ambrose: the birth story

Towards the end of my second trimester, I became very eager to read birth stories. Immersing myself in the stories of others was comforting. I actually also really enjoyed watching Call the Midwife at this time, funnily enough! But anyways, I am excited to finally be able to share the story of my own baby.

So, on the sunny morning of October 12th I was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment. My mom had arrived in town from Vancouver on the 8th and so we went down into Montreal together to the appointment. I’d had a membrane sweep at the previous appointment about a week before and nothing had happened. During the week I’d eaten a whole pineapple in one sitting, purchased some raspberry tea and gone on lots of walks – to no avail – so I was excited for this appointment. The doctor who had followed my pregnancy was out of town and so this doctor took a look at me and said I was still only about 2.5 cm dilated, and I got another sweep. I left the doctor’s appointment feeling fine, and Mom and I decided to go to a nearby bakery for some wonderful Montreal sweets (an éclair for her and a chocolate amandine for me!). As you can see, at this point in the day I was feeling quite marvellous, although huge!

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Mom and I had been running quite a few errands during the first days she was here, prepping for baby and getting some things we needed around the house and so we continued with those same activities. We left that area and proceeded to Babies “R” Us for a few things, then onto Walmart to pick up a couple of storage bins. At this point I started feeling pretty tired and we decided to get back on the road. We made a stop at IKEA and realized we hadn’t had lunch, so we had some hotdogs and picked up a couple of more things. Then back into traffic heading up to Laval.

At home, Matteo had decided to make a spicy curry for supper (another labour inducer). I collapsed onto the couch and suddenly started feeling very feverish. I asked Mom to pile a bunch of blankets on me. I laid there for a bit and ate some supper… and then started experiencing waves of a kind of rumbling pain – contractions! This began at around 8:30pm. I hadn’t felt any real contractions up to this point so the sensation was really unique.

At first I felt like I could manage the contractions. I breathed through them. It occurred to Mom and Matteo to start timing them with an app and we soon realized that they were pretty much coming at 4 minutes apart, and quickly 3. Memories from this time include the fact that Masterchef was on, and that I could get through the pain with heavy breathing but also sitting on the edge of the couch, and then an exercise ball, squeezing Matteo’s hand when the contractions came. I also became highly directive at this point. In the background, Matteo wondered if he should make coffee in order to get through the rest of the night, to which I responded with a resounding NO. I couldn’t stand the idea of smelling coffee at that point. He also tried to eat some chocolate, to which I was also opposed. Apparently I was very disgusted with the idea of smelling any kind of food – which kind of made sense given the menu of the day – needless to say the hotdogs and curry didn’t make for a pleasant taste.

At 10:30, after 2 hours of contractions, Matteo called the hospital and we got the green light to make our way to St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal. He and Mom had been running around a big packing last minute things – including my winter coat, which was a hilarious soon-to-be-dad move on Matteo’s part. He insisted that my Mom go down into storage to find my winter parka (which I hadn’t pulled out yet this early in the year) – just in case I might need it. Ha! This was also my super expensive winter parka – which I likely wasn’t going to need, and wasn’t going to want to ruin with amniotic fluid. Nonetheless, the parka was put in the car, and off we went!

The ride to the hospital was rather painful, with Montreal’s classic potholes keeping us bouncing all the way. We arrived at the hospital and I slowly waddled out of the car to the doors. Matteo and Mom grabbed me a wheelchair and we entered. We didn’t quite know where to go and so we approached a security guard. He didn’t speak English very well and we didn’t quite know the vocabulary to say that I was in labour so I just said the only French pregnancy-related word that came to mind: “Enceinte! Enceinte!” (Pregnant, pregnant!) and got pointed in the right direction. (Also, my face did not mirror my actual feelings in the photo below, that’s for sure.)

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Upstairs, I was brought into an examining room and told that I was 5 centimetres dilated. That was quite enough for me and I insisted upon the epidural – which I’d actually been all in for ever since the contractions started. If you talked with me at all during my pregnancy, you’ll know that I was just planning to go natural for as long as possible, with openness to the epidural. Needless to say, at least for me, if you haven’t completely planned for natural, an epidural sounds AMAZING. At this point, Matteo went back downstairs to take care of parking in a better spot, and I went with Mom into our delivery room to get the epidural. The epidural was painless and I was so delighted to have the pain of contractions dulled. It felt like minutes (though it was at least 3 hours) before the locum came back and told me that I was at 10 cm and could start pushing.

Pushing with an epidural is definitely a weird sensation. I had no idea what I was doing and felt completely ineffective but I had the two doctors and nurse cheering me on the whole time and telling me it was working.

I’m not quite sure on the timeline of how far I was into pushing, but suddenly it became apparent that the baby’s heart rate was decelerating every time I pushed. They hooked me up to a different kind of monitor to continue to hear the heartbeat and it was actually quite alarming because I couldn’t tell how to read the new sound. To me it seemed as though the baby’s heart rate was disappearing and I couldn’t tell if we might actually lose the baby. The blank looks on the doctors’ and nurse’s faces didn’t help either. At this point, the nurse ran out to get Matteo some juice because he nearly fainted. I asked for reassurance that the baby was fine and was assured that everything was okay. I was then asked if I would be okay with using an instrument to extract the baby – which I was completely fine with at this point because I just wanted this baby to arrive safe and healthy.

So, they tried a vacuum extractor. The first one they tried actually broke – and when it broke I thought that the baby had been successfully delivered, which I was disappointed to discover was not the case. So they pulled out another one and continued to work. I had to push in tandem with them pulling with the vacuum extractor. It seemed like it would never happen but suddenly our baby had arrived.

They put this big lump of a baby on my chest and it was completely surreal – I couldn’t believe that only a few hours after arriving at the hospital, he was here!  I remember him almost slipping off my chest at first, full of vernix he was, but the nurse placed him back soundly. I was immediately teary-eyed and Matteo was too. I tried to see the baby’s face but mostly could only see eyebrows, which was also funny because during the pregnancy I had predicted that the baby would arrive with large eyebrows since that is a feature that both Matteo and I carry strongly.

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There we were, a new family of three, on that early morning of October 13th.

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