This is a candid birth story. Please keep that in mind as you read on.
Tallula Violet Sharp was born right on time. Early in the morning of her due date, July 20, Sebastian woke us up. On my way to getting him a cup of water, my waters broke. Because I was Group B-Strep Positive, we had to get to the hospital straight away so that I’d have time to be administered two doses of antibiotics through IV before labor progressed. No laboring at home. So a bit after 4am we headed up to St. Michael’s Hospital. Seb hasn’t woken in the middle of the night for ages. It was as if he knew his sister was ready to join us.
At my 39wk appointment I found out my doctor was going to be out of town the week after my due date. I was disappointed because she knew the details of our traumatic birth the first time around. She also knew how we wanted things to go this time. She was leaving on Monday, the 23rd. Although she’s only on call for deliveries earlier in the week, she offered to be on call for us at any time. It meant a lot that we could (hopefully) have someone we knew and trusted. The rest of the family practice team had been notified of our situation prior in case she was out of town. Since I went into labor early Friday she was able to come in to deliver our baby. Tallula’s timing was perfect!
At my weekly check up the day before I had been dilated to a 2, gone home and drank a bunch of raspberry leaf tea. Although I wanted her to come on her own, I also hoped it would be sooner than later. And a huge bonus if my doctor could be there! Maybe it was the heat, but I had a feeling she’d be a bit early or on time. When we arrived at the hospital my contractions started to become more frequent, although I was only dilated between 2 and 3 on initial check.
In Canada babies must be delivered in a 12-18 hour time limit for deliveries in labors which the waters break. So I knew we’d be on the clock. In the UK, although my waters had broken and continued to leak, they sent me home three times before finally admitting me for induction. Here, we also had an ultrasound for 40 weeks to check whether it would be safe for baby to go overdue. No such ultrasound in London. Testing for GBS in Canada is also required between 34-37 weeks. Although I was devastated to learn I was positive, I had time to prepare myself physically and emotionally. This test is not common practice in the UK.
I labored for 4 hours before getting checked again, and I had hardly dilated further. Although we’d paced the halls, and my contractions felt worse, they were still a bit irregular. After another check the doctor informed us that my labor wasn’t progressing at the rate we needed it to. This had also been the case with Sebastian so I started to think it was just the way my body works. I cried when the doctor mentioned the oxytocin (syntocin) drip, but was also determined to follow procedure for the delivery time required for safety reasons. Thankfully I wasn’t required to get an epidural, so I opted out and took on the increasing contractions and the pain that came along with it. This would not have been possible without my husband to lean on.
Why no epidural? With Sebastian’s labor, once I went on the syntocin drip I knew contractions would be fast and hard, as well as possibly lead to intervention. I wanted to be prepared for an emergency. I was also exhausted at this point, 30+ hours since my waters had broken. But during my final stage of labor, I couldn’t feel contractions to know when to push and I couldn’t feel how I needed to push. Afterwards I felt if I had been able to feel my body more, perhaps things would have gone differently. And when intervention was needed, it was not there. This time I knew I would feel everything. And if we needed intervention at the last minute, it would be possible.
I started breathing through contractions but as they got harder, longer, and closer together I was moaning into a low pitched scream through my breaths. It was amazing how it helped with the pain! Ali was by my side for every contraction. I didn’t let him leave, even to get more ice chips! He was always there, applying pressure to my lower back, letting me lean into him. My eyes were closed often as I became more tired. This also helped me visualize getting through the contraction, and moving forward in labor. I rocked on the birthing ball and was able to get in different positions. Although I was hooked to the IV it was on wheels and the heart/contraction monitor was portable too, at my request. Not feeling locked into the bed or paralyzed by an epidural really made a difference with the amount of control I felt in the situation as well as being able to be present and active while working through the most intense pain in my life.
Another 4 hours and another check only to find I’d hardly dilated to 4. I needed to get to ten and fairly fast. During this check the doctor found that only my fore waters had broken. So she took the hook and broke my hind waters to move things along. I felt a gush of warm water and soon I was dilated to eight. A moment of relief, but I still had to get to 10 to start pushing.
I remember looking at the clock around 4.30, a little over 12 hours since labor had started. When the doctor said I was almost there I didn’t realise that still meant another two hours, at least. I was getting tired. I had my eyes closed through each contraction and buried my head in Ali’s arms. I had the nurse take the contraction monitor off since I could easily and painfully feel them coming on. She also took the heart monitor off and monitored baby moving the monitor manually herself as baby moved down. The coolest thing through all of the pain was feeling baby moving down, as though she were swimming towards the end of the tunnel. The hardest thing was the pushing. I wasn’t very good at it!
My doctor and nurse were awesome. They did a fabulous job working together and working with us. They had me get on all fours which moved baby right down. Now dilated to 10, I was ready to push. For me, this was the challenge. The contractions were hard, painful and close together. Pushing felt good. But my pushes weren’t long/hard enough. Baby kept moving up and down in the birth canal. I imagine this is also what Sebastian did, but he had the cord around his neck twice and was not being monitored properly. Baby was monitored during each contraction and the doctor was also stimulating her head as it was within reach, if still too far up. This was to keep her awake and alert and moving down. I was in awe at how well they were monitoring baby and working with me and my body to get her out.
I was getting more tired with each push and worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. The doctor offered assistance with the vacuum and I had a flash back to when I was offered the same with Sebastian. I didn’t hesitate. I wanted to avoid what happened with Sebastian and even a c-section if possible. The OB was called in and she was very firm. She said baby was still too high and I had to work harder to push her down. So Ali and the nurse held my legs up and I grabbed onto the side bars on the bed and pushed and breathed and pushed and breathed. Still not there.
My doctor believed I could do it, she continually encouraged me and coached me. But the exhaustion and pain was starting to get to me and I recalled my tired state during Sebastian’s birth, again worried. I knew I still had a ways to go. They allow pushing for two hours, but since I was GBS+ it could only be one hour, and it seemed very far away. It was at this point I decided that I would not be doing this (childbirth) again. They offered me an epidural and even though I’d labored over 12 hours without one, I was afraid my exhaustion would take over and I wouldn’t be able to push baby out. I recall hearing Ali ask if it would hinder my ability to push. I agreed but we learned it was at least a half hour until I’d get one. They said I would do it before then. So I got it into my mind that I could, that I would, and I did.
I pushed and I breathed. I thought about all the things I had read about natural birthing techniques. I thought about my baby swimming towards the light at the end of the tunnel but needing my help to get out. And I did what I felt was right for my body and pushed with all of myself. The doctor was stretching my perineum, Ali and the nurse were holding up my feet/legs, and all of them encouraging me. I felt the ‘ring of fire’ and the doctor shouting, ‘here she comes!’ And I pushed and breathed and pushed and out came her head and then her body in the next push, so smoothly. There was no more contraction pain. No more tiredness. Only bliss.
I reached out to touch her, Ali cut her umbilical cord and they passed her to the team to check her out. She had passed merconium during birth. Her head was a bit cone shaped from going up and down in the birth canal. But these were blurs, once she let out that healthy cry Ali and I started bawling. She was here. And she was safe. I am so proud of myself. I did it. We did it together. I felt everything. I needed a beautiful birth for a beautiful baby girl. And it was.
Mama and Tallula post delivery.