Ocean Midwives
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Odette Vivian’s Birth Story

Birth Date: April 30th, 2015

I had been having Braxton Hicks on and off since week 25 of the pregnancy. When I was 36 wks, 6 days, I woke up feeling crampy, like I was getting my period, and the Braxton Hicks were tighter and more intense. This continued on and off for a portion of each of the next nine days. My son was born three weeks early, so I thought something could happen at any time. There were a few days when contractions were stronger, sometimes vaguely painful, and I thought things might progress, but to no avail. Sunday morning (April 28) I lost the majority of my mucus plug, with some other pieces throughout the day. I couldn’t fall asleep Sunday night, and then around midnight on Sunday night/ Monday morning I started feeling extremely crampy, and I would have painful contractions, about 40 seconds long, every ten to fifteen minutes. This continued until about 4:30am, and then they went away. Around 6:30 am I headed to Creston Park to do some stairs by the pool to see if that could bring contractions on. It didn’t, and I headed home around 7 am, feeling exhausted, defeated, and irritated.

So Monday the 29th went. I had some Braxton Hicks, but nothing significant. I had a midwife appointment in the afternoon, and Kori was very reassuring that everything was very normal for second time moms. She talked to me about doing whatever I could to get sleep that night, in the event contractions did start again. We discussed taking a bath, a glass of wine, and getting to bed early. I left my appointment feeling more reassured about the journey ahead. When Jesse (my husband) got home, I took a hot shower, had half a glass of wine with dinner, and then another half glass before bed. I went to bed around eight thirty, and I slept until six thirty. Honestly, it was one of the best nights of sleep I had in a few months.

So that morning I woke up, feeling refreshed and optimistic. April 30 I was 38 weeks, 1 day, and Etta was officially in my belly a week longer than her big brother. That morning I had contractions that were somewhat painful on and off, which wasn’t so different from what I had experienced over the last week. Certainly nothing that made me think I should time anything. My son, Mo, and I went to Mt. Tabor for a play date with some friends, and I continued to have contractions somewhat regularly. I usually didn’t talk through them, and they were uncomfortable, but they didn’t hurt-hurt. My friend Caitlyn had suggested Mt. Tabor for our play date, aka Mt. Labor, partially as a joke. We played at the playground for a while, and then walked almost to the top. On the way home, Mo and I had one errand to run on Hawthorne. On the walk into the store, around 11:30am, I had a contraction that felt different, and I was like, huh, that hurt. About a half block from the store Mo wiped out on the pavement and was very sad, so we stopped and got him a vanilla steamer and myself a rooibos chai. I had a few more painful contractions in the coffee shop and on the drive home. I started thinking, “We just need to get home, make lunch, I’ll put Mo down for quiet time, and then I’ll time some.”

But I knew something was happening. When we got home, Mo and I stripped the bed in Jesse’s and my room and put them in the washer, because our dear friend Tammy would likely be spending the night with Mo while we were off having our baby. I put the sheets in the washer and started making lunch. I kept having contractions, and I was getting increasingly irritable with Mo. I read Mo a few stories, and around 12:50pm I sent Jesse, a text saying, “Contractions are getting stronger and more frequent, haven’t timed because no one leaves me alone. No bloody show. I’m going to have Mo watch TV when he gets up, but please consider getting home around 4 if this continues. I need space and am getting increasingly agitated.” I then got Mo into his room with his toys for quiet time around 1pm, and went into our room to dust and clean for Tammy. I started timing contractions with my fancy phone app, and at first I couldn’t believe it – contractions were 2-4 minutes apart, 35-50 seconds long. I was surprised they were that close together. They hurt, but they weren’t extremely painful, and they weren’t a minute long, so I kind of thought it wasn’t a big deal yet. Around 1:40pm I left a message with Kori, telling her the contraction spacing and saying they didn’t hurt too bad yet. Her phone message says if it’s an emergency to call back in five minutes, but I didn’t feel anything was imminent. I then went to the bathroom around 1:50pm and had bloody show – ta da! Cervical change. I started making phone calls to arrange child care and called my husband and told him to come home from work. Around 2:10pm, I still hadn’t heard back from Kori and called her again. She answered, saying she had been at a home visit, and asked what was up. I told her the contraction spacing, and she said, “I’ll meet you at the birth center in an hour.” I was surprised – the contractions hurt, but it didn’t seem like “go time” yet. I told her we would get there as soon as we could, but we had to wait for a sitter for Mo, and she said, “Tell your sitter not to dilly-dally.” In hindsight, I am so grateful for the wisdom and experience of Kori, because it was, truly, “go time”, and I had no idea at that point.

