It’s said that it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to get a surge of energy a couple weeks before going into labour. I can say this is a very accurate fact! On the evening of February 16th – after my first acupuncture for labour appointment at Toronto Yoga Mamas – I got this excited, hyper feeling...something I hadn’t felt in SO long since becoming pregnant. The energy was on and off until February 24th. And then I crashed on the 25th - I think I was in bed by 8 PM and then on the 26th I began having early labour signs. I was SUPER crampy (felt like period cramps), lethargic, sore, and was having lots of loose stools. I had read that your system gets everything moving so you won't have to poop during labour...more on that later.
On the evening of February 27th, it felt like all the symptoms I had been having for the last day and a half came to a halt. My cramps subsided and I wasn’t tired. I also had my first intense craving - a hot fudge McDonald’s sundae. I told my husband, Rob, around 8 PM that I needed one ASAP. He asked if it could wait until tomorrow...I was like “nope! Need it right now.” So off we drove to McDonald’s to get my sundae. It was delicious! I went to bed that night feeling totally fine and thought - well I guess that was all just false labour.
BAM - My Water Broke
I woke up at 5 AM on the 28th and was lying in bed realizing all the symptoms I had must have just been false and I was wondering when real labour would start. Would it be days? Weeks?? And literally seconds later, I felt a warm tingly sensation in my lower region and BAM my water broke in bed. I woke Rob up excitingly announcing “my water broke!!!” He asked “how do you know??” And I was like “oh, I know! Get me a towel!” It was a massive gush that wouldn’t stop pouring out. A couple minutes later I started feeling a bit anxious wondering what was going to happen next. Would contractions start right away? How long would it be until we had to head to the hospital? I had Rob call Emily, our doula (who is absolutely amazing), she told us to go back to bed and rest, and once contractions started, to time them. We tried going back to sleep but had no success - we were high on adrenaline. Emily said if active labour didn’t start by 5 PM, to go to the hospital for assessment - because the hospital doesn't like going more than 12 hours if waters have broken. I was feeling too anxious to wait until 5 PM and was reading the flow chart from the hospital saying to go to the hospital once your waters break. So, at 10:30 AM, we packed the car with our bags just in case we were admitted and off we went!
The drive to the hospital wasn’t what I had envisioned. I always thought I’d be in the passenger seat having major contractions - kind of like what you see in the movies. But that wasn’t the case, we were cracking jokes and I felt totally fine. We got to the labour and delivery ward, got registered at the desk and then went to nurse triage. They checked to see how dilated I was - I was 3.5 cm dilated. They helped push more water out as baby’s head wasn’t fully properly positioned. I was so happy I went to get assessed because they wanted me to stick around for a while and not get up to walk as they wanted to wait for baby’s head to fully position onto the cervix to avoid the cord getting wrapped around her neck. After an hour or so they were happy with how she was positioned and said we could either stick around the hospital or go home and come back for 5 pm (if I wasn't yet in active labour). We opted to go home.
And then the contractions started...
At around 1:30 PM I started getting contractions...they were the real deal. Lying down was making the contractions feel worse, I couldn’t really get comfortable. They were very sporadic with no real pattern so we weren’t rushing back to the hospital quite yet.
By 4:30 PM we started to get reorganized to head back to the hospital. It was so exciting!!! The first nurse we had was named Sam. She gave us the lay of the land and then got me set up to be induced. Since it was more than 12 hours since my water broke and I wasn’t in active labour, they had to get things going. I was feeling a bit anxious about getting Pitocin. I wanted to wait a couple more hours before getting induced to see if things would start naturally, but they were keen on hooking me up ASAP. Well, my wish to wait a couple more hours came true because it took the nurses forever to get me setup on the IV.
