Ahh that sweet little face! And the journey it took to bring him earth-side...
It's been six weeks since that intense day, and I've had some time to process it. I don't think I've fully processed everything, but I finally feel ready to share the experience with you.
While it wasn't a traumatizing birthing experience (and for those of you who have experienced that, my heart is with you), it was a positive yet disappointing experience. Again...let me briefly tell you Aiden's story so you have some context....
With Aiden I had planned a home birth in the Netherlands with our midwife team. We were 5 minutes away from the hospital if anything went south. I was physically really fit before and during my pregnancy. And my midwives all thought I would push the baby out in like 3 pushes lol
Well it ended up 180 degrees from our plan. It started fast and furious in the middle of the night, with pain and contractions escalating quickly beyond what I could handle. Finally ended up at the hospital with the epidural, a lack of progression with baby's heart rate becoming erratic, and became a C-section after all efforts. Aiden was healthy, but I was really disappointed in myself, and my body felt like I was hit by a truck...it was quite the recovery from surgery.
So fast forward to this year. Having experienced what I did with Aiden's birth, I knew I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth again, called a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian) but I also came at it with tempered expectations and a better game plan. I worked so much on physical fitness the first time around, and I felt like I did nothing to prepare my mind and pain tolerance.
So this time, instead of a home birth and working out being the focus, we decided to have the baby at the birthing centre (so Ty and I could focus and not be worrying about Aiden or the neighbours). And even though I was still very active during my pregnancy (I filmed The FitMama Method while preggo and worked out at least 3 days a week until 39 weeks!), I took an online prenatal course to help me prepare mentally for the birth. I knew I needed more work to focus my mind.
Contractions are NO JOKE you guys. With Aiden, when someone asked me how painful contractions are on a scale of 1-10, my answer was 14. INTENSELY PAINFUL. Couldn't handle it painful.
I knew I needed to prepare myself mentally more than physically. So that's where my focus was in the last 4 weeks (really should have started earlier, but life and biz and work was crazy hectic at the time before I took mat leave).
Speaking of mat leave - if you're wondering whether to take mat leave early I HIGHLY recommend it. I stopped working at my day job end of Aug and Damian was born Oct 21 - this gave me time to wind down work, wind down my business, and open up the space and time to prepare mentally and REST before he came. SO. WORTH. IT!
Ok let's get to the main event.
On Oct 19 in the evening I felt my Braxton-Hicks contractions coming on more frequently, and they felt more intense. I had a feeling we were getting close, and went to bed no problem. The next morning I felt things more intensely and contractions happening more frequently, and I told Ty "This is happening!"
He went to work, not really understanding that inactive labor had begun, maybe because I was pretty calm at that point. But it took a phone call from his mom for him to call me in the middle of the day to ask if I was in labour. Yes, babe. That's what "it's happening means! " LOL
Tangent again - a few weeks before this I was feeling these practice contractions start to get more frequent, and I called my mom with this gut feeling that she should come earlier than the 23rd. I told her to come on Oct 20 instead, 1 week before my due date, and she agreed and changed her train ticket. And sure enough, the day she departed I went into labour - good timing as she would arrive in time to look after Aiden!
I spent that day in early/inactive labour - something I never experienced with Aiden. I was able to go for a short walk to get Aiden to school, and picked him up in the afternoon as well. I remember telling some of the usual parents that I see after school that I was in labour, and they looked at me like I was crazy lol I was just sitting in the park, breathing through contractions as they happened. Heck I even did a group Facebook live Q&A session with my group - I was doing great!!
By the evening after dinner, the contractions were coming on more intensely and breathing through them took far more work and concentration. I was in contact with my doula Steph and my midwife Magali by then, and they told me keep them updated as things progressed.
By 10pm I was having regular contractions and the pain was increasing. I told my doula to make her way to our house, and by the time she got here I was in active labour. By the way, if you're thinking of hiring a doula, I 100000% recommend it! Having someone there to help you through each contraction, who knows birth and has seen it all, and to take the pressure off your spouse is SO. WORTH. IT!!!!! And Steph was incredible - if you're in the Montreal area you need to hire Steph from Mother Wit.
After a quick phone call to our midwife we decided to head to the birthing centre, and luckily it was only 10 minutes away because at this point things were getting tough. We got there after midnight, and they had prepped the water tub birthing room - yay! A water birth is what we were hoping for, and I couldn't wait to get in and feel the warm water.
Before getting in, the midwife assessed me and we were at 5cm - yay, making progress!
I got in the tub and the water helped ease the pain of the contractions. Ty was really sweet and super supportive. He held my hand, poured water on me, and it felt very connecting.
Although after some time in the tub, with what didn't seem like much progression, I got out to try different positions. It helped to get me to 7cm but things felt so tough and I was tired.
