I always skip the birth stories when I read Mommy blogs. What can I gain by reading them? I could gloat about my story being worse or better. Oh joy! I could rehash all the feelings that I had in those early days, once for each baby in the blogosphere. I guess that’s why I’ve never written my one and only birth story online. I’ve written it in the hospital’s online complaint form. It didn’t fit.
At that time, my husband, Bob, and I had been together for six years.
We both graduated from university. We moved to Ottawa, Canada’s capitol city, hoping for a better job market. It wasn’t better. Our favourite way to pass the time was hanging around in Chinatown and hopping around the city by train.
I was working in retail. I didn’t look for work related to my education. I told my career oriented husband that I was taking a break after a stressful stint in a professional position, but that wasn’t really honest. Actually, I couldn’t imagine not being a stay-at-home Mom, like all the other key woman in my life, and I didn’t know how to tell him. We had decided the previous year, after some quiet time living in the country and a death in the family, that we wanted children, but we said it had to wait. I coped by designing baby quilts and buying stuffed animals. Only six months later, I told him that it needed to be now. I was nearing thirty-five and I didn’t want to miss my chance. He reluctantly agreed.
I got pregnant immediately, much to my surprise.
We thought that we would have some time to get used to the idea. Nope! I was in turmoil. Did I mention my hospital phobia? Or the the fact that we were living in a bachelor apartment, with two unfriendly cats, far from any family? I’m so thankful that Bob was supportive in that time, even after I got him into that mess! I was two weeks pregnant in the above photo and I didn’t know yet. It was taken after we went skating on the Rideau Canal. Yes, I am eating maple Beaver Tail.
In Canada, medical care for pregnant women is free, but since we were new to the province I didn’t have a the proper card. So, off I went to the government offices. I thought that it would be a completely hassle free process. They started asking questions about how long I had been in the province, how long I was staying, why doesn’t my driver’s license have a local address, why do I need a health card now. When I said I needed a health card because I was pregnant she gave me a look like no one ever got pregnant before. I was relieved when they gave me a card.
Despite my fear of doctors I liked going to my appointments. I loved hearing that little heartbeat. We opted out of prenatal testing because of the risk to the baby. Staring at those tiny, blurry features in the ultrasound, trying to imagine whose nose and whose hands, I didn’t care that you can’t see anything in an ultrasound.
Everything went well until 22 weeks.
It was Mother’s Day when I leaned forward to reach a remote control and felt a soft tearing sensation on the right side of my belly. Then, there was a little bleeding. It was Saturday so we went to a weekend neighborhood clinic where they said everything was fine. On Monday, there was more bleeding, and my regular doctor told me that sometimes the placenta can attach itself to the uterus and then tear away causing bleeding. As long as the placenta is intact, everything is fine, but there isn’t any way to know except to wait. I had to stay off my feet for a month and if there was serious bleeding I should hurry to the hospital because it could be life threatening. We laid in bed that night trying to feel that tiny foot kick like other nights. I wondered if Bob could understand how helpless and inadequate I felt. When we thought that we felt it, I cried hysterically. Another ultrasound showed that the baby was still alive, but statistically my chances of carrying the baby to term had gone down by 30%.
I stayed in bed for four weeks. The bleeding did stop. Knowing that I had a high risk pregnancy didn’t torture me with worry as much as I thought it would. A month later we drove home from Ontario to Nova Scotia. Things hadn’t worked out as we planned and with a baby on the way I wanted to be near family. I was very nervous about leaving my doctor behind and having so little time to get used to a new one. I was almost 6 months pregnant by then.
I felt really good for most of my pregnancy. My mood improved compared to normal. I didn’t get morning sickness unless I was cold. Things changed on the first day of month nine and I made up for all those good days. My legs swelled. At night I had excruciating cramps and found out that nothing, and I mean nothing, wakes Bob once he’s asleep. Hormones made me homicidally angry most of the time. I couldn’t understand when people spoke to me. I could see their lips move, but no matter how many times I asked them to repeat themselves, it sounded like a different language.
I went into labour on my due date.
My water broke in a Tim Horton’s on our way to buy groceries. I guess the baby didn’t want to miss those Timbits! I went home and changed and went to the hospital only to have the nurses tell me that they didn’t believe I was in labour. That was the beginning of the hospital stay nightmare. It was six hours before major contractions started, but my labour did not progress. That’s where things get foggy for me. I was in labour for nearly forty two hours. No one had noticed that my water had not completely broken. The combination of exhaustion and pain medication caused me to stop breathing several times. In the end, I was put into an ambulance and rushed to a larger hospital for an emergency c-section at 1:47 AM on October 22. I remember the doctor saying it was a girl and she held her up for me to see, but I couldn’t focus my eyes to see. She was 7 lbs 14 oz.
In recovery, I fell asleep and I didn’t wake up for hours. When I did wake up, I’m told that I held the baby and tried to breastfeed, but I don’t remember any of that either. It was a week before I was released, just before Halloween.
Bob was traumatized by the experience. He watched me stop breathing and be revived several times. Having never been around babies he was left alone with a hungry baby that would not be comforted for hours. He agreed to have a baby out of compassion for me and then thought that he would have to raise her alone. For the next four years I thought that maybe we would have another, but Bob didn’t want to go through that again. Now I’m almost forty, so I guess she’s our one and only.
Our daughter, Juniper, is doing well.
She had surgery at a year and a half to correct hip displacement caused at birth, but she hasn’t needed any further surgeries. Psychologists have also blamed birth trauma, surgery, and the restrictive hip cast for her problems with anxiety. Even so, I feel so fortunate to have a healthy little girl to love, and things could have been so much worse.