Happy Birthday!

On this day last year, a sweet baby girl was born. Happy Birthday baby B!

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two years ago today

Here is where I have shared my own birth story of our daughter. Birth is usually quite messy and graphic, but in my retelling of these events I have aimed to be tasteful and removed a lot of the mess while still remaining realistic. I  hope that reading these birth stories will help you prepare for your own birth experience.

Blaze (August 13, 2011)

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My water sprung a slow, trickling hind-leak Friday afternoon. I discovered it when I went to the bathroom to pee, and then noticed that I kept on peeing. After a while I thought “okay, nobody pees this much” I took my pants and underwear off and stood in the bathtub, watching it slowly trickle with each Braxton-hicks, which I had been feeling on and off for some time. We called my midwives to alert them to this new change in the situation, as I was just barely 37 weeks.

My backup midwife called to ask a few questions and said that my primary midwife was at a birth right now but would come by later. She assured me that about 95% of the time, a labour will start on its own within 24 hours of a water breaking. Nobody was worried.My primary midwife came by and did a swab to confirm it was my water. Sometimes the membranes can break and there’s a gush, but often it’s just a slow trickle so it can be hard to tell if it’s broken or not. Once we knew for sure, my midwife gave me a few things to try to start labour, but thought that it would start by itself overnight. She reminded me that the protocol was that if labour didn’t start within about 24 hours we would have to go to the hospital for an induction. At that point, nobody thought it would realistically come to that.

My midwife found that she could stretch my cervix to 4 cms but it would slide back down to 2-3 on its on without the constant contractions to help it along. We had a series of start-and-stop bouts of half-hearted contractions, but nothing really serious. Basically everything was read to go, if only my uterus would take the hint! We went to bed, hoping that my body would do its thing sometime in the night.

Well it didn’t do that. My midwife came to check me in the middle of the night, and reassured me that we still had lots of time. Plus, she had a lot of tricks we could try to get this baby girl moving. In the morning, Cordelia went to spend the day with her grandparents while we spent all day trying all the midwifery tricks – some herbs, a couple of stretch-and-sweeps, labour tincture, walking, baths and showers, more walking, more stretch-and-sweeps. We went for a walk in the neighbourhood and a shopkeeper asked me, “when are you having that baby?’ I said “erm, well today actually, one way or another. I’m supposed to be in labour right now.”

But there was nothing we could do to get labour started. Everything that we tried brought on short spurts of mild, fragile-seeming contractions that just couldn’t pull it together and amount to anything.

We had about half a day left to see what we could do, and our midwife spoke to us again about the now-becoming-very-realistic option of having to go to the hospital for an induction. I was dead-set against that happening. My midwife suggested trying castor oil, so we went on another walk to the pharmacy to find some. In most cases castor oil will work, but it didn’t start labour for me. It became evening. I started to lose faith in a home birth.

These mild contractions did bring Blaze’s head down slightly lower and eventually allowed my midwife to stretch me to 5 cms, but it would slide back to 3-ish again on its own. So while things were indeed moving, I was still progressing much slower than she would have liked. Looks like my body just wanted to wait a few more days, but unfortunately we were on the clock and debating having to go into the hospital. With that scary induction looming, she decided to pull out one last trick and go all-in and break my water – that certainly got it started. Jim called his parents to let them know that Cordelia would be having a sleepover with them, we were finally in labour!

My midwife encouraged me to get up and keep pacing around but I only got as far as the bathroom, where I felt crippled with the intensity and slid down to sit on the toilet. That’s where I stayed – clinging to my partner and experiencing a ridiculously fast and very intense labour. I wriggled and writhed around sitting on the toilet, trying my best to relax but I was just not able to do it. Having a labour start at 5 cms is very difficult as I hadn’t had the time to acclimatize to any of it; it just started with a huge force without me having a chance to keep up with all the pain.

I wanted to start pushing but our second midwife hadn’t shown up yet so I was told to try to wait, but not pushing hurt so much more that mostly I ended up pushing anyway. I looked at my partner and kept telling him, “I can’t do this!’ he kept telling me “you’re doing it! It’s okay, she’s coming!”

I told him to tell my midwife that I was pushing, so she got me onto the birth stool and told Jim that if I was ready to push now, he would have to call 911 as my backup would not be here in time. Then she checked me and found that my cervix was about 6 cms and told me (probably slightly relieved) we still had time. Even though I was only 6 cms, Blazes head was coming down and pushing my cervix out of the way as it went, but I needed to be gentle and work on stretching out those last few cms and just try to wait. Heavily cursing my clearly ‘not-with-the-program’ cervix, I got in the shower and tried to pace myself. My partner, having learned from my last labour that he was going to get soaked, took his shirt off this time before allowing me to hang off him and bury my head in his shoulder and make loud scary noises directly in his ear. With each contraction I wanted to bear down, but I held it off by focusing on my breathing and trying to ignore my body. It took a huge amount of effort to do this, far more than I had thought. I alternated between humming to myself and focusing on taking long, deep breaths and counting each breath out loud through a contraction. I told him at one point “I don’t like it! I don’t want to do it anymore!” and he said “good! That means we’re almost there”.

