Being pregnant with two busy toddlers (ages 3.5 & 1.5) running around the house wasn't as bad as I imagined until the last two weeks before my due date. I was getting heavier every passing day and getting disruptive sleep from either waking up numerous times at night to go pee or being woken up at a random hour by our oldest toddler. As a result, daycare drop-offs and pick-ups officially became my husband's jurisdiction and since we were both on parental leave, Oli soon became the new stay-at-home parent who was slowly transitioning into a new role: the default parent.
Dr. Amber Thornton, PsyD. defines it as typically one who is "first in line" when it comes to caring for children, child-related responsibilities, or home-related tasks. The default parent is routinely favored by the child for comfort, affection and permission.
LAST DAY IN THE OFFICE AT 34.5 WEEKS PREGNANT
MAY 11TH 2023
GRANDPA ARRIVES JUST IN TIME
My dad landed in Montreal on June 12th 2023, a week before my due date. Having been overseas for so long, he was eager to see the boys again. At this point in time, Adrian had just turned two years old a month prior and suddenly decided he wanted to sleep on a big boy mattress. Jeremy, on the other hand, had just successfully accomplished going potty all by himself. Our soon-to-be four-year-old was now in the process of learning how to stay in his bedroom until his alarm clock turned green. My dad, being conveniently jetlagged, would be awake at sunrise at around 5:30am. Jeremy was quick to learn that he could take advantage of his grandpa being awake in order to get breakfast earlier in the morning...
On Wednesday June 14th, only two days after my dad's arrival, I woke up a little groggy & light-headed. I was tired, but not tired enough to fall back asleep. I glanced at the clock: 6:50am. I heard my dad talking to Jeremy in the kitchen downstairs, so I wobbled my way down.
"Dad, he's not allowed to be down here at this hour," I said with a big yawn. "He needs to wait for his alarm clock."
"But the poor boy is coughing. Do we have any medicine for him?" he asked.
As I left to search for cough syrup, I felt a small gush of warm liquid pool into my underwear. I was not too worried about it because I always wore panty liners during the third trimester (hello pregnancy urinary incontinence!) but I decided to go to the bathroom anyways to inspect my situation, expecting to see some vaginal discharge or maybe the infamous mucus plug.
A thick piece of mucus that blocks the opening of the cervix during pregnancy. It forms a seal to prevent bacteria and infection from getting into the uterus and reaching the baby. Losing the mucus plug can be a sign of labour, but it can also come loose several days or even 1-2 weeks before labour starts.
To my surprise, it was blood! Bright red blood! And it was still dripping out a little bit into the toilet, kind of like period blood, but much thinner and slower. How unusual... This never happened to me in my past two pregnancies, so I did what doctors always advise against: I went straight to Google to find some answers. Unfortunately, the results online were inconclusive. I could have a bloody show, or I could be dying. Thanks Google.
A common symptom during late pregnancy when a small amount of blood and mucus is released from the vagina. A bloody show occurs because the cervix starts to soften and thin (efface) and widen (dilate) in preparation for labour.
A little bleeding late pregnancy is normal, but this was a little more than a little. It wasn't continuous bleeding because it stopped after I finished peeing, so I decided to wait and see if it would happen again. To my surprise, I had my first painful contraction 40 minutes later.
Pressure or pain that starts in the back and moves to the front of the lower abdomen. Some women say contractions feel like strong menstrual cramps.
38 WEEKS PREGNANT
JUNE 4TH 2023
ALL CHILL FOR ME BUT NO CHILL FOR HIM
I knew that panicking would be useless, so I remained calm and took a deep breath. If you saw me that morning, you would think it was just another regular morning in our household.
I went to check on my husband who was changing Adrian's diaper. A part of me wished that his morning routine could resume despite what I was about to tell him. I had the most casual face on as I nonchalantly said to him: "I think we should go to the hospital soon, I'm bleeding and I just had a contraction. Also, I haven't felt any fetal movement since last night." That last bit wasn't to scare him on purpose, but my online findings DID mention that I should be monitoring the baby's kicks, making me a little more hyper-aware of the absence of her movements.
He was looking at me with wide eyes and waited, as if I would tell him I was joking. But I never joked about this kind of thing during any of my pregnancies, and he knew that.
"Yeah?" he said. "Okay then. Okay. Let's go. What do we do with the boys?"
"Maybe my dad can bring them? Or we can drop them off at daycare together and then go to the hospital? I don't know, maybe there's time," I answered. "You should go get your stuff and put them in the hospital bag."
Ah yes. The unprepared-ness. Such a rookie move. Actually, MY hospital bag was packed and ready to go months ago and I told my sweet husband countless times to add his stuff to my suitcase, but alas, he procrastinated. Actually, he would justify that procrastination by the fact that he considered himself "a veteran parent". In fact, he was such a veteran that even our baby car seat wasn't installed yet and just sitting in the garage.
I felt a bit of blood once again and another painful contraction came along. However, I remained as cool as a cucumber as I took my two-year-old by the hand and Oli bolted to our bedroom to gather his belongings.
