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Halia’s birth story

30 Nov

I felt the first contraction around 6:40 a.m. on November 11th.  I wasn’t absolutely sure it was a contraction at first, and it lasted only a minute.  Twenty minutes later, there was another one.  I phoned my midwife, Heather, at about 9 a.m. to let her know that things were underway.  She told me to let her know when my contractions were about 3 or 4 minutes apart, or when I knew I was in active labour, or if my water broke.

We made it a pretty normal day, although I can’t tell you now just what I did to fill the time.  Since it was Remembrance Day, Michael had been planning to go to the ceremonies at the Canada Games Centre with Jade, and then for a hike with Nanuq afterward; he abandoned those plans, though, since it was clear that I was in early labour.  We both did a little blogging, made sure Jade ate her meals and snacks on time, phoned our families.  I do seem to remember eating a lot that day.  I figured I should keep my energy up.  I also remember telling Michael that I still couldn’t really believe we had a baby coming. 

I continued to have mild contractions throughout the day, sometimes 20 minutes apart, sometimes more.  I even got a break in the afternoon and napped for at least an hour.  That nap ended suddenly when a particularly strong contraction caused me to leap out of bed.  I found lying down was absolutely the worst position for getting through a contraction.  Instead, I made good use of my trusty exercise ball.  (I have never used it for exercise.  I got it after Jade was born.  It was extremely useful for quieting her cries when she was suffering from gas pains.)

As we moved into evening, the contractions got stronger.  They started to be painful, except that I’d visualize my body opening up to let the baby out.  “Open up, open up,” I was whispering to myself, and somehow the contraction wouldn’t seem as painful that way.

Around 6 o’clock we had supper (my mom’s fabulously delicious homemade jiaozi) and Michael put in a call to Heather’s pager.  My contractions were about 7 minutes apart at that point, though I’d still occasionally have a longer break.  We were both surprised that Heather didn’t call back right away, especially since she’d checked in with me in the afternoon to see whether it was okay to go into town or if I thought I’d need her very soon.  It turned out that she’d started helping someone put up some drywall; for the first time that day, her pager wasn’t right on her.  She ended up phoning us at 6:30 and let us know she was going home to get her things (and shower off the drywalling gunk).

Heather arrived at 7:00 and started putting together the birthing pool.  I wasn’t necessarily set on the idea of a water birth, but I was very excited about the idea of labouring in the water.  A couple of women I know have found labouring in a bath extremely helpful.  (“Better than an epidural!” said one friend who’s done it both ways.)  Meanwhile, my mom started Jade’s bedtime routine, since she always goes to bed after supper.

At this point, I really wanted to concentrate on my labour and the overhead lights just seemed too harsh.  I stayed in the kitchen but turned out all the lights and got Michael to light some candles.  I also changed into a ratty old bathrobe to get my clothing out of the way.

I could hear Heather in our office, assembling the birthing pool.  The contractions were getting a lot more intense and closer together and I was doing a lot of moaning.  (The moaning was helpful, but I remember thinking how unmusical the sound was.  No one would think I’m much of a singer, listening to those sounds coming out of me!)  I remember wishing Heather would hurry up because I wanted advice on how to deal with the intensity!  Sometimes I was on the exercise ball.  Sometimes I would put my arms around Michael’s neck and sort of hang on him.  I tried squatting but that felt like it was hurrying things along a bit too much and I didn’t try it again.

Heather came out and said, “Fawn, do you feel like you have to push?”  She waited a moment.  “Because it sounds like you want to push.”  I think I was on the exercise ball at that point and I kind of moaned a question about when the pool would be ready.  There were just a few centimetres of water in there; the pool normally takes about 20 minutes to fill.  She could tell there wasn’t that kind of time.  “You’re not going to make it,” she said.  “Where do you want to be?”

My mom had prepared the upstairs bedroom for me, laying out a shower curtain liner to protection the mattress, with some old sheets on top.  At that moment, though, the last place I wanted to be was in a bed.  Actually, I’d spent a good part of my day visiting the bathroom.  (Loose bowel movements are common during early labour; it’s one of the ways the body gets itself ready.)  If you haven’t heard this before, you’ll hear it now: the toilet is a wonderful place to get through contractions.  The supported squatting position that doesn’t put pressure on your delicate bits is, well, comfortable, if you can call being in labour comfortable.  When Heather asked me where I wanted to be, everything in me said I didn’t want to be in a bed.  No, I’d much rather be on the toilet.  And I said so.

