Luke's Birth Story
Since discovering I was pregnant, I always thought (eh, hoped) that our baby would arrive early. After all, I was born about ten days early as was my sister, and our brother was right on time. As it turns out, however, babies arrive when they’re good and ready. My August 10th due date came and went with only intermittent contractions, which I had been experiencing for weeks already.
On the evening of August 11th, Adam and I went out for dinner to try a new restaurant, during which my contractions seemed a little stronger and closer together than I had yet experienced. We tried not to get too excited, but timed them anyway. At that point (about 6 pm) they ranged from 10 to 25 minutes apart. However, when we were settled at home by 8 pm they let up quite a bit, so we resigned ourselves to the fact that it would still be a while before we would meet our baby boy.
Then, I woke up to a painful contraction at 12:30 am on August 12th, and seconds later felt a “popping” sensation. Having read numerous accounts of what to expect when your water breaks, I was prepared for the gush of water that followed when I got out of bed. I went to the bathroom to assess the situation, making sure my water had in fact broken before waking Adam up. It was unmistakable, as I continued to leak an insane amount of fluid. We hurriedly threw a few last minute items into our hospital bags and I rinsed off in the shower before heading out the door. I was equally nervous about labour (if only I knew what I was in for!) and excited to meet our little one.
By this time it was 1 am. As soon as we got into the vehicle, my contractions started. Boy, were they painful! I anxiously realized that they quickly escalated from five minutes apart to three minutes apart to two minutes apart. By the time we arrived at the hospital at 1:30 am, I was stopping to brace myself through each one.
We had called Labour and Delivery on our way so they were ready when we arrived. Since my water had broken we were given a private room right away. By the time I changed into my hospital gown and got into bed the contractions were on top of each other, giving me only about 15 seconds between each – hardly enough time to compose yourself! At the risk of sounding dramatic, it was the most intense, unrelenting pain I have ever experienced. The kind of pain that has you doubled over, to say the least.
My cervix was checked upon arrival and I was about 4-5 cm dilated. Our nurse – a sweetheart who Adam and I will always remember as our favourite – asked what my plan was for pain relief, to which I responded, “Give me all of it!” She promptly called for the anesthesiologist, but returned with bad news: he was performing an emergency surgery and would be a while.
The nurse could tell things were progressing quickly, and sure enough I was already dilated to 7 cm when she checked me less than an hour after the first cervical check. At this point, I was panicking. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t imagine giving birth without an epidural, but it seemed unlikely I was going to get it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take morphine either because the baby was coming too quickly, and giving a mother morphine too late in labour can make the baby drowsy at birth. The nurse even shut off the tub she had been running for me because she “wasn’t qualified to perform a water delivery” – making it apparent that the baby would be making his entrance soon.
By this point, I was shaking and crying, doing whatever it took to get through the extreme contractions. It felt like my body would split in two. Adam and our nurse told me how tough I was and reminded me to breathe through each contraction so that the baby continued to receive enough oxygen. I wailed back “I don’t feel tough!” I knew labour would be painful but I naively hadn’t expected it to be so extreme and unrelenting, and I surprised myself at how loudly I moaned and swore to deal with it.
Recognizing how much pain I was in, our sweet nurse continued calling down to check on the anesthesiologist’s status. I don’t know how I got so lucky but he finished up his previous surgery in the nick of time – I would get my epidural after all. It was administered at about 4 am when I was already dilated to 8 cm. I had a hard time sitting still as my body continued to experience contraction after contraction. The pain relief took longer than usual to kick in because it was already so late in the game. For a while, I was still feeling each and every contraction, but it certainly took the edge off. Finally, after about 30 minutes, I felt no pain and we spent the next half hour or so chatting with our lovely nurse.
She informed us that she normally doesn’t page the OB until the baby’s head is about to crown, but our baby’s heart rate seemed to be dropping a bit so she called for the doctor while I was still at 9 cm. The doctor discovered our baby was facing “sunny side up” instead of face down, which can make for a difficult delivery. She tried several times to turn him manually but he wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t ideal, but I would have to try pushing him out while he was still in this posterior position.
By this time - 5 am – it was go time. Unfortunately, due to baby’s face up positioning, I also never got the urge to push so I had to rely on the doctor and nurse to let me know when I was having a contraction and to bear down. The first few pushes yielded little movement from the baby. He was too high up and, at first, I had difficulty figuring out how to push effectively.
Suddenly, about 6 more nurses burst into our room, shut the blinds, turned on the bright medical lights, and grabbed my legs. I was pushing with everything I had, but making little progress and the baby was in some distress. By now, I was terrified for our baby. With each contraction, his heart rate would drop, though thankfully it recovered after the contraction ended. However, my heart rate was so high that the medical team had to insert a fetal heart rate monitor vaginally, because they kept confusing my maternal heart rate with the baby’s.
The doctor and nurses were calm but firm: I had to push this baby out quickly. On par with the contractions I’d just experienced, pushing was the most tiring and stressful experience of my life, as I was instructed to push hard for as long as possible, only taking a wee breath between pushes. All the while, the OB was instructing me to “push this baby out now.” After each contraction, I listened carefully for our baby’s heart rate to bounce back so I could breathe a sigh of relief – only to repeat the process with each subsequent contraction.
After about forty-five minutes, the baby had descended enough for the OB to use the vacuum to try to extract him (if you insert the vacuum too high, you risk doing more damage). Unfortunately, the vacuum didn’t work well – in fact, Adam told me later that our OB, a petite woman, was pulling so hard she fell backward at one point! So, they paged another male doctor who was both more experienced in using forceps and stronger.
Up until the forceps were inserted, I hadn’t felt any pain. But, this doctor with the forceps went to town, cranking and twisting them with exceptional effort, which caused EXTREME pressure and borderline pain, even with the epidural. At the same time as the forceps were being used, the other doctor cut an episiotomy to make more room for the baby to emerge. At 6:13 am, after about 1 hour and 15 minutes of pushing, Lucas (Luke) Ronald Van Den Brink was born weighing 9 pounds even and 20 inches long. In addition to the vacuum, forceps, and episiotomy, I also had a nasty third degree tear. All I can say is thank goodness for the epidural!
Both Adam and I were awe-stricken when he was laid on my chest, all blue and bruised and cone-headed from his difficult entrance into the world – but perfect nonetheless. After Luke was checked by the nurses, I laid there for more than 30 minutes just holding him as the doctors delivered my placenta and tended to me. I was still frozen from the epidural but I looked up at Adam and said, “He is so worth it, but boy is this going to hurt later!” At that point, I had no idea what a difficult recovery I was in for, but more on that later.
Despite a difficult labour and delivery, Adam was my rock through it all. He (and our sweet nurse) held my hand and reassured me that I and the baby were doing great. Adam saw everything and is so proud and amazed by our son being born. I’m so thankful for my little family, as well as the exceptional medical care we received. We’re now taking it easy as I continue to recover and enjoying our days with little Luke. It’s safe to say life will never be the same, in the best way possible.