I started writing out Bodhi’s birth story the day after he was born because I didn’t want to forget anything. Over the next week details kept coming back to me in the quiet moments, while I was laying in the bath or breastfeeding or just staring at his sweet face. It feels like there’s a processing that happens after labour and it takes a little while for the whole experience to integrate. I do consider it a very positive birth experience but here’s the disclaimer: it’s really detailed & at times a little graphic. It’s also my experience & my birth preferences and not a belief or judgement on how anyone else should “do” birth. All birth is natural & every mother is incredible.
Now, Bodhi’s Story.
Did I have a birth plan? Not really. Nothing typed out & official anyways. I hoped for an unmedicated birth with minimal interventions, but that’s about it. I was also open to rolling with what was necessary to get my baby out safely. There are a few things I wanted that my midwives do automatically, like delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin, but I didn't need to specify those. I also took steps to create a really calm hospital room.
Saturday May 29th 9:00am
I woke up Saturday with some cramping but I’d been experiencing it all week so I didn’t read too much into it. It was mild and infrequent, just like light period cramps. I ate some date balls & took an herbal tincture with cohosh, 2 things I’ve been doing for the last 4 weeks to help naturally induce labour and improve the quality of contractions, and John & I headed out to our camp about 30 minutes away. My dad was set on the dock getting put in before the baby got here (joking but also kind of serious) so him & John got to work on that and I went for a long walk with mom. I was still feeling really mild contractions in my back but again nothing felt intense so we went back to our camp and put together a bed John built for us, the last thing we needed to do to get the space set up for our baby’s arrival.
At this point I started to get a gut feeling that this baby might be coming, so I took a picture of John finishing the bed and told him, “this could be the last picture we take before our baby gets here!” John, my mom and I sat upstairs and chatted and my contractions started to feel more frequent. I timed a few and they were 10 minutes apart and still only in my back. I could tell my mom was excited she might be here for the start of things and it felt fitting that I’d go into labour at the same place we got engaged and married! In between contractions I felt no pain or cramping at all and told my mom how great it was that our body gives us a break between each contraction. She agreed but also said the breaks will get shorter. The hypnobirthing course I took (which was incredible and I highly recommend it) stressed the importance of utilizing those “breaks” to be calm & relaxed rather than bracing for the next one, so I kept focusing on that.
Saturday May 29th, 7pm
We drove to town and my contractions started to slow down, I started feeling like this might not happen tonight and again pulled info from my hypnobirthing course. Oxytocin is the hormone needed to facilitate labour and it’s what’s given to induce labour as well (a synthetic form of it). It’s largely released when we feel safe and loved and calm and relaxed and held. I realized I was getting too impatient and timing every contraction wasn’t making me feel that relaxed at all. So I stopped timing them for a while, sat on my labour ball and watched TV and then cuddled with John & my puggles. Sure enough – the contractions came back stronger than ever.
The contractions started to pick up in intensity and frequency throughout the night. Mine weren’t typical as they were ALL in my back (back labour) and basically felt like intense pain in my hips and low back. It’s like a wave, I could tell when it was about to happen, it would peak and be 8/10 painful and then slowly fade. The contractions were lasting about a minute and in between them I felt totally fine & told John how strange it was go to from tons of pain to feeling perfectly normal. It was around midnight now and John and I basically spooned all night, waking up every 4-7 minutes for him to put pressure on my back and hips. Then we’d pass out until the next one woke us up.
We called the midwife at 1:23am and I was really excited one of my favourites was on call. She wanted me to wait until the contractions increased in intensity and were consistently 4-5 mins apart. She also recommended we try using the bath, have John pour water over my back, and that I try to stay upright and leaning forward to help rotate the baby and stop the back labour. Getting in the bath felt amazing but it was hard for John to apply pressure during the contractions and being on all fours felt awful. I just wanted to lean back and soak, so we nixed that plan quickly and carried on with our spoon, sleep, contraction, squeeze pattern for the rest of the night.
Sunday May 30th, 5:52am
Things were definitely getting more intense and the pain was getting to be a lot for us to handle. I also really wanted the confirmation that I was progressing (dilating) so I had John call the midwife again because I was having trouble talking through my contractions. She said she would be right over and I felt so relieved. She listened to baby’s heart rate and did my first cervical check (I had declined all checks and sweeps so far so this was my first time ever). It was uncomfortable and there was a lot of pressure but it wasn't painful at all. She told me I was 2-3 cm dilated & 90% effaced (thinned), and my cervix was super stretchy which is a really good thing (yay, go dates!) After the cervical check I started bleeding quite a bit which she assured me is normal and just me losing the plug that keeps baby in!
She wanted me to wait until the intensity levelled up once more and also said her shift ended at 7:30am, which honestly I was bummed about. I asked who the next midwife on call was and it was someone I hadn’t had any in person appointments with, but over the phone she seemed great and I’d heard nothing but positive things about her. I’d worried about who would be at my delivery a lot during my pregnancy, because I know how impacted I am by my surroundings and the personalities of those around me, so I was relieved it was her (and she turned out to phenomenal, exactly the personality & energy I needed, and I feel so so lucky to have had her!)
