Updated: Dec 15, 2021
By Maria Manecuta
It was a quiet Friday night at home. I was relaxing at 39 weeks and 1 day – my first pregnancy. While watching the movie Fatima with my fiancé, I took a much-needed bathroom break. My heart almost skipped a beat as I wasn’t sure if I had lost my mucous plug. Could this be it? I thought. No contractions, water break, or the famous bloody show that I kept hearing about. I decided to keep an eye on it and moved on with our relaxing night in… until the next morning at 6 a.m.
In a new crazy world of unprecedented times, many unknowns and constantly changing events, thanks COVID-19 epidemic, my own life was about to change.
As a first-time mom, I was unsure as to what to expect. Unable to participate in birthing classes or breastfeeding clinics due to the pandemic, my fiancé and I turned to apps, reading different sites, watching YouTube videos, getting tips from family and friends, and primarily relying on my OBGYN. We were so over the moon excited to welcome our new man into our family. Little did we know that he was gonna make his debut the very next day.
It was around 6 a.m, on Saturday after a night of on and off sleep, where I experienced some cramps. At that point, I had been experiencing some menstrual-like cramps for a few weeks, but according to my doctor all of that was normal and it was “the body’s way of preparing”. What was not normal, however, was this fluid that quickly came down my legs. I knew right away it must be the water breaking and I rushed to the washroom. Keeping our cool, we called the hospital, showered and grabbed our hospital bags. We made an important quick stop at the church right across from the hospital before proceeding to the admission.
I went into it with lots of emotions and even fear (masks and face shield as per regulations, as if the stress wasn’t already high enough) with no specific birth plan. When I inquired about one I was told that during labour and delivery there are so many variables that it could all change. Thus the plan was simply to go with the flow. I did know that I wanted to try really hard for a natural (with an epidural!) birth, even though the thought of vaginal delivery terrified me. I am the type that majorly struggles with simple pap smear tests, so the idea of delivery beyond terrified me. I still opted for it as I was told that the recovery would be much easier and overall a more natural process. With my water already broken and being only 1 cm dilated, I started my labour process. I had a nurse assigned to me and the on-call doctor came in to greet us. That was the last that we saw of him, as his resident took over for the rest of the day… that is until their shift-change without much communication among the staff.
Our little man gave us some anxiety as his heart rate kept dropping throughout the entire day. Being in a vulnerable position, both my fiancé and I pretty much relied on the staff as to what needed to be done and thus began the many ungodly positions – me on my right side, then left, one leg up, bean bag rolled up and under my belly. I was started on the oxytocin drip and apparently thru the day the rate was adjusted and even stopped. My cervix did dilate fairly quickly, and it was strongly recommended that I get the epidural early on as the anesthesiologist was gonna be booked up. So I did. Now I realize I have no basis of comparison, but I can say with confidence that I had the best epidural – bless the anesthesiologist!
I was given lots and lots of cervical checks by the resident. She told me that a caesarean was an option worth considering and, as the day went by she was unsure whether a natural birth would be the outcome. The resident also decided to use an internal fetal monitoring system to have a more accurate heartbeat reading. This involves placing an electrode on the scalp of the baby. The first attempt to do so failed, but luckily the nurse had success. The day went by smoothly and was pretty much pain-free, however, communication was poor and there was lots of uncertainty.
Looking back I feel that not a lot of things were explained and dare to say, that a lot of time was wasted. Even though I had the option to have a C-section (even had the waiver read and signed) I still wanted to power thru and go for the vaginal delivery. I admit, I unconsciously felt some sort of pressure to deliver my baby that route.
5 p.m. – I was told by my nurse to start pushing; a decision that to this day I’m not sure who made it. And so with her help and my fiancé’s I started pushing. With the epidural being so numbing I have to confess I didn’t quite know what I needed to do. I never had that natural urge to push so I was just relying on the counting. I ended up pushing for about two hours before I was given a break. I had to wait for staff to go through their shift-change and that part for me felt like a forever process. I hated not knowing which doctor will come in or when will I be seen. I had been informed of either assisted delivery with forceps (exactly what I did not want) or the caesarean (the other option that I did not want). I was beginning to understand why I was never given a specific birth plan as so many things were changing already. I felt tired, frustrated, and very confused. I just wanted a doctor to reassure me and explain what was going on. What started out as a smooth day was turning into a stressful one. I was being hit by waves of guilt – guilt that I didn’t advocate more for myself, guilt that I didn’t question why my baby’s heart rate kept dropping, or why have I been pushing for almost three hours with no doctor present.
