It has been 7 ½ months since my second son was born and I have been thinking about writing his birth story since the day we welcomed him into our family. I become overwhelmed with mixed emotions at just the thought of writing it as the experience of his birth comes with so many layers I don’t know where to begin. I have a feeling his birth story will include the birth story of my first child, or parts or it, as they are connected in such a unique way.
As I sit here and think about where to begin I can feel the emotions well up in my chest and throat. My thoughts and emotions about my birth have changed so much over the past 7 months. I found out I was pregnant with my second child on September 12, 2012. I remember so vividly because it took 5 pregnancy tests and being 16 days late to get a positive test! And I discovered the positive test three days after I had taken the test!! When I took the test it was negative but when I found it three days later, it was positive (long story as to why I kept the test for three days!). I had decided even before I was pregnant that my second child would be delivered by caesarean just as my first had been. I was extremely afraid to experience the pain of labour and delivery. Eight days after finding out the wonderful news of being pregnant, a very dear friend of mine, Celeste, delivered her second child. She had asked me to be a part of her birth team by taking care of her son Jaz who was friends with my son Braylon. Celeste had her daughter as a water birth at home. She went into labour the evening of the 19th and I went over to her place about 9pm. When she called she had said that Jaz would probably sleep through the night and I wouldn’t have to take him, but she wasn’t sure how long she would be in labour. She invited me to come be in the birthing room, she called it the “Serenity room” if I wanted…. I hesitated at first as this would be the first natural birth I would witness/experience. I decided to be there as I wanted to be supportive and I think there was a small part of me that was curious about labour, over and above the large part of me that thought Celeste was “crazy” for having a home birth.
Through her labour and the many hours spent in the serenity room I kept thinking, “she is nuts” and “why would anyone want to be so far away from the hospital.” I can remember telling her sister Christa that I would have soooo much anxiety about whether something would go wrong and what if I couldn’t make it to the hospital. Christa was of the same mind as she had had her son by caesarean as well.
About two hours before Kila was born I can remember sitting on the couch in the room and looking at Celeste in the water. She was so focused, so relaxed in between contractions. She even jumped up out of the pool right after one of her contractions with excitement just to show us all that she was doing well and that the relief in between contractions was so amazing. I couldn’t believe the change in her mood and energy between her contractions. It went against everything I had imagined labour would be like. I can also remember the look on the midwife, Noreen Walker’s face when I told her I was pregnant and I was planning to have a second caesarean.
Now, I don’t remember exactly what caused the biggest shift of thinking that I have experienced in my life, whether it was Celeste’s “pool party” atmosphere or Noreen’s look of astonishment, but about two hours before Celeste delivered I can remember thinking, maybe a natural water birth would be a good idea…
Remembering that shift brings tears to my eyes now.
That shift in thought lead me to an extremely emotional roller coaster of a week as I allowed myself to even consider not having a caesarean. Soooo many thoughts running through my mind, Can I handle it? Would it be more or less pain than what I experienced with my first cesearean? Am I strong enough? Oh, I forgot to mention, that my entire life I believed that I was, and I was told by others that I was a person with a “very low pain tolerance.” I had always believed that if I ever had children I was going to have a c-section because I couldn’t bear the thought of going through labour. As I began thinking about having a natural birth I started to realize that if I was going to have a VBAC, I was not going to have it at the hospital because the thought of delivering in a hospital brought on so much anxiety for me. So now I was seriously considering not only a natural birth but a home birth. Whoa! Something I had never thought would ever be even a consideration. The change in birth plan was so emotional for me, I cried so hard out of confusion, fear and the worry of travelling this journey alone as I did not believe I would have the support of my husband or my family.
As I researched home births, hospital births, births with midwives, births with doctors etc. I discovered that home births with midwives were found to have less interventions during labour than hospital births. I called Passages Midwifery, Noreen’s practice, and spoke with her daughter Katherine. She was extremely patience, gentle and supportive in providing me information to help make a decision that was best for me. After many discussions and sleepless nights contemplating, considering and worrying, I gave Noreen a call. My main concern was the fact that I would be having a VBAC. Noreen assured me that I had nothing to worry about, that there was really no more risks of delivery for a VBAC as there would be for a second natural birth. Noreen was so confident in delivering a VBAC she gave me the confidence I needed to start believing that I could do it. After hearing the information and encouragement we needed, my husband and I decided that a water birth at home was the best option for me. Or actually, more accurately, I decided a water birth at home was the best option for me and my husband said that since I was the one delivering the baby he would support me in whatever decision I made. He was hesitant to have a home birth as he was worried about what if something happened with me or the baby. Noreen gave him some comfort with her amazing statistics of hospital transfers during labour and after (I can’t remember the exact figures but they were extremely low!!).
