“Are you scared of the labour?”
I couldn´t even count the times I was asked that question. Being a pregnant woman, especially in the third trimester, I was probably not the only one who heard it as the most commonly asked question.
Isn´t it interesting how there is a strong, programmed belief and association in a lot of people´s mind, that childbirth is definitely something to be afraid of? The worst thing is that no matter how much you try to keep your cool when everyone keeps on asking it, you start thinking- “Hmmm…SHOULD I be scared?”
My best friend taught me to tell people around me instead to ask- “Are you excited about the labour?”
With one simple word- swap, the entire mood changes, and the expecting mom gets to think of the thrilling event of meeting her new baby. So next time you see a mom with a bump- make her day by asking cheerfully- “What are you the most excited about?:)”
Okay…enough of the overall theoretical part. Let´s get to the point…
When it came to labour I had three main hopes throughout my pregnancy:
- The baby will be healthy.
- Nick can be at the birth.
- The labour will be as natural as possible.
If those three things happened, it would have been in my eyes a perfect experience. As much as I visualized this dream scenario I also prepped my mind that if for some reason one or none of these things happened, I am not going to beat myself up. Nor is that a reason to not be proud or happy or whatever good emotions I tied in my mind to these three points.
I will write a separate pregnancy blog-post about the nine expecting months and what were the things I did to prepare for the grand finale. So in this one I will purely focus on the few days leading to and following our daughter´s birth.
Camilla´s due date was the 3rd of September. On that day we also had our Southwestern Consulting yearly client networking event. I let everyone know, that if I am not in the hospital, then I´ll find a way to be there. If they won´t see me there though, then I have a good reason for not showing up:) During that day there were no signs of feeling any different so I headed to the event, feeling like a whale, bearly fitting my sneakers on.
I knew somehow that the baby will not join us earlier than 40 weeks. I literally didn´t even pack the hospital bag until week 39. Yes, I had thought through and bought the stuff, but if the little one would have decided to come at week 37, 38, it would have been a whole lot of packing before heading to the hospital:D
Yet at the same time for some reason, I was really scared of carrying the baby much longer. My own due date was on the 24th of December and well… my birthday is on the 15th of January. Since a lot of my pregnancy was similar to my mom´s first pregnancy (I am the oldest), then that was surely a fear of mine.
So on the morning of the 4th of September on my morning walk, I watched a whole bunch of videos about ways to naturally induce labour.
I really wasn´t feeling any different or anything along the lines of “this is happening soon,” so I was ready to try whatever in order for her to start coming.
I really enjoyed my pregnancy and I wasn´t in pain, but the last days just mentally were dragging so much. Things were uncomfortable and I was just so, so, so ready and excited to meet our daughter.
There are a lot of suggestions on what to do to encourage the start of your labour. I don´t know at all how much actual data or research supports those. People with medical background might say that there´s no correlation to actual stimulation, but I figured it doesn´t hurt to try. So on the 4th, I drank raspberry leaf tea literally all day (previously drank it since week 38 1-2 cups a day), made hip-rounds with the bouncing ball, drank a bit champagne, walked a lot of stairs, did a bunch of squats etc.
On the evening of the 4th of September, Friday, I started feeling a bit “different.” I told Nick, that I wouldn´t call it “pain ” yet, but definitely feels how I haven´t felt before. I started having some irregular contractions and that night didn´t get much sleep. Somehow close to the morning I got some rest and we had a slow long morning.
The contractions slowed down, but came and went during the day. I didn´t know what to think of them. “Is this how the REAL contractions feel like?” “Should this be the beginning of the labour?” It wasn´t anything significantly painful, just uncomfortable and nothing I could compare with that I had experienced before.
Around 3 o clock, we went on a small walk with Nick. Although the day before I was able to keep a good pace, now I was moving with literally a snail´s speed, having to stop here and there to breathe. To me, that was a sign that something´s really going on.
We went running a few errands and grabbed some food. It was now around 4-5 pm and although I was able to walk, sitting down at the table to eat I had to occasionally close my eyes and take deep breaths. We decided to go home and started watching a movie.
Around 8 o clock, my contractions started getting much stronger. I couldn´t just sit on the couch anymore so I went upstairs to the bed. I texted my midwife and asked her for some guidance.
I am jumping ahead here a little, but having our private midwife was something we were debating for a long time, thinking if it is a necessary expense. Looking back now it ended up being the best decision and probably the best investment I´ve ever made.
