Riding a Tsunami
This story is by Janelle Connor and won third place in the 2019 DSF Birth Story Contest
July 14, 2016 was the most physically, emotionally, and mentally grueling day of my life. The day I tested my capacity for coping with discomfort — the agony, the convulsions, and the fear. The day I traveled out of body when I reached the absolute peak and limit of my endurance.
And I would do it all over again. The same choices, mistakes, and obstacles. Again and again, but with more confidence
Because it was also the day I realized pure unconditional radiant love. The day I gained access to my greatest source of pride and happiness. The day I uncovered a next-level appreciation and respect for every Mother on this planet.
It was the day our charismatic, playful, sensitive, daring and wildly entertaining son was born. The day my life turned a new chapter and I became part of a much bigger story. The day I stepped into motherhood and became, “Kai’s Mom”.
Monday, July 11th after a night of restless sleep from hip pain and vivid dreams, we drove to our midwife office. We sipped tea and chatted briefly about how I was feeling. I explained I was anxious and ready to get things started — you know, the usual 40 week thought process of let’s get this baby out of me.
We went ahead and did the stretch and sweep. The midwife was shocked to discover I was already 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. She looked at Jer, my partner and I as she said, “You will be meeting your son in less than 48 hours!” Even with days worth of Braxton Hicks contractions and false labour starts, we were still in shock to hear this news. We felt excited, relieved but also slightly panicked.
Almost an hour after the sweep I started to time contractions 5 minutes apart — they were painful but manageable (this is the part you see in the movies).
When we arrived back at home, I tried everything to relax and get comfortable. However, as the day went on, my contractions picked up in intensity and lasted all night.
This was the challenging part about early labour — it can be extremely long.
I was up all night with contractions and knew I wasn’t giving my body the rest it needed. Despite my discomfort, I knew it wasn’t active labour because the contractions were not progressing.
By 10 a.m. I reached a breaking point and called the midwife for support. She came to the house to check my cervix and confirmed I was 5 cm.
Although my 1 cm progression seemed insignificant, my midwife assured me this was great progress. Hearing her excitement made me also celebrate my success — I made it this far on my own, in the comfort of our home, maybe I can do this.
Our midwife instructed us to stay at home as long as possible and reminded us, if we were in active labour, the contractions would not stop with rest. I took her advice for a few hours, but by 4 pm I was completely drained and not even the thought of meeting our son could keep me going.
We packed up the vehicle and headed to the hospital. A part of me just needed assurance we were progressing. I was done with guessing.
At this point I had not slept in two days so naturally, my mind started to play tricks on me. Once I arrived at the hospital my contractions stalled —my body was undoubtedly adjusting to the new, bright, and sterile atmosphere. My midwife explained if you perceive danger, your body will protect the baby by stalling labour.
Once my contractions were measurable again the nurse came in to check, “You are 5 cm”. I instantly started to cry. I was so discouraged. The nurse looked at me sympathetically and said, “Would you like something to help you sleep my dear?” I sat straight up in the bed and said, “Yes please!” The nurse mixed up a sleep cocktail of morphine and Gravol and I drifted into a blissful sleep. I woke up around 1 am to my husband staring at me as if I just returned back to earth. He wasn’t wrong — it was a wonderful escape.
We were discharged from the hospital so we could go home and get more rest.
Wednesday, July 13th I woke up from the second half of the greatest sleep of my life. I started my day feeling less anxious with a new attitude — suddenly I didn’t mind still being pregnant. Sleep is a powerful thing.
Jer and I decided to make the most of the beautiful summer day. We took a long and slow walk at a park near our house and sat next to the lake. Being around water was calming and helped take my mind off the contractions.
I previously lost my appetite in the week leading up to this day, but suddenly I felt an overwhelming desire to consume a large amount of calories. When we got home from the park, I took a bath to relax. I decided to stop putting pressure on myself to time contractions, and just let them come and go. I trusted my body would tell me if it was the real deal.
