The next day we went to church as usual, and then I had opera practice. Several of my friends there told my belly, very emphatically, not to make any grand entrances until after the opera show on the 7th of June, or to be born the very next day, so that I’d have recovery time before the performance. We laughed. I spent a good 20 minutes with the musical director, accompanist, and one of the more accomplished performers trying to find the right physical space to sing my very challenging solo, what with there being a small human being occupying much of the space I usually have available for my lungs while singing. As rehearsal ended, I felt very confident about how my solo would go.
The Man picked up at practice at 3:30. I got in the car, thinking “I should probably have gone to the bathroom before getting in the car” and immediately lost *some* sort of fluid. I grabbed a grocery bag (The Man had gotten a few things) and sat on it for the ride home. I assumed that it was just a little late pregnancy incontinence due to standing for a few hours with a person sitting on my bladder, and went about my evening, same as always. We joked, though, on our drive home: “Wouldn’t it be funny if my water just broke and I’m in labour and I were to show up at practice next week with a baby!” I stayed up a little later than I normally would because, hey, the next day was Victoria Day, and a holiday, and I didn’t have to go to work for the next year, so I wasn’t asleep until after 12am.
I woke at 5am, feeling like I was losing fluid again. I hurried to the bathroom. A few minutes later, after changing, I started to get back into bed. As I lowered myself onto the bed, I felt another loss of fluid, this time much, much larger, and ran back to the bathroom. Once there, it was apparent that, whatever the fluid was – and I still wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t just peeing myself repeatedly – I had no control over it, and it wasn’t stopping any time soon. Somehow, I felt mildly embarrassed, still thinking that I was just incontinent, and also not wanting to wake The Man as he was still asleep. A few minutes later, around 5:15am, I noticed that I felt very crampy, low in my abdomen, as though I had painful gas. I thought, “Great: now I’m peeing myself and I’m constipated. That’s just fantastic.” The cramps hurt quite a bit, and were getting worse, and I thought, “What a lightweight am I?! How am I ever going to get through labour if I can’t handle a few little gas cramps?!” What struck me as odd, though, was that these cramps seemed to be rather rhythmic in nature. We have a clock on the bathroom wall, so I started watching the clock, and noticed that they seemed to start every 4 minutes or so, and seemed to be getting stronger with time, also. Hmmm…
Sometime just after 6, I started calling for The Man. A few hollers, and then I’d sent him out to pick up some incontinence pads. About a half-hour later he was back, and I crawled back into bed, and curled up on my side to try and go back to sleep, while rocking back and forth through the cramps. I managed to sleep until just after 7am. When I woke, the cramps were still happening, and still getting stronger, so I used the stopwatch on my mobile phone to time them, and they were all between 3 and 5 minutes apart. I decided to call my midwife. I explained to her what had been happening that morning, and that I suspected it might just be incontinence and constipation – such a flattering combination – and she said she certainly hoped I wasn’t in labour, since I wasn’t yet to term. She told me she’d get up (I had woken her) and grab some food, and then would be over at our place in a few hours. I told her there was no rush: it was probably a false alarm, after all.
A while later, I decided to have a shower, because I was starting to strongly suspect that this was not, in fact, a false alarm, and I knew that I would want to have had a shower. I stood in the shower for a good twenty minutes. The water felt so good, and the repeated surging pains kept stopping me mid-shampoo, mid-soap, mid-rinse. I donned some comfy clothes and went downstairs to the living room. I ended up sitting on the floor while The Man sat on our chaise lounge, I resting my forehead against his knees, breathing slowly. Over the course of the next 45 minutes or so, I had only three or four cramps, as I was still thinking of them, as I did not want to allow myself to believe that I was in labour, if only because learning later that I was not would prove disappointing.
Diane, our midwife, arrived between 10 and 11. The Man greeted her at the door, and I heard her ask him “How far apart are the cramps?” and him reply “About 10 to 15 minutes” as they had been for the better part of an hour, by then. She made a surprised sound, and came into the living room, where I was still on the floor, and breathing through another “Thing” as I’d been calling them. She looked down at me, cocked her head with a mildly confused look on her face, and said, “So: what’s going on here?” Due to my nonchalance on the phone earlier, I think the sight of me must have been rather a surprise. I sort of chuckled, and replied, “I’m not exactly sure! You tell me!” She sat down on the chaise, and asked me about what had happened that morning, and what I was feeling. In the midst of talking to her, another wave came on, and I stopped speaking to breathe and compose myself.
“Well, that looked like a contraction!” she said.
“Oh! Did it?” I asked her.