What it eventually came down to was that I knew women who hadn´t had one and regretted it, but I didn´t know anyone who had had one and said they wish they hadn´t. There are definitely a lot of positive stories from not having a private midwife, just here I don´t have any comparison. All I know is that I am so amazingly grateful for the help of our midwife and I know it was the right decision for us.
Back to the business….
Nick was watching a movie downstairs and I was upstairs breathing through the contractions. They were getting stronger and stronger and I was trying to find a position to feel somewhat comfortable in. I was trying to move as much as I could. I was sitting, standing, walking, and being on my fours. Eventually, I went to a bath. That really helped to relieve the pain.
I did quite a bit of research during my pregnancy and to me it seemed like a big test now. I tried to breathe deep and long, relax my mouth, and just calm myself as much as possible. I remembered how in every webinar/book they suggested not to get stuck in one position, so I kept moving my body for it to work with me.
Somehow I didn´t realize to update Nick on how things are going and involve him too much in the process:D We didn´t really do any birth-related preparation together. The main thing I told him is that I need his encouragement, belief, positivity, and reminders to breathe, move, and just keep on going.
He came and checked on me here and there, but I had never visualized nor expected him to massage me, breathe with me, or be holding my hand. I was in my own bubble, just focusing on succeeding in my “exam” and that was exactly what I needed.
Around 12 am Nick came upstairs and I asked him to put some music on. I had done a labour playlist for myself and played the scenarios through in my head on many of my walks. Looking back, the vibe of that playlist was TOTALLY different than what I needed at that moment. I had added fun, good mood, pump-up songs, which I thought would give me power, but at the time would have actually made me cringe. Nick put on some worship music, which calmed me so much.
I was focused. Laser-focused!
I was in the bath, lights out, empoweringly calming music on, trying to be as relaxed as humanly possible through the pain I´d never even imagined being this unique and overtaking.
Nick´s expectation of labour was somewhat like in the movies. With a big splash my waters would break and then he´d rush to get the bags to the car and we´d quickly go to the hospital and then pushing would start right away.
Now don´t get me wrong… although I was giving my best during this time not to freak out, the pain was getting really, really, really strong. I was now in constant communication with my midwife and going into every call I thought to myself: “Now´s the point where I say- I can´t anymore, it´s getting unbearable.”
She was encouraging me, giving me perspective, and positively challenging me. She told me to start heading to the hospital when the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. Mine had been around 4-5 minutes for a few hours. She also added- “Liisa, when it´s too much, just tell and we´ll meet right away.”
One thing that works really well for me is challenging and setting short little goals. Even when Nick wants to push and help me to believe I can do something he says- “I dare you…”
That´s what Minni (our midwife) did too. After every call I took a breath and thought- “Okay…15 minutes more, I can do that.”
Around 1.15 am I told her, that the contractions are so strong, that I need to get some help. By that moment I had been laboring pretty much alone for 5 hours and my own wisdom had exhausted. Some of the contractions brought tears into my eyes and it was the time where just breathing through them didn´t work anymore. I was in real, real pain.
I remember thinking- “How on earth do women do this?”
We agreed to meet at the hospital at 2.15 am.
Previous hospital bag packing. Should I write a blogpost about the hospital bag too?
Nick got the bags in the car and I brushed my teeth and got my clothes on. Every step took so much time and needed intentional effort. Getting into the car felt like an accomplishment. My number one thought was- “I want epidural the moment we get there!”
By that time I was in strong pain. Some of my girlfriends have asked how does it feel like and truth be told it´s really indescribable. It´s the type of pain that is just different from anything else.
Some women compare it to very strong menstrual pains. If some women actually have so intense discomfort every month, they are troopers, because mine were NOTHING like menstrual pain.
We were walking to the hospital and I had to crouch down a few times walking from the parking lot to the door. We made it there at 2.15 am.
We signed in, I had to do the Corona test and change into the hospital gown. I remember telling my pregnancy midwife previously- “I am afraid of the Corona test.” During those contractions, getting that test done was the last thing I should have worried about:D
The lady at the admin desk asked- “Do you want a wheelchair to go upstairs or do you feel you can walk?” That was again one of those moments, where my mental toughness was challenged and I said- “I think I can make it.”
So we walked to the elevator and headed to the labour floor.
Our midwife was waiting there and I was so happy to see her positive face. We had met with her before and I had seen the labour room and both of those things gave me so, so much power at that point. It was somehow “familiar” and I was actually excited to be there.
If we hadn´t had Minni, I would have started going to the hospital much earlier. I am grateful we didn´t. I was able to be at home and the shift of finally heading there came at a very good time. It gave me new strength.