I went to bed that night in a calm state. In fact, I felt so comfortable I took the mattress protector off our bed because it was bunching up and driving me crazy. I figured if I was going into labour at this stage, it wouldn’t involve my water breaking.
Boy was I ever wrong. Maybe I was in denial.
Thursday, July 14th sometime around midnight my water broke in a MAJOR way. It was like popping a huge water balloon and this sudden gush of water made me jump out of bed. I walked to the bathroom, as amniotic fluid leaked out of me like a faucet onto our hardwood floors. All I could think was; this is it; we will finally meet our son!
That thought was immediately followed by the logical planner in me going through my hospital checklist. Maybe I should have a bath, pack snacks, call my mom, straighten my hair…But these thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a powerful sensation that took me to my knees.
As soon as the contraction was over, I woke Jer up in the most dramatic way possible. I shouted: “MY WATER BROKE AND WE NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT NOW!”
Jer opened his eyes and looked around, “Hmm, is that fluid on the bed? But didn’t you take the mattress cover off?” Before I could respond another contraction hit and I let out a little scream and fell to my knees again. Once Jer realized the severity of the situation, he jumped out of bed. There was no need to time contractions. We just knew this was it.
Jer started the vehicle and we left the house in less than five minutes. The entire drive to the hospital was excruciating. As I remained curled in the fetal position, terrified I would give birth in a vehicle, I repeated to myself, It is not safe to have a baby here, it is not safe to have a baby here. My mind was the only tool I had. I knew if I could control my thoughts, then I would be okay.
Jeremy blew through every red light going as fast as possible. He pulled next to the registration doors and ran inside to grab a wheelchair.
During registration I remember the look on the woman’s face, as Jer and I lost our ability to speak. There was no health card. No signing of documents. No names provided. It was just an immediate, “Let’s take you guys upstairs to the labour and delivery for assessment.”
The nurse we met on the labour and delivery floor was not the warm and motherly type I was hoping for. She gave a quick and judgmental assessment with a cold glance and asked if this was my first child. Jer responded with the obvious answer and she replied, “Well, let me put you guys in this room and when a nurse is free, she will stop by to see how far along you actually are.”
Even though I was in a wheelchair and lost complete control over my body, my mind was still very much intact. I thought how unfair she was...couldn’t she see my body convulsing?
I went to speak but nothing came out. I was in too much pain. Jer immediately began to advocate for me, “No, you need to contact our midwife and put us in a delivery room. This is the real thing; the baby is coming.” I was a little surprised by his forwardness, but it came at just the right time because I knew we were getting really close.
The nurse rolled her eyes, but she did follow his orders and moved us into a delivery room. As soon as I was lifted out of the wheelchair and onto a bed, my body curled into a ball so tight the nurse wasn’t able to check for dilation. The pain was so intense my entire body was shaking violently.
. As I felt myself losing control, the nurse asked me again: “Jennifer, I need to check to see how many centimetres you are dilated”. Wait…who is Jennifer? Then I realized Jer and I didn’t register and no one had my information.
Then a new nurse walked in and she was a heavenly being. She had long blonde hair, blue eyes, and spoke softly, as she immediately started tending to my needs. Thanks for this shift of nurse! Within a few minutes, our midwife arrived and my body was able to relax enough so she could check me. “Six cm!” she cheered.
My mind returned to a place of panic — all of that for just 1 cm? I started to doubt having the courage and strength to survive natural labour. The fear of not knowing how long the pain would continue, or how intense it would become, trumped any confidence I had. I looked to my midwife, desperate for relief.
In that moment, I wanted every single drug available. I didn’t care about my birth plan.
Although my midwife knew how badly I wanted to follow through with the birth plan she didn’t push it. Instead she offered words of encouragement, “It is okay to take the drugs Janelle…it doesn’t mean you failed…you should be so proud with how far you’ve made it on your own.”
She called the anesthesiologist and put in the epidural request. Just knowing, help was on its way, caused a massive release in my body. As soon as she hung up the phone, I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to push. NOW.
There was no stopping this urge — absolutely nothing. I could have been in the middle of a busy intersection and not been able to stall this freight train racing through my body.
