- Sarah Landry
There is a LUCKY LEPRECHAUN in my other birth story.
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
[Last week I shared my first birth story—the catalyst in my becoming a childbirth educator. I would first recommend reading that since this is part II.] Every pregnancy, birth, and baby is different. I am no exception to that, for better or worse. It’s also why prenatal education and birth support are SO important for every birth—be it your first or your fourth. Shortly before my second pregnancy, I ended up getting a teaching term somewhat unexpectedly. I hadn’t planned on going back to teaching, but I hadn’t shut that door knowing the process of starting a business would be slow. I taught and studied my tail off to write the childbirth education certification exam in May of 2017, at 5 months pregnant. I was officially certified a month later (a year after my training). This pregnancy was very different, and far less glorious. I was much busier, not only teaching full-time in an unfamiliar job while studying, but being a parent to a 2 year-old… I was also more tired, less conscious of eating well, and I was most pregnant in the thick of the summer heat. Backing up, there are two key ways early on in which this pregnancy was actually BETTER than my first: 1) I made the informed decision to request a different doctor. I didn’t blame the doctor for my first experience, but I also knew that I needed a clean slate to mentally allow myself to feel this birth would be different. I did not want to risk feeling bitter or having a poor relationship with my doctor. Resentment has no place in the patient-doctor dyad. I chose someone with a good reputation for being open and understanding of birth preferences. 2) I was also measuring about 2 weeks ahead and needed an early dating ultrasound. My LMP-based EDD was October 1st, but the new date was 6 days earlier—September 25th. When I got the results from my doctor, I exercised my second right to informed choice. I discussed my feelings about a repeat induction and asked to keep the later date. Since it was under the 7-day policy, she said it was entirely my choice. Had it been my first pregnancy, I likely would have changed it, thinking, “I get to meet my baby sooner!” Not this time. I knew how due dates were just best guesses. Babies come when they are ready, not by checking their calendars. That pattern of informed choice continued, though the pregnancy got a little scarier. Our 20-week ultrasound showed a possible CPAM (bright spot) on the lung. We were referred to the IWK Children’s Hospital 5 hours away for a detailed ultrasound, which confirmed that there was a growth-restricted area on baby’s lower left lobe that would have to be monitored monthly. We would reassess in September whether or not I would have to give birth in Halifax. That was an additional stress that I did not have in my first pregnancy. Not only did I have more stretch marks and weight, I now had more emotions and worries to carry. On top of that, my husband was almost 12lb at birth so I was a little worried. My daughter had been a perfect 7lb1oz, and I did not feel this burdened with her. Our follow-up appointments were promising though—the CPAM was not growing as baby grew, and everything else looked great. I was given the clear to deliver at home as planned, but needed weekly biophysical profiles in the last month to keep an eye on things. He was pre-booked for a CT scan at 3 months postpartum to check on things, as long as he seemed healthy at birth and needed no immediate interventions. [Spoiler alert: the CT scan showed no signs!] So, not quite a unicorn pregnancy this time… As my due date loomed, I was feeling pretty confident about the birth. I knew I didn’t want the epidural again as a personal choice, not a professional opinion. I had experienced too much, and I knew much more. I had my birth plan/preferences with my Plan A—TENS machine, a host of comfort measures, environmental requests, and nitrous oxide should I want it. If I wanted something more, I would ask. I had a Plan B for induction, and a Plan C for caesarean. I was my own first “practice birth” as a trained doula and certified childbirth educator. The morning of September 26th, I spent a blissful hour relaxing and floating in the warm, salt-saturated water of a floatation tank. I felt weightless, with all the physical pressure and emotional stress literally floating away. That evening as my husband was putting our daughter to bed, I felt a sudden gush as I stood folding laundry. It was almost 9pm. My assumption was amniotic fluid, so we would have to go to L&D to confirm. I