So Part 1 of Alex’s birth story left off with Jake and I heading over to the hospital to meet my midwife, Nicole, for an induction. It was a strange feeling leaving the house and driving to the hospital without being in labour at all! In a way it was nice not to have to drive with contractions. It was easy to call my parents and ask them to come over and watch the boys – it wasn’t the middle of the night, no one had to rush!
We arrived at the hospital around 6:30 PM and headed to triage. Here’s how the night unfolded:
Nicole hooked me up for a non stress test. This involved watching the baby’s heart rate and movement over half an hour. The baby looked perfect on this test, and this meant that the induction could go ahead.
A room opened for me on the labour and delivery floor. We headed over to the room. To my surprise, it was the exact same room I had for Benjamin’s birth – lucky number 18! Number 18 has special significance in the Jewish religion – it represents life and therefore quite a fitting room for the occasion. The room was tiny, crowded, old, run down, worn out – there wasn’t even a pillow on the bed and we couldn’t find an unclaimed one anywhere else on the floor. This didn’t phase me much – I wasn’t planning on spending much time lying down in bed. The room was adequate and I was hoping I wouldn’t be spending too much time there.
First step in the induction process was getting an IV. This was necessary because at 37 weeks I had tested positive for GBS and therefore required a dose of IV antibiotics. The insertion of the IV really hurt – but I knew I had much more painful things ahead of me that evening!
The antibiotics were done, and my IV line was disconnected, but a saline lock was left in my hand in case I needed another dose. It was uncomfortable to leave the line in my hand, but there was no other choice. As the night progressed, I would forget it was even there. Nicole suggested that I have a little rest at this time, to give the antibiotics time to work and so that I would have the energy necessary for labour. I lay down and tried to rest, but I was quite excited and unable to sleep. Instead, I ate a banana, a Larabar and drank a lot of Nuun. Felt like preparation for a half-marathon!
The time had come to break my water. As soon as Nicole did this, I immediately felt a pop and a contraction. It was amazing how quickly my body responded! Regular contractions followed. They weren’t very painful right away, but they were certainly uncomfortable.
From 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM, the contractions came regularly every 3 minutes or so. They increased in intensity over time. I had to be hooked up to an electronic fetal monitoring machine, to monitor baby’s heart rate. This was the hospital’s protocol for an induction. It was a bit of nuisance to be hooked up to wires, but Nicole ensured that I could still move around and remain upright, rather than being limited to lying in bed. This was very important to me. Contractions when you are lying down hurt 1,ooo,ooo times more than contractions when you are standing up. Moving around and standing up allowed my baby to move into an optimal position, and I believe this helped to minimize pain during contractions. At around 1:00 AM the contractions were quite painful, but always bearable. The reason for this was that I always had a break in between contractions to regain the strength needed to tackle the next one. I knew that each contraction meant my cervix was dilating further, and that I was one step closer to meeting my baby. I was becoming a little bit worried though, as it had only been 2 hours of labour, and I wasn’t sure that I could handle the pain for too much longer.
Nicole asked me if I wanted to be checked to determine my progress so far. She said that I shouldn’t get my hopes up too much because it had only been 2 hours since she broke my water. I said definitely YES! I needed to know how far I was. However, I remembered vividly from Benjamin’s birth that lying down to be checked was extremely uncomfortable. Nicole suggested that I climb up on the bed, but remain in a hands and knees position. This worked out quite well and was much better than lying down, and felt just as good as standing up.
Nicole checked me and we were all shocked to learned that I was already 10 cm. She asked if I felt ready to push, and at the point I did not. She said let’s just wait a bit until my body was ready. She called my second midwife, Noushin, to come down to the hospital.
After a strong contraction – I went from not needing to push, to needing to push right away. I told Nicole and Jake that this baby was coming soon! Nicole called to the nurses station to ask for a respiratory therapist to come and help since it looked like Noushin would not be at the hospital in time for the birth.
After a few more strong contractions, I yelled out: This baby is coming RIGHT NOW. Nicole picked up the phone to tell the respiratory therapist to come immediately, but there was no time for that. Almost involuntarily, I gave a small push and out came Alex’s head, followed shortly after by the rest of her body. Jake and Nicole were not expecting it to happen so fast – Nicole caught the baby with one hand and Jake didn’t even see Alex come out. Nicole and Jake helped me out of the hands and knees position and I lay down in bed. Alex was placed immediately on my chest skin to skin and we were all in a bit of shock.
The respiratory therapist came into the room a couple minutes after the birth. I said to her: That was amazing and so much fun! She told me she hasn’t heard new moms say that before. I truly felt great at that moment – so many endorphins were running through my body and my baby high was starting.
Alex and I snuggled for about an hour after birth. She latched on immediately and nursed like a pro. Noushin arrived and she and Nicole took care of all the paper work that needed to be done. After an hour, Noushin did the new baby exam on Alex and we learned that she weighed 5 lbs 10 oz. This corresponded to 2551 grams. We were quite happy - if she had been under 2500 grams we would have to stay in the hospital for 24 hours. We were ready to go home!
Noushin wheeled me to the door in a wheelchair and it was time to take Alex home. Alexandra didn’t make a peep on the way home. My parents heard us come in and came downstairs to meet their new granddaughter. Dylan followed shortly after at around 6:00 AM and was immediately in love with his new sister. Benny woke up at 7:00 AM and was a bit more cautious about the stranger in his house. It was so wonderful to be at home, eating my own food, resting in my own bed, and showering in my own bathroom.
After weeks of worrying, both about the initial breech presentation, and subsequently about Alexandra’s size, I was so thankful that she had safely joined us and that she was perfectly healthy, despite being little. We will never know why she was little – the placenta and cord both looked good. She is already growing so much – she reached her birthweight before she turned one week old.
I am so grateful that I was able to have a natural birth again, without medication. I was so concerned that I would require either pitocin or an epidural, and I am so glad I didn’t need either. I know people think it is crazy to even consider a birth without an epidural. I don’t think I accomplished anything special by not needing one – I think anyone can do it with proper information, an open mindset and lots of support from a partner and health care provider. Jake and Nicole didn’t doubt me once and kept telling me I was doing a phenomenal job. I thank them both, and Noushin as well, for all of their help and their love during all 39 weeks of my pregnancy.
Alex at one week old
And now we adjust to life with three kids. It is crazy, tiring, amazing and wonderful. I feel like our family is complete and look forward to watching Alexandra grow up, alongside her two big brothers.
Photos by Kelly Fischstein.