A Dramatic Debut
by Sara Wettlaufer
Sara and her husband Paul are originally from the Hamilton area. She is an elementary school teacher while he is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Due to his military career, they currently reside in Petawawa, ON with their daughter and two dogs. Prior to this recent move, they spent two years in Brantford, ON, where their daughter, Isla, was born. They are indebted to the Community Midwives of Brantford for their fabulous care during her birth.
On Friday, March 8th, 2019, I was looking forward to my last day of work before starting maternity leave. The day went by without incident and I was determined to have a productive evening. My husband was away for work for the weekend so I figured that I would use my time alone to make a dent in the growing to-do list I hoped to complete before the baby was born. My due date was 15 days away and I figured there was plenty of time to get everything done. That night, I took my dogs for a walk, ate supper, cleaned the basement, and baked brownies. I also ate half of the pan of said brownies while watching television. Satisfied with my evening, I went to bed and fell asleep around 11:30 p.m.
I awoke abruptly around 1:00 a.m to use the bathroom. Upon returning to bed, I noticed my stomach was feeling quite crampy. Of course, I had eaten all of those brownies so I didn’t think much of it. After a few minutes of discomfort, I realized that my “cramps” were actually coming and going in small waves. I sat up and began counting what was now certainly contractions.
I tracked my contractions for about 45 minutes before deciding to call my midwife. The contractions didn’t seem to be spacing out nor were they getting weaker. When one contraction literally brought me to my knees, I knew I needed to call. Once my midwife was on her way, I drew myself a bath and proceeded to call my parents and my in-laws, who left almost immediately, and then my husband. He and I decided to wait until my midwife assessed me before he left to come home. We figured it would be a long while before the baby arrived.
The contractions in the bathtub were getting much stronger and I had mostly ditched my deep breathing techniques in favour of moaning and yelling. Since I had only been in labour for about an hour, I figured I was only a few centimetres dilated. If this was what early labour felt like, I really wasn’t sure I would be able to handle much more.
My midwife arrived around 2:15 a.m. and helped me out of the tub to perform a cervical check. To my amazement, I was already 9 centimetres dilated! No wonder those last few contractions were so terrible. What I had thought was early labour was actually transition and I would be pushing shortly. My husband obviously needed to leave for home, but he would almost certainly miss the birth. My midwife also acknowledged that while I had wanted to have a hospital birth, she was worried we wouldn’t make it in time and thought it was best to deliver the baby at home. The moment the words “9 centimetres” came out of her mouth, I knew the hospital birth plan was out the window. I was more than happy to oblige at her suggestion.
My parents arrived shortly after my midwife and my mom came upstairs to assist her in preparing our bedroom for a home birth. They then helped me out of the tub and onto the bed. I laboured on my hands and knees for a short while, until moving onto my side and eventually onto my back, propped up by pillows into a somewhat seated position. The backup midwife, who looks after the baby following birth, entered the scene. My husband’s parents had arrived now as well and my mother-in-law climbed onto the bed to help. The dads remained downstairs to preoccupy the dogs who were getting rather curious about all of the commotion.
At this point, I was ready to push. My mom had put my husband on video chat with us as he drove home. His mother and the baby’s midwife were holding my legs up while my midwife was in the middle coaching me through. Everyone around me was fantastic about staying positive and encouraging me through each contraction and push. While there was absolutely still plenty of pain, being able to channel my energy into pushing felt far more productive than just breathing through contractions. Soon the baby had reached a point where I would only need to push a couple more times to get the baby out. On the next push, I distinctly felt and saw the baby’s head emerge. That gave me the motivation I needed and on the next contraction, I pushed the rest of the baby’s body out. I had pushed for 40 minutes and my total time in labour was a mere three hours.
Immediate relief overwhelmed me as the baby was brought to my chest. The baby let out a small cry but settled as soon as they were laid on me. They were covered in fluid and blood but it didn’t matter and I just stared in wonder and amazement. Of course, we still didn’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl. My midwife tried to get the camera pointed for my husband to make the reveal and in all the commotion, he made a quick guess. “Is it a girl?” My midwife confirmed his guess and everyone erupted in excitement. We had just had our baby and it was a girl!
My mom cut the cord and my midwife began working to help me get the placenta out. They hooked me up with oxytocin to get the process started, but it didn’t seem to be working. After a half-hour, paramedics were called to bring me to the hospital so I could deliver the placenta there. My husband arrived just as the paramedics did and raced upstairs to see us. Our little family had a couple of moments together and then my husband was prompted to take over skin-to-skin as I was brought to the hospital.
As much as I was disappointed to have to leave my baby so soon, I knew she would be in good hands with her father. The baby was completely healthy and I recognized that it was important for me to be healthy now so I could be there for her later. At the hospital, I was given more oxytocin but to no avail. The on-call obstetrician prepared me for a manual extraction while an operating room would be ready for a surgical removal if needed. Neither option sounded appealing to me. As the doctor prepped the OR, my midwife had me push one more time. To all of our relief, it worked and the placenta was out!
Soon, my husband and the baby arrived. She had scored well on all of her tests so she was merely a visitor at the hospital and didn’t have to be admitted. With all of the grandparents present, we revealed her name to everyone. Isla Florence. She was officially no longer “the baby”, “they”, or even “it”. She was a whole person who we all loved immensely. By 8:00 a.m., we were ready to head home from the hospital. Everyone was incredibly happy and in good health and the three of us were ready to begin life as a new little family.
Overall, my labour was a very unexpected and wild experience. But for all of the drama it provided, the end result was the birth of our beautiful baby girl and I wouldn’t have it any other way.