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The birth story: "let's get this labour started"
Part 1

The day before my due date, Kiff and I went to see The Fountain at the local revue cinema. I had some pretty awesome contractions during that movie. Not painful, just present: My body saying: Let's get this labour started. I took Kiff's hand and put it on my belly to feel it tighten like a drum and relax moments later. Magic.

The next day at the midwife appt, I was told that things were progressing. It could take a few days, but I was stoked. She could feel the baby's head. I called Kiff, and that night we braced for the cold and went for a walk in the snow. We ate spicy food. I danced around and walked up and down the stairs.

A couple of days later, I woke up, got out of bed, and there was a trickle of pink-tinged water running down my leg. I called Kiff upstairs. Is this the bloody show? The water breaking? The cervical plug? All the terms from our books and class ran through my head.

A bunch of reading and a convo with my sister later, we determined the water had probably broken in a slow leak (rather than the big gush you see in the movies). Called the student midwife, Amy, and she confirmed our suspicion.

She said she would call me 24 hours later and see how labour was progressing. In the meantime I was to take my temperature every 4 hours and to call if the baby stopped moving or if I got a fever. And, of course, to call when contractions were more than 30 seconds long and 5 minutes apart. In the meantime I was to get some sleep.

Part 2

Thing is, we were all ready for this labour. The plan is to labour at home with the midwives until just before you are ready to push, then you go to the hospital and push out the baby. The pilates ball had been blown up. I had practiced my breathing. The frozen grapes and popsicles were in the freezer. I had even made cookies for the midwives. And we had rented Rome as a distraction.

Sadly, labour never became what they term "active". 24 hours later, I got a call from Amy, and I was told that due to the risk of an infection (ruptured water membrane means that you are no longer a closed system), I would have to meet her and the midwife on duty at the hospital.

All my vital signs and the baby's were fine. I kept thinking I was going back home and just wait it out. It was a good thing we brought our hospital bag. The OB on duty was a very low talker, but he was pretty firm on what he thought should happen: Too much risk to wait: I would have to be induced with synthetic hormones.

I had a bit of a cry, but I spoke with the midwives, and they agreed that if my labour was not active yet, it was going to take a long while. Might as well induce now rather than later. I would get to see my baby, but they would have to transfer my primary care to the hospital.

Next thing you know, the ob is back with rubber gloves, and he sticks his hand up to the baby's head and hooks him to a monitor. I was not sure what was going on, but it was so uncomfortable and invasive. I hate hospitals and the permission everyone feels they have to probe first, explain alter.

I was hooked up to an IV tree, given an epidural (cuz the pain gets really wicked with them synthetic hormones), and told to stay on my back. This was not how I had pictured things unfolding.

Part 3

My mom came, everyone chatted and ate snacks except me, who was forbidden to ingest anything but ice chips. I snuck a few sips of Gatorade. Towards the evening, I started to feel the contractions. At first I was happy to feel sensation of labour, but then it got way more intense. I told the nurse, but she said I probably just have a low pain threshold. I got 2 top-ups of epidural juice, but it got worse.

By the time we figured out the epidural had fallen out, the anaesthesiologist was gone for 2 hours. The pain was relentless. I don't know how to describe that kind of back –to-back, full-body shuddering agony. I lost all sense of pride: I tore off my hospital gown, got on my hands and knees and I was barfing the forbidden green Gatorade into a plasic bowl while blowing vile-smelling breaths into Kiff's face. Ah, love.

By the time the anaesthesiologist came back, I was way over my fear of needles. "This will hurt a bit" he warned. I laughed. "That was nothing compared to the past 2 hours". When the numbing kicked in, I had regained my composure, although everyone else looked kind of rattled.

"Hey, I think this labour has a theme song!" I announced, and began singing: "It's a slow frickin' labour...sloooow fricking labour." to the tune of Sade's "Smooth Operator".

Part 4

Dilation happened slowly over the next few hours. My mom and kiff and the midwives napped. Everyone kept speculating when the baby would come out. A third shift of nurses came on and I still had a centimeter to go. The baby was showing distress. I had spiked a fever. There was meconium in the water.

The low-talking doctor returned and despite his low tones, I could hear the words: Episiotomy and vacuum and forceps.

At that point, Kiff and I decided to really focus on the last centimeter and get the baby out. We turned out the lights, asked everyone who was not needed to leave, and I began to focus everything opening and the baby coming down. Soon, amazingly, I was ready to push.

The baby comes out like a foot through a cowboy boot: Down and around the curve of your pelvic bone. The midwives held my legs. Kiff stayed mostly by my head, though he did look down. The nurses were like drill sergeants.

And it is true – it is the hardest physical thing you'll ever do, I think.. I decided I would have to be more like and animal and let every sound come out. Almost 2 hours later, the head came out and I think I blacked out, but I saw a bluish, mucky form pulled out of me and waited for the cry. There were suddenly a lot of people in the room, suctioning him on the table and talking quietly. Is he ok?
"He is stunned" said Amy. "The cord was tight around his neck."

The doctor distracts me, asking me to help push out the placenta, and then he shows it to me – it is weird alien skin. That came out of me? Then, from the table, I hear a cry. Relief. Please, please please is he ok, can I hold him?

And then Gabriel is in my arms, unbelievably beautiful. He came out of me?

And we were both fine. He was breathing beautifully, and I had not even torn.I decided to go home rather than stay the night at the hospital, so within a couple of hours, we went home. Matt C. left work and came to pick us up with his car seat.

That night, he, Emily, Dave and Abi came over with champagne and lasagna. And the midwife came over to see how we were doing, to check on the bleeding and breastfeeding. We all hung out in our bedroom taking turns holding Gabriel

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