“Okay,” said Heather.  So she and Michael helped me to the bathroom and onto the toilet.

Things were really starting to roll.  The contractions were very strong, there was a lot of pressure happening down below, and I was feeling out of control.  I think the moaning turned into something more like screaming at this point.  I was holding onto Michael’s hands (perhaps cutting off his circulation, I might add) and Heather was kneeling in front of me.  “Slow it down, Fawn” said Heather, calmly, soothingly.  “Try to pant through the contractions.”  (The idea here is to let the tissues of the perineum stretch so that less tearing will happen.)  I think I managed to pant through two contractions, but I couldn’t rein in what my body wanted me to do. 

Suddenly I felt an explosion.  Perhaps you can imagine how disconcerting it is to feel an explosion between your legs.  (Well, this kind of explosion is.  Heh heh…)  I screamed something like, “I felt something go!”  I was honestly a bit panicked at this point.  I realized how fast things were going and I wasn’t really mentally prepared to be at this stage of labour yet.  I could actually feel the baby’s head about to crown; I knew it was happening because remembered what this felt like with Jade, except that with Jade it had taken a bit of work pushing to get to this point.  Things couldn’t possibly be going this fast!

Once I’d announced that my water had broken, Heather told me I had to stand up.  I got up and turned to face her, with Michael behind me.  It took just push to get Halia’s head out.  One more push, and out came the baby!  I didn’t see it, of course, but Michael is still extremely impressed with Heather’s spectacular catch.  (Truly, she “caught” the baby.  And if you’ve never seen a newborn, babies are extremely slippery when they’re newly delivered!)  I heard the baby crying in the first seconds after she was born.  I sat back down on the toilet and Heather handed her to me.

I don’t know if Michael ever said it on his blog, but he was convinced from quite early on that we were going to have a boy.  He was so dead sure of it that by the last couple of months, he had me convinced, too.  So it was a huge surprise when I looked down at the tiny squirming thing in my hands and realized, “It’s a girl!”  I wonder how surprised I sounded, because I sure felt surprised.  “Oh!” Michael said.  “I was so wrong!”

After that, Heather filled up the (regular) bathtub for me and I got into it with our new little baby girl.  We shut the lights off and Michael brought in some of the candles that had been burning in the kitchen.  Heather busied herself getting some things ready for me.  I believe she offered me some arnica, and also a small amount of herbal tea.  She explained their function to me at the time, but I don’t remember those details very clearly now.

I do remember thinking my poor mother must have felt pretty stressed being downstairs and listening to me scream.  I told Michael, “Why don’t we bring Jade upstairs now to meet her little sister?” Then we suddenly thought to wonder what the time was.  It was just before 8 o’clock.  (I hope poor Halia never gets too much into astrology, since we don’t know the exact minute of her birth.)

Jade was absolutely enchanted by the new baby.  She also really wanted to get into the tub with me and the new baby girl (who, as you may recall, remained nameless for several days).  The bathwater was pretty bloody, so we decided we should try to finish filling the birthing pool, which would fit all four of us.  Unfortunately, a few minutes later the hot water ran out.  Then the bathroom sink sprung a leak, probably from the pressure of the hose running to the birthing pool.  Since it was clear we wouldn’t get to use the pool and Jade had already stripped all her clothes off (by herself), we decided to let her get in with me so that she could really meet her little sister.  And she’s been helping us to look after her ever since.



Sorry for the lapse…

9 Nov

… but wireless Internet in Whitehorse hit an all-time low yesterday when apparently all of Navigo / NorthwesTel / Bell’s customers went without service for the entire day.  Sorry to leave you in suspense!  To summarize:

  • No Nugget yet, but when Heather came to do my prenatal checkup yesterday, she said his/her head was so low that she couldn’t even feel it!  Also, she says her practice tends to go crazy around new moons and full moons.  There’s a full moon on Wednesday, so…
  • After a couple of great days, Jade seems to be kind of crashing again, with lower ketones and more seizures.  Michael and I are actually wondering if she’s not getting enough calories.  There’s still so much learning to do.
  • Medicine and vitamins continue to be a huge challenge.  I try to coax and wheedle as much as possible, but we’ve had to resort to physically holding her and forcing them in a number of times.  I can’t even express how much I hate doing this, especially on nights like tonight when meals are also a battle.
  • The house is slowly being tamed as my mother works her awesome super-organizing-machine powers in between Jade-watching and cooking shifts.
  • We moved all of Jade’s things into her new room today and she’s spending her first night in the big-girl bed.  She’s had a few naps in there already, so we’ll see how tonight goes.
  • I am exhausted.  But I REALLY wanted to try baking a low-carb almond bread for Jade tonight.  But it takes an hour to bake.  Argh.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll just weigh out the ingredients and bake it tomorrow.  Then it will be ready just in time for Jade’s morning snack…
  • I am SO ready and yet SO not ready for this baby to arrive.  And, um, no, we still don’t have names picked out.

