On September 26, 2016, I gave birth to my daughter, Ivy Elizabeth Wood. Bringing her into the world was the most surreal experience of my life thus far and I debated on whether or not to share my birth story with others. I read so many of them throughout my pregnancy and had to work very hard at not building up unrealistic expectations in my mind of “the perfect birth” because babies come how they come and absolutely anything can happen on the big day. That being said, I still made a birth plan and thankfully my birth played out almost entirely the way I hoped it would. I believe I have my breath to thank for that.
On the morning of September 25, three past my due date, I woke up to stomach pains. Thinking it was just another ‘pregnancy’ thing, I went back to sleep. Two hours later, at 5:30 am, I woke up to more intense pains and my bloody show. Labour had begun. I drew a hot bath and started timing my contractions with my contraction app on my phone. They were inconsistent but painful. I decided to call my midwife and give her the heads up that my baby was on its way. She told me to take it easy all day, to watch movies, keep my feet up and call her when things progress. I got out of the bath, made a pot of soup and then did just that – watched movies all day.
By 6:00 pm, the contractions had become very intense. It was cold and raining outside, but I asked Ben to go for a walk with me because I needed fresh air to cope with the pain. I started timing them again and they were still eight minutes apart. I wasn’t to call my midwife again until they were five minutes apart. I still had work to do.
By 12:00 am (September 26), my pain in my back was so intense I didn’t know what to do. I started breathing with my positive affirmations.
Inhale: This pain cannot be stronger than me.
Exhale: I am stronger than this pain.
My contractions were now six minutes apart and because I was in so much pain, Ben called the midwife. She asked us to meet her at the Birth Centre so she could check how far along I was. We got in the car thinking “we’re closer to meeting our baby!”
We got to the Birth Centre at 1:30 am and she checked me. By this point, I was having a very hard time walking and was absolutely crushed to learn that I was only 1 cm dilated. I looked at my doula and started crying, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this!” My midwife told me to call back when my contractions were five minutes apart and had gotten more intense. I couldn’t imagine them getting worse, I was already in so much pain I could hardly think straight. We got in the car, turned around and drove home.
The next few hours were a blur of intense pain, breathwork, tears and agony. My back labour was so intense, I had never, ever felt pain like it before. I went in a circuit from our bed, to the bath tub, to the floor (cat/cow position) and back again. I was in so much pain I didn’t know what to do. I asked Ben if he would think I’m a failure if I ask to be transferred to hospital care to get an epidural. He said absolutely not, that I needed to do what’s right for me and if I had reached my threshold of pain, it was okay. He also reminded me that It didn’t matter how our baby was delivered, as long as we were both safe. I thought about it for a while and remembered how hard I worked to get a midwife (there’s a huge shortage of them where I live) and how badly I had wanted to have a natural water birth. I made the decision to push through.
I went to the bathtub one last time and timed my contractions. They were a minute apart. I was relieved and terrified at the same time – I was officially in active labour. Ben called our midwife and she met us at the Birth Centre.
When we arrived at 6:30 am, she checked me again and told me I was 7 cm dilated. She congratulated me for remaining calm at home and said she was very impressed with how quickly my body progressed. Her words filled me with hope that I was nearing the end and I felt so proud of myself. She and the other midwives filled the birthing tub and I hopped in.
I don’t remember the next few hours. I went into a trance. The lights were dim, Patrick Watson was softly playing and I was so intensely focused on my breath and my affirmations that I did not speak a word. Hours passed and I was still in active labour, not ready to push. I was beginning to think it was never going to end.
Finally, my body felt the urge to push. I changed positions and started pushing with all my might, thankful that the marathon would soon be finished. Hours went by. I pushed in every position possible. More hours went by. No baby. Finally the midwives asked me to go sit on the toilet so they could assess me. The head midwife noticed that our baby was behind my vaginal wall and that I had been pushing against it for over three hours. She pushed the wall back and my water broke instantly. She apologized for not having checked me sooner. On my birth plan I had requested to always check myself. I was so tired by this point I didn’t have energy to speak let alone to be upset with her. After all, she was respecting my wishes.
I went back to the tub and began to push, for real this time. After two hours, Ivy’s head started to appear. I allowed my body to do the work, barely helping at all, to avoid tearing. Pushing a baby out is the most animalistic feeling because the body truly knows what to do. At this point, my affirmations changed.
Inhale: I surrender to my body.
Exhale: My body knows what to do.
I mentally repeated this over and over with every breath in and every breath out. Without realizing it, I started to roar like an animal with my exhales/pushes. I was certain my labour was coming to an end.
After nearly seven hours of pushing, I looked to my midwife with desperation and asked if she had forceps or something to help get my baby out. I was exhausted. She assessed my vitals and learned that my heart rate was going down. She knew I needed help. She told me to get out of the tub after my next contraction and to walk to the bed because she was going to help me. With Ivy’s head half out of me, I crawled out of the tub by myself, walked across the room to the bed, climbed up onto it and got on all fours. As I gave one last HUGE push, she put her hands up me and pulled out our little Ivy. Within seconds, I was holding her. Ben and I looked at each other with so much joy and disbelief. I did it. I was trembling and feeling such a euphoric high of reaching the FINISH LINE that I forgot to check if she was a girl or a boy. After we checked, we learned she was Ivy – the baby girl we knew we were going to meet all a long.
Ben cut her cord and helped the midwives check her out while I received several stitches from second degree tearing. Ivy’s right hand was pressed up against her face, which is why I couldn’t get her out myself. I also received a shot to prevent hemorrhaging because as soon as she came out, I began to lose a lot of blood.
After we were all cleaned up, we cuddled in bed as a family. The midwives brought me some toast with almond butter and juice and then two hours later, we took our new little Ivy Bird home.
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ASHLEY WOOD is a recipe developer and writer from Winnipeg, Canada. With a passion for health, wellness and vegetables, Ashley creates simple and inexpensive vegan recipes made from whole ingredients that are often seasonal, sometimes gluten-free and occasionally raw. Ashley believe in celebrating the benefits of living a vegan lifestyle and at the very least, hopes to inspire others to eat more plants, smile and live with some Sunshine.