The contractions started to get more intense, every time one started I had to be on all 4s or leaning over the bed and John would squeeze my hips and press my lower back until they passed. In between contractions he was running around finishing our last minute packing, getting the truck ready to go, making food and getting the puggles packed and ready to go to grandpas. When he brought me the last minute to do list I left with my hospital back and had already crossed everything off, I remember not being able to say much but in my head being like, “Wow I’m going to be okay with him by my side."
The contractions were lasting 60-90 seconds at this point and I just knew it was time to go. John called back & our midwife said she’d meet us there 10:30am. I had 2 contractions on the way to the hospital and one against the wall right when she came to meet me to bring me in. I was taken to an outpatient room to be assessed and was 4-5cm dilated. YAY things were moving & it was time for us to settle in. Our baby is coming!
When we got to the room our midwife had already shut the blinds and dimmed the lights. I was so happy I brought things to make my room feel calm and John knew exactly what I wanted. He set up my speakers, put on my labour playlist and turned on electric candles all over the room. We sprayed a lavender room mist and right away I felt super calm, happy & safe. I also changed into my labour gown my mom bought me (highly recommend) & cozy slippers.
I was planning an unmedicated birth so the midwives offered me saline water injections for the back labour. Omgggg it was the most painful thing I’ve EVER experienced. And didn’t help much. Do not recommend. John said he’s never heard me scream louder. They told me it would feel like bee stings, they didn’t tell me it was 1000 bee stings simultaneously and that their stingers were swords. Maybe it works for some people but was definitely not worth it for me.
By 3pm the pain was getting to a level that I was questioning if I could do it without any medications or pain relief. I asked our midwife to go over the options with me and I also wanted to know the side effects, risks & how I’d feel after (I used the acronym brain when making decision through pregnancy & labour – Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition & Nothing – as in what happens if we do nothing). She reviewed the options with me (morphine, fentanyl and/or an epidural), answered all my questions and let John & I take some time to think about it. I really loved how much she just educated and empowered me to chose what was right for me.
Truthfully the side effects were just not something I wanted to feel. I was in pain, but I also felt present and focused and healthy and didn’t want to change that (especially after feeling sick for so much of my pregnancy). The epidural made me anxious. Moving around my room freely was really helping me (I never laid on my back in the bed) and the idea of having needles, a catheter, fluids and more monitoring just made me feel claustrophobic. I decided to see how dilated I was and decide after that. They told me to expect about 1/2 cm an hour and at that rate would mean I had another 8ish hours of labour left & 2 hours of pushing. I felt like if I hadn’t progressed much I’d need something for the pain, but if I had progressed a lot, I’d try to make it through. She checked and I was 8cm! So I was progressing 1cm or more an hour! I looked at John and said “I can do this.”
I asked her for an extra strength Tylenol (which in retrospect is hilarious and I’m sure didn’t touch the pain) and focused on getting through the next hour. The pain was intense and I was making some crazy sounds (I think John said I sounded like a possessed banshee). He was my rock and was behind me or beside me the whole time massaging me and saying telling me how proud he was of me and that I could do this. He told me after that while he was standing behind me holding my hips there were times he was crying. He was struggling with seeing me in so much pain and not be able to do anything to help me. This breaks my heart and I’ve told him so many times since then how much he did do for me. There’s no way I would have made it through without him. It doesn’t surprise me though, John is a do-er & a fixer and constantly goes out of his way to make sure I’m okay, so not being able to help me or “do” anything is the worst experience in the world for him.
Pushing May 30th, 4:00pm
We were getting close now and the midwife wanted to break my water. Between contractions I asked what it would do (again using BRAIN). She said breaking my water would speed things up and make the contractions more intense. I knew I couldn’t take any more intensity and would rather it take a little longer than hurt more. I just trusted my water would break itself and it did! It broke just before I hit 10cm and felt the urge to push. I’d heard women describe the urge to push before but wasn’t sure how I'd know. I didn’t know mentally, but my body knew. It just shifted and wanted to start bearing down. It took me a bit to figure out how to push. The midwives description of trying to push a watermelon out your butt is exactly what it feels like. She also put her fingers in me and told me to put pressure there and try to push her fingers out and that was really helpful. After trying a few positions (all 4s, on my side) I actually liked being on my back the most and holding my legs. She told me my pushes were more powerful in that position and I could feel it. I was making a lot of noise (like A LOT of noise) and my midwife said I was using too much energy screaming and not enough pushing so I had to focus, get quiet and try for longer pushes. It honestly felt like a learning curve but her explanations of how to do things really helped.
I could feel the baby’s head coming into the birth canal and started to resist pushing. Apparently this “transition” is something most women go through and say something along the lines of “I can’t do it.” I looked at John and said something like “there’s no way this thing is gonna fit!” I was having a hard time committing to the pushes, it felt like a mental block stopping me. I’d been pushing for about 30 minutes at this point & the average time for new moms is 2 hours (you only push during contractions which I didn't know, so you get a short break in between. With each contraction I was usually able to get 3 pushes in).