33 weeks pregnant

26 Sep

Here I am in all my yoga pants glory:

Nugget at 33 weeks

Here’s what has to say about Nugget this week:

This week your baby weighs a little over 4 pounds (heft a pineapple) and has passed the 17-inch mark. He’s rapidly losing that wrinkled, alien look and his skeleton is hardening. The bones in his skull aren’t fused together, which allows them to move and slightly overlap, thus making it easier for him to fit through the birth canal. (The pressure on the head during birth is so intense that many babies are born with a conehead-like appearance.) These bones don’t entirely fuse until early adulthood, so they can grow as his brain and other tissue expands during infancy and childhood.

I saw Heather on Monday and when she palpated my belly she told me that Nugget felt like a really good size for me. She asked me how big Jade was and when I told her she was 6 lbs Heather said, “This one’s a bit bigger.” Yikes!

But: earlier this week I was at our family doctor’s office to get Jade’s latest blood test results. I chatted with the receptionist, who told me she’s had five kids. (Wow!) My favourite part was when she said, “Bigger babies are easier to birth.” Really? I wanted to know why. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess because they’re bigger, so there’s more pressure from the baby, so it’s not as much work to push them out.”

Given how easy I had it with Jade, who was tiny, this sounds hard to believe. I admit to being a bit nervous about birthing Nugget, just because this whole pregnancy has been a little harder, so I’ll take any good news I can get!

31 weeks pregnant

12 Sep

(Coffee break time…!  I’m back at work today with just a tiny bit of a sore throat.  Thanks for your good wishes!)

I’ve been getting a lot of comments in the last few weeks from people expressing their disbelief that I’m not about to pop in the next week or two.  Listen, people, I’m short-waisted.  Besides making it hard to buy dresses, my short body means there’s nowhere for this baby to go but out, so there it is.

One of my colleagues also told me today that she thought the baby had dropped.  I was surprised when she said this because I hadn’t noticed — the top view of my belly hasn’t changed much.  But after thinking about it, I think she’s right.  Since about Thursday or Friday last week, the pressure points have changed, I just didn’t really think about them.  I’m not really feeling feet up in my ribs so much now, bending forward is a lot more difficult, and the whole baby-sitting-on-the-bladder thing is more pronounced.  Duh!

On Monday I had an appointment with my midwife, Heather.  I also got to meet Leah, a doula who works closely with Heather, who will also likely be attending Nugget’s birth.  I was in a bit of a rush during the appointment (meaning I had to leave in about an hour) because I had to take Jade to the doctor’s office, but it was still a great visit.  There was the “clinic” stuff, where I got to hear Nugget’s heartbeat (160 bpm) as well as actually listen to my placenta functioning (lots of gurgling, whooshing, underwater, bubbly sounds — how cool is that?!) and Heather determined that Nugget’s bum is up and head is down.  But there was the human part of the appointment, too, the part where she asked how I was doing, which wasn’t great that morning, since Jade was so sick, and the house is still in shambles, and hormones and well, you know, life.  So of course I bawled on her couch.  She gave me a thick wad of toilet paper and said she didn’t think she’s ever had a client pregnant with a second child NOT bawl her eyes out in her third trimester because her house is such a wreck.  And then she and Leah offered to come over and CLEAN MY HOUSE because it’s something a friend would do.  I think I cried even harder then.

Here’s what has to say this week:

This week, your baby measures over 16 inches long. He weighs about 3.3 pounds (try carrying four navel oranges) and is heading into a growth spurt. He can turn his head from side to side, and his arms, legs, and body are beginning to plump out as needed fat accumulates underneath his skin. He’s probably moving a lot, too, so you may have trouble sleeping because your baby’s kicks and somersaults keep you up. Take comfort: All this moving is a sign that your baby is active and healthy.

