Birth of a mother: Our very own Rachel's positive birth story shared with love, honesty and humour from her Mama Deb Chard

Sweet baby Rachel and her wonderful Mama Deb

Sweet baby Rachel and her wonderful Mama Deb

At 4:00 AM on Wednesday, July 11th, I awoke with contractions. I slipped out of bed and went downstairs to relax in the reclining chair and time what I thought maybe would be Braxton Hicks. Some came at 5, 10 and even 20 minute intervals. By 7 AM they stopped just when I was becoming excited and about to wake Eric. At 7:45 Eric went to work and I thought I would go back to sleep but by 8:30 the contractions were back again. I didn't want to stay alone thinking that this might really be labour so I called Dad and he picked me up immediately. He had difficulty concealing his excitement as he helped me into the car loaded with suitcase and pillows. He seemed to be convinced that he was going to be welcoming a little granddaughter relatively soon.

When I arrived at Mom and Dad’s, I left a message for Eric to call me from work. I told the receptionist that I was in labour however Eric did not get this message. He tried to reach me at home and when there was no answer he called Ajax where I had left a message with Dorothy. However she had gone out and not passed on the message to Chuck. So when Eric spoke to his Dad he learned nothing. By the time Eric called my parents he was in quite a state. I told him there was no point in coming up right then as I was quite comfortable and relaxed.

The contractions were regular and easy to handle. I had some toast and tea but didn't want to eat too much if I truly was in labor. I spent some of the morning just waiting around the apartment and talking to Mom. Dad had gone out shopping. Later on however, I found it more comfortable to stay in Dad's rocking chair. The contractions did seem to be getting stronger but when I would hit a half hour interval the possibility of false labour would be quite discouraging.

Mom sat and chatted as I timed and breathed. This was her first experience with being present while someone was in labor. She appeared relaxed and composed. By 1 o'clock I started recording my contractions. They were coming at approximately 20 minute intervals. I had some consommé and toast although I didn't feel hungry I thought energy was important.

At 4 PM the contractions were at 10 minutes. I called Dr. McKay to tell him that it had been 12 hours and could this still possibly be false labor? He said it could be but I could be having a baby that night. And not to call him until the pains were five minutes apart and ‘hurt like hell’. He wasn't exactly heavily into natural childbirth jargon. Since I had had a number of discussions with him during my pregnancy and I felt he was well aware of what type of birth experience I was hoping for, this really didn't bother me. His attitude was simply that it was up to me during my labor. He assured no one would be forcing medication on me, unless I lost control completely.

Eric arrived at the apartment at 5:30 and had his dinner. By six I felt a noticeable change in the timing and intensity of the contractions. By seven I called the doctor to tell him I was at 3 to 5 minute intervals. He gave the OK for the hospital.

We packed up our pillows and suitcase, I brushed my teeth and hair and off we went leaving a rather anxious and excited set of prospective grandparents. Dad had been there for the afternoon and considering that this was the closest had ever been to anyone in labour before he was remarkably calm- making small talk, thinking that it would take my mind off contractions. I doubt he was aware of the concentration I was having to employ near the end of the day.

The trip to the hospital was awful. I was hit with a case of nerves at this point. The lack of proper shocks in the mustang did little to help me cope with the contractions and it seemed like an awfully long ride though in reality it couldn't have been more than five minutes.

Throughout the short time that Eric had been present during that part of my labour he had timed my contractions for me, massaged my back and just generally been supportive. Once he arrived at the apartment I felt much more secure. I didn't relish the possibility of going into hard labour without him with me.

Once we had parked and walked into admitting armed with pillows and suitcase full of goodies for labor, we got the paperwork out of the way. They took us up to the second floor labour and delivery. Eric was asked to wait in the lounge while I was prepped. Next time I don't see any reason for Eric not to be present. However we wanted to get off to a good start with the staff on that day. My biggest apprehension was the enema. I was absolutely terrified of it. The nurse was as reassuring as she possibly could've been, and it did help. She asked routine health questions, and also asked if I planned on having an epidural. I told her I was hoping not to but I would like to stay open on it. She shaved me and gave me the dreaded enema which really wasn't all that bad. The anticipation was far worse than the reality.

