Our son took his time coming out to meet the world, even then he needed some encouragement to get out.
I had been nervous about pregnancy, all the aches and pains everyone talks about, the weird symptoms that aren’t as widely discussed until you are pregnant and talking with other mothers. However, that nervousness was for nothing. I am fortunate that I had a healthy and easy pregnancy that was monitored by a team of fantastic midwives. Before becoming pregnant I was quite active, thankfully I was able to keep up most of the activity (after cleared with my medical professionals) throughout the entire pregnancy. Slowly the intensity and weights tapered off at the end, but it was such a blessing to continue my fitness throughout, especially since it helped with the only pregnancy symptom I had – restless legs.
Maybe you’ve heard the rumor that if you are active in pregnancy your labour will be shorter than the average? Well, I can say from my experience of a four day labour, it likely doesn’t shorten labour, but it does grow the mental and physical strength to necessary to make it through.
And so it begins…
On a Friday morning that I rolled over to 39 weeks, I woke up with some contractions. They didn’t hurt, it felt mostly like the Braxton Hicks contractions that come for practice in your third trimester. I wasn’t concerned, so my husband and I went about our day doing errands that we needed completed before baby arrived. I realized in the afternoon that the contractions were coming regularly, about every 7 minutes and lasting for around 30 seconds. However, as nothing was progressing further and I still felt our baby boy practicing his karate all day I kept it to myself.
These continued through to Saturday, contractions were a bit harder and uncomfortable, but still completely manageable. However, I felt decreased movement, which prompted me to call our midwife. She was concerned and asked us to meet her at the hospital in a half hour to put a monitor on to check if baby was stressed.
With about an hour of monitoring we were reassured that baby boy was doing fine. I couldn’t feel him as much since the contractions were continuing every 6-7 minutes. Our midwife checked to see how far dilated I was (only 1 centimetre), remarked on how incredibly low baby was, and asked how I was still walking around comfortably with his head so far down. We’re told to go home, rest, and she would call to check in the next day.
Sunday rolls around and contractions were still the same, but I was getting a bit tired out from two full days of them. Our midwife called and scheduled us to come into their clinic 9am Monday for some more monitoring and discussing the situation. For most of the day I slowly walked around our neighbourhood to hopefully move things along and rested, wondering when our boy will decide to come out.
Off to the clinic
At 2am Monday morning I woke with painful contractions, we monitored them for an hour or so and they were occurring every 4 minutes and lasting for about 50 seconds. In Canada, this is about the time the hospital wants people to come. However, as they weren’t quite 1 minute in length and weren’t getting faster we decided to wait until our appointment.
We arrived at the clinic and our midwife hooked us up to a monitor once more to check on baby, who thankfully was happy and showing no signs of stress.
My hope had been to labour at home for most of it with our midwife present and then move to the hospital to deliver naturally with no medical pain relief. However, with their input it was decided to remain at the clinic for continued monitoring of baby.
After a couple hours at the clinic, the midwives perform another check were disappointed that I had not dilated any further. At this point I’m really disappointed and discouraged, all this work over the last three and half days hasn’t moved anything further along and I’m exhausted. On top of this, I had caught a cold the previous week, and anyone who has been pregnant knows how awful it is to be sick while pregnant.
Our midwife mentioned that if we left it to nature, this could go on for a few more days, which wasn’t ideal given how exhausted my body was. So we began discussing alternatives to help progress this labour. It was decided that I would receive oxytocin at the hospital to increase the contractions. But before that happened they wanted to check that baby was still doing well, so we got sent to have an ultrasound done.
By this point my contractions were so intense I could barely make it through each one. It was so uncomfortable to sit in a waiting room with other people around, trying to ride out my intense contractions, as well as lay quietly during the ultrasound. The technician checked everything out – so slowly it seemed, then asked if the father would like to come in and see the screen. I may have snapped at her that no, the father will actually get to hold his baby today so no he doesn’t need to see him right now. The technician did think our baby was on the small side, possibly not even 6lbs, which put him at a higher risk for stress.
Hospital time and instant relief
Finally we made it to the hospital around 4pm on Monday. At this hospital, once someone needs medical intervention in a labour, care is transferred to the OBGYN on call, however, our midwives remained with us to support and advocate for us throughout the process. So, we met the OBGYN for the first time while I feel like screaming get this baby out. She decided that instead of oxytocin, she would break my water first as it would likely be less stress on baby. My husband and I were onboard with this idea as it was less drug intervention, but everyone agreed getting me on an epidural at this point was ideal.
We were moved to the delivery room around 5:30pm and I recieved my epidural around 7:00pm. Even though I hadn’t wanted an epidural at all, after almost 4 days of labour, about 17 hours of intense active labour, my body needed a break from all the work it had been doing. Throughout the time waiting for the epidural the contractions were almost too intense for me to handle, but my amazing midwife coached me through each one. She was such a wonderful support to rely on in this process.
About 15 minutes after the epidural was in I felt instant relief, my contractions were still extremely strong, but the pain was taken away. At 7:30pm the OBGYN came in to break my water and then we waited. Again, everyone was commenting on how low our baby was,that they said they could see his head easily.
I think it was about 10:30pm that someone checked me again and finally I was at 10 cm dilated. I am sure it was a combination of the water breaking and the epidural easing the pain that finally let my body relax enough to dilate the rest of the way. Our midwife and OBGYN came back in to help us finally meet our baby.
Our precious baby boy
With their coaching I began pushing. However, on each push our baby’s heart rate was dropping too much and taking too long to recover. The midwife and nurses would flip me from side to side in between the pushes, hoping to get baby into a happier position. All of this happened quickly, but at the time it felt like forever waiting for my baby’s heart rate to come back to normal each time. It did scare me, but the confidence in the team we had supporting us helped from letting the worry overtake me. I only pushed three times before the OBGYN got out the vacuum, stuck it on baby’s head and the next push he was out! As a first time mom I was expecting pushing to last more towards the average of 2 hours.
All of a sudden I was holding my baby on my chest! After 4 long days, starting Friday morning, he finally met the world at 11:30pm on Monday. Even though they had been worried he was small, he weighed in at 7lbs 3oz, with a perfect Apgar score of 10, which is almost unheard of.
Our labour and birth did not go the way we had hoped for, except in the fact that all of us were healthy at the end of it. In hindsight I think that staying active while pregnant, even if it didn’t bring a shorter labour as promised, prepared me to endure the 4 day labour physically and mentally. My body was ready for the biggest challenge it has faced so far, even though it needed some help.
My midwife was a phenomenal support throughout the entire process. She gave above and beyond the expectation of care we had over those long first few days of the process, she gave us all the information we needed to make informed decisions, she coached me through the intense pain when I didn’t think I could go on any longer, and as it would turn out, she was essential to our journey with struggles in breastfeeding after.
Labour and birth is intimidating, you don’t know what is going to happen, how you will be able to handle what is thrown at you, but if you have a wonderful support system in place it can make a overwhelming circumstances more manageable together.
Our little boy is now just over one year old, he is an exuberant, active, happy, curious, and healthy child – well worth all the effort and pain it took to bring him here.