Before we left our first session with Noreen, which turned out to be our first prenatal appointment with our midwife, I asked her how to get in contact with Ava Curtola, as I remembered the relaxing affect she brought to Celeste’s birth and I knew I had to have her at my birth. I borrowed Ava’s Energy of Birthing book and CD’s from Celeste and began reading and listening to her meditations. I listened to them before going to bed and anytime I was feeling a little on the anxious side about labour or delivery. Her soothing voice and the imagery’s she provided during the meditations were my saving grace during labour. I had one Reiki session with Ava as well which really solidified and clarified the work I was doing on my own in regards to creating my own imagery of how I wanted my birth to go and how I wanted my body, mind, and emotions to react during labour. I had only met Ava once prior to our appointment but I felt so comfortable in her presence and knew she would be able to help me accept that my body was made to give birth and that I could handle it. She helped me to overcome and change my life long inner monologue of “you have a low pain tolerance” to “I have the courage and strength to embrace this natural process.” I also learned a valuable characteristic about myself from the Reiki session; that I am a very physical person – in other words, when I am stressed and anxious my body longs for physical touch/embrace to soothe. Ava told me she could feel my energy needing more massage and touch than many of her clients. This was again validated during labour when I asked to have someone to hold one of my hands for the duration of each contraction. I can vividly remember the anxiety begin to rise as a contraction would start and as soon as someone from by birth team held my hand the anxiety subsided.
As my pregnancy progressed I continued to work through Ava’s meditations, working at creating my birth plan in my imagery and embracing the idea that I was on this journey to having a natural birth; something I had NEVER thought or desired to do my entire life. Something I believed I was not meant to do because I was just too afraid. I faced anxiety and fear of labour and delivery almost daily but I was determined that I was going to do this. I was going to prove to everyone, mostly myself, that I could do this. Witnessing Kila’s birth and seeing how Celeste managed each contraction and kept a sense of humour throughout, empowered me so much. She was the reason I started this journey, she ignited the belief in myself that I could do this. Her birth was etched so strongly in my memory that for the first three or four months of practicing imagery all I could see was her and how her birth went. It was only after I started to truly believe in myself that I began seeing my face in my imagery and I could start to plan my own birth.
Oh and how could I forget to mention, the tears I brought out in almost every group prenatal class (sorry Noreen!). Noreen held group appointments for every expectant mother due in each month. During these appointments we would share any questions we had and talk about how we came to decide on having a home birth. I had no idea what these discussions would bring out. During one or our discussions we began talking about the differences between hospital and home births and having drugs for pain versus having a completely natural birth. Even though I was planning a home birth I was still wanting to take something for pain. Then I began to share that I had my first son, Braylon, by caesarean due to placenta previa. Nobody else in my group of six ladies had had a caesarean so I began to explain the epidural and the three IV’s and then the hour in surgery before getting to the recovery room where I finally held my first born son. Then the Percocet’s and Tylenol 3’s and the pain of the incision and how although walking eight hours after my caesarean was extremely painful, I was encouraged to do so because it would help with my recovery. I began to wonder why this all appealed so much to me prior to deciding on a home birth. If that wasn’t enough, we then began talking about the effects of drugs on both mother and baby. As I sat and thought, it was during a group appointment that I broke down as I realized I didn’t remember holding my son for the first time…… I don’t really know how much of the first three days of his life I truly remember other than from the pictures my husband and sister took. The most vivid memories of his first three days were of him being held by my husband and picked up by my husband and the painful walks down the hallways and the effort it took for me to get in and out of bed.
That day in Noreen’s basement was the day I became the strongest I had ever been and the most determined I had ever felt to succeed and accomplish the natural birth I never thought I wanted.