Right after I got off the phone with Kori, I got slammed with contractions. Slammed. Mo was done with quiet time and was calling for me, but I couldn’t deal with him. I told him Daddy was coming home, and I began crawling around the house on my hands and knees. Mo was upset and confused, but I just couldn’t comfort or help him – I was too far in it. By the time Jesse got home I was low moaning between contractions, still on all fours. At some point I had told Mo that his friend Tammy was coming to watch him and we were going to go have a baby, and he was crying. I felt so bad seeing my boy so upset, but I didn’t have the capacity to do anything to make him feel better. In between contractions I tried to reassure Mo and direct Jesse. I had one contraction where I felt like I had to poop, and I freaked out. I then put my head on the ground and my butt in the air for a few contractions and I didn’t feel that sensation again, which made me a little less panicky. I stayed on all fours in our mudroom, staring out the door, willing Tammy to get there. I finally called her to ask where she was, because I had to get to the birth center, and I thought Mo was just going to have to come with us. Thankfully Tammy was about 5 minutes away. As she walked up, I was moaning through a contraction, I gave Mo a smooch, and I crawled out the door in my socks to go on all fours in the rear of our Ford Focus hatchback. Thus began the worst drive of my life. We take 39th to get to Alma, and there were so many lights, so many stops, so many accelerations, so many painful contractions. It was rough. When we finally turned on to Burnside I felt better, knowing we would make it there. When we got to the birth center, Jesse dropped me off, and I ran out in my socks up to the birthing house. Halfway up the stairs, I started having another contraction, but I could hear people behind me going into Alma’s clinic area, and I willed myself to be quiet – I was thinking, “What if these people are new clients, they see me moaning and crawling outside, and they never want to come back here again?”

When I got in the birth center, I started crawling up the stairs to my room. It was 3:19pm. The daytime doula asked if she could help me, and I was like, I’m with Kori, and continued to crawl upstairs. The doula looked confused, and then my assistant midwife, Whitney, came out and said my room was downstairs (my chosen room was, alas, being painted). I got in my room and Kim (apprentice midwife) was also there. I think I just immediately started stripping to get in the tub. I stayed in the tub for ten minutes until 3:35pm, when I felt like I had to evacuate. I told Whitney, no, really, I think it’s just number two, and I went to the restroom and took care of that. I then said I wanted to try a contraction side lying on the bed just to rest for a minute, and it felt terrible. I finished that contraction on hands and knees and got back in the tub by 3:40pm, staying on hands and knees.

The contractions just kept coming, and they kept getting more intense. I only felt a few contractions in my back, as it was all down low, which was a completely different sensation than my back labor with my son. Jesse later said each contraction had me vocalizing more and my response was more intense with each one. I remember leaning on Jesse and saying, “It’s just so nice to have a break between contractions”, even though the break was probably only a minute or two. Jesse and Whitney did a few hip squeezes, and I remember them both rubbing my back at different points. I also remember saying, “Oh boy” a lot, and telling myself to keep my voice low and that I could do it; as Jesse later commented, I didn’t swear! The last five or so contractions were unbelievable. I felt like my body was ripping apart and I started screaming at the peak of them. I remember saying over and over there was so much pressure, and once I said I needed help from my team to stay with it. At that point I just needed someone to say something to ground me and make me feel that, while I was alone in the pain I was experiencing, I wasn’t alone in the process. My team reassured me, and I knew I was doing this and I just had to keep myself together to let it happen and ride the insane intensity. I was so out of my body at that point and just feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Sometime around now I noticed Kori putting on her gloves and I remember thinking, “Why is she doing that? It’s not like the baby is going to be born soon.” At 4:02pm, I felt a pop, and knew my water had broken and said such. At 4:04pm Etta was crowning, but I couldn’t feel it. I just thought I was ripping apart, and when the midwives told me her forehead was out I couldn’t believe it. They then told me the head was out, which I still couldn’t feel (it was just pain and pressure) and I just panted, not feeling the urge to push. I also said, “I can’t catch her”, which had been my plan. Then, with a roar (a nicer word than scream), I pushed, and I felt her body come out. At 4:06pm she was born ROA, which was the way she had always lain in my belly. Whitney caught her and passed her to me under the water, and I grabbed her, brought her to my chest, and sat down against the side of the tub. I just couldn’t believe it – she was here, and she was perfect. I started sobbing, and Etta was perfectly pink and started crying, and I sobbed more. I kept calling her Etta, and then asked if anyone saw if she was a girl, which no one had (she was a girl, just like the ultrasound said). I sat in the tub with her, crying and loving her, and Jesse was behind me. It was such a beautiful moment for me, for my family.

Etta nursed and was awake for about two hours. When she went to sleep and it was just Jesse and I, and it was such a surreal feeling. With my son’s labor I had been up for two nights laboring, Jesse one night with me, and we were so exhausted with the whole process. With Etta, we were well rested, present, and not exhausted by an extensive labor, which was a very special experience. It allowed us to bask in the glow and wonder of the event. The labor was and is hard for me to wrap my head around, because it all happened so quickly, and with such intensity, and then she was here. All in all, active labor was about 4.5 hours (starting with me noticing more painful contractions on Hawthorne) and I pushed for four minutes. Etta was born 46 minutes after we arrived at the birth center.

The stay at the birth center was such a special experience. We were pampered and monitored in a really unobtrusive manner. When Jesse left to take care of our son and I needed someone to talk to, all the doulas were wonderful at listening, doting, and having helpful suggestions. A truly beautiful experience.

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