The third trimester is full of surprises. Not the good kind either.
I was surprised to find out that morning sickness can come back. That was cool…
I was surprised that no matter how massive I thought my baby bump was, it kept stretching out a little farther. Insert my appreciation for elastic waistbands here.
And I was surprised that in no time at all, I was going to have to push a tiny human out of my body. What fun.
Oh. I didn’t mean to use the word surprised. My bad. That was a poor word choice on my part. Horrified is a much better way of summing up the reality of the third trimester and the impending arrival of my daughter.
Are They Cramps or Contractions?
Two days before my due date I woke up feeling crampy. I went out with a friend for a coffee and she asked how I was feeling (which, by the way is something you’ll be asked often as a pregnant person).
“Crampy, but maybe that means she’s starting to plan an exit strategy.” I didn’t really believe my own words. It was still too early. Since we also have to account for Dan’s genetic contribution, this kid could have been months late, so I figured that about a week to ten days late was about right.
The crampy feeling persisted until the late afternoon. Coffee didn’t help. Toaster waffles didn’t help. There was no chocolate in the house to speak of, so I didn’t even get the opportunity to see if that would ease the situation.
A few hours later, I still wasn’t sure if what I was feeling were contractions, but I pulled out my phone and started using the Contraction Timing app. Thank goodness for technology.
Eventually I figured out the pains were contractions. I’ve never had a baby before, so I second-guessed everything. I wanted to know they were actually contractions before I threw the confetti and screamed in horror (this is an accurate description of where I was emotionally).
My Husband Helps Me Get Through Contractions
Dan was working away at his computer and oblivious to what I’d been feeling the last little while.
“I’m pretty sure I’m having contractions.” I gestured at my gigantic belly as if he wouldn’t understand what I was talking about.
He took out one of his earbuds. “What do you need, are you okay?”
“For now. They’re pretty far apart still and only lasting about 25 seconds, so we have a way to go.”
We’d taken a prenatal course and took a tour of the maternity ward at the hospital, so we were well aware that we wouldn’t be admitted until I was in active labour. Time to hunker down and attempt to find comfort at home.
I had a shower. It would have been a bath, but the tub in our apartment is too tiny to be satisfying, so a long shower had to do. I watched the Bikram documentary on Netflix as a distraction tactic. Should I have watched a romantic comedy? I don’t know. There’s something about the messed-up lives of other people that made giving birth seem less scary.
Every few minutes, the pain would roll over inside me again. So that was a good time.
We tried as many things as possible from the prenatal class. We did the breathing exercises that they taught us in the prenatal class. I squeezed Dan’s hands. He rubbed my back. He used his hands to put pressure on my hips while I was on all fours. I asked him to rub my face.
“You want me to touch your face?” Generally, this is FORBIDDEN. I hate other people touching my face.
“It could be a good distraction. Try it.”
The next contraction hit, and Dan’s fingertips brushed across my forehead. I recoiled like a vampire in direct sunlight. The action somewhat worked as intended.
Visit #1 to the Hospital: Give Me the Drugs
We called the maternity ward. I needed something for the pain so I could stay at home a bit longer.
Since my water hadn’t broken and the contractions were still too far apart and not long enough to be considered active labour, they encouraged us to stay home. We lasted another hour before calling to tell them we were coming to get some pain medication.
After a certain hour, the entrance closest to the maternity ward is closed and you need to enter the hospital through the Emergency ward. They tell you to follow this red line painted on the floor to weave your way through the hospital’s underbelly. Nothing like working through a maze when you’re in a delicate situation.
I threw my Care Card at Dan so he could check-in at the emergency desk. No time to stop. I stumbled all alone through the hospital following that red line as though it were the yellow brick road. If I see the wizard, I’m going to ask him for a new body; the current one doesn’t feel so great.
A contraction hit during my journey and I squatted at the edge of the hallway to ride it out. Of course, there aren’t any chairs in this area of the hospital. This is where Dan found me and nearly carried me the rest of the way to the maternity ward.
The doctor did a quick assessment. The baby was okay. I was four centimetres dilated, but I was in enough pain to warrant some morphine and Gravol.
They injected me. I puked four times and home we went. Ah, childbirth. It’s a real hero’s journey, isn’t it?
Hey Body, Can We Please Just Have this Baby Already?
Time is not your ally when you are going through labour pains.
More hours passed and I would slump in and out of consciousness between contractions. It honestly seemed impossible that I was going to be rested enough to push a human out of my body when the time came.
Eventually, I needed food so my darling husband made me one of life’s culinary delights, a toaster waffle. I would eat a bite, have a contraction, feel like puking, and have another bite before the next contraction hit.
…I never did get to finish that waffle.
Next we reached exorcism level when the bloody show started. Aptly named, that phenomenon. It was certainly a show. I don’t know how Dan ever looked at me with lust again. Here he was watching me bleed everywhere and bellow that it seemed like a sign we should go to the hospital.
