April is Cesarean Awareness Month, and I am so excited to share this beautiful St Boniface Hospital birth story with you all in honor of it. Some cesareans are planned, and some happen despite all preparation and persistence. These births can be incredibly hard to process, especially if the family has gone through a long or intense labour in addition to their cesarean birth. I believe these mamas are some of the strongest I know.
I met Anna and Andrew last spring and we had a super fun coffee date together. I loved the twinkle in their eyes as they talked and teased each other, sharing stories to help me get to know them. They planned to deliver their baby at St Boniface Hospital and I could tell already that working together would be so much fun.
Anna was very relaxed as her due date came and went. It was encouraging to see her so trusting in her body and that things would start on their own time. As anyone who has gone overdue knows, these last days can drag on, but she kept herself occupied and was in good spirits! On Thursday morning, Anna texted me that she'd started having light contractions. We made a plan to check in again later, and in the meantime she was going to eat, rest and keep busy-- a perfect early labour plan!
Around 8:30pm Anna let me know that they were ready for me to join them. I arrived and she was labouring beautifully in their baby's nursery. She made great use of distraction and movement, spending time on their yoga ball and talking to her mom on the phone and to Andrew and I. Contractions continued to get closer and intensify, and when they were about 5 minutes apart and feeling very strong with lots of pressure, we made the decision to slowly get ready to move to St Boniface Hospital.
We got to St Boniface Hospital very early Friday morning and were disappointed to hear that despite feeling tons of pressure and increasing contractions, Anna wasn't dilated enough to be admitted to the labour ward. We made the decision to go walk the halls and the stairs for some time, trying to move baby down more and encourage these contractions to continue changing her cervix. We amused ourselves going through the desserted hallways in the basement, reading notes on people's doors and funny posters and artwork. Andrew did a great job working to keep Anna's spirits up, and she was a trooper, trying funny walking positions and lunges, and stopping every so often to lean against Andrew for a contraction while I provided counterpressure.
After a few hours, Anna headed back to triage to be checked again, and to all our surprise she hadn't dilated any further. She talked with Andrew and they made the decision to head home to rest for a couple hours on their own. As soon as she climbs into bed at 7am, her water breaks! Her contractions picked up again, and Anna headed into the shower to see if the rhythm and heat would help her to rest and get some relief. Soon her contractions were very close and very intense, with lots of pressure. Feeling a bit worried, Andrew called me and they made the decision to head back to St Boniface Hospital right away.
At 10am Anna was able to be checked again and we were heartbroken to hear that she was 3cms still. She had been working so hard, and her symptoms didn't seem to make sense! We took a while to process and decide what Anna wanted to do next. Eventually she decided to receive some pain medications so that she could get some rest! Thankfully this gave her a break and she was able to sleep for a bit while her body continued its hard work.
Saturday morning (If you're keeping track, Anna has been labouring like a rockstar for 48 hours now!), Anna had progressed to 7-8cms! I checked in on them as she woke up, and I remember smiling as she looked so serene just peacefully laying in bed and chatting with Andrew. I was so grateful she'd been able to find some relief from the constant pain. Fully dilated now, Anna starts feeling more pressure, and she decides to continue labouring down until she feels a strong urge to push. Labouring down is a wonderful tool, because your body will put in the work to move the baby down and into position without you having to work as hard while pushing.
In the early hours of Saturday morning Anna is ready to begin pushing. She's making good progress and the St Boniface Hospital nurses work with us to come up with different pushing options that may feel good. For someone who has been in labour for so long, she is such a trooper and so focused.
After a couple of hours of pushing and moving baby down, we receive news and everything falls into place-- Andrew and Anna's baby has settled into a firm position with his head sideways and he has no interest in turning that cute little head of his! This explains so many of the weird symptoms that Anna has been having- the extra pressure, the hip pain, the contractions that don't quite want to fall into a pattern, and some of the transition like feelings. Her body has been working overtime trying both to contract and change her cervix, and also to move that baby into a more favourable position so he can come through the birth canal. All this work and we didn't even know!
After taking some time to go through their options, Anna and Andrew decide to give her body some more time to labour down while she relaxes. We hope that with some relaxation, baby may be able to shift more easily into a good position that will work with all that effort Anna has been putting in. They rest up for a bit while preparing for the next step!
After a rest, Anna resumes pushing. She has renewed strength and works so hard with her body, but unfortunately the baby is firmly in an occiput transverse position and doesn't want to move. We can see on her face how hard Anna is trying to push through the pain, but it starts becoming clear that their little baby does not want to be born this way, no matter how strong she is. They make the hard decision to stop pushing and wait for a cesarean birth to bring baby earthside safely for both the little one and Anna. Thankfully Anna receives a break after this while they wait to meet this little person that has made her work so hard.
I can see the defeat in her face, but all I can think is how proud I am of her, and I can see that Andrew is too. She has worked through everything this labour has thrown at her, trying one thing after the next, and I hope in these moments that she can see how amazing she's done. I talk a lot in my prenatal meetings about honouring each baby's story, and I remind them that this is their babes story, nothing to do with their abilities. For reasons we don't understand, this babe needed this birth.
Finally just after 4:00pm we are taken down the hallway to the birthing room where Anna will deliver their baby. She goes in, and Andrew and I begin the long wait in the hallway. We talk about what to expect, and chat to pass the time, which seems to slow like molasses. After what feels like ages, they come and invite him in to join Anna and meet their precious babe.
4:41pm Anna and Andrew welcome the most adorable little boy into their family. I rejoin them in recovery and I can see the elation and joy in their faces. It's been such a journey, but now that he's here, it's all worth it. They start breastfeeding and getting to know this amazing little guy, and I see so many more of those ridiculously connected looks that I remember from my first meeting with them. My heart swells at the love between these three.
Thank you for inviting me into this sacred space with you Anna and Andrew. Welcome sweet Enzo! You are so loved.