Since this is most likely my last birth, I thought it fitting to start my story with my first births, the beginning of my journey. Especially because unlike Khéna’s birth, which was relatively “easy”, Wilhelmina’s birth was much like my first two births. Posterior baby, long and drawn out labour, back labour, stop and go contractions etc…
As I grew in my knowledge and my confidence the stories show a progression. The first ended up being a hospital transfer and a whole array of interventions short of a C-Section, but only because I would not consent. The second, with me refusing the transfer and staying at the birth centre but still with more intervention than I would have liked and then finally my second unassisted birth, which resembled the first two labours, yet I had all of the control.
I have always felt uncomfortable with doctors and the medical community. I have never had trust in the profession though I do recognize that it is needed in some circumstances. Normal birth, however, is not one of those circumstances. Though I didn’t know what I know now, when I got my first positive test I knew that I wanted a midwife. I looked in the phonebook, called 411 on the pubic phone and then finally looked on the internet from the computer lab near my next class. I found a site that mentioned the birthing centre and finally found the number. As I sat in the hallway, waiting for my class to start, I called the birthing centre and got an appointment for the information session at the birthing center. I was due in early July and I was calling within days of taking my test so I got a spot right away, I didn’t know how lucky I was to be in.
My mom came with me to the birthing centre information session; though she was keeping an open mind, she was not convinced. I, of course, didn’t even need convincing. My midwife appointments were great, though looking back it was more medical minded than I would accept now, but it was a far cry from what my pregnant friend was going through with her pregnancy so I was happy. My first labour started just when I was hitting 42 weeks and two days before I had been scheduled for an induction. Xavier was posterior and though my contractions were strong, they were all in my back and he was not descending and I was not dilating. I was still “stuck” at 3 cm after 37 hours of labour and two sleepless nights. I was exhausted and the midwife said that it would be best to transfer. I was told that the bag of water was bulging and that it was “blocking” his way but she didn’t risk breaking it because he was not engaged. Looking back and reading my birth story now, I was told a lot of things during labour that don’t make sense now…
So, we transferred to the hospital that was near the birthing centre. When we got there, I was convinced by the midwife to take an epidural and then I was catheterized. I was hooked up to machines and had an IV and given pitocin, and my body just felt invaded. Every 30 min or so, some stranger would walk in the room to do a cervical exam, not even dressed as doctors and could have been any random person wandering the halls. I was visited by the Surgeon, and residents and other “experts” and was told that my pelvis was too small, the baby was too big and that I could not give birth vaginally and that I would be most likely be getting a c-section. All of this said to me having never met me, examined me, no Ultrasound or test or anything. I didn’t make sense and I refused to listen. My mom tried to talk to me to convince me to just go ahead and do it, others did too, Simon accepted my decision and stood by me.
My waters were broken during one of the multiple cervical exams and the band on my belly kept slipping so at one point a team rushed in and put an internal monitor on his head. By 5 pm, I was 10cm but he was still high and not engaged, they didn’t want me to push because they were still trying to convince me to just have the C-section. They gave me a “deadline” of 8 pm, after that, I wouldn’t have a “choice”.
At 7:30pm a resident came by and I told him I was having back pain in spite of the epidural, he checked me and told me that the baby had come down a bit and that there could be a chance to have him vaginally, I gained hope but the deadline was lingering. The doctor (a family doctor on rotation) came by just before 8pm and said that it was the last chance, if he had descended she would give me more time, if he was still high, it was automatically a C-section, basically with my consent or not. I turned over onto my back and she went to check me, to find that his head was already crowning… she yelled at me not to push and I yelled back that wasn’t and within seconds his head came out followed by his body, while they were still rushing to get ready. Xavier was born at 7:59pm, a minute before their “deadline”.
I said to not cut the cord, they waited about 2 min before pressuring me to do so, I held him right away but then they took him and did all their unnecessary things, weighing him and wrapping him up etc… (He weighed 7 lbs, 11oz and was 20 ½ inches long). He was nursing while the doctor stitched my small tear and while she did, she said that I could leave the hospital and go back to the birthing centre as soon as the epidural wore off enough that I could walk. She didn’t have to say so twice; I left the hospital 2 hours after he was born, while I still couldn’t feel one of my legs (never got the feeling back in half of my big toe actually) and I vowed never to return again.