I had been sitting on the toilet for some time when I heard Dr. McKay come into the hall and say to a nurse that he was going to rupture some membranes. It never occurred to me that he might have meant me. When I came out Eric was waiting for me. Armed with lemon drops and a watch he was there and ready. Dr. McKay came in and explained he was about to rupture my membranes to speed up labor. Again, Eric was asked to wait in the lounge. As the membrane was ruptured and what felt like gallons of water spilled forth I went immediately into my first contraction of hard labor. It took me completely by surprise. We had read of the gradual buildup from dilation into transition and I certainly didn't expect this. My reflex action was to go into breathing, but I couldn't get the control at all. The nurse tried to breathe with me but I was so overcome with this new intensity of pain that you could say my first real contractions got the best of me. Eric came in and brought me under control right away. The practice sure paid off. I had been frightened and unprepared for this third stage of labour as I had not experienced what had been described as the second. I think it was between 8:30 and 9 o'clock. Eric fed me crushed ice and ate his lemon drops. He timed my contractions and told me when I was at the apex and that it was halfway through and downhill from there on. I lived through each contraction just to hear him tell me that it was half over. I have heard the expression a sea of pain before and had conditioned myself to look at the contraction as a wave to ride and stay on top of, but it was really like drowning. Trying to breathe and stay on top of this incredible wave of pain that would engulf my body, trying not to flail my legs, was an exercise in self-control- mind and body, like I had never come close to in my life. If I hadn't had Eric beside me, reassuring me, breathing through each contraction with me,  I'm sure I wouldn't have had the wonderful birth experience that I did. Effleurage was out of the question since I didn't want to be touched so Eric sponged my face with a cool cloth and fed me ice. I hyperventilated almost immediately. I was dizzy and was losing sensation in my hands and feet. Dr. McKay came in and took my pulse. He told Eric to slow down my breathing, that I was blowing off too much C2O. Eric did and so did I. I was so afraid that Dr. McKay would feel I was losing control, however he was very supportive and compassionate. When I flirted with the idea of having an epidural the doctor said I would have to be catheterized. That was more than enough deterrent for me.

A doctor's assistant came in at one point and asked the same repetitive health questions rather impatiently between my contractions. It was unnecessary at that time and stupid and inconsiderate of anyone to expect conversation from a woman at that point in her labor. However, that was the only negative aspect that we encountered with the hospital staff while we were there.

Our nurse was Ilona Disher. She would come in from time to time to ask if we wanted medication, but she wasn't pushy and accepted the first no each time. And so it went… What seemed a long long time to me really was only about three hours of transitional labour when suddenly in one contraction something changed drastically. It felt like a huge weight was dropped on my abdomen and my response was to push. Response is not the right word. The most intense physical demanding urge I can ever imagine experiencing is what happened. To push. Eric said ‘pant’… We had read that normally, when this point in labour is reached, the cervix may not be fully dilated and the woman should hold off pushing. I told him rather emphatically that I was going to push, that it felt so good it had to be right. He went out to the hall to find the doctor. I heard him ask the nurse and the nurse replied that the doctor had gone home but she would call him right away. He lived quite close to the hospital. That was the first time that I was alone in the room with my contractions and I'm glad that was the only time. It's amazing how frightened you can become at a time like that. It's no wonder that our mothers had such a hellish time of childbirth going through it with ignorance and being alone most of the time to boot.

Eric came back followed by the nurse. She examined me and to our delight said I was fully dilated and to get down to work. She called Eric down to the bottom of the bed and told him to look and see the hair of his child that was making her way down and into our lives. He saw dark wet hair. It was wonderful. The excitement in the room was tremendous. Ilona told me to put my legs up and hold the underside of my thighs with my feet almost touching each other. Also, keeping my eyes open during the push and not making any verbal sounds preserved energy according to her and she was right. What an amazing amount of physical work and what a fabulous cheering section I had with Eric and Ilona at the bottom of the bed telling me that I could do it in reassuring me that my pushes were really working.