It took Sam three attempts to insert my IV and she had no luck - saying my skin was too thick (something I’ve never heard before). She called in a senior nurse and she too had trouble getting me connected...so they had to get the anesthesiologist to set me up. I thought it was so humorous! I finally got all hooked up to the monitors and the Pitocin and then it was a waiting game. While we waited, shift change happened and we met our nurse that would most likely be delivering our baby (as she was on shift for the next 12 hours). I walked around the room and then Emily arrived. At around 8:30 PM my contractions started to feel more intense and I was having to really work through them. I found standing up swaying side to side early on in the contractions really helped. If I sat down or tried to lie down, the pain was so much worse. I always had to be moving my body in a swaying motion. When I got up from using the toilet, it would trigger the most painful contractions. As the hours progressed, the contractions were becoming longer and more intense. My favourite position to labour in was sitting on the birthing ball (which is just a big exercise ball), with Rob, Emily or Angie putting pressure on my low back, and I would pull on the sheet of the bed almost like I was rowing a boat.
And the contractions continued...and continued...
During each contraction I focused on my breath, how I was moving my body, and I would visualize myself doing certain physical activities, like hiking a high mountain, rowing down a river or doing an intense HITT workout (FYI, I've never hiked a mountain or done a HIIT workout). There was always the steep incline that would build up and take me to the peak, most intense part of the contraction and then once it peaked I would focus on the decline and then the rest period in-between. I felt like I was able to handle the contractions pretty well - they almost reminded me of the pain during a flare-up, but boy were they draining. At 1:30-2 AM I got to the point that I just couldn’t physically continue on my own. I needed rest and the only way I was going to be able to lie down was if I opted for the epidural.
Going into labour, it was my wish that the nurses didn’t ask me if I wanted pain medication. I told them that if and when I was ready for it, I would ask myself. I was nervous for the epidural but I got to a point in my mind and body where it was the absolute right decision for me. Without it, I didn’t know how I’d be able to find the energy to push a baby out.
Thank GOODNESS for the epidural
Once I got the epidural, I felt an almost instant relief of pain. It was wonderful. I remember going to lift my legs onto the bed and they felt like heavy sandbags. Once I got situated in bed, I didn’t have such a heavy sensation in my legs. I could still feel them but I couldn’t feel the contractions happening in my stomach. I remember the nurse saying “could you feel that contraction?” And I couldn’t feel a thing. It was amazing. Once the epidural was in and working, it was around 2 – 2:30 AM (it took the anesthesiologist THREE attempts to get the epidural connected...that meant THREE rounds of staying totally still through excruciating contractions). I had mad shakes from the epidural and was really cold. My chest was also super itchy - all common side effects. So, I just tried to relax and listened to some meditations on my Expectful app. I also felt super thirsty so I made sure to drink water and I got a couple popsicles.
Let's get pushing!!!
Around 4 AM I felt a lot of pressure in my bum and had the urge to push. Angie called the OB in and I was fully dilated (woo!). I just wasn’t yet fully effaced - so they told me to hold off for a little bit more. The urge to push was getting so intense and by 4:30 AM I said I couldn’t wait any longer and had to push. So, Angie walked me through what I was going to do.
At first, pushing was great. I had lots of energy and excitement and was going through the motions no problem. I liked the fact that I knew when I had to start pushing because I could feel the contraction in my bum - but it was super strong and not comfortable. Once 45 minutes of pushing hit I was starting to tire out. In between contractions Emily and Rob would pass me juice and water for energy, but it wasn’t cutting it. I asked how much longer I would need to push for and Angie or Emily couldn’t give an answer. They said that they could see the head but it would go back in after I stopped pushing. Angie said it might be 10 minutes or it could be another hour. I pushed for another 10 minutes and then really hit a wall with my mindset. I asked to see the OB because I really wanted intervention. I didn't feel like I could push any more. Vacuum, forceps, anything to get the baby out! He came in, looked at me and very matter of fact and to the point said, "you’re doing great keep pushing"... I was so frustrated!
I pushed and I pushed...AND I pushed out more poop than I realized I had in me. I thought I had got all my poops out during pre-labour. I remember friends and family telling me that I'd probably relieve myself of everything before labour...but I guess when you have a gut with a mind of it's own, that's not the case! After each push during a contraction, Angie would change the blue pad underneath me...I think I went through at least 20 (?).
