It’s taken me awhile but I’m finally ready to share the details of Leo’s birthday. I still can’t believe this is the same little baby who lived in my belly these last several months! I love reading birth stories so I decided to share mine here.
Some back story. Originally I was given a due date of June 8th but both my family doctor and obstetrician flipped it a couple of times, going back and forth between the 6th and 10th as well. I stuck to June 8th as the date because it was in the middle of the two and I knew it was really just a guess anyway.
I spent a lot of time preparing myself to give birth. I said a lot of affirmations (my favourite was “the pain has a purpose”) and tried to stay as active and busy as possible to keep myself from overthinking everything. I tried to trust that my body could do the work and I just wanted to go into my labour and delivery with an open mind. I know there are so many depends in these situations and many things would be out of my control. I have yet to talk to anyone whose experience went according to “plan”. In terms of pain medication, I wanted to try to go without anything but certainly wouldn’t deny myself if I felt I had reached my limits. I often said that this was a “game day” decision and my husband encouraged me to do what I felt was right for us.
I gave June 8th as my last day of work because I wanted to avoid sitting at home for weeks on end in case I went overdue. I was also feeling pretty well and so I saw no reason not to continue. The last couple of weeks before I was done were stressful though. The dog got terribly sick and required a couple of vet visits and being up with him often for several nights made the cold I’d been dealing with rebound into something AWFUL. I literally couldn’t breathe for a week, which made sleeping impossible, which made everything worse. I couldn’t take anything for it and was petrified I’d go into labour in this condition. It took several days for me to start feeling better and baby prep was at a bit of a standstill because of it.
I got my membranes swept on the Monday before my due date. My mucous plug had started to come out a few days prior. The doctor was very excited to tell me that I was already 3 cm. dilated and 75% thinned out at that appointment and I was super encouraged by that because discomfort had been minimal. After the sweep I had some cramping and then contractions on the Tuesday and Wednesday nights that were strong enough to wake me up but they’d always go away and I’d wake up the next morning with no action.
Thursday, June 8th, my last day of work came. It was bittersweet and I was sent off with lots of well wishes. I left feeling emotional and mostly in disbelief that my maternity leave had come. Tom got me a beautiful bouquet of peonies to celebrate the occasion and we went out to dinner and ran some errands. We went to bed around 10 pm and I was awoken around midnight by contractions.
Now, this had been my normal the last couple of nights so I wasn’t overly concerned but I did eventually notice that the contractions were coming in intervals. I downloaded an app to track them at around 1 am and warned Tom around 3 am that I thought this was the real deal. I used our bathtub and a heating pad for relief. Once the contractions were about 3 minutes apart we grabbed our bag and headed out. It was around 8 am and I’d already been labouring since midnight.
A couple of comical moments: we were waiting for the elevator and a neighbour joined us. I was in the middle of a contraction and Tom explained that I was in labour. The guy proceeded to jump in with us anyway and took his sweet time riding the elevator down to the main floor while I was hunched over in pain, delaying our trip down to the parkade. I considered punching him. Then we ran into construction near the hospital and had to detour. By the time we got in, they hurried me through and I was so grateful.
Once at labour and delivery I had to wait behind two other women to get checked. I was contracting very often now and waiting was torture. When I was finally checked I was told I was around 7 cm. dilated. The staff were excited and so were we. It seemed the baby was closer than we thought. The resident did ask if I wanted an epidural at this point and said that I would have to decide quickly as I was already so far along. I felt I was managing ok at this point and declined. After I got into my room I overheard some staff outside discussing my progress and I felt so excited. I was on my way to meeting my baby soon and so far didn’t feel the need for intervention of any kind.
By this point, the only way I felt comfortable during contractions was either on the birthing ball or standing, leaned over while Tom pressed on my lower back. The poor guy, I’m sure his hands are still numb. We walked and were upright pretty much the whole time. I was admitted at 9 am and laboured until about 2:30 pm when I was checked again. The contractions were super strong, right on top of each other and I was sweaty, shaky and nauseous. It felt like I was in transition. I started to question having the energy to push because that last hour especially had really drained my energy.
When I was checked they told me I hadn’t progressed. At all. I was still around 7 cm. after labouring from 9 am to 2:30 pm. I was devastated. Beyond this, they told me that all of my contractions with no progress were starting to affect the baby and his heart rate wasn’t recovering as quickly after each one. They said that I would need medication to speed things up and progress my labour faster. She left to give us a minute to discuss the epidural.
I was so frustrated at this development that I started to cry as soon as she left because I knew in my heart that I needed the help. I’d been labouring over fourteen hours already on two hours sleep and with little else to fuel me. My contractions were already so intense that I couldn’t imagine dealing with several more hours of stronger ones, plus pushing the baby out. I had reached my limit. The nurse came back in, and I told her I would get the epidural.
I had a spinal tap when I was four years old. Because of this I still hate needles and the thought of one in my back terrifies me. I was dreading this part of things and it was even worse than I imagined. It took him three tries to get the epidural in and it was so uncomfortable. I was contracting the entire time and was petrified about moving too much. It was stressful to say the least, but once it was placed, almost instant relief. I was finally able to lie down, rest and recharge for the work ahead. I could still feel my now amped up contractions through the epidural so I can’t imagine how they would have felt without it. This quickly affirmed my decision. My nurse also pointedly told me, “I’ve had two epidurals. You don’t get a hero cookie for going without.” I loved her for that.
I laboured for a couple additional hours after the epidural. Then I was checked and told I was fully dilated around 5:30 pm. Hallelujah! The baby started moving down quickly and more staff started coming in to assist. There was still concern about his heart rate and even mention of a c-section should things get really dire so I knew I needed to get in the game and push him out quickly.
Pushing was a wonderful experience. I was shaky but I had feeling in spite of the epidural and I felt very alert and in control. The team was also incredible and very positive and encouraging while I pushed. The pressure was intense, particularly when his head was coming out. Tommy had been unsure of whether he would watch the baby come out but when the time came he held my leg and watched the whole time. It was motivating to see his reactions also. He was so excited and that gave me the energy I needed.
I only pushed for a few minutes and the baby flew out quickly. I had been so scared to get the head and shoulders out but it happened so fast and before I knew it he was on my chest, wailing and wide eyed.
Leo Thomas Erwin
June 9, 2017
6 lb. 9 oz.
I couldn’t believe he was ours. He had so much hair and the biggest hands. After he was out, my placenta was delivered with a quick push. I had some tearing and that was stitched up while I held Leo on my chest skin to skin. I barely felt a thing.
Our parents arrived soon after, just before we were moved to the mother baby unit. I was starving and we begged my in-laws to bring some food. I was pushed to our new room in a wheelchair, shoving pizza into my mouth, and feeling like I was on top of the world. We spent two nights in the hospital which felt so long. We weren’t sleeping there and couldn’t wait to be home. Breastfeeding is going well, which I’m so grateful for. This boy eats constantly and still has his days and nights mixed up but he is the sweetest thing in the world.
Thank you so much for all of your support and well wishes, it truly means the world to us. Also, a special thank you to my husband. I knew he would be the perfect “coach” and he truly was. I could not have made it through this experience without him.
What a blessing to have a healthy baby! We don’t take it for granted for a second how fortunate we are to have this little guy join our family.