouldn’t be able to stick to complete bed rest.
We couldn’t be more in love with our Harrison. He came into the world in such a sweet way. I am forever grateful for the amazing support of Michael, my whole midwifery/doula team, and the Toronto Birth Centre. I truly believe that all women deserve to get the birth experience of their dreams. There is nothing more empowering in life. This proved to me that you can do anything with the right mindset, support, and encouragement.
Harrison Wight Etienne
Born on the 7th of May 2015 at 9:04am
7lbs 8oz ~ 20.5″ long