We got to the room around 2.45 and she saw me breathe through a few contractions. Somehow I wanted to impress her and was able to handle them much better than at home.
My biggest fear was that she´ll check me, the dilaton is 1 cm and we have to go back home. She checked me and said- “Liisa, the dilation is 5 cm.”
She was surprised because the way I had managed to get through the last contraction had given her the impression that it wasn´t that painful. Hmm, I guess I was good at faking it at that point.
She also asked what do we think the baby´s birth time will be. Nick said 6 am and since I was born at 6.53 am myself I said that time. I was thinking to myself- “Is that realistic? Could I really be holding our baby in my arms then?”
Hearing that the dilation was 5 cm gave me so much hope and power. Minni was so encouraging and maybe it was a placebo effect, but somehow the pain got smaller for a short period. Purely from words of affirmation. I asked Minni about the epidural idea and she again positively challenged me to wait another 30 minutes and see then. At that point, we were wearing masks and she said that the Corona test´s answer should come shortly, and then it´s easier to get the anesthesiologist there.
One thing I knew about epidural and that Minni confirmed too is that often it slows the birth process a bit. It´ll take away the pain so that the woman can catch a breath for a little, but is still a short-term helper. I wasn´t sure if that was the solution. I wasn´t begging for it and the fact that Minni and Nick believed I could do without, made me believe that too.
Minnie came back and at that point, the contractions had got SO painful that I was making sounds that I didn´t know could come out of me. Still, between the contractions, I was able to pull myself together.
From there on things get a bit blurry to me.
At one point Minni was checking me again and said, that the dilation is 8 cm. By then the contractions had reached their maximum peak and the calm breathing I was able to do at home was taken over by loud roars.
I knew at that point that any painkiller wouldn´t work anymore. It was time to just go through it.
Although I knew in my mind that there is nothing more to do than just keep on going that was the period where I said to Nick and Minni multiple times- “I just can´t anymore. I can´t.”
Minni had told me about the “breaking point” that most women go through at the end of the opening period. I had heard about my friends describing that part as wanting to just leave or quit the process. Might sound funny to those that haven´t been in that situation, but I know my fellow mommas can relate. I literally thought, that I don´t know what you guys are going to do now and I am sorry, but I just can´t do this anymore. During the most painful contraction, I thought- “Can you just really quickly put me to sleep and then get the baby out somehow?”
But still kept going.
Isn´t it funny how our mind gives up way earlier than our body!?
Fortunately, Nick and Minni both were the greatest cheerleaders a girl could have. If at home I felt I didn´t need Nick´s support that much, then now it was absolutely crucial and he helped me big time. To every “It´s coming again, I can´t anymore” Nick said- “Yes you can, Liisa.”
During that time I felt like being in a different dimension. My eyes were twirling and I was just hoping for it to end soon. I remember Minni saying- “Liisa, make eye-contact with me for a second.”
At home, I was moving as much as I could, but in the hospital, I was pretty much in one position. On my side or on my back on the bed. There were two times Minni told me to go to the bathroom, but other than that moving seemed impossible.
At some point, through the contractions, I heard Minni saying- “Liisa, you are fully dilated, now when the feeling of pressure comes, just push like there´s no tomorrow.”
Since the tempo was so fast (that was all between 2.50 am and 4.10 am, meaning the last 5 cm dilation happened in a little more than an hour) there were some contractions that were combined with the pushes. Nick told me later, “Liisa, then I understood how much pain you were in because when you were screaming your voice was breaking.” My legs started shivering too.
Now when the pushing period started it got a little calmer. I know a lot of women have described this period as easier or somewhat even enjoyable. I definitely wouldn´t call it enjoyable, but at least the pace was slower.
I just pushed as hard as I could and my main motivator was that if I don´t push hard enough it comes again and I have to do it all over.
Minni was motivating me, saying- “Liisa, she wants to come so much. So much.” That was a HUGE help for me. Somehow it wasn´t about me anymore, it was about helping our sweet daughter reach us.” Minni said- “Next time take your lungs full of air and 3 times in a row push as hard as you can.” I don´t remember exactly how many pushes there had been until then, probably 5-6. My water had broke during one of those pushes, so not quite at that time that Nick had expected:D
Then I just took my last strength and pushed one more time.
None of this do I remember very clearly, because I think I wasn´t breathing very well, just pushing as hard as possible. Nick had put a phone to film, so I was able to look later and see what was actually happening.
Nick was next to me and asked Minni- “Is that her hair?”
