The time leading up to my first birth was full of fear of the unknown.
The second time, the time leading up to birth was full of nervousness because I knew the pain to expect. But it was also full of excitement because I knew that I could do it and that was the most empowering feeling.
Each of my two births were completely different from one another, yet both were the best moments of my life. Never have I felt so proud of my body, never have I felt so empowered as a woman, and never have I felt so in love with another human being.
My due date for my second birth was anticipated for March 23rd, 2021. The weeks leading up to this date I was preparing my body for another pain medication free vaginal birth, just as I did for my first birth. I was eating 6 dates a day as of 36 weeks pregnant in order to “ripen” my cervix so that it would be effaced and dilated for birth. I was drinking red raspberry leaf tea every day as of 37 weeks pregnant to encourage my uterus to practice contractions for a stronger, faster birth. I was taking long walks every day as of 38 weeks pregnant to help my body descend baby and encourage labour. I was doing the “miles circuit” as of 38 weeks pregnant in order to help baby get in the best position for an easier birth. I was meeting with my doula to prepare for labouring at home (something we did not get to do last time due to the complications of my placenta failing during Langley’s pregnancy). I had my hospital bag packed and my padsicles prepared. I had washed all the newborn clothes and ordered all the newborn diapers and wipes (my first born’s skin was so sensitive that every diaper/wipe gave her terrible rashes except HelloBello, so we started with those this time). I was taking prenatal yoga classes to keep my body strong and feeling healthy. I was ready for this baby to arrive!
On March 20th I went for a long morning walk with my husband, my toddler and my puppy. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was enjoying these fleeting days of it just being the four of us. Later that day I realized there were a few things at the local organic grocery store that I would like to have before baby arrived. The store was about a 15 minute walk (maybe 20 minutes if you’re 39 weeks pregnant haha), so I decided instead of driving I would take the extra walk to hopefully encourage labour. I warned my husband to keep his phone near him incase my water broke and I needed him to pick me up. I had a strong intuitive feeling that baby was coming very soon. The walk there went well, the grocery shopping went well, and most of the walk back was uneventful. But in the final 4 or so blocks I started to feel some mild cramping in my belly. The cramping sensation would last for a minute or so, fade, and then start up again. Each one felt a little more intense than the last. I made it home and decided I would start timing my contractions on my contraction timer app. Sure enough, they were consistent enough that I was sure I was starting labour, but not consistent enough that I thought I was anywhere close to needing to go to the hospital. I figure I went into pre-labour around 5:00pm. I notified my doula and decided after dinner to try to go to bed early to get some sleep. It took awhile to fall asleep (I was too excited to sleep!) but fortunately I did for about 3 hours.
Around 3:00am on March 21st, I woke up to contractions that were much more intense. I tried to go back to sleep for awhile, but at 5:00am I realized I would no longer be able to sleep through these contractions. So I texted my doula and told my husband I was going to make myself some tea and a bath. Well, as soon as I got up to make the tea, the contractions got incredibly intense. Moving around the house encouraged my body to go into full labour very quickly. I suddenly knew I did not want a bath, that my husband needed to wake up and my doula needed to come over right away. It was 6:30am, I was bouncing on a medicine ball with my doula coaching me through each breath and my husband applying pressure to my sacrum. Contractions were happening every two minutes, but my water still had not broken and I could still talk and be completely normal between each contraction. Even though the timing was right to head to the hospital, it didn’t seem like I was in “active enough” labour to go. Nowadays, they want you 6 centimetres dilated to birth at the hospital. If you are not there yet, they will tell you to go back home to labour until you are more dilated. The reason is that studies show that labour progresses faster in the comfort of your own home. Labour will often slow down at the hospital if you are not far enough along. We did not want to risk being turned away and having to do the drive to the hospital twice, so we continued stay labour at home, changing labouring positions every 40 minutes or so to keep baby and labour moving.
At 9:00am, contractions were still very regular but now much more painful. Instead of enjoying more physical labouring positions like hands + knees, squatting, or bouncing on an exercise ball, I wanted a position that felt more restful. So I lay on my side on the couch for each contraction for another 45 minutes. That was when my husband said to my doula, “We need to go to the hospital.” He had seen me in labour last time and knew what I looked like/sounded like when I was close to giving birth. Even though my water still had not broken, he knew I was very close and did not want to risk having our birth at home or in the car. So we quickly packed up and were on our way to the hospital around 10:00am.
