thomas' birth story

I remember the first contraction on the evening of Friday March 19, while Adam and I were sitting on our spring-loaded futon, watching a show we'd downloaded. I had a few that followed, and was very pleased that something was happening. Because I had a previous cesarean, my hopes for a natural delivery rested on first things first - labour starting on its own. I remember having a sense of very specific radiating warm happiness and contentment, originating in the centre of my giant belly. Nothing much happened on Saturday or through the day on Sunday; my mom and dad took me out for lunch on Sunday to the Austrian Inn buffet, and I ate as much greasy food as I could, in the hopes that it would encourage labour to begin. (Same principle as the castor oil thing, I guess.) It seems to have worked - on Sunday evening, around 9:30, the steady contractions started. I went to bed in the hopes of getting some rest, but the contractions continued on. In the dark, I kept track of them on Adam's iPhone Labor Mate app; dozing off in between and tapping the 'start' button when I felt the initial twinge that warned of an impending contraction. Around 1:30am on Monday, even though I was still dozing off in between, it seemed like I wasn't having much of a break in between contractions. I checked the frequency, and they were about two minutes apart. I snuck downstairs to call the labour and delivery floor at the hospital and ask what I should do, and they advised me to go in right away. I woke Adam up, and called Mom and Dad to come and stay with Phillip. Dad was there in a few minutes, and Adam and I packed up our things and took off into the night. Adam took his usual route, driving much more quickly than his usual, and trying to avoid potholes and sharp turns. We may have seen one other car on the way there. On any regular day, Yarmouth is pretty quiet. But Yarmouth in the middle of the night is a very, very quiet place.

When we arrived, the nurses did a fetal monitoring strip, and everything looked fine. The contractions, though, gradually petered out, until at around 8:10 on Monday morning, they were 40 minutes apart. Dr Wertlen came in after his night shift in the ER. He said that we were weclome to stay or go home, so we opted to go home and get some rest. The contractions continued at ten minute intervals throughout the day and night, occasionally becoming more or less frequent.

Roger and Roxanne (my in-laws) came on Tuesday afternoon; right before they arrived was my longest contraction–free break, for about an hour and a half. I made a ridiculously huge batch of manicotti to freeze. I was going out for walks each day, for at least 15 minutes, as Dr Hafazalla had suggested. At one point, as I walked in the drizzle on Green Street, I thought I might have to sit down on the sidewalk, but then the contraction passed and I continued on. I was listening to “This Too Shall Pass” on my iPod by OKGo, over, and over, and over. The contractions kept waxing and waning through another night. On Wednesday afternoon, although I really, really didn’t want to go anywhere, Roxanne and I went to Frenchy’s, the Bulk Barn, and the Superstore. I would pause when a contraction came, at Frenchy’s holding on to the side of a bin, and gripping the shopping cart handles with puffy, white-knuckled hands at the other stores. I made an amazing batch of granola when we got home. The contractions increased in frequency through the evening, and when they were approximately two to three minutes apart, around 10:30 or so, Adam and I zoomed off in the night again to the caseroom.

Once again, we arrived, had a monitoring strip done, and, as before, the contractions gradually became less frequent. Because I had an appointment in the caseroom on Thursday morning, to have a monitoring strip done and meet with Dr Hafazalla, we decided to go home and try to get some rest. At this point, I was one centimetre dilated, which was further than I ever was with Phillip during that induced labour. Looking at it that way was encouraging, but looking at three days of labour with only one centimetre progress was really, really discouraging. I had been having contractions for three solid days and nights with almost no break, and I was starting to become a little bit overwhelmed. It didn’t take long to get myself together, but on the way out of the hospital that Wednesday night, the nurses must have thought I was kind of pitiful. I felt kind of pitiful, in fact. When we got home, I had a long soak in the tub to try to relax before another contraction-filled night. The contractions were becoming more intense, and Adam assured me that I could grab his arm, hold his hand, or whatever else I needed to do to get through them. I remember one in particular, when all that I managed to grab was his thumb. I was completely immobilized, directing every particle of tension and discomfort out of my body and directly into his poor thumb. Whatever part of his body happened to be closest was on the receiving end; most often it was his arm, sometimes his hand. What a fantastic husband I have – more than willing to be jarred out of sleep every few minutes for hours on end.

When I woke up on Thursday morning, I decided that regardless of what had happened and what was going to happen, I was going to shower, shave my legs, and put on makeup, dammit. If I was having to do this for another day, I was going to at the very least feel somewhat presentable.

