On October 3, 2014 I woke up at 5am and felt different. I was scheduled to get my period that day but when I sat up in bed early that morning I had a strong feeling it wasn’t going to arrive. I quietly scurried off to the bathroom to take a pregnancy test. Waiting for those couple of minutes to see the results seemed like hours! When I finally looked at the stick and read the exciting word “YES” I must have jumped about 3 feet in the air with excitement. I’m going to have a baby!!
In all the excitement I ran out of the bathroom and instead of running to tell my husband (which would have been the next logical step), I ran to my computer to submit my application form for the midwifery group I was interested in working with. In Toronto, it’s often very challenging to get into the clinic you want since they only take a limited number of clients each month. I wasn’t going to chance it!
Afterwards I had thought about going back to bed but realized that was pointless. There was no way I could sleep now!
When my husband finally woke up and came down for breakfast, he was welcomed with a breakfast he will never forget 🙂 His oatmeal had the word dad written in it with raisins. He yelled YES! While giving a single fist pump of excitement. What a wonderful day.
The Morning Sickness!
A couple of days after learning that I was pregnant, my husband and I were attending a work conference in Las Vegas. Up until the second last day of the conference, I felt amazing. I was glowing and smiling with excitement. Then it hit me!! After dinner one night a large group of us were mingling at one of the hotel lounges. Suddenly out of no where I wasn’t feeling great. I said to Steve that I was going to go home and lay down for a while and then join them later in the evening. Needless to say… I never made it out again that night. By the time I made it down the elevator to catch a cab back to the hotel I was in very rough shape. The elevator doors opened and I took off running. My husband hot on my heels wondering what the hurry was all about. I was hoping to make it to a bathroom but only made it as far as a garbage can in the lobby, where I proceeded to violently deposit my pre-digested dinner into the garbage. It wasn’t a pretty site. I’m sure everyone around me thought I was incredibly drunk. I kept saying to my husband (between deposits, lol) to tell everyone I was pregnant, not drunk. This was definitely one of my more embarrassing moments. Argh. A few minutes later, with empty garbage bags and bottled water in hand I grabbed a cab back to the hotel. Little did I know this was the start of an entire 8 week period of horrible morning sickness (which is the silliest name for it since I was sick all hours of the day and night) and food aversions. My food aversions were so bad I couldn’t even eat hummus! Which in the past I declared my desert island food because I love it so much.
Once the 8 weeks of nausea was over and we were past the first trimester things were awesome! I breezed through the second trimester and the majority of my third trimester feeling fabulous.
Then it happened…
Getting The News Our Baby Was Breeched
Steve and I went in for our routine midwife appointment at 34 weeks pregnant on May 1st 2015. It was at this appointment that we were told there was a possibility our baby was in a breech position. It was suggested that we go for an ultrasound to confirm. The following week at our ultrasound appointment we received the unfortunate news that he was in fact in a frank breech position (basically a pike position where his feet are up by his head and he is positioned to come out bum first).
This was not ideal since Steve and I had planned for a home birth. We had the tub rented and sitting in our dining room, we had taken classes to prepare for this (we studied the Bradly Method), and we had picked up the birthing supplies that we needed for the event. We were told by the midwives that when the baby is in a breech position they are required to transfer care over to the OB for delivery and that we would therefore be delivering in the hospital.
My heart was broken.
Learning About Our New Options (and emotionally coping with the news)
The next 3 and a half weeks were incredibly emotional, filled with fear, frustration, tears, and worry.
We met with the OB to discuss our options. We were told that their recommendation was to schedule a c-section. When we asked if we would be able to deliver vaginally if everything went smoothly with the labour we were told that it was possible but not likely. The problem was that only some of the OB’s are trained on delivering a breech vaginally since after the year 2000 they started performing c-sections for all breech presentation pregnancies. In addition even the ones that are trained will often refuse to do it and encourage you to have a c-section. On top of all this, no OB will stay on call for you, so when you go into labour and show up at the hospital you just have to cross your fingers and hope that there is an OB working who is trained and willing to perform the delivery. The odds didn’t appear to be in our favour.