When we arrived at the hospital, we unfortunately were not able to have our doula come in with us due to the covid-19 pandemic. My husband could attend the birth, but no one else since we were only permitted one support person with the current pandemic restrictions. So my husband and I went into the maternity triage where they checked mine and baby’s heart rates and checked how dilated I was. I was 7 centimetres dilated! So we were quickly whisked off to the labour and delivery ward where two wonderful nurses prepared me for birth. They happily listened to my birth plan and respected my wishes for no pain medication. They were kind and excited to help me. My husband set up my birthing playlist, which helped me relax, got my camera ready because he knew I’d want photos, and settled next to me to support each contraction. We were required to wear masks, but during birth and after birth the nurses and doctors did not mind if the mom took her mask off so she could breathe better. Fortunately the mask did not bother me and actually made me feel safer, so I kept mine on. When my doctor came in around 11:00am, she checked me again and said I was 8cm dilated. She stated that the only thing holding baby back was my water and that it was bulging. My doctor explained if she popped my water that baby would likely come out right away. I agreed to have my water broken by the doctor (it is super quick and completely painless) and assumed that her statement about “baby coming out right away,” implied that it would be maybe an hour more of labour. Well she popped my water… and baby immediately descended down the birth canal for only 5 more minutes of labour. Then it was time to push and 3 minutes of pushing later our beautiful baby girl was placed on my belly. We did not know if we were having a boy or girl, so to hear my husband announce, “it’s a girl!” made us smile and cry with pure happiness. There could not have been a more perfect moment.
Odessa Raine Kurceba was born at 11:21am on March 21, 2021 at 7lbs 4oz, 19.5 inches tall, and full of life.
Thank goodness my water didn’t break at home! Even though we only live a short 10 minute drive from the hospital, if my water had broke at home I would not have made it to the hospital in time. I remember having to squeeze my legs together when baby was descending in order to resist pushing before the doctor said I was ready (if you push too early you can cause your cervix to swell which gets in the way of baby being able to be pushed out). I would not have been able to stop this baby from coming out, she was so ready! And yes, the pain was intense (the ring of fire is a very real thing), but it happened so quickly that I really didn’t even have a chance to consider pain medication, nor would there have been time for it. And the moment your baby is placed on you, you immediately forget the pain. Instead you are filled with a huge sigh of relief, joy and the purest love. My biggest fear in my first birth was tearing, but then I experienced 3rd degree tearing from that birth and in reality it truly wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Even so, I hoped for less tearing with this birth and my wish came true… with 2nd degree tearing! While a quick birth has its pros, the con is that your body doesn’t have time to slowly stretch, so you tear more easily. But again, the pain and the stitches were so much less painful than expected, so it truly was nothing to fear. This body is amazing in strength and in healing. I cannot stress enough how empowering birth is and I hope every woman feels proud of whatever birth they have.
Due to my body being Group B Strep positive (a natural occurring bacteria found in many women’s vaginas that when exposed to a newborn baby can create an infection in the baby) I needed an IV for antibiotics during birth. The only issue was, you need 4 hours of antibiotics for it to be effective in protecting the baby from potential infection. Well not only did I have a very quick hospital birth (only about 30 minutes total in the labour and delivery room), but the nurses had a very hard time getting the IV in. They tried and missed my veins three times before calling the anesthesiologist to come do it. So I might have only had the medication in my body for 20 minutes before birth, but fortunately my water was only broken for 8 minutes before Odessa was born, and the baby is only exposed to the bacteria if your water breaks. So the chances of infection was extremely low even though I didn’t receive proper medication. Even so, they wanted to monitor Odessa for possible infection so we remained at the hospital for 30 hours after birth. I didn’t mind though, it’s nice to stay at the hospital for the extra care from nurses and easy meals prepared for you. As a vegetarian I have to say the vegetarian meals at Rockyview Hospital are quite good! Fortunately, Odessa did not develop an infection and my body was healing well, so we passed all the tests and got to go home around 4:00pm on March 22nd.
Even though the birth was not what we planned (either time!) it was absolutely perfect. My biggest advice to mamas about to give birth is not to be too attached to your birth plan. Yes it’s good to have a plan, to know your boundaries and to advocate for your choices, but in the end what matters is that you and baby are healthy. No matter the kind of birth you end up having, the end the result is the same: you get to meet this incredible human your body grew, and you are amazing to have given birth.