In the first appointment I had with Noreen she asked me to think of four words that I could use to help me throughout my pregnancy and throughout labour. She asked if any came to mind right away and two did, CONFIDENCE and TRUST. Confidence in myself that I CAN do this, and trust in those who are part of my birth plan. At this time I knew that Noreen, Ava, my husband Ben and Celeste were going to be in the room during labour. I was not sure if anyone else would be.
By the time I went into labour my four words were:
CONFIDENCE – in myself. I have prepared. I CAN do this.
TRUST – I trust those who are part of my birth plan, Noreen, Ava, Ben and Celeste to give me the support I need when I need it.
EFFICIENT – Labour and delivery will last the right amount of time, not too long and not too fast.
EMBRACE – I will channel my energy to relax and breathe through the contractions. This will make it easier.
These words were framed and hung on the wall directly behind where the pool sat in the spare room in our basement.
I was never really certain as to what my due date was. At our first ultrasound at three months we were given May 9th (our anniversary!!), at the second ultrasound at five months we were told May 17th and we were also told I had a low lying placenta. This is what led to a caesarean with my first born. Although I was a little worried, the worry never lasted. I was confident that my placenta would grow upwards and I would be safe to deliver naturally. I meditated and visualized my placenta growing up as it grew larger and opening up the space my baby needed to enter this world. Noreen was not worried either and stated I did not have to have the third ultrasound at eight months, but due to my history and the anxiety I still carried, we decided a third ultrasound would set my mind at ease. It was at the third ultrasound we were given the third due date of May 12th and we were also given the wonderful news that my placenta had pulled up and it was no longer low lying!! I was so excited that things were falling into place for me to have this baby naturally.
I began having some fairly strong Braxton hicks I think the morning of May 8th, they were not consistent but getting stronger. There were a few I had trouble talking through and then they stopped. My husband took the day off as we thought this was it!! Turned out baby was not ready! For the next nine days I had all the early signs of labour, Braxton hicks, lower back pain, bloody show, part of my mucous plug but no sign of baby. This was hard to manage with the excitement of finally meeting out lil one and the exhaustion from the adrenaline kicking in so many times with the thought of “this is it!!” Then came the evening of Thursday May 16, 2013 I was walking downstairs to go to bed and I felt another contraction. I told my husband but said, “I am sure it’s nothing, so good night and I will see you in the morning.” I went to bed and continued to feel the contractions every 20 minutes or so. At 12:20am my water broke!! It was the strangest feeling ever! Not painful, just weird, and nothing like feeling like you wet the bed at age 34! I can remember hearing a little popping sound of the sac breaking. I all of a sudden became extremely excited and I am not going to lie, a little nervous. I called my husband who was sleeping upstairs and told him my water just broke. He came down right away and instantly I knew he was nervous but excited. We began timing the contractions and getting ready to fill the pool. I am not sure I had seen my husband as nervous as he was that night. He at one point, maybe an hour after my water broke, said to me, “should we go to the hospital or something?” This makes me laugh even now as I think about it again, he was cute! I reassured him that this is all normal and that we would call Noreen when the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. I called Celeste about 2:30am and luckily she had already been woken up by Kila. So they both came over right away. I believe they arrived shortly after 3:00 am and just after I called Noreen. I felt bad for calling and waking Noreen up but my contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart and I knew she had about a 35 minute drive to get to my house. On the phone she asked me how far apart my contractions were and I told her, then she asked, “do you want me to come in now?” I chuckle, as I remember this, because I remember thinking at the time, well of course I would like you to come in, I wouldn’t call you at 3 in the morning if I didn’t. But now, I realize, she was trying to let me know I had a while yet before anything would happen. Noreen has since told me that she knew it was going to be a long night but she also knew that I was fairly anxious still and that if she didn’t come it at that time my anxiety would have shot through the roof. She was probably right!!