"And install the carseat too!" I shouted to him.
Once I ensured that Adrian joined my dad and Jeremy for breakfast, I climbed back up the stairs, carefully picked up my suitcase and made my way back downstairs. I wanted to take things slow and not make a big deal out of the situation. Meanwhile, I watched Oli, jumpy as can be, pajamas & toothbrush in one hand, car seat in the other, it was quite comical actually. He was SO all over the place that he didn't even notice my pregnant self lifting my suitcase down the stairs. (Shhh! I've been pretty non-compliant with lifting this entire pregnancy... but I have two toddlers, ain't really got a choice!)
"Maybe I wait here until you drop the kids off," I casually suggested. Looking back on this moment, I admit it was ludicrous to propose such a thing. But at the time, I truly did not think it was worth rushing. The more I acted calmly, the less my body would react, the more delayed my labour symptoms would be. Or at least that was what I told myself.
"Mel," he said sternly but as he continued talking, his tempo increased. "This is your precious daughter, the daughter you always wanted and possibly our one and only daughter ever. You want to wait longer AnD RiSk HeR dYiNg?" He was clearly stressed and borderline hysterical.
I paused and silently agreed with him in my head, but I also low-key found him so cute in this frantic state that I rarely ever see.
"Okay, chill, you need to calm down bro," I said to him, probably annoying him even more. "Let's go then." I notified my dad that he was now in charge of the boys and off to the hospital we went.
39 WEEKS PREGNANT
JUNE 12TH 2023
IN LABOUR OR NOT?
I was five days away from my official due date, but I guess part of me felt like a veteran parent too, because this time around, I didn't even bother downloading an app to time my contractions. I decided we would text each other the times instead.
Here's what we logged:
7:51 Painful contraction
7:58 Painful contraction
8:06 Contraction but doesn't hurt
8:16 Painful contraction
8:34 Painful contraction
8:40 Painful contraction
8:49 Cardiotocography attached to my belly
& fetal heartbeat could be heard, phew!
BREAKFAST SERVED @8:58AM
JUNE 14TH 2023
9:29 My cervix is a little over 2cm dilated
The opening that connects the uterus and the vagina. The baby comes out when the cervix is 10cm dilated.
9:55 Painful contraction
10:22 Painful contraction
& that was the last contraction of the morning. For some reason, it was as if labour came to a halt. I wondered if our baby would be coming today?
STILL IN TRIAGE @12:15PM
JUNE 14TH 2023
Around noon, we were told that we did good coming to the hospital, because the doctor recommends an induction due to my bleeding & that now would be a good time to discuss our birthing plan.
We were given two choices on how to proceed (both with the epidural of course):
Membrane sweep; quick and easy.
Pitocin induction; slow & steady.
An anesthetic temporarily numbs the spinal nerves, which then blocks pain signals. It can provide temporary pain relief or a temporary total lack of feeling.
A doctor inserts their fingers into the cervix and sweeps between the thin membranes of the amniotic sac.
A synthetic version of oxytocin, a hormone naturally produced by the body to induce contractions.
The options given were akin to asking me if I wanted to repeat Jeremy's birth or Adrian's birth. So we opted for the second choice, although a small part of me was quite tempted to just get it done and over with. The contractions resumed in the afternoon:
13:44 Painful contraction
14:20 Antibiotics administered via IV*
* Required at childbirth as a preventive measure when you get a UTI during pregnancy
14:50 Pitocin administered via IV
15:04 Painful contraction
15:13 Painful contraction
15:13 Our nurse said that despite being administered the lowest possible
dosage of Pitocin, I was having many contractions and progressing fast,
so she orders the epidural.
15:26 Painful contraction
16:15 My cervix is 4cm dilated
CARDIOTOCOGRAPHY (CTG) MONITORING FETAL HEARTBEAT & CONTRACTIONS
JUNE 14TH 2023
When the epidural was finally injected, I felt instant relief. Well, it wasn't instant physical relief, but more like instant mental reassurance.
The epidural is actually not instantaneous like most people would imagine it to be (& I learned that the hard way two years ago!) Let me shed some light on why you may often hear women say they do not have time to get an epidural... As a matter of fact, from the moment an epidural is requested to the moment its effects are felt, there's at least 30 minutes in between. The pre-epidural preparations include getting an IV, having at least a full liter of fluid infused, lab work, a consultation with the anesthetist, inserting a urinary catheter to help empty the bladder & signing paperwork. When all that is done, there will most likely be even more waiting time because there's usually only one anesthetist making their rounds and they're possibly already busy with another patient.
So yeah, when I got that epidural, what I felt was psychological relief.
As labour progressed, the epidural's effects started washing over me from my lower ribcage to my legs. There was numbness and tingling, but it wasn't cold and making me shiver like my first time giving birth to Jeremy. In fact, it wasn't even as prominent as I remembered it.
Ah... but the last time I had it was four years ago.
But now I was feeling it steadily spread from the left side and slowly coming to a halt.