The midwife went to check the baby’s heart rate and I could hear that she wasn’t finding it. I started getting scared. She used a different machine and found it but said it was dropping, looked me in the eyes and said "you need to get this baby out now!" I looked at John terrified, he told me the baby was going to be okay and that I could do this.
I guess this is where my fierce mama bear starts, because I literally forgot about myself and the pain and my fear of pushing and just went into some crazy primal mode I can’t explain. The fear of my baby being in danger outweighed everything else. I pushed with everything I had and he was out in one contraction (I just cried typing that, it still brings up all the same emotions).
Baby Bodhi is born May 30th, 4:40pm
The midwife and John had helped me unbutton the top of my gown, and my sweet baby Bodhi was put on my chest. John and I looked at each other crying, it felt completely surreal. He didn’t take his first breath right away which I didn't know until later, but the midwife rubbed him and got him breathing, and when we heard his first cries we all started crying harder.
I thought I was seeing the signs of him looking to feed so I asked my midwife and she came and hand expressed some colostrum (yepp, she squeezed my boob, but asked my permission first), rubbed it on his nose and lips and he latched right away. I felt the suction and John said my face just absolutely lit up. I was so happy, I really wanted to breastfeed and knew it wasn’t always easy or possible, so it felt like a big moment. We stayed there, like that for a while, with John beside us. Immediately every bit of pain was worth it.
After maybe 20 minutes John cut the umbilical cord. Then they gave me a shot of oxytocin to help me deliver the placenta. Man that was the strangest feeling! It didn’t hurt at all but it’s big and pushing it out felt like passing a giant clot or mucus ball or something (sorry but I don’t know how else to describe it!)
I had minimal tearing (which I didn't feel) but still needed 4 stitches. My midwife used a local anesthetic and it didn’t hurt, but I could feel the stitches going in and I remember just thinking I wanted to be done being touched down there and just snuggle with my baby, but I also knew they were taking the best care of me and the worst was over.
They tested the baby’s blood from the cord and he’s A+, because I’m O- I needed the rhogam shot to prevent building an immune response to his or future baby’s blood. Again this didn’t hurt, I think my pain tolerance is also forever changed, but I was just ready to stop being touched.
But we weren’t quite done yet.
Ooh the uterus massage. Basically they press down on your uterus to make sure it’s not bleeding excessively and it does not feel good at all.
Before we could leave the midwife also had to take me for my first pee, I think she was checking the amount of blood that came out (spoiler: a lot) and then explaining to me what was normal and what to watch out for. These moments are so vulnerable and intimate and having kind & knowledgable practitioners made it feel so normal and not embarrassing at all.
I had been dealing with nausea, heartburn, dizziness and just overall feeling crappy most of my pregnancy, and it all went away immediately after he was born. It was incredible to feel like myself again.
Bodhi had his head to toe exam & vitamin D shot and other than a very minor tongue tie he looked great. He loved chilling under the heat lamp while he got checked out. Bodhi never left our room or was out of my sight, and from start to finish we only had out 2 midwives in our room, 1 was there the whole time and the 2nd came just for the pushing stage (again she was amazing and exactly the energy & enthusiasm I needed to get through that stage). I loved having our space be so private and calm and had dreaded the thought of people I didn't know coming in and out.
After his exam John took Bodhi for some skin to skin, and seeing the two of them together just made me feel like everything was right in the world. I lay in bed eating deli meat (turkey breast, my pregnancy craving), apple chips, drinking water & trying to stay awake (we’d been up for about 36 hours at this point).
They told us we had to stay in the hospital for at least 3 hours, soooo exactly 3 hours later I was in a wheel chair on my way home! We all got into bed, exhausted and happy, and slept through the night.
Reflecting back on my labour, it was such an intense bonding experience between John and I. John has now seen me at my weakest, my most vulnerable & my messiest. He’s seen me screaming, crying, falling apart & bleeding on the ground. He’s held my leg while a head came of me & practically carried me to the bathroom wearing only an adult diaper & a nursing bra. And throughout everything he made me feel safe, strong, and beautiful (and still made me laugh by pretending to check out my butt in my diapers). Once during a break in my intense contractions he looked at me crying, put his head on my chest and told me how excited he was to be a dad. His ability to be so strong for me while still still being confident enough to show his emotions is a huge part of why I love him so much. There’s nobody else in the world I’d want to be raising Bodhi with me.
I remember looking at my body in the mirror hours after giving birth I and couldn’t have cared less. My belly was sticking out, it was soft and marshmallow-y. And it didn’t even register. It wasn’t like a body positive moment of “you’re just given birth, give yourself time and grace” it was just a moment of complete neutrality. It couldn’t have been any less important.
These past two weeks with our sweet Bodhi Bear have been life changing in the best possible ways. I feel so much love and peace with him in my arms. I feel fiercely protective of him and changing my life to make sure he's safe and happy feels like a blessing not a burden. I feel so supported by John and our families and friends. I’m tired, I’m limited in what I can do and where I can go, but I'm fine with that and just savouring every snuggly newborn moment.
How wonderful life is, when you're in the world.