While we waited for Noreen and Ava, Ben was busy trying to figure out how to hook up the hose to the bathroom faucet to try and fill the pool. He got it to work but he could only get cold water and then there was no water at all! The tap in the basement was broken. I remember him being flustered as he fussed with the taps. Then between him and Celeste they figured out that the hose was long enough to reach the upstairs tap… and we had warm water! I believe I got into the water around 4:00 am, before Noreen and Ava arrived. Initially, I found the warm water very soothing and a great way to ease the contractions. When Noreen and Ava arrived they got themselves set up and Noreen checked me…. I was only 2 cm dilated. At that point I knew that this was going to be a long process. I don’t remember feeling discouraged at that time, I just know that I was a lot more comfortable having my entire birth team with me. I managed the contractions a number of different ways throughout the 14 hours of labour. I was in the pool, then sitting on the toilet, then lying in bed on my side, then back to the pool, then onto the toilet and again back in bed. The changing of positions was helpful as I found it more painful to stay in the same position for too long. I can remember as labour progressed, that moving from one place to another became more and more challenging. Getting out of the pool was especially difficult as I found lifting my leg was like lifting a thousand pound bag of sand! Although I was moving every few hours or so, it seemed to help me focus if I kept my eyes closed. I think it was blocking out some sensory stimulation so I could have all energy focused on the contractions and then trying to relax in between. Ava was amazing with her soothing voice and reminders of my four words during times when I was losing focus and not breathing efficiently. I can also remember Celeste reminding me to slow my breathing down. She told me later that she was worried I might snap, but that little reminder really eased my anxiety at the time and helped me to refocus. Ben was fabulous. Not once did I yell or swear at him, or anyone for that matter! He massaged me when I needed it, applied pressure to my back during contractions, stroked me hair to help me relax and bared my weight when I was changing positions or having contractions.
Seeing as it was the middle of the night and everyone was pretty tired, they all took turns resting on the couch. Noreen, then Ava then Ben. Even Kila, little 8 month old Kila, was up most of the time I was in labour except for maybe a three hour nap she took! She was in the room with all of us, often singing with me as I moaned through the contractions. It was pretty adorable actually. It was approaching 6:30am and in between contractions I began wondering about our oldest son who had been asleep this entire time just down the hall. I didn’t want him to be in the room with me during labour as I knew my focus would be diverted. So Ben called my dad and my sister to let them know I was in labour. My sister Trish was able to come pick him up about 8:00am. I remember her coming into the room and saying hello and that she was taking Braylon on a 10km run with her as she was in training for a half marathon. She also reminded me of the message she sent to Baby Makus on facebook just a few days prior:
Dear Baby Makus,
Please adhere to the following request… Come join the world by Friday morning or kindly wait until Monday afternoon. Thanks for already listening to your Auntie J muah!
Well it was Friday morning and Baby Makus was working on it!
At the same time Trish was there, our friend Duane stopped by to bring everyone coffee, not me of course! I am sure everyone was grateful for the coffee right up until the point that I told everyone that the smell of the coffee was making me nauseous and I was going to get sick…. That was the end of the coffee! Sorry guys!
I don’t remember what time it was, I think around 1:00 pm, Noreen asked me what I wanted to do. She said I had been in labour a long time and she could check me again to see how dilated I was and if needed she could do a little intervention, a little trick Noreen had up her sleeve. I was pretty exhausted my now and definitely ready to get this baby out! I was a little afraid to be checked again as I had started hyperventilating the last time I was checked (I forgot to mention that earlier). But I knew I had to do this and I could feel the determination in me kickin it up a notch to power through the fear that was creeping up. Noreen had Ben sit in a chair and had me squat… YUP, you read that correctly, SQUAT, after 13 hours of labour, in between his legs. Ben was supporting my weight and Noreen checked me. She said there was part of my cervix that was creating a bit of a lip which was preventing the head from moving further down the birth canal. At this time I was only 6 cm dilated! So Noreen did a stretch of my cervix and moved it out to the side to make room for the baby. This felt as though she was tearing me apart. She then told me to push, still squatting. This was the hardest and most painful part of the entire labour and delivery. I pushed three or four times and honestly if I wasn’t so focused on getting this baby out, I would have been in tears. Noreen said I could continue to push in this position because I was now fully dilated! This was about 1:45 pm. I really wanted to deliver in the water so everyone helped me back into the pool. Not to mention, I had lost all feeling in both my legs from squatting! When I got back into the pool, I could feel the seriousness/focus/excitement of everyone as they knew we were going to meet our precious baby fairly soon. I can remember at this point, thinking, “how am I going to do this? I am sooo tired and I can’t feel my legs and this is extremely uncomfortable.” But that thought didn’t last long and I never verbalized it. I remembered what a lady in my prenatal group said, that even if you have thoughts that you don’t think you can do this, never verbalize them because it will take your focus off of the contractions and place it on encouraging yourself that you can do this. It worked!!
