Three-hours-old Ursula. Our first family photo.
Everyone likes a good birth story, right?
Even though I knew nothing about childbirth and had nothing to base my convictions on, I was pretty sure I was, A, going to deliver early, B, have a fast labour, and, C, not swear at my husband or the midwives.
I was eight days late.
Two out of three ain’t bad, right?
Around 7 p.m. on Father’s Day, my water broke. In the kitchen. While my in-laws were over.
I knew that the odds of my water breaking were pretty slim — the movies lie! — so my first assumption was that I peed myself. Embarrassing. So I quietly mopped up the floor and ran to the bathroom, telling no one that amniotic fluid was running down my leg.
I cleaned myself up and returned to the kitchen.
ME: Matthew, I think we need to call the midwife.
Family quickly cleared out — after taking a family photo, obviously — as our midwife made her way over. Almost immediately after calling her, I started having contractions, another unexpected development. We had both assumed labour would take a few hours to begin. We thought we had time to clean the bathroom, watch a movie and get some shut-eye.
If you’ve never had a contraction, it’s sort of like a severe period cramp…that keeps getting more and more severe, until waves of pain take over your whole body and you question why you ever thought having kids was a good idea.
My first handful were bearable. I could chat through them and actually eagerly anticipate meeting our daughter. And then they got worse. Fast.
(Early labour can often take hours — or days — before active labour begins. And even then, active labour can take, on average, up to 12 hours or so for a first-time mom. I am not average, apparently.)
My midwife suggested we head over to the midwife clinic down the street so she could perform a nonstress test to make sure the baby’s heartbeat was healthy and that she was moving. It took Matthew and I FOREVER to leave our apartment because I had five crippling contractions on the way out the door. Fortunately, we brought our car seat and birth centre bags with us. There wouldn’t be time to go back home.
At the clinic, our midwife discovered I was already 8 centimetres dilated. At least the pain made sense! I barely made it back to the car — poor people on the sidewalk had to watch a heavily pregnant lady lean against a concrete wall and cry out in pain — and Matthew drove straight to the Toronto Birth Centre.
When we got there, the tub was full of hot water. The (electric) fireplace was on. Everything was ready for me.
I climbed into the water, expecting some relief. I got a little, but then the pain caught up with me again.
An hour after arriving at the birth centre, I was ready to have a baby.
Dignity kind of goes out the window when you’re in labour. You don’t care who sees you naked or what guttural, moaning noises are coming out of you.
Matthew, my champion, breathed through each contraction with me, holding my hand, cooling my neck with a wet cloth, encouraging me, helping me change positions on the bed. (No position “feels good” during labour. Not a single one. And during a fast labour like my own, there’s also no time to consider any sort of pain relief.)
MIDWIFE: Nadine, it feels intense because it is intense.
Between pushes, I passed out from exhaustion, grabbing 10-second naps that felt like forever. I told the midwives — three were there at this point — that I felt too weak. I wanted to give up, but my body wouldn’t let me.*
And then, shortly after midnight, she showed up: kicking, screaming, and pooping.
Ursula Jean. Our “little bear.”
Ursula’s first morning with us. She still likes being swaddled.
Matthew and the midwives “caught” her, then slid her onto my stomach.
And in that moment, the pain was (mostly) gone. My energy was back. My sense of humour returned. I was my old self again, but with a jiggly, hollow belly — the weirdest thing ever — and a slimy, slippery baby on my chest.
Eight pounds 12.5 ounces, 21.5 inches long.
One look at her and we were goners.
Matthew helped a midwife with the newborn exam — he’s the baby whisperer around here — while our primary midwife cleaned me up. I was blissed out.
I ate a banana. I (carefully) put on pants. My makeup hadn’t even smudged. Nothing and everything had changed.
Less than five hours after my first contractions, I had a daughter in my arms. Three hours after that, we were loading into the car, heading home from the birth centre as a family of three.
Ursula slept for six hours straight that night. I didn’t. I just stared at her, high on endorphins and adrenaline.
Five weeks later, we’re all still getting to know each other. But Matthew and I wouldn’t give her up for the world — even during poop explosions. Or when she spits up breastmilk down my bra.
She’s new. But she belongs.
*Matthew told me afterwards that I’m no longer allowed to do “girly pushups.” He knows what my body can do.
If only there were contractions that made the body work out involuntarily….