“Oh, yes,” she told me. We tested the fluid and it was definitely amniotic fluid, and I was most assuredly in labour. I proceeded to begin having contractions about 2 minutes apart, at which point she looked at The Man and said, “Alright, I think we should get to the hospital now.” He had, during this time, been dutifully putting together a bag with clothes and toiletries. I called my mother so that she could come dog-sit for us. When her boyfriend, Poppy, answered the phone, I told him I was in labour. “What?!!” he exclaimed. He handed the phone to my mother who then exclaimed, “You’re kidding!!!” I had three contractions in the space of that very short conversation, which cemented the necessity of getting to the hospital as soon as possible, so The Man brought the car around, and we made our way to the only hospital in the city which grants delivery privileges to midwives.
Ever since I had entered active labour I had been worried that I was going to be sick. As soon as we reached the hospital and I was out of the car, I relaxed because now, if I was ill, I didn’t have to worry about cleaning up our rental carpet or leased car interior! We slowly worked our way into the hospital. It was largely deserted due to it being a holiday Monday, and the staff were…not the best hospital staff I have encountered. Still, I didn’t care very much since our plan was to have as little contact with them as possible, ours being a midwife-assisted birth and all. Diane had arrived before we had, and she showed us into the examination room we had been assigned. She had, during the drive, been calling Gen, our doula, who had been a midwife student of Diane’s, to tell her to come to the hospital. I was worried that because we were a month early, and it was a long weekend, that she might be out of town, but she arrived just as we were getting into the exam room.
I still hadn’t had my dilation checked at this point. Diane and Gen helped me onto the bed while The Man went to properly park the car and get me registered with the hospital. Diane hooked me up to a monitor to get an idea of what the contractions were doing, and they were certainly good, strong contractions. Diane did the internal exam between contractions. I watched her face as she mentally gauged my dilation, saying “Ok, you’re 6…7…8…we’ll call that full!” She looked quite surprised, as I went from 6 cm to fully dilated in a matter of seconds! We all laughed a little, and I felt relieved that this was truly happening, and excited and a little nervous, knowing that our baby was really arriving that very day!
We were moved into a delivery room (by all accounts the worst one in the hospital) and my mum arrived to pick up the key to our house so that she could get Wembley. She didn’t stay long, but it was nice to see her for a minute and then get down to business, as labour began to move along rather rapidly. Gen was an absolute godsend, rubbing my back and applying counter-pressure precisely how I needed it. She also spoke the encouragement and reassurance that I needed in my ear. When I was putting too much energy into the muscles in my face, she would gently stroke my forehead and remind me to relax my face and allow the labour to progress as it needed to, just as I needed. She and I had discussed a month earlier the way I envisioned my labour unfolding, and the sorts of relaxation techniques I wanted to employ. She and I both feel strongly about breath and using breathing for pain relief and energy, so she helped me remember to breathe as I had planned, intentionally and calmly. The Man rubbed my scalp – something I always love – and held my hands or rubbed my arms through the contractions, as they got heavier and more intense.
Throughout the day, sitting had felt uncomfortable. I think I must have been just very aware of Peanut’s head as it dropped further and further, so instead, I stood and leaned. At home I leaned on the counter in the bathroom or the back of the chaise; at the hospital, we raised the bed in the delivery room and I leaned on a pile of pillows.
I recall saying to Gen, “I can’t do this, I’m just too tired” and really wishing I had gotten a better night’s sleep! I was also still very sure that I’d be sick, so I was labouring while hugging a metal bedpan, which was blissfully cool for my warm face. Very shortly after saying that I couldn’t go on, I said, almost in a whisper, “I think I want to push.” Strangely, I never felt the overwhelming need to push so many women describe. It was more just that I slowly felt that pushing was something I could now do, and once started, as Peanut moved further down and I could feel her more and more, I wanted to get her out!!
Here are my midwife’s notes from the birth, since the entire thing is a hazey, dreamy memory to me, without time or much form:
13:42 – Darlene pushing
13:46 – Head visible with contraction
13:50 – Darlene moves to bed on hands and knees (I had been standing and leaning on the bed up to this point. We lowered the bed, and raised the head up almost vertical and I knelt, hanging onto the back of the bed)
13:56 – Head visible between contractions
13:57 – Head
13:57 – Baby born
And suddenly I felt back in my body again, after feeling very much apart and away during the active stages of labour. Diane said, “Let’s let the parents see what we have!” And I turned around, since Peanut was behind me, and said “Is it a girl?” I was fairly certain I was seeing girl-parts, but didn’t trust myself after all the craziness of delivery. And it was, and we call her Glynis.
And she’s perfect.