I was in the pool on all fours leaning over the edge and listening to Noreen telling me to push and to hold my breath and bare down, and I had Ava at my head holding my hand reminding me that I have prepared for this and to embrace the contractions and work with them and not against them. I am not sure where Ben, Celeste or Kila were at that point but I know they were all in the room and right by my side. I remember feeling extremely supported and cared for by everyone on my birth team. Then I remember Noreen telling me to reach down and feel the head. I thought, after pushing a few times and being told they were great pushes and feeling the intense pressure I thought that the baby would be crowning but when I reached down to feel I realized that baby was not quite down that far but I could feel the little head, so close. I do not remember how many pushes I did after but I vividly remember right before, what was going to be the very last push, I thought to myself, “If I don’t get this baby out on this push, I am not going to be able to do this again.” I took a deep breathe in, bared down and pushed, imagining the baby crowning and the body coming out. And at 2:18 pm, with my skin feeling so unremarkably stretched and the pressure of the head right there, out came the baby so quickly, I was surprised!! It was the most unbelievable sense of empowerment, relief and awe I have ever experienced! I remember hearing, “it’s behind her” as my husband was trying to “fish the baby out of the water.” Noreen then picked up the baby and passed my beautiful baby to me only seconds old!! That feeling, that first touch, and remembering it all, made it all worth it! Ben was right there beside me as we took in our amazing, beautiful baby we had created. It was at that point Ben kissed me and said to me, “I am so proud of you!”
I can remember hearing Celeste laughing and crying and telling me “you did it!” Everyone was in awe at the adorableness of our precious little angel. It was breathtaking, literally and figuratively!! The small soft little baby, I was holding in my arms, staring at the beautiful eyes that were staring back at me. I was in love. I remember the first cry only seconds after having the baby in my arms. I remember feeling the little hand on my chest. Then after catching my breath, I wanted to know the gender but I was so exhausted I had trouble lifting my arm up to find out! So with the help of Noreen, I lifted my arm and was the first to discover the gender of my little boy! He was so perfect! I sat in the pool holding my little boy, with Ben at my side, just taking it all in. I can remember the innocence of his face and how peaceful he was just snuggled in my arms. I remember feeling this deep and unique connection to him as the journey of his birth replayed in my mind as I stared at the angel who helped me find the courage to have a natural birth.
Everything was still attached as Noreen showed us the cord. She said it was one of the longest umbilical cords she had seen and then she noticed a knot. Yup, a knot in the cord! So unusual and rare to see. Which was the perfect closure for the journey I had been on that was so unusual and rare to me.
It was time to deliver the placenta, which was such a relief once it was out. And again, a very large placenta for the size of our baby. Mateo Nolan Makus was born at 2:18 pm, May 17th, 2013 weighing in at 7 lbs 10 oz and measuring 20.5 inches.
We both got out of the water and Ben took Mateo to get dried off and warm as Noreen gave me 5 stitches. After we were all dressed and relaxing in bed, we started placed phone calls to announce the birth of our precious little angel!
My sister and her fiancé came over around 4:00 pm on their way out of the city for the weekend. She thanked Mateo for adhering to her request and coming into this world prior to her departure to Canmore for the weekend!
At around 7:00 pm my dad, stepmom and sister came with our oldest son Braylon who got to meet his new little brother for the very first time. He seemed nervous but excited to finally meet the baby that had been growing in mommy’s tummy for so long! Our family was complete!
It’s an amazing story to me at how the timing of so many things came together for me to find the courage and belief in myself that I could bare the course of childbirth not only vaginally but completely naturally especially after already having had a caesarean. This entire journey was a rare occurrence in my life narrative that I am beyond grateful to have experienced!
So much gratitude, respect and graciousness goes out to Noreen and Ava for their unconditional and nurturing care and to Ben and Celeste for their patience and understanding through the emotional journey I endeavoured. Thank you to everyone for being a part of Mateo’s welcome into this world!