My midwife had the extra few minutes she needed to actually finish setting up her stuff and my second midwife and my student showed up just in time. I told them I could feel a head coming down and I was going to start pushing again whether they were ready or not. My midwife asked if I was going to have a baby in the shower, I said I wasn’t planning to but if I didn’t get out soon I might. They took me seriously and moved me back to the birth stool. My cervix still wasn’t completely out of the way but they decided to let me push anyway as that head was coming down fast and I couldn’t stop myself from pushing anymore. This time, I had a mirror (the one thing I wish I had when Cordelia was born) which provided a very awesome, though somewhat startling view (I recommend a mirror to anyone).

Watching a miniature, yet fully complete human slide out of you is a very sobering experience. When her head crowned I got a quick glimpse of a head full of dark hair and yelped at the completely unexpected burning pain. Cordelia didn’t hurt at all when she crowned so I didn’t expect this burning sensation, it threw off my focus. My midwife caught that I had been scared by this feeling, and quickly said “pant through it, just pant through it”, which helped immensely and allowed me to get my focus back again. I took one more glance down at the mirror then braced myself, turned my head to face the wall and closed my eyes to turn my focus back inwards and get through those last few pushes.

Blaze was born in less than 5 pushes. My midwife lifted her to my chest right away, where I kissed her dark, damp hair all over.

non toxic baby

I recently stumbled across this little store selling only natural and non-toxic products for every stage of the game – conception, pregnancy, newborns and postpartum times, and all the way up to those super busy toddler stages. There are way to many chemicals in our environments and it’s very sad to think that our newest people are exposed to a cocktail of them right away, even sometimes before they are born. conventional creams, soaps and lotions that are marketed as for babies consist of an ingredient list that reads like a science project. if this concerns you and you want to remove some of the chemicals from your life, check out this website here.

http://www.nontoxicbabyproducts.com

this online store is run by a family in Toronto and was developed after they became parents and tried to steer clear of dangerous chemicals hiding out in ‘baby products’ and had a hard time finding products they were comfortable with. they wanted to make these items readily available to the public, so started this online store. They now ship all over Canada and the states and stand by their products with pride.

Don’t stay quiet

A while ago, another doula friend of mine who has three children under three years (the youngest is 3 months) posted on Facebook: “Didn’t do my best today and that feels sucky.”

Within 24 hours, she had received so much support from other mothers for admitting that she was having a hard time. The comments encouraged her to be more gentle with herself, and reminded her of what a good job she does, and that sometimes you just can’t do it all, and reminding her that every mother has these days.

It’s called ‘practice’ for a reason. If you mess up, it’s okay, it’s just practice. You just practice again next time, and sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t.

The next day I had a parenting day where I didn’t do my best either. By the end of the day I was exhausted, grumpy, short on patience, snapping at everyone, and at one point I tried to take C to the grocery store but instead sat in the car and cried, and then scraped the grocery store plan because it was too overwhelming and instead we just went back upstairs and I went to hide in bed for a while and get some quiet, personal space. Children are hard.

And all day long, I kept thinking of my friend who posted: “Didn’t do my best today and that feels sucky.” the day before.  Knowing that she had a bad day just yesterday made my bad day a little easier to accept. It’s called practice for a reason.

It’s important to speak up about our bad days, about our challenges and our lesser moments. They are going to happen – it’s unrealistic to expect a mother to be able to handle everything that this society throws at her. But mothers need to remember that it doesn’t make them bad mothers, lazy mothers, or anything else you want to try on. It’s just hard, and it’s not that it’s hard for you it’s that it would be hard for anyone. It’s also important to remember that every other mother goes through similar experiences and feels similarly down about herself from time to time.

The importance of speaking up about your bad days is that by communicating to other mothers about it, you are telling them that it’s normal and perfectly alright. I can guarantee that the other mothers have had totally overwhelming days as well, but if we hide this and don’t talk to each other, then we actually feed into those bad feelings of guilt and shame. If nobody tells you that they are having a rough time, maybe all you see is an easy facade that will make you think that you’re the only one feeling this way. you aren’t. we all are, we just don’t speak about it enough.

Supermomma is a figment of all our imaginations, and we like to use her as a measuring stick for ourselves. theres no supermomma, perfectmomma, or whatevermomma, theres just the women in the world around you, all doing their best, every day. And sometimes your very best for the day isn’t as good as you would have liked it. be gentle with yourself and the mothers around you. if we stop comparing ourselves to the supermomma  we all carry in our heads, I think our lives would be easier.

So when I was having my bad day, I took a moment to get away from everyone and texted my friend and another mother of two girls who are about he same age as mine. we had a quick conversation through texts where we assured each other that this was normal and yeah, it sucked, but it was going to be okay, and she would always be ready to listen to me when I wanted to talk. Sharing my bad days with her helps. And she shares her bad days with me, and together we form a strength through this contact. I know that she will understand and not judge me when i come to her, and I will of course do the same for her.

It’s so important to have a circle of mothers around you – a sort of sisterhood, that while you can’t see it all the time, you know that they are in the same places you are, going through the same things. And it’s even more important to have healthy, supportive and non-judgmental relationships with these mothers. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that we didnt do our best, or even that we did badly, but these are completely normal days, and your sisterhood mothers will forgive you – and so will your child. And so will I.

It takes a village.