18 months later, I was pregnant with Colin. Because I had already been with the birthing centre before, I had priority, so again I got in right away. During the pregnancy we moved off island and because we were far I didn’t go to as many pre-natal appointments and instead the midwife just said to call if I had any questions between appointments. Simon and I often wondered what the point was any way; there was not much that the midwife did that I couldn’t do myself.
Xavier was born at 42 weeks, so I was really surprised when my water broke one afternoon at 3pm while I was sitting at the computer at 38 weeks. I called Simon, called the midwife and then called my friend Gen, to pick Simon up at work and to come pick me up and then to drive back to Montreal. My contractions hadn’t started, but because we live more than an hour away from the birthing centre, we didn’t want to be on the road when the contractions hit. With traffic and the drive I got to the birthing centre at 6pm.
The midwife did a cervical exam and said that I was at 1cm, baby was high and contractions were starting but not much. We decided to go have supper at the Vietnamese restaurant across the street and to walk a bit. When we got back to the birthing centre I nursed Xavier to sleep and that is when the contractions really hit. By midnight I was at 2cm, and by 3am I was at 4cm and the contractions were strong. All the pain started to be concentrated in my back again and with every contraction the pain in my back became more unbearable; another posterior baby.
The midwife transferred me downstairs where I was to give birth because I was 5lbs over their “weight limit” for birthing in the rooms upstairs; a policy that they abolished soon after. My contractions started slowing down right away after going down stairs. I honestly think that part of it was because I was embarrassed that I couldn’t labour and birth in the comfort of the room upstairs and instead was in an office just because of my weight. The baby was still high, my contractions were stopping and I went back upstairs.
By 10am my contractions were coming on less strong and I was still at 4cm. I was given an IV antibiotic because I was nearing the 24 hour mark of my water being broken and then I started to hear the talk about a transfer to the hospital. The exact same scenario as what happened with Xavier, I was devastated. I was told that I didn’t have to decide right away and if I still had the energy to keep going I could, but my midwife was tired and was going to relax and another midwife would take her place. I was crying and worn out because I did not want to be transfer again. A midwife came in and I asked her to leave, I didn’t know her and the way she presented herself was cold and uncaring.
Then, to my luck, another midwife came in that was visiting that day. She is one of the most known midwifes in Quebec and one of the founders of the Birthing Centres. She decided to help me along by telling me to squat and push the baby down while she manually helped the cervix dilate. Within 3-4 contractions the baby had dropped at least 2-3 cm and though I wasn’t more dilated my cervix was stretchy. I kept on doing what she had told me to do with every contraction and at about 11:30 I was at 6cm.
I was exhausted at that time and after a great pep talk from her giving me confidence that I could and would do it, we decided to try another position to get the baby to turn and the position ended up being very comfortable, so comfortable that I fell asleep between every contraction. I was supposed to stay in that position for about half an hour but I didn’t want to move and ended up staying like that for about an hour and a half. When I was told to try going on the other side, I felt the baby shift and then all the pain of the contractions shifted to the front. I was checked and I was at 9cm…. (I slept through Transition!!!!)
Within moments of moving, the contractions came on stronger and stronger and I had to push. My original midwife was called in and rushed to bring me downstairs but the new midwife said to let the policy go and that I wouldn’t make it anyway, he was crowning. The two midwives were there along with a student midwife and about 4-5 min later, I was told to reach down and pull my baby out and onto my belly. Colin had a short cord and it was around his neck tightly; so the student midwife cut the cord before he was all the way out and though he cried right away his oxygen supply had been cut off and he needed some help at the beginning, at least he was in my arms and I was able to hold the mask and after about 15-20 minutes I was able to nurse him for the first time. However, the intervention was not over, the student midwife decided to put traction on the cord to “help” the placenta come out, and I bled quite a bit so I was then given a shot of pitocin. Colin was born at 1pm, 22 hours after my water broke; he was my smallest baby, weighing 7lbs 3oz and was 18 ½ inches long.
Though not as much intervention as Xavier’s birth, no transfer and no doctors, I again had a very managed birth. Again the focus was on the clock, on the progression of labour, on the management of the birth and the third stage. Again, my body was not allowed to perform naturally. I was relieved when I didn’t get into the birthing centre for Khéna, and I feel so lucky that I made the choice to birth unassisted for my next two births.