With this new information I was frustrated. I am a big supporter of choice. I was frustrated because I felt like even if everything went smoothly with my labour, I may not be giving the option to deliver vaginally (which was what I really wanted). I was excited to have a vaginal birth because of the health and emotional benefits it provides as well as the shorter recovery time.
Trying To Flip The Baby!
Steve and I knew that there was still a possibility that he could turn before I went into labour. It was at that moment that we decided to support this turn any way we could. Here is the crazy list of activities we performed to attempt to get him to flip:
- I visited a Webster’s trained chiropractor 3 times a week
- I saw an acupuncturist
- I lay upside down on an ironing board that was resting with one end on the floor and the other on the couch
- I would apply heating pads to my pelvis and cold packs to my upper belly trying to encourage him to go where it was warm
- I shone a flashlight on my lower belly to encourage him to come to the light
- I had 2 unmedicated ECV’s (external cephalic versions) performed that were OUT OF THIS WORLD PAINFUL! This is where 2 health care professionals use all their might to manually turn the baby by pushing on your stomach. Going through this kind of pain and it not working was a very very emotional experience. Both for myself and for Steve. It was hard for him to watch me in so much pain.
- Somersaults in a swimming pool
- Moxibustion (burning a Traditional Chinese Medicine herb near an acupuncture point in the foot). It is supposed to make the baby move and hopefully turn around. As crazy as it sounds, every time we did it he would move like crazy. Unfortunately never enough to make the flip but he was definitely doing some kind of dance.
- Hanging out upside down with my knees on the couch and head on the ground.
- Playing music and having Steve speak near my pelvis to encourage the baby to head toward the sound. Steve referred to it as his vagina monologue, haha.
It’s tiring just looking at this list!
My feeling was that even after all was said and done, if he never flipped, at least I would know I gave it my best shot.
Labour Started 2 Weeks Early!
Then, on Saturday May 30th I woke up after a wonderful sleep and felt different. I turned to Steve and said “I don’t know why, but today is different, suddenly I don’t care how he comes, I’m just excited to meet him”. I had let go of any attachment I had to the birth process and decided to have faith that it would all happen the way it’s supposed to.
I went about my day completing the rest of my pre-baby to-do list and got home around dinner time. Steve and I were sitting in the back yard and POP!
I turned to Steve and said “oh my goodness my water just broke”. He looked at me and asked “how do you know?” With a giggle I said “well, I’m soaked and I definitely didn’t just pee myself”. It was 7:30pm.
Steve called the midwife who immediately came over to the house. He also started to pack for the hospital (which we hadn’t done yet since it was still 2 weeks early!). Clearly he’s my husband since half of our hospital bag consisted of a case of coconut water, bottles of green juice, and healthy snacks. He knows I won’t go near the hospital food (or drinks).
In the meantime I didn’t know what to do with myself so I proceeded to have a shower, blowdry my hair, apply makeup and put on a dress haha. Ridiculous, I know!!
My Labour Story And The Birth Of Our Son
By the time we got to the hospital, got checked in and I had my first exam I was already 6-7cm dilated (about 10pm). Our midwife went to see who was on call that evening and if there was an OB willing to deliver my baby vaginally. As it turns out it was my lucky night!!! There were 2 OB’s working that night, one of them had no experience with breech and the other said she had a lot of experience with them back in the 1990’s. She said she was willing to deliver him vaginally as long as I signed a release, had an epidural (in case something went wrong and they needed to perform an immediate c-section or cut my cervix), deliver in the OR in stirrups (which are more like moon boots where you are strapped in from your toe to your knee), continued to dilate 1cm an hour, and the baby showed no signs of distress. I agreed to the terms. I could tell she had the best interest of the baby in mind and to be honest, that was the most important thing to me too.
