I wrote Adrien's birth story over the first several days following his birth. I clearly dropped the ball on writing it into a blog post, since he'll be ONE MONTH on Saturday?! Everything goes by so much faster the second time around.
I've given birth twice now. Both labours were long and exhausting and not at all what I imagined. And yet, I would still describe them as two of the most incredible experiences of my life.
The main difference I noticed between the two was, after Genevieve was born, I couldn't imagine ever going through it again.
During my labour with Adrien, I had similar thoughts of nooooo this is horrible and I never want to do it again. But the SECOND he was in my arms, I thought Ha! I could totally do that again.
Before I start, I want to add a disclaimer:
Birth is hard and it hurts. I talk about both those things a lot in this post, because that was a big part of it for me.
But please don't get me wrong; my experience of birth is amazing. It is beautiful, incredible, incomparable. The high I feel when my baby is scooped out of the water and into my arms... there's nothing like it.
It's like that feeling you get when you finish a hard run, or a long, grueling hike. You slow to a stop, or reach the summit of the mountain, and you feel like you can do anything. It's all that...multiplied a thousand times.
On Sunday, July 11, Matthew and I drove to the mountains for the afternoon. We'd talked about doing one last date before the baby arrived, and there's a fondue place in Banff that we love. Funnily enough, we actually almost didn't go. The plan had been to leave in the morning, but the day got away from us, and we wondered if it was worth making the trip later in the day. We figured, we could always go the next weekend.
But I couldn't shake the little voice in my head going; but what if this baby comes before next weekend?
So we went.
During the almost 2 hour drive, I started feeling cramps that felt like maaaaybe they were more than just Braxton Hicks.
I didn't say anything, since my game plan was to ignore any type of cramp or contraction until I couldn't. I got way too excited way too early with Genevieve, and I was determined not to make that mistake again.
So we went for fondue, we walked around, drove around, and generally had a lovely day. The cramps came and went, but since that's all they were, I continued to ignore them. We drove home in the evening and I could still feel them, we got home, put Genevieve to bed, sat down to watch a movie. By then they felt a little stronger, not painful, but kind of annoying. I remember we didn't watch our show very long before I grouchily told Matthew, "I think I'm ready to go to bed."
We went to bed around 10PM. At 12:45, the cramps were waking me up. I still considered them more uncomfortable than painful, but they were just strong enough to wake me up every time I started to fall asleep. I texted my mom and said that I might be in labour, but that I was going to try and go back to sleep.
I dozed off, but I don't think I really went back to sleep. At 5AM, Matthew's alarm went off and I told him I was having mild contractions, but to go to work and I'd call him if anything changed.
Genevieve woke up around 7 and got up and made her breakfast. I find that contractions hurt twice as much when I'm lying down, so once I was up and moving around, they felt a lot milder. I was TIRED, since I hadn't gotten much sleep, but otherwise I felt ok. I ran errands with Genevieve, tried to nap (couldn't really), took a few baths, ate some food.
I went to bed around 11, with no real change.
By 12AM I had to get up during each contraction. They were still pretty far apart, and not super intense, just, once again, too uncomfortable to sleep or lie down through.
At 5AM they were coming closer together, so we started timing them. They were about 3-4 minutes apart, lasting over. minute...and right as we were about to hit the hour mark and call the midwife, they spaced out to every 10 minutes...then every 20. Then they just sat pretty solidly around the 10-15 minute mark.
My labour with Genevieve was very similar; days and nights of contractions that were painful enough to keep me awake, and then just plain painful, but no end in sight. I was so sure this time would be different; that it would be a matter of hours, and that I'd feel on top of it all. But here I was, replaying what felt like the same labour all over again.
I felt betrayed by my body, exhausted from two nights of no sleep and sad that at the prospect of being labour all day and not getting to see Genevieve (she was with my mom).
Around 10AM I got into my mom's big bathtub. The water helped a bit, and when I felt a contraction start, I'd run the hot tap on my lower back to ease some of the pain. In between surges, I did manage to sleep a bit. Matthew fell asleep on the bathroom floor at one point.
My mom texted me around noon to say she was coming home with Genevieve, so we went back to our space downstairs. I curled up on the couch and kept trying to sleep, and when I felt the pain start, I'd move onto the floor or drape myself over my exercise ball and Matthew would help me work through it.
At 1PM, I asked Matthew to start timing them, since they felt much closer together and some were even coming back to back. They were coming anywhere from 1-6 minutes apart, lasting over a minute, and lots of them back to back. At the one hour mark, we called the midwife, who arrived at 2:30. She asked me to lie down so she could check me. I decided I didn't want to know how dilated I was. I was so afraid she'd say I was a 3 or 4, and I'd get discouraged.
But when she exclaimed "oh wow!" I had to ask, "is that a good wow or a bad wow?"
"It's an excellent wow," she said. "you're a 7."
She told us to fill up the pool, and started going around, setting up her gear. I watched, somewhat confused, as she set up a warmer for baby blankets and propped her phone on the desk with a timer. I thought to myself, there's no way this baby is coming any time soon, she's getting wayyyyy ahead of herself.
Once I got in the pool, the relief was instant. I went from sort-of-kind-of managing the pain to feeling pretty on top of it. Shortly after I got in, I was surprised to see my midwife's backup arrive at 3:15. Again, I thought, this baby is not going to get here until late tonight at the earliest. She's gonna be waiting around for a while.
I laboured in the pool for a while and time became a blur. The pain would start, and I would try and move to a more comfortable position, then focus on making my body go limp and breathing through the contraction. In between, Matthew and I talked or joked around, or I sat quietly and listened to the midwives gossip as they went through paperwork and monitored the baby's heart rate.
It was during one of the heart checks that I had the first contraction I absolutely could not handle. Breathing didn't help, moaning didn't help, trying to focus and relax didn't work because my whole lower body was on fire and I couldn't see past the pain. I remember feeling like I snapped. My midwife tried to talk me down, and her voice helped a little, but I just twisted and squirmed and wailed "no no no it hurts, I can't I can't."
I had a few more horrible, awful contractions like that, it would build and then keep building and I would feel totally out of control.
Then I had one that was somehow even worse than all the others. When it was over I collapsed against the side of the pool and my midwife looked at me and said, "that one was different, wasn't it?"
I nodded. She asked, "how so?"
I shook my head and said "I don't know, it was just...more."
Another contraction came, then another and as I tried, pointlessly, to get into a position to ease the pain, I gasped out "I think I need to push?"
I was SO confused, things were happening so fast after going so slow, and my water hadn't broken.
My midwife just said, "okay, then you push."
So I pushed, and it hurt to push but it hurt to not push and I felt like a helpless bystander, crying out as my body completely took over.
Another contraction came, one that felt like it would never end... and at 4:30PM, he was out.
I fell back against the pool, Matthew wrapped his arms around me and I cradled our little boy in my arms and sighed in relief. He was so perfect; pink and round and smooth. He didn't cry. He just lay there, his arms folded over his chest, blinking and staring and quietly taking in his strange new world.