8 p.m. – after a few very scary seconds when the baby’s heart rate dropped to 30s (luckily it quickly jumped right back on) my new nurse ran out looking like a ghost calling the doctor in. The doctor quickly came in and overheard being referred by her first name as “Fatima”, ironically the name of the movie we had watched the previous night. “It’s a sign” my fiancé and I said to each other. She is the one meant to deliver this baby. And so she did, but due to the long labour and the consistent drops, she had to get the baby out fairly quickly. That woman meant business from the minute she walked into the room and good thing she acted so fast. I ended up having exactly what I did not want – assisted delivery with forceps that required an episiotomy. I vividly remember how at one point I was pushing and all of a sudden I felt mentally exhausted. I dropped down on the bed after a push and I zoned out. The forceps or the episiotomy felt like I was being hit and that my body was just lying there waiting for more punches. I felt a huge mind-body disconnect, something that unfortunately lasted for a few months as part of my postpartum.
The next thing I knew was that they laid the baby on me while the doctor was saying something about my stitches. I was beyond relieved to know that my son has safely arrived and that he was with my fiancé and I. Tears of joy overcame both of us! I will never forget my fiancé being my rock through it all and how our family of two became one of three in that evening at 8:15 p.m.!
Postpartum was extremely hard and I found the balance of taking care of myself and of my newborn very challenging. Medically speaking I definitely felt that I didn’t receive proper postpartum care. I was in a lot of physical pain, barely walking, and found myself reaching out for pelvic floor therapy due to incontinence issues that persisted longer than the normal time frame. I wondered if maybe I would have been better having a caesarean. I struggled with breastfeeding and it wasn’t until I reached out to a lactation consultant, who happens to be a midwife as well, that I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt heard and listened to and I received tips that were so very useful.
I felt that what should be the most joyous phase of my life was more of a negative experience and I often felt guilty about that. I was struggling with sleep, and with breastfeeding. Also, the physical pain was getting to me and the sporadic accidents and leaks were so embarrassing. I felt that I was not in my own body. I was reminded that self-care is so crucial and if I am not okay, I cannot be okay for my own family.
I wanted to share my story for a few reasons – one, I want to have it in writing and not forget about my day. Long and scary, it was the day that brought changes for the better, made me stronger and it made me a mom. Maybe even share it with my son when he’s older. Second, I hope this story will incite other moms-to-be to advocate for themselves and reach out for help. Postpartum is no joke… and no one really prepares you for it, especially when it is your first.
Being a mom was something that I always wanted and now, with a five-month-old, I enjoy every single day and feel so blessed to be his mommy! I am getting to know him and I continue to adjust to motherhood. Together with my wonderful fiancé, I am so excited to continue learning and growing on this wonderful journey of parenthood. It’s exciting and scary at times, stressful with lots of unknowns, but so worth it!
Maria is a first-time mom of a wonderful nine-month-old baby boy. Maria was born and grew up for the first twelve years of her life in Romania. She moved to Canada with her parents in 2001 and has been living ever since in Windsor, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Developmental Psychology and has started her career working with children in various setting environments. She works part-time in a congregate setting home, working with adults with intellectual disabilities. She is passionate about the developmental social service field, advocacy, and all topics pertaining to mental health. Following her pre and post-natal experience, she became interested in perinatal care and wishes to help other women on their journey. During her free time, she enjoys travelling and exploring different places, foods, and experiences. She is currently enjoying her maternity leave with her fiancé and their son.
https://www.instagram.com/mariamanec-uta/ and https://www.facebook.com/maria.manecuta
More moving birth stories
Did you miss the Birth Sharing Circle? Listen to some of the 2021 finalists telling or reading their own birth stories. Also, don't miss the introduction by Karen Lawford who talks about maternity care and Indigenous communities, and the musical performance by Kim June-Johnson. A truly beautiful and moving event.