Was I imagining this?
All the devices and IV drips were indeed to my left, and to my right it was just Oli.
Yes, I must be imagining it, because all the medicine was on the left side of my bed. Okay. We good.
I decided I should test it out and see if the sensation felt internally could be confirmed externally, so I raised my legs and started scratching my thighs.
Uh oh. It did not feel the same!
Yep. My right leg felt the scratches significantly more. I stared at the scratch marks on my skin in silence.
So this is how it was gonna be huh?
The catheter must have been mispositioned. I could feel contraction pains on the right side of my body.
The nurse told me that I could try lying on my right side in hopes that the anesthetic would "drip" over to the right side with the help of gravity. It didn't really work for me.
To say the epidural was only felt 50-50 would be inaccurate. It was more like 60-40. However, that 40% represented an area of my body that wasn't affected by the medication. So technically, that 40% was still felt, all the way, so it was still 100% pain concentrated on the right side of my abdomen.
Great. Just my luck!
It's okay, it could be worse. Let's keep a positive mindset...
At around 6pm, I was clutching Oli's hand and tears started streaming down my face. It hurt so much and each contraction was getting excruciatingly long to bear. I knew from my last experience that pushing during a contraction would be relieving, but it wasn't time to push yet (or was it?) so this was just pure torture! Slooooooow torture. The pain wasn't enough for me to wail like last time, but it was enough for me to start sobbing uncontrollably.
I like to think my tolerance to pain is quite high. But in that moment, I was beginning to wonder if maybe the first induction option would have been better? Quickly done. Like ripping a band-aid off. Well too late now!
We called for the nurse and she confirmed I was over 9cm dilated. The doctor came in shortly with the rest of the team and it was finally show-time. She told me she will break my water and then I could start pushing.
MISS SUNNY SIDE UP
Oli was asked to move to my left and to hold my leg up while another nurse held my right one up. A second nurse held my right hand tightly for additional support. There was another nurse in-training and a resident bearing witness to my misery. The contractions were getting closer and more intense and I felt so out of breath. It was 6:13pm. The doctor said it was now time to push!
Oh I pushed all right. I pushed like I was pooping, but I was also doing it while pushing my legs against the people holding them (bless my husband and that poor nurse; it must have been quite the workout for their arms!)
I pushed again and remembered a TikTok video where a user was explaining that the best way to push was to pretend to cough and to push on that prolonged exhale. I tried that.
I kept pushing with each contraction until I was reminded by a nurse to try and push without pushing with my legs.
That did the trick!
Everyone was exclaiming that they could see the baby's hair!
But why was it taking so long? Shouldn't my third time be faster than ever?
I gathered all my strength and took a deep breath as I prepared for my next contraction. I pushed as I screamed with all the energy I had. I felt her head slowly coming out!
But why isn't she slipping out fast like Adrian did?
Her head felt maybe halfway out but the contraction ended too soon so she just STAYED there in that position and GOODNESS was that uncomfortable!
Okay, she needs to come out on the next one.
As my final contraction came, I pushed with ALL MY MIGHT accompanied with a savage warrior cry.
My baby girl was born at 6:25pm.
The pushing from start to end was in actuality only 12 minutes, but man oh man, it felt like two hours! Nobody told me this during labour, but the reason why this delivery was more challenging for me, was because she was in occiput posterior position (also known as sunny side up or back-to-back), pictured here below:
(BABY ON THE RIGHT IS SUNNY SIDE UP)
This position can lead to a slower and longer labour, with the baby's head circumference measuring larger from the back than from the front, making it a more painful delivery. Needless to say, the head seemed larger as it entered the pelvis (& this was later confirmed by my husband as he remembered the boys were positioned in the anterior position, like the baby on the left).
Everyone was congratulating me as they plopped the baby on my chest. Meanwhile, I was panting like I just ran a marathon. No. A triathlon.
A m*therf*ckin' triathlon.
I was gasping for air so loudly that I genuinely felt like I really just swam across the Atlantic Ocean, survived the Bermuda Triangle and its tidal waves, cycled up Mount Everest during a hailstorm and now here I was, expected by everyone to hold a newborn baby and marvel at it. I was seeing white and couldn't even lift my head to look at the little tuft of black hair under my chin. But it felt so good to have her in my arms and no longer in my belly. It felt like I just took a huge dump. My lungs finally felt like they had space to breathe. My body felt tired but at the same time, high on adrenaline. The nurses were telling me: "Look, she's here! What a beautiful girl." Yadee yadee ya...
And then I finally looked down, to my precious, long-awaited baby girl...
FIRST SKIN-TO-SKIN WITH MOMMY
JUNE 14TH 2023 @6:25PM
This felt so right. She felt so right. It felt like she was finally here, the last member to complete the family. I held my little newborn tightly and cherished this special moment I knew I would never experience again.
Welcome to the world, Naomi!
JUNE 14TH 2023
Photographed by Julia C. Vona / Junophoto
Naomi at 16 days old