Scaring the Neighbours
Somehow (I’m sure it was Dan’s effort), I got some sweatpants and shoes on. Dan needed to grab our go bag and feed the pets so I told him I was going to start walking to the car.
I made it to the front of the apartment building when another contraction hit. They were coming every two minutes at this point. Water breaking or no, I needed to get to the hospital.
When the contraction hit, I sat on one of the rocks in the flower garden out front. A neighbour was casually strolling up the walkway and sped up when she saw my agony. Dan caught up with me just a few seconds later.
“Are you okay? Can I help you with something?” The neighbour was so lovely. In hindsight, I’m really touched by her kindness. I’d never spoken to her before. Such a shame to meet under circumstances where I come across as a lunatic.
Her first impression of me will forever be my response when a demonic voice came out of me angrily shouting, “Go away. Leave us alone.”
She paused if unsure, and I repeated, “Leave us alone.” Contractions don’t seem to bring out my sunny side.
It was up to my poor husband to reassure her that I was just going through a contraction and thanks, but we’d be okay. Note to self: give that gracious woman an apology after this is all over. She needs to know I’m actually a nice person.
Hospital Visit #2: Give Me the Epidural
Thankfully, the hospital is super close to our place, so we made it there in only a few contractions time.
Of course, the parking lot for the hospital is on the opposite side of the building than the maternity ward, so I told Dan to drop me off, park the car, and come find me. I don’t know why I kept thinking it was a good idea to forge ahead without him. He kept having to pick me up off the ground (hello, foreshadowing).
I stumbled into the elevator, hoping I would make it to the maternity ward before my next contraction, but good timing has never been my lot in life. A contraction hit when I was getting out of the elevator. They’re crippling. You can’t talk, you can’t stand. All I could do was brace myself against the hallway wall and melt into a pregnant puddle on the ground. I’ve never felt sexier in my life.
And of course, there wasn’t a soul in this particular hallway, so I just had to deal on my own. And again, no chair. Where are the seats in this freakin’ hospital? I’m just a big, fat preggo alone on the ground. Sweet.
Dan bounded up the stairs, helped me off the floor, and ushered me into the maternity ward. Finally, somewhere to sit down.
The doctor asked about my preference for pain relief.
“There are no heroes here. Give me the epidural.” Not a moment of hesitation in my reply.
“It’ll take them about a half-hour to get here, I can give you a half dose of fentanyl in the meantime to take the edge off.”
The doctor checked to see how far along I was. “You’re already about nine centemetres dilated.” She seemed surprised.
“But my water hasn’t broken yet.” Apparently, it doesn’t always break at the beginning of labour, so…the more you know. Did they cover that in the prenatal class?
I got the half dose of fentanyl. Minor relief. Yes!
Before she left the room, the doctor told me to let her know when it felt like I had to poop.
“Uh, right now actually.” I thought this was going to be my window to go to the washroom before the pushing started, but oh what fun (sarcasm), this actually meant that it was time to start pushing the baby out now.
Which means…no epidural for me. And since we were already this far along, no additional fentanyl for me either. So…whoopy. I get to go through this lovely time with a half dose of fentanyl and laughing gas.
Let me say, the women who give birth vaginally more than once: heroes, all of you. I’ve never been more exhausted, more challenged, more anything else in my entire life.
My Husband the Labour Coach
Dan and the nurse coached me through for an hour. We tried different positions, my body was tensed up during each contraction as I tried my best to push and then push more at the insistence of the coaches.
After a while, Dan became a bit of a broken record. It was a continuous loop of “You’re doing great, Kat.” He was tired too and trying really hard to get me through childbirth.
“Dan, on the next contraction I need you to tell me I’m tough and call me a warrior.” I don’t know why this is what I needed to hear, but apparently it’s my birthing process.
Dare I say, it totally worked. I am a warrior.
In the last few minutes, the doctor told me to get mad during the pushing. Things got downright primal. You’re granting me free reign to share my war cry with the ward? Sure. I’m in.
“What is that?” Dan asked the nurse at one point.
“That’s her head, you’re seeing her hair.” Dan later told me he thought it looked like a rat. I’m super glad he kept that to himself during labour. Did I already say I’ve never felt sexier? Because that comment put it over the top.
Mere moments later, our little girl, Winter, was born. I’m not one for religious speak, but holy mother freaking hallelujah.
Becoming a Mom
Birth is an insane journey.
For the record, those people who say you forget the pain of childbirth the moment you hold your baby: they’re liars. All of them. The pain you go through is one hell of an exchange for the love of your life.
That’s how it happened. Was it my finest hour? Absolutely not. My dreams of a calm, aromatherapy-infused birth were hijacked by several moments of reality. It’s true what they say; you can’t have a plan when it comes to childbirth.
I guess now you can call me mom. Or mama. I could try on Mama K and see if that suits me. Name aside, I’m officially one tough mother.