By midnight I was 8cm and my contractions were getting very strong and close together.
The epidural was given to me at 1am and the OB returned at 3am. She performed an exam and with a big smile on her face said, “you are fully dilated, are you ready to meet your baby!?” I was so excited!! We got set up in the OR and Steve put a cloth over my eyes so I couldn’t see all the commotion. There must have been at least 15 people in the room!! This included staff in case there was an emergency, staff training and overseeing the delivery of a breech baby (which rarely happens), my midwives, other medical staff, and my support team (Steve and my mom).
I have to be honest and tell you that just before I started pushing I had a moment of worry. I knew that once I started to push my option to have a c-section would be gone. I wondered, what if this is the wrong choice? What if something bad happens during this delivery. Will I ever forgive myself? It’s not an easy decision as a mother. At that moment it was like a wave of confidence came over me. I felt as if my baby was telling me that if he wasn’t supposed to come this way he would have let me know. I also felt a strong sense of confidence and a desire to push.
It took my three contractions of pushes to deliver the body. Now it was time to deliver the head, which is the scariest part of any breech delivery. This is where everything can go wrong. If the head becomes trapped inside there is only a short amount of time to fix the situation and the solutions are not pleasant.
I knew this was the moment it all came down to, I took the cloth off my eyes and said to the doctor “Are you ready for this…?” And on the next contraction I pushed like crazy and successfully delivered an absolutely beautiful healthy boy. Austin Joseph Santoro was born at 4:05am on May 31st weighing 7lbs 11oz. It was an incredibly emotional moment.
Although we didn’t get the home birth we had initially planned, we felt very excited about the whole experience. Our midwives and the OB were exceptional. Even in the hospital we were able to do immediate skin to skin after he was born, delayed cord clamping (Steve got to cut the cord!), and we didn’t wipe off the vernix or wash him (this is because the vernix and the bacteria he gets from me during a vaginal birth are all very important for his health and immune system). In fact, we didn’t bath him for 2 weeks and after that we only used water for another 2 weeks (and a little bit of olive oil).
After The Birth…
I was anxious to get home and sleep in my own bed. Once Austin had properly latched and fed we packed up our stuff and were home in bed by 6:30am (2 and a half hours later). Our neighbour jokes with us that it’s like a McDonald’s drive through haha. This was one of the bonuses of midwifery care. They came to our house every day for the first few days and then a couple times a week after that to check on us. I didn’t have to leave my house and they would perform all the tests there and drive them over to the hospital.
My mom stayed with us for the first couple of weeks. This was the best!! She made sure we were eating and drinking lots of delicious healthy foods and juices. I’m sure this was a big reason I recovered as quickly as I did. Thanks mom 🙂
I Encapsulated My Placenta
In addition to the support from my husband and my mom I think one of the other reasons I had such a quick recovery and so much success with breastfeeding was that I encapsulated my placenta. If this is a foreign concept to you, it may weird you out at first. I was a bit confused by it myself the first time I heard about it. However, the more I thought about it and learned about it, the more it seemed like a wonderful idea. After I delivered the placenta it was saved and then a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine professionally dried it, ground it up and put the powder into capsules (like a supplement). I then took these supplements. Some of the benefits this can provide is helping to regulate your hormones, prevent post-partum depression, help your milk supply come in, etc. The way I see it, I made this incredible organ, it just came out of me, and now I’m putting it back in. Plus it gives me a whole bunch of benefits when I do. Wicked!
My Biggest Lesson
The biggest lesson I learned through all of this is to educate yourself well so that when you are faced with decisions you have the information on hand to make them with confidence. Plan for the birth you want and then be open to receiving the birth you get. Bringing a new life into this world can be an emotional experience. However, it is by far the best experience I have ever had and it has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.
To my son Austin – I love you more than words can every explain. Looking at you brings a feeling of joy and love that fills me with happiness. I cannot wait to watch you grow up and I look forward to sharing every moment together.