Choosing a midwife, Part III

23 Aug

I had an appointment with my midwife Heather this morning.  Now that I’m in my third trimester, we’ll be seeing each other every two weeks, and I really look forward to it.  It was such a nice relaxing visit. 

I slept in this morning and was still eating my breakfast when Heather arrived at my door at 9:30.  Crook and Nanuq both snuggled with her as we chatted about my week; I told her what I learned from the physiotherapist and chiropractor and about my visit to the ER on Thursday

Last time we’d met, Heather had asked me to keep a food diary for a few days, so I gave that to her and we had a great discussion about nutritional needs during pregnancy.  For example, I should have protein regularly and she’s happy to see that I tend to have a bit of it spaced throughout the day because, hey, babies are mostly made of protein and fat.  Also, the need for iron picks up in the third trimester because babies start storing it to use in their first 6 to 9 months of life.  Besides meats, dark leafy greens are a good source of iron; vitamin C helps our bodies to absorb it, but calcium inhibits iron absorption.  Some of this stuff was new and some wasn’t, but it’s great to have an idea of what to focus on when I make food choices.

We discussed how birth practices in North America are changing.  Heather attended a vaginal breech birth a few weeks ago, which was fascinating.  I’ve been interested in this topic for a few years because a friend of mine in Ottawa has been very involved in advocating for informed choice of vaginal birth vs. c-sections for breech babies.  Heather told me that the Whitehorse Hospital recently changed its policy on vaginal breech births and doctors will now allow a trial of labour for breech births at the hospital.

We talked about things I could do while I’m still pregnant to try to strengthen my abdominal muscles so that I can avoid further separation and, I hope, ward off those nasty muscle spasms.  I was surprised to learn that Kegel exercises can help.  I know I should do these but I hate them, so I always end up conveniently forgetting.  Besides, when Heather explained how to do a “full” Kegel, I realized that there’s more to doing them right than I ever gleaned from the literature.  (She told me to lean back on a wall with knees slightly bent and picture a string behind my belly button being pulled up through the back of my neck.)  Kegels actually engage a lot more muscles (like the abs) than I thought.

One nurse at the hospital on Thursday noted a trace of leukocytes in my urine sample and was concerned that this was a symptom of a UTI, which could irritate the uterus, which could lead to pre-term labour.  (I thought the nurse was over-reacting a wee bit, don’t you?)  Heather had mentioned at an earlier visit that there are herbal therapies for UTIs, so even though neither of us think I have this infection (since the urine stick showed neither blood nor protein) we talked about herbs that are good for urinary tract health.  Apparently the Yukon is a great place to live if you have bladder issues.  Cranberries (the “regular” kind, as well as high- and low-bush cranberries) and kinnikinnick both work really well as natural remedies, and both are plentiful around here.  Kinnikinnick grows right outside our back yard, and both types of bush cranberries are easy to find close by.  Heather said that high-bush cranberries are also good for back pain and knee pain, so I may go looking for them as an additional boost for my sacral health “program”.

We did a physical exam (blood pressure, fundal height measurement, gentle palpating to see where Nugget was lying today) and then Heather broke out the fetoscope.  It was much easier to find Nugget’s heartbeat today and once Heather was finished listening, she passed the earpieces to me.  It was the first time I got to try out the device and it’s so different from using a Doppler, which has a definite mechanical/electronic sound to it.  With a fetoscope, it’s more like listening to something that’s happening underwater — which I suppose is exactly what’s going on!

We wrapped up our visit with a discussion about post-partum depression and set up our next appointment, to which I will bring Jade because I’d really like to have her involved so that she feels she is a part of the whole process.  By this time, it was after 11:00, making our appoinment almost 2 hours long.

I know that in my initial musings I wondered about how much pre-natal care I really need and what a midwife would have to offer beyond the exams one gets in a doctor’s office.  After learning so much from Heather today and having such a nice time on a social level as well, I’m feeling better than ever about my decision to choose a midwife.

Deciding to choose a midwife, Part II

23 Jul

Way back in May, just before all hell broke loose with Jade, some of you, dear readers, may recall that I was trying to decide whether to make the leap and go for midwifery care. I’d already started thinking that I’d like to have a homebirth with Nugget, but somehow I still wasn’t feeling strongly enough about it to actually commit. Well, I’ve had a good two months to mull over it (and lots of time in hospitals!) and finally decided to go for it.