calmly started gathering up the final items in my birth bags, informed my parents and my husband when he came downstairs, and then had a good, lonnng shower. I wasn’t feeling any cramping, though my Braxton-Hicks contractions had been increasing over the weeks and I had felt it would be soon…ish. I just wasn’t expecting 5 days early given my first experience. By the time we calmly sauntered into the hospital around 11pm, I was feeling only occasional, irregular cramps. The nurse did a swab of the fluid to send to the lab, checked my cervix and said, “Nothing happening here yet. Closed and firm.” My doctor was on her way to attend a birth shortly and would see me before I went home, just for peace of mind. The lab came back negative for amniotic fluid. It had just been my mucus plug (can we please motion for a better name for that?). I was disappointed and surprised, but also relieved I wasn’t on a 24-hour timeline anymore. My doctor came around 1am to check me, and said, “Oh! You’re actually 3cm dilated. No need to go anywhere except up and down the halls at that rate.” Well, then. Over the next hour or so, we walked and “did the stairs” to keep things moving. Contractions picked up steadily, and I hooked up my TENS machine to try it out. I loved the sense of control it gave me during a contraction. I don’t remember much of the in-between once I was back in my room in active labour, but I remember finding my rhythm and entering “labourland.” Every contraction, I would walk over to the counter by the sink, lean on it with my head resting on my arms, dial up my TENS, and sway. Other than when I was being checked for progress or intermittent EFM, that was my thing. Rhythm, ritual, repetition: Penny Simkin’s “3 R’s” at work. My husband sat quietly, got me drinks, and let me just be in the zone. It was a very different, calmer experience for him this time, too. Transition was… well, a transition. I had my TENS dial maxed out by that point and it was starting to irritate more than help. The wires, the sensations, everything was SO ANNOYING. I ripped it off suddenly, along with my hospital gown—literally. I was a veritable hot mess and had no patience for clothes or modesty. I instinctively went to the bed. My routine was out the window. It was an out of body experience—so bizarre to revisit and reflect on. I wasn’t me. I was just any mammal in labour. I tried various positions: all fours, side-lying, squatting, you name it. Nothing was comfortable anymore. My doctor was back again monitoring THREE patients (including me) in very active labour. She popped in when I was 9cm, acknowledged that an amniotomy was not in my birth plan, but kindly asked if it was okay to break it now as it was bulging quite a bit. I gave my informed consent, then she left to deliver another baby. Transition turned into pushing pretty quickly. There was no rest for the weary. My body took over and bore down for me. My body, which carried my baby, was now forcibly evicting him. A few contractions into pushing, there was a shift change in nurses (an awkward time to say hello, to be sure, but I didn’t really care by then). Maybe 10 minutes before the birth, my doctor finally flew in to catch the baby. “He has a lot of blond hair!” is all I really remember, and thinking, “WHAT? But we have brown and black hair!” He entered the world at 8:21am, at 8lb11oz. His hair was actually fiery red—and still is! The recovery was fantastic. I had a minor tear on my episiotomy scar, but honestly, I would have been ready to go home that afternoon if they’d let me. I felt amazing, not only physically, but emotionally. I was riding that hormone-cocktail high, never-you-mind sleep deprivation from an all-nighter birth! Baby’s lungs and extra tests were great—no signs of lingering issues. It was a huge relief on all fronts. I was so proud of myself. I felt vindicated and strong. I had trusted my body, my DOCTOR had trusted my body, and I got the birth experienced I had hoped for. There was also luck on my side, to be sure. Possibly a little unicorn on my shoulder this time. Though with his red hair, and me having announced the pregnancy on St. Patrick’s day, maybe I had my lucky leprechaun. Friends, that is the difference. Yes, I am only one anecdote. I cannot guarantee as a doula or a childbirth educator that you will have a lucky unicorn birth. But I CAN assure you that you can have and deserve an informed, empowered birth—there is no magic to that: just information, choices, support, and respect. The magic is in the experience. That is what I will be there to help you achieve, even in a small way, if you choose to let me.