Then Dr. McKay came in and Eric was sent off to change into a gown and mask. I was wheeled through the hall during one of my contractions pushing for all I was worth. I had to crawl onto the labour table between contractions and my feet were put into stirrups. At this point I should mention that Ilona was at the end of her shift just before I went into the labour room. She stopped in to say she was sorry she wasn't going to see our baby born and goodbye. I wasn't able to say much to her and I wanted to tell her how fabulous she had been and how much we appreciated her being with us. However I did go back a couple of months later to see her. We had a new nurse in the labour room and I don't remember her name but I do know she was pleased with the natural birth happening. Eric entered gowned and masked. He propped me up with our pillows and the nurse adjusted the mirror so that we could see… And what a sight. As I contracted and pushed a wonderful dark wet head of hair was appearing. At the end of the contraction it receded. With each push more progress was made down my vagina. The flood of happiness that consumed me at the sight can't be described accurately. With one push there was a spurt of blood over the head and for a moment I felt panic. Dr. McKay reassured us that it was from me and not our baby. A few more contractions and then Dr. McKay said something… I couldn't hear, he said it again and I still didn't understand what he said then Eric translated. Pant! Pant! Behold a tiny head is eased out into Dr. McKay’s hands. He suctions quickly and the most beautiful sound in the world rings through our ears… The cry of a healthy newborn child. Baby keeps coming, one shoulder than the other. A little person is appearing right before our eyes. Eric is beside me at my left shoulder. I hear him say ‘Oh my God!’  Baby slides smoothly out. Dr. says ‘you have a little lady.’ What joy. Double Joy for Eric I think then. Dr. says push with next contraction to deliver placenta. He severs the cord after a moment. The nurse has taken her to the side to do her eyes and wrap her. The nurse is holding her beside me now on my right well doctor does stitching. I asked Eric if he thought she looked like a Rachel. That was when we decided on her name. Rachel was then placed into my waiting arms. What a feeling! Then Eric held her. I moved back onto a bed. Before I did I remember seeing my legs start to tremble uncontrollably. The doctor said it was very common and a form of shock. Then the three of us were moved into the recovery room and I offered my breast to Rachel and she nursed like that was what she had been waiting for. Neither one of us could believe it. She was healthy and beautiful and nursing moments after birth. Dr. McKay came in and watched her feeding. He made a few comments and joked but I can't remember specifically what he said except that he appeared to be very pleased. Rather difficult not to with Eric and me beaming all over the place. After about 10 or 15 minutes the nurse took Rachel away and Eric and I were alone together. We were both so high, we had done it together and were filled with joy. Eric left armed with dimes for phone calls and a promise to phone in the morning. The nurse came in and bathed me and then for the most comforting and luxurious sensation she covered me with heated sheets. I hadn't realized until then that I was still cold and trembling. I was wheeled upstairs to my room and was told that I could have Rachel for the 5 AM feeding. Upstairs the nurse came in to see if I was comfortable. I was ravenous. A full hot meal would have been wonderful. However, by that time it was 1 AM and she was kind enough to get me some toast and tea. I was grateful for even that at that hour. I called mom. I wanted her to know how great I felt and that everything turned out to be perfect even though I knew Eric would have spoken to her. I think she was still up when I called and she seemed happy to hear from me.

And then I was alone. I was exhausted but didn't want to sleep. I wanted Rachel with me and I wanted Eric to be sleeping beside me. I woke up at approximately 4 AM and waited for the 5 AM feeding. It finally came and so did my daughter. She was hungry and incredible. I couldn't do anything but watch her as she fed contently. So it went every four hours that day although she was on demand. However during the nights they did bring her to me when she cried. That was another of the incredible highs I experienced there was to be awakened by a nurse bringing Rachel to me to be fed.

Eric was there every evening for a feeding. He would hold Rachel and we would open her covers and look at her on the bed marvelling at this tiny person who is so complete. I have never felt such a lack of control over my emotions. I never wanted to see Eric leave. I did miss being at home but I was so tired it was just as well that I was in the hospital. I had rooming in after the second day. The first day rooming in was not allowed. I was so full of energy and joy the first day, I couldn't believe it on the second day when I was hit with light-headedness and fatigue. My blood pressure dropped a fair bit on the second day apparently but came up by that night. I have never been so hungry in my entire life.