I e-mailed Heather to ask her if she could still take me on as a client (there are a whole slew of babies due this fall, apparently) and she enthusiastically replied within hours; not only that, but she told me she just recently moved into my little neighbourhood! How handy is that, to have your midwife living a 5-minute walk from your house? It seems like a sign that this must be the right decision.

Deciding whether to choose a midwife

21 May

Did you know that in nearly every industrialized country except Canada and the U.S., maternity care provided by midwives is the norm? I’m talking about places like Scandinavia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. Not exactly the backwaters of the world. Many of the women in those countries would probably assume you’re having some kind of high-risk pregnancy if you told them you were being cared for by a doctor during your pregnancy.

And yet, it seems that here in Canada many people (especially those who don’t happen to be women of child-bearing age) are surprised or even horrified at the idea of having a midwife. Last year, a man actually left this comment on the Yukoners for Funded Midwifery blog:

“We should be moving forward, not backwards, which is why we should fund hospitals, doctors and nurses and not archaic practices like midwifery.”

I was completely flabbergasted. This kind of comment really brought home to me how little awareness some people have of midwives.

The tide is turning to some degree. Midwifery is becoming more and more accepted — and more in demand — as more provinces start funding and regulating midwifery. For better or worse, Yukon is one of the last places in Canada where midwifery is both unregulated and unfunded.

As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, even though I’ve been active in the Yukoners for Funded Midwifery advocacy group for the past two years, when it came to this pregnancy, I suddenly didn’t know whether or not I wanted to have a midwife. Initially, I think this was because of the jitters I had about the pregnancy, worrying about the possibility of a second miscarriage. Now, though, it’s mostly about the money.

Both the local midwives charge $2,500 for the care they provide, from prenatal care through to six weeks post-partum. Given the time they put into the appointments (often an hour or more, compared to a 15-minute visit with the doctor) and the fact that they can only take so many clients at a time, I certainly don’t think the rate is unreasonable. Heather’s been practicing in Whitehorse for almost 10 years and I don’t think she’s ever raised her rate.

But still, you know… it’s $2,500.

In some ways, I feel I don’t need much prenatal care at all. I breezed through Jade’s pregnancy, and I’ve got a bit of “been there, done that” going on. I know, I know. Every pregnancy is different. (That’s almost cliché.) But still.

I’m not afraid of the labour and delivery part. Again, perhaps I’m cavalier because it was so quick and easy last time (and, say it with me, “every baby is…”). But I definitely wouldn’t want to do it without support. And having a midwife is my best bet to have a birth that is as non-medicalized and natural as possible. Although I don’t have regrets about Jade’s birth, I hated being attached to an IV and sometimes wonder if it was really necessary. But is it worth $2,500 just for the birth part?

Every woman I know who has had a midwife is absolutely thrilled with the care she has received. I know quite a few women who’ve had both doctors and midwives (for different babies, I mean) and still it’s no contest.

I really like Dr. Gudapati, though. She’s sharp, competent, and sympathetic. She’s also pretty supportive of midwifery. And, this being the unregulated Yukon where midwives are not recognized as part of the health-care system, Dr. Gudapati would still technically be my maternity doctor.

Then there’s the fact that we’re doing renovations. A new shed that will probably run about $6,000. New flashing and eavestroughs. Fixing up the other room in the house as Jade’s bedroom (we’ll need a new big-girl bed for her)…

A frivolity: $2,500 would be just about the right amount for a new electric piano, which I’ve been fantasizing about for some time. The one we have has a few temperamental keys and is also a bit awkward to transport for gigs. Then again, once Nugget makes his or her appearance, I won’t be performing anywhere for a while. Want ≠ need.

The more I mull it over, the more I’m leaning to the midwifery side. There’s the fact that the prenatal care will be so much more than pee-in-a-cup-take-blood-
next-month. And there’s also the fact that I’m finding the idea of a homebirth appealing. (Lots of places have midwives practicing in hospitals, but they don’t have hospital priviliges here, obviously.) We wouldn’t have to worry so much about what to do with Jade, and she could be a part of the birth so that Nugget would be “her baby”, too. Interventions would certainly be a lot less likely. Michael wouldn’t have to sleep on an uncomfortable little chair.

Wow, I’m long-winded tonight. Anyone still with me? Do you see why I’ve been having a hard time making that final decision?