My midwife did a quick check and I was 10 cm dilated. My transition, the final phase of labour, from 6 cm to 10 cm was a brief (yet enduring) two minutes.
Everyone around me started moving quickly. At this point, I still had on the shirt I wore to hospital — I guess no time for johnny shirts or cute birthing robes. They quickly set up equipment and moved tables around.
This was when my midwife came over to deliver the news —it was too late for drugs.
She offered nitrous oxide or laughing gas to help with the pain. I put the cold plastic tube in my mouth and took a few breaths. I quickly realized I hated the taste and couldn’t spare an ounce of energy to focus breathing from a tube.
Pushing was the most challenging, yet such an incredible relief. And in between pushing, I was able to experience a glorious 10 to20 seconds of solace. During this time, Jer would bring me water, put cold cloths on my forehead and offer words of encouragement. In those seconds you feel like a normal human — the pain is temporarily a memory and you’re able to rest and recover.
The second my break was over, I found myself on another tsunami wave —carried by its surge and launched into agony and discomfort. My body took over…it knew exactly what to do.
While my body was working overtime, my mind felt oddly calm. I can only describe it as a disembodied state of being. At one point, I distinctively remember looking down at myself and seeing the room from a different perspective. I saw Jer whisper to our midwife, “Her face is really red….is she going to be okay?” my midwife smiled, “Your wife is in labour, this is very normal.”
My altered state of consciousness encouraged me to stay grounded and I felt instructed to access my power within. As I continued to surrender, I witnessed a strength and endurance I didn’t know I possessed. I listened to my instincts and allowed my body to guide me. With each push I could feel the sensation, relief and satisfaction of my son in my arms — it was the only motivation I needed.
When my midwife told me she could see his head full of brown hair, I nearly died of joy. It took a few more strenuous pushes and then suddenly, I could hear him crying. The midwife carefully laid him on my chest and everything melted away.
The tsunami intensity of the waves, the fear, the pain, everything. I slipped into a state of pure bliss — I was in absolute awe of this life force we created.
I really can’t account for what took place in the delivery room after Kai was in my arms. However, there is a bit of magic to this story I need to share; something I could never forget.
After Kai was safely in my arms, with the room still buzzing with activity, something caught my eye in the window. It was around 3 a.m. and completely dark out but I could sense a presence. My eyes were directed to the window and I saw a figure sitting on its ledge. I looked a little closer and realized it was a dove. I instantly got chills all over my body. Was I hallucinating?
I needed validation — was this really a dove, or was I dreaming. I reached for the angelic nurse, “Excuse me, is that a dove in the window?” She looked down at me confused before looking over her shoulder, “Wow…yes…a dove” she paused, “Very unusual.”
Of course, I am glad she witnessed it, along with Jer, so I can tell this story without questioning whether it was real or an illusion. But reflecting back, I didn’t need testament from my nurse. I am allowed to hold my own suspicions of this dove — why it chose to sit on my delivery room window at the exact moment of Kai’s arrival.
Kai entering this world was truly a transformational experience. It was the day I learned to surrender and release. And the day I witnessed an inner intelligence guide me through labour. A hard-wired deep knowledge moved and flowed through my body on auto-pilot.
Leaving the hospital the next day, I walked out with a new identity…a sureness that wasn’t there before. Labour undoubtedly gave me a crash course in confidence. I was now fully aware of just how daring, tenacious and resilient I could be…and this will stay with me till I die.
For all the soon-to-be mamas reading along here is an insider tip: You have a will and determination made of titanium inside of you. Please don’t question, doubt, or underestimate this strength.
Rest assured, there is a grit and badassery lying dormant that will wake at just the right moment. Please trust in this.
About the Author
Janelle Connor is from Oakfield, Nova Scotia! She is a wife, student, financial advisor, aspiring writer, and a proud mama to a curious and charismatic little boy. To read more from Janelle visit her blog at https://soulnourished.home.blog/
Photo via Sasha Lebedev via Unsplash