Part 1—Expecting your delivery and labour. Giving birth for the first time.
Despite the fact you’ve read What to Expect When You’re Expecting cover to cover several times, you remain unprepared for delivery and for giving birth. In your first ascent, you simply have no clue how long or difficult the route will be.
Every woman I spoke to while pregnant prepped me with her birth stories; each first-birth consisted of at least 48 hours of labour and baby arriving two weeks after its due date. They told me stories of walking in the woods to distract themselves from the pain and being sent home from the hospital — multiple times — due to arriving too early.
Eagerly anticipating the joyous arrival and seeing the fruit of my womb, I couldn’t bear the thought of being turned away without that first sighting. Or worse yet, being admitted to the hospital and waiting, waiting, waiting — walking the florescent-lit floors, squeaking through sterile white hallways, attempting to eat the shiny grey hospital food. No thank you! Not for me.
Two weeks before my due date, my husband and I saw Bard on the Beach’s production of The Taming of the Shrew. We ate a lovely picnic dinner before the play — homemade chicken pesto sandwiches, grapes, cheese and crackers. After the play, I went to bed, and my husband stayed up late, as he often did.
Birthing Begins: the First Sign of Labour
Shortly after 2am, I woke to use the bathroom. (Fetuses have a way of compressing a normally plum-sized bladder into the volume of a grape, which means several trips to the washroom every night.) But this time, when I stood up, I felt water running down my leg. At first, I thought I was peeing myself, but gushing out of control, the fluid came. Not a wee stream of pee, Hoover Dam bursting.
I excitedly woke my husband. “Honey, my water just broke. I’m in labour.”
His response? “You can’t be in labour; I just went to bed.”
So, I used the washroom, then tried to return to sleep; convinced baby would not arrive for two weeks, I thought this spring marked the start of two weeks plus 48 hours of labour. No use getting up now.
But I couldn’t sleep. The intense pain in my back overrode any feeling of contractions — or anything else for that matter. Because I didn’t feel contractions, I wasn’t certain that I was in labour. It just hurt. A lot. The pain would peak, and the cycle would begin again.
The Free-Solo Ascent of Giving Birth
I got up and did some breathing and pre-natal yoga. Awkward in my melon state coupled with my claw-foot tub’s malfunctioning fixtures, I struggled to run a bath. Eventually I succeeded and plopped in.
After labouring alone for a few hours, I returned to my sleeping husband about 5am.
“I think we should call the doctor.”
He replied, “I think we should wait until at least 6am to call him. It’s really early.”
So, I laboured longer. By myself.
Finally, at 6am we called the doctor. I explained to him that I couldn’t feel contractions, just pain and more pain in my back; and my water broke about four hours ago.
My doctor advised us to call back in an hour with an update.
With the intensity increasing, the doctor told us to meet him at the hospital.
As we loaded my overnight bag in the car, I had the sense to appreciate this moment, leaving our home — the home and our lives — that would never be the same.
But the pain. It carried me to the car.
As we drove along King Edward Avenue, never before had I noticed the seams in the road perpendicular to the car’s tires. But this time, I felt every one. Corduroy. I felt them from my tailbone to my fontanel — and they intensified the pain like a jackhammer riveting my spine.
At the Hospital
We checked in at BC Women and Childrens’ Hospital at about 9am. Upon examination, the nurse asked with curiosity, “This is your first baby?”
“You’re fully dilated and fully effaced. You’re ready to deliver.”
To my surprise, they admitted me right away and wheeled me to a delivery room.
On this perfect, sunny day in June, my head pointed west as I began this final leg of my journey. Fetus and I progressed nicely together towards birth with my husband on my right feeding me ice chips.
The pain ebbed and flowed, and still hurt a lot. However, by the time I thought to ask for drugs, it proved far too late. Baby was crowning.
Doctor delivered baby with a nurse by his side shortly after 11am.
As baby came out, my doctor said to my husband, “What do you think?”
My husband happily replied, “It’s a boy!”
Doctor said, “look again.”
My husband just as happily replied, “It’s a girl!”
Then my doctor asked if either of us had curly toes. My wee perfect baby was born with curly toes, just like me, perfect in her imperfection.
If life were a Disney movie, the bluebirds would’ve circled my head as she latched on for her first suckles and eyed me with her trusting, loving, blueberry eyes. With this warm, beautiful bundle in my arms, the pain quickly faded.
The Worst and Yucky Parts of Birth
But then came the worst part, the part no one ever mentions. After exhaustion strikes you like a Mac truck, and all you want to do is rest and adore your baby — doctor tells you to push some more. You’re not done yet. You still have to deliver the placenta.
A few other yucky parts no one tells you? You may throw up from the pain while in labour or poop on the delivery table or tear from your vagina to your anus. (Or you may not!)
The Best Part of Labour and Delivery: Birth
The best part of pregnancy, labour and delivery? Getting to go home with the most amazing gift you will ever receive.
My labour — surprisingly quick, uncomplicated and relatively easy, (although, yes, incredibly painful), coupled with a healthy, happy, beautiful, good-sleeper, encouraged us to have a second baby. And we did, two years later…to be continued.
Marketing and communications professional ErinRose Handy leads her operations from Vancouver, BC, Canada. In 2018, she founded WomenNavigate as a passion project designed to help women navigate life’s often challenging courses. Principal consultant for Handy Communications, you may contact ErinRose for business opportunities at Handy Communications.