Dr Hafazalla checked me on Thursday morning, and, hallelujah! I was 3-4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Progress at last! We decided that breaking my water would be the best course of action, so that’s what we did. I had no idea that there was that much fluid around Thomas. Six pounds of it, to be precise. Labour continued on steadily, to the tune of complimentary fresh root beer popsicles without any noticeable major change in the way the contractions felt, until about 1:30 on Thursday afternoon. At that point they became so intense that I couldn't speak or move during them. By this time, my hopes of having a drug-free birth were trumped by my complete fatigue and the prospect that this could go on for much, much longer. I was drained after each contraction. I agreed to have an epidural, in the hopes of getting some rest before the big push.

Contractions were about a minute apart when I was sitting on the table with the anesthetist at my back. It took him twenty minutes to get it in. That’s approximately twenty contractions, during which I was unable to move. Leaning over a giant belly, with my legs going to sleep, and with the doctor hitting the bone several times. Which, in case you’ve never experienced it, is akin to hitting your funny bone on an awl which pierces through your elbow (except in your back) times ten thousand. Holding still through this was the most physically difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life up until this point. Especially when the anesthetist said, "You're giving me a hard time." I nearly lost it. Once he had it in, that was it – my contractions were off the chart (literally) and I didn’t feel a particle of pain. I fell asleep.

I dozed until I had a reaction to the epidural. One minute, I was talking to a nurse, the next, everything closed in around my head, and I just wanted to go to sleep. The equipment started beeping, and people came scurrying in. Dr Hafazalla happened to be right outside of the door, so he scooted in and looked on with concern, the nurses readjusted me on the table, and the anesthetist adjusted my dose. Stephanie, one of the nurses, talked me through everything and told me what was happening, but to be honest, I didn’t care. I knew that I should, but all I wanted to do was give in to the sleepy feeling. My blood pressure dipped down to 60/40, but within a few minutes, I was back up to normal. The other, much less serious reaction I had to the epidural was intense itching on my upper abdomen and chest. That was bizarre. After all of that craziness, I think I dozed off some more. It was such a relief to be able to sleep, even if it was only for a few minutes. Dr Hafazalla said that he would come back and check me around 6:00.

Dr Hafazalla came back as promised, and checked me again. Unfortunately, my contractions had not been producing the desired effect of pushing out a baby, and I was now less dilated than I had been that morning. He also explained that my pelvic arch is 80 degrees, where most women’s is 110 degrees, so if Thomas was to be born vaginally, forceps would definitely have to be used to guide his head down and under. Also, his head had not engaged, so labour was not producing the desired effect of opening the cervix for his great escape. At that point, after discussing everything, we decided that since virtually no progress had been made after four days of labour, Thomas would be born by cesarean.

Thomas was born at 7:15 pm on Thursday, March 25. Surpassing all estimates, he weighed 9 pounds, 9 ounces, and was 21 inches long. His head circumference was just over the 99th percentile. Adam held him between us and next to me while I was put back together, and we talked to him, looked him over, and introduced ourselves while he sucked like mad on his lip. As soon as we were in the recovery room he took to feeding right away. I could not have been happier.


  1. Anonymous5/28/2010

    Sherrie, what a beautiful and detailed story of Thomas' birth!! Thank you for sharing it with us!

    The epidural never fully took on both my birthings, and with kid #1, I had what I think were called "riding contractions" where before one contraction subsided another would start so I had no break from the pain. It's a wonder I ever agreed to a second. LOL!

    I'm so glad everything turned out wonderfully even if you couldn't have the vaginal birth. Hugs!

  2. Thanks so much, Teresa! I wanted to record all of the details for when I'm old and will have forgotten them. :) Since I get my Blog2Print books done every now and then, I thought that this was the perfect place to record every detail, if only for myself. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this beautiful event with us. I wondered how everything went. It's been 25 years since my last and I hope I remember it when I'm older as well as I do now. I had both my births 100% natural. From first contraction to the birth for my first = 5 hours and my second was less than 4. I was made to have babies.

  4. I loved every word. You dear, dear one this is a great reflection. I love all of you.

  5. Very interesting, Sherrie. I had an epidural with my second and, though it didn't take 20 minutes, the anesthetist got annoyed because I was having trouble keeping 100% still. Pfft! They should have anesthetists who are mothers to do those. Then we might get a little pity.

    I hear that most women are surprised at the amount of vaginal fluid. I had none at all when my kids were born. Weird, eh? Fortunately they were healthy.

  6. Anonymous6/19/2010

    Wow, what a story! I knew that you'd had a long labor (I follow your husband on Twitter) but I had no idea it was so...eventful! Way to go for sticking it out so long! My own was 60 hours, so I know that feeling of fatigue quite well... You have a beautiful little family!


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