It was getting more intense, and by the early hours of the morning I was soooooo tired, I opted for lying on the bed with the peanut (looks like a big stability ball, but two connected) so I could rest more between contractions. This seemed to slow things down, and the next time I was assessed they felt that something was keeping the baby from fully descending down and putting pressure on my cervix to open me up more.
My water hadn't broken yet, and at that point we all discussed what we could do. It was suggested we could rupture membranes (break my water) after which things would get intense quickly and I would likely NOT being able to get to a hospital in time for an epidural if I wanted to, OR, to go to the hospital at this point to get the epidural to try to see if this wold relax me enough to progress me further.
I was sooooooo exhausted at this point, having been in total labour for almost 24 hours and active labour for over 8hr, so I said yes to going to the hospital and epidural. Protocol was to take an ambulance, and that was the worst ride of my life - sooo bumpy and so many contractions to work through gahhhh!
By the time we got to the hospital, the OB/GYN had come in to assess me, and knowing my history of previous C-section and how long I was in active labour, the safest thing for us to do at that point to avoid a possible uterine rupture (a risk in VBAC) was to do C-section immediately. What could I say? I couldn't argue that, and safety was more important at that point.
So they prepped me quickly, got me and Ty down to the OR, and within an hour, our little guy was born. With the most incredible timing too: it was 21-10-21 and the time was 10:25am (so close to 10:21am!!!) I'm not big into numerology, but I gotta look this one up for its significance. There's gotta be something good I'm sure lol!
Afterwards, the OB came to tell me that when they opened me up they saw significant scar tissue and adhesions from the first C-section, and that my uterus was actually "glued" on the right side to my abdominal wall, twisting it to the right. It's why they took a lot longer performing the surgery and got a second surgeon in to consult with, as they wanted to avoid cutting through tissue and causing more bleeding. WHOAH! What looked so good on the surface (the scar), was an absolute mess underneath!
Whether that played a significant role in the birth not going as planned, we can't say for sure. But what she did tell me was that IF we had another child and it went to another C-section, that surgery would be extremely difficult with what was going on there. Yikes!
But that was info to process for another day, because the moment I heard his sweet little cry, I was balling lying on the operating table, holding Ty's hand and anxiously waiting to meet our sweet boy.
Ty got to hold him and put him on my chest as they stitched me back up, and lying there once they were finished I even got to nurse him for the first time. Little champ latched on right away, and it was such a surreal, beautiful moment :)
It took us 2 days, but we finally agreed on his name:
Damian Marcus Churchward-Venne
8lb 7.5oz and 20.5"
We spent the next 2 days recovering in the hospital, and I felt pretty good right after the surgery. I was up and moving soon after, although in pain, but waaaay better than the first surgery. BUT I knew that this road would be a long one ahead. Having recovered from a C-section before, I remember the down time before resuming physical activity - it IS major surgery after all!
But overall, having gone through it and now processed it, here's how I feel about it:
I feel really disappointed it didn't go as planned again, and that I'm having to recover from surgery AGAIN. Specifically that my core has been cut through twice and that it will NEVER be the same again from a functional perspective. I don't yet know what these repercussions will look like, but I will be working hard to retrain and strengthen them.
I feel sad that my body couldn't go through this "natural" process, on its own. I worked so dang hard, and it just ended up in surgery again, gah!
I feel grateful for modern medicine. 100 years ago I may have died during childbirth or who knows if this baby would have made it, with how complicated it was. Thank goodness for epidurals to take pain away and skilled surgeons to deliver our baby safely. I am eternally grateful. Big thank you to all the nurses at Lakeshore Hospital as well - some incredibly kind and caring women!
I feel proud of my process. At the end of the day, I attempted the VBAC. It was THE HARDEST thing I've ever done, yet my perception of pain was less this time, and I endured. I worked through the pain. I felt love and support and connection through it. I am grateful for this experience too.
At the end of the day, we have a healthy, beautiful baby boy. And I know that I did EVERYTHING in my power and preparation that I could have. And sometimes that's just how things go.
I am still in awe of what the female body goes through. From growing a human, to nourishing them with your body, to stretching and yielding to accommodate that growing baby, to enduring contraction after contraction after contraction until they arrive. Birth is such an intense and incredible experience.
And now that I have another recovery journey to go on, one thing remains constant and true:
No matter what this body looks like, with its stretch marks, loose and wrinkly skin, cellulite and all, this sweet little human loves me unconditionally and so deeply already.
And my god, if someone could show us such incredible love, don't we deserve to show it to ourselves too?
Beyond the losing the baby weight and fitting into skinny jeans, THIS is what we all need to spend more time working on. Deep gratitude and love for all our bodies are capable of and do for us every day.
*Less than 24hr after giving birth