I can't do it

The day that I found out that I was pregnant, a year and a half after stopping birth control and after four months of tracking my temperatures each day, I immediately looked up every midwife in the Edmonton area and started sending emails and making phone calls. After hearing stories from friends and relatives who had had midwifery care throughout their pregnancies, and after doing some of my own research, I knew this was the direction I wanted to go for my own pregnancy and birth. I even toyed with the idea of having a homebirth, even though we lived in a small apartment and my husband said absolutely not! You can imagine my disappointment when each of the emails, phone calls and application forms I filled out were responded with some variation of, “Sorry, but we don’t have space for you.”

Begrudgingly, when week 11 of my pregnancy rolled around and still none of the midwives I had contacted had space for me, I made an appointment with Mom Care Docs for my first prenatal appointment. I still kept up hope that a spot would become available and continued to email the midwifery practices around the city. Knowing that I definitely wanted to have a natural birth, I was reading lots of books and also planned to attend a “Meet a Doula” night at Birth Source.

When I called the store to double check the time of the next session, my hopes rose when a woman at the store encouraged me to keep trying and to try contacting a midwife, who had recently started her own independent practice. By this time I was 19 weeks along and I was ecstatic when I received the reply from Heidi that she was able to take me as a client! I went to my last appointment with Mom Care Docs and was especially encouraged when the doctor I had been seeing seemed genuinely happy for me when I told her that I was able to find a midwife and would be switching to midwifery care.

Fast-forward 21 weeks… I was feeling as good as one can, with few complaints about being 40 weeks pregnant. My husband and I had bought and moved into our first house to make room for our growing family, only a 6-minute walk from his work. My mom had been visiting us from Vancouver Island for the last 2 weeks helping me prepare freezer meals, paint the nursery, and help with many other countless tasks in the way only moms can. I had hired a doula to help with the birth of my first baby, and, by coincidence, she just happened to be from my hometown on Vancouver Island! Most importantly, I had convinced my husband that a homebirth in a birthing pool would likely not be the end of the world, and that was Plan A!

Things were going great...besides the fact that we had recently discovered that our new (to us) house needed a new roof and that much of the routine maintenance had been neglected in the last

few years and the hot water heater would only give hot water for about 5-10 minutes at a time. The week was scheduled full with roof estimates, duct cleaning, furniture deliveries, furnace maintenance, and my doula was scheduled to be on-call, but in Banff for the week…not exactly ideal, but definitely manageable.

At 40 weeks and 2 days I had my last pre-natal appointment with Heidi. That morning when I went to go pee, I lost my mucous plug. No big deal, I thought. It could still be a few days or more before

anything really happened. I wasn’t feeling any differently than usual other than a mild ache in my lower back. At my appointment Heidi checked my cervix to find that I was 4 cm dilated. Interesting! When my mom and I got home at around 10:30 am, I phoned my doula to let her know the news, but not to worry too much because I wasn’t feeling anything close to a contraction. Shortly afterwards I started feeling something similar to menstrual cramps. Nothing major, but I decided to update my doula at 11:30 am. She decided to start driving back to Edmonton from Banff. My husband came home at his lunch break, like he does every day. The cramps were starting to intensify but since things still seemed to be pretty minor, I sent him back to work.

After lunch, a man came by to take a look at our furnace. While talking to him, my mom noticed that I was taking a few breaks in really focusing on what we were talking about, and asked if I was doing okay, after he left. By this time my “cramps” were coming in waves and the ache in my lower back became more pronounced. My mom wanted to start timing my cramps (I was not willing to

consider that they might be contractions, yet), but I, annoyed at the suggestion, insisted that they weren’t that bad and that there was nothing to time. I did, however, agree to take a bath. Once in the tub, the water was very soothing, but things were definitely getting more intense and I felt the need to make low sounds to get through the cramps. After getting out of the bath, a little after 3 pm, I finally agreed that maybe it was time to call Heidi and my husband to come home.

By the time my husband got home, around 3:30, I was past the stage of denying that I was in labour and was definitely ready for the birthing pool. My husband tried to take over putting counter-pressure on my lower back while my mom started to set up the pool, but I quickly reversed those roles. My mom knew just where and how to press on my back to make things better. I was going through periods of feeling extremely hot, extremely cold and extremely nauseous. Meanwhile my contractions were becoming more and more intense! Heidi had arrived by 4 pm, and checked my cervix…7 cm! My doula arrived around 4:15 from Banff and started helping my husband fill the pool. I asked Heidi when I could get in, as I was more than ready to get a change of scenery. I don’t think she was 100% sure I would make it there in time. Sometime in all of the excitement, a roofer arrived to do an estimate of the damage on our roof. My husband explained the situation and the roofer kept out of the way, going up on our roof and writing the estimate in his truck before quickly getting the heck out of there!

By 5 pm I was able to get in the pool. It felt so good to be in the water! The warm water regulated my hot and cold flashes and was so soothing on my aching back. My husband used a mixing bowl to pour water down my back while my mom kept up the counter pressure on my back. I was fully dilated by this time and starting to push. By 5:15 pm the bag of waters was bulging out during contractions. Heidi asked if I wanted to break the waters, but I wanted to let things happen on their own. After a key change of position and a few good pushes I felt a little *pop* when my waters did break, all on their own at around 5:40 pm.

At this point, I knew the end was near and this thought encouraged me to work HARD! I made noises I had never heard myself make before, growling and roaring like an animal! With each push I could feel progress, but also felt the head moving backwards after each contraction. I was so frustrated and eventually admitted to everyone and myself that I am sorry, but I can’t do it!

After a few encouraging words that I was doing everything right and, despite what it felt like, I was making progress, I tried again. It wasn’t too long before I experienced what I’ve heard called “the burning ring of fire!” I wasn’t in a position to see, but my mom tells me that after my baby’s head was born, her eyes wide open, she looked around and rotated 180 degrees so that her face was facing my back. Lucy was born at 6:10 pm, quiet, alert, sucking on her hands and listening to all the voices in the room. We all quietly watched and marveled at the new person who had just joined us, and it was a few minutes before I even bothered to check to see if we had a baby boy or a baby girl. As I sit here typing with one hand while my baby sleeps in my other arm, I couldn’t wish for it to have gone any differently.