“Hair? Oh my gosh, she has hair!” went through my mind and I just wanted to get that little girl out so bad.
I pushed again as hard as I could and all of a sudden felt something gushing out of me. Then there was THE cry….
These pictures are as real as it gets. They are blurry because they are screenshots of a video. I have watched that video so many times, tears in my eyes, gratitude in my heart. My memory of this period is as blurry as the imagines, so I am so glad Nick captured those emotions for us to look back at
Minni put the baby on me and although I felt an ENORMOUS relief and joy, I just couldn´t yet look down. I think I hadn´t breathed during the last pushes and was just pulling oxygen in.
After a few deep breaths, I was able to move my head and really realize that there she was.
Our precious daughter!
I start crying even writing this right now. There will never be a moment that could replace those minutes. I was crying, Nick was crying. We were just overjoyed with love and gratitude. Our baby girl was on my chest. Finally! A long time of waiting, praying, then carrying her for 9 months and now actually holding her. What an honour.
There was so much blood, that Minni put the IV for me. In the end, there was no calmly breathing the baby out, it was just raw and barbaric strength. I feared that it had done quite a bit of damage down there.
Minni helped with the placenta and getting the uterus empty and with each of those lumps coming out, it got lighter and lighter. Minni checked my tears and there were three minimal ones. One of them she even stitched without the numbing injection.
When our midwife was ready with me, she showed Nick how to cut the umbilical cord. Minni washed and cleaned Camilla, weighed her, and put clothes on. I remembered how I had packed the clothes at home and dreamt how there´ll be a little girl in them. And now there was.
She was 53 cm tall and weighed 3588 grams and was born at 4.39 on the 6th of September.
Minni put Camilla on my chest to eat and I was so surprised. “What if there´s no milk?” Minnie pressed my other nipple and some milk came out of there and I laughed- “When did that get in there?”:D
All the three hopes I had, were fulfilled. The baby was healthy. Nick was with me at the labour and the birth was unmedicated.
I couldn´t have been more grateful.
Since there were no family rooms available we were able to stay for some hours in the delivery room.
Minni made sure that we are all good and we stayed in there the three of us. I know I mentioned it before, but for us having a private midwife was really an amazing experience. She is a big reason why the labour went somewhat fast for the first time delivery and was 100% unmedicated. She is a big reason why when I think of giving birth positive emotions come to my mind. Also, I think it’s funny that we did our baby reveal with Minnie-Mickey and our midwife´s name was Minni. If that isn’t meant to be…. well, I don’t know what is.
Nick fell asleep in the bath. I was super hungry, so I crushed half of the snacks in the snack bag I had packed. Although I hadn´t slept for a second night, I wasn´t tired at all. I was going on adrenaline and overwhelming joy and although Nick and Minni both suggested me to rest, I couldn´t fall asleep. I was just staring at Camilla´s face, proud of her for being such a good team-member and grateful she was with us.
Around lunch-time, we were able to go to a family room. I was so thankful, that Nick was able to stay and we got the opportunity to be together during the first days of our daughter´s life.
Our first hospital day was filled with texts and calls to family, friends, ordering all kinds of goodies with Wolt and smooching, and staring with awe at our little girly. We were both still astonished about what we had just experienced.
The first two nights I didn´t get much sleep, because I was afraid that I´ll miss the three-hour feeding rule. I am overall pretty coachable and when the nurses said that right now the main goal is that she´ll get enough food, I made that my mission. That mission kept me up most night though.
I feel that labour is discussed quite a bit, but what is not are the days after that. You are sore and it´s hard to move, but you have this little human to take care of. I couldn´t imagine how mom´s with c-section or without someone else do it. Just wow!
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed her, but what I didn´t know was HOW painful that could be at the beginning. The second day my nipples were hurting SOOOOO bad. Nick asked how does it feel like and I said that it is like someone pushes needles through them. That was not fun. The nurses gave me hope, that it will get better. It did eventually.
After the second night, the doctor checked Camilla and myself and both of our recoveries were at a good pace. We were able to go home. UNBELIEVABLE.
“Let´s go home”
I am not exaggerating if I say that I had never been that happy in my life.
We took our little bundle of joy and headed home. Time for a new chapter…
Most importantly- I respect and admire every woman who has given life SO much. It is absolutely life-changing in every way and I think every mom should be incredibly, incredibly proud of themselves.
Labours are different, moms and babies are different, but the unifying link here is that what women choose to go through in order to bring their babies into this world, is insane and amazing.
I bow down to you, mommas!!!