There were moments where I felt exhaustion like never before during labour. It was the most intense workout of my life. I switched positions many times. Lying down, squatting, holding the bar, using the rebozo scarf, and lying on my side. Rob was the epitome of motivation. Telling me to keep going. Angie, Emily, and Rob would tell me I was doing amazing and that I was so close. I kept asking if our girl had hair but Angie said she couldn’t tell. I remember thinking...if you can see the head, how can’t you tell!? At one point I wanted a mirror to see for myself because I didn’t believe anyone could actually see her head. So, Angie went out to get it. As she rolled it in I freaked out and said “no, no! I don’t want to see anything”. And then, after a few more go-rounds of pushing Angie began getting the table ready for when the baby came out. Seeing that gave me a new sense of motivation. And then, minutes after she got the table organized, the whole crew came in.
Two hours of pushing later
At 7am (on Feb. 29th) it was shift change and another new team came in. Angie stayed though, she wanted to see it through. (I was so thankful for Angie). I came to a point moments before the last few big pushes where I honestly thought I was just going to vomit, pass out and be done with it. I didn’t feel like I could go on. But then Rob looked in my eyes with so much excitement and passion and said “you’re almost there Megan, you’re so close!!!” And I thought okay Megan come on!!! I think I even said it out loud. And with that I pushed the strongest I could push…and then the moment came where everyone said, STOP PUSHING, as the OB did the rest in assisting baby out.
She's HERE...26 hours later!
Oh. My. God. The feeling of Eleanore coming out was the most amazing feeling. It felt like this big release and in an instant all my pain was gone. They placed her on my tummy and I yelled/laughed. Oh my god, I was so frickin relieved, exhausted and happy. I kept saying to Rob “it’s our baby!!” I remember feeling her little bum and it was the most amazing thing in the world.
We had to stay for two days, as I had been on Zoloft during my pregnancy and they wanted to make sure Eleanore didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms. They said it was rare but they kept an extra eye on her just in case. Thankfully she was totally fine. It was kind of nice to have the extra attention in the hospital for another day. I could call the nurse for any question, they came in every two-three hours to check on us, and I didn’t have to worry about anything but myself and Eleanore. The days and nights merged into one though, as the nurses would come in throughout the night to check both our vital signs and make sure I was feeding baby every two hours.
Time to go home
On the morning of March 2nd, we got discharged! It was so exciting and emotional to know we were getting to take our baby home. It felt so surreal. Rob went to the car to get her carseat, we buckled her in and after a couple more check-ins from the nurse, paediatrician, OB and social worker, we got the green light to go home. WOO!!!! We walked SUPER slowly to the car, as I was incredibly sore and I think I cried a few times before we even got into the car. The postpartum blues mixed with exhaustion, and the pain of recovery were super real.
It’s funny, I had all these preconceptions of what it would be like once having the baby. I'd happily cry, have a cute scrunchie tied back in my hair, I'd be wide awake with excitement and I'd get some picture perfect photos snapped of me and baby. I also pictured our families walking in, brining me a hot drink...maybe a snack, and catching their expressions as I held our baby in my arms. Well, I didn’t have any of this. Nothing like I expected. When Eleanore came out, the photos I got snapped of me were shirtless, hair everywhere and I just deliriously laughed/cried with relief that labour was finally done and Eleanore was here. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even find the energy to hold my boob to put to her mouth to have her latch. Emily had to do it for me. And I hardly remember the hour and a half post delivery in the delivery room. I was getting my catheter in, blood test and getting cleaned up by the nurse as I went in and out of sleep (I felt drugged). Once we got to the mother and baby unit, I couldn’t even hold Eleanore due to exhaustion. And I was basically asleep when our families came in.
Thoughts on poop and labour...
I can confidently say that at one point or another, every pregnant woman has wondered whether or not they’ll poop on the hospital bed during delivery. As I prepared for birth, I did my due diligence asking friends if they had pooped during labour. The majority said they didn’t think so, or they just couldn’t remember. I also heard from women that by the time you start pushing, you have nothing else left in you to push out. Well. I can tell you that I pooped for the majority of the time during pushing. I remember it VERY well. So much so that my husband told me afterwards that every time I pooped he thought, that must be the last of it. But was then proved wrong as I pooped again.