You know what they say: "third time's a charm!" This couldn't be more true of my third delivery. Daphne's birth was (mostly) pain-free and drama-free, and while you might think that takes away from the miracle of birth, I can tell you it was quite the opposite for me. It was such a new and extraordinary feeling to experience only joy and total wonder during her delivery, rather than agonizing pain as I have in the past. I literally cried through the whole experience, but they were only tears of happiness. Messy, unrelenting tears of happiness.
Let's start at the beginning. As some of you will already know, I started talking to my OB about a social induction basically the first time I met her. For those of you who don't know what I mean by 'social' induction, it's when you request an induction, usually any time after 38 weeks, purely because you want one rather than needing one for health/safety reasons. You see, I had one with my second child, Josephine, after my OB had recommended it as an option, and I had such a great experience. Why had she recommended one? Well my first born was ten days late and was a big baby - 9.8lbs - and while that's all well and good, my OB explained that it wasn't necessary for me to go through that waiting game again if I didn't want to. The birth had been 'uncomplicated' (though 28 hours of labour felt pretty complicated at the time!) and so had my pregnancy. So for my second child we booked an induction the day after my due date, and it all went pretty smoothly (minus the lack of an epidural, but more on that below).
I know many of you are anti-social inductions; I was actually really nervous to admit publicly that I was signing up for one again, and sure enough I did receive a lot of messages asking me, in what felt like an accusation, why I would do that instead of just waiting until baby wanted to make an appearance on his/her own? That being said, there were also many women who reached out to say that they too had had social inductions and their deliveries were so much more enjoyable than when that had gone into spontaneous labour. I already knew that was true for me too, so I felt really confident going into it again this time around.
Based purely on the schedule of the doctors involved, we chose Monday October 21, exactly 39 weeks of my pregnancy, for my induction. Was I a little weary about delivering a week before my due date? For sure. But my OB assured me the timing was perfect and baby was healthy.
Knowing the date you are going to have your baby is a very weird feeling. Everything felt finite and I kept saying things like "this is the last time we'll have dinner as a family of four", and "this is my last photo of my bump." I felt a mixture of relief, excitement, anxiousness, and even a bit of sadness that this pregnancy was about to come to an end. I knew I wanted to meet my baby desperately, but everything was about to change very quickly and a part of me was nervous about what that meant for me and my family.
I will say though, there are a lot of perks to knowing what day your baby is arriving. In the immediate days before my induction I had my hair trimmed, my nails done, and even suffered through a wax! The house was organized, the cupboard was stocked, and child care for the older kids was sorted - a major relief given that the grandparents are about a 90 minute drive away and had I gone into spontaneous labour, that could have been quite stressful.
It's also significantly better, having done it both ways, to check into a hospital for an induction versus showing up in absolute agony with contractions, only to have to fill in paperwork and wait for a delivery room!
All that being said, I'm not trying to suggest that EVERYONE should have a social induction. I personally think that with first babies in particular if you can avoid an induction its probably for the best. Now I'm not a medical professional by any means so don't take my word for it, but I just think that the first time you give birth your body takes an extra long time to move things along (in the majority of cases at least). It's never done this before and no ones has any idea how things will go. Once you've had an uncomplicated delivery, you know that your body has got it down. But if it's your first time you may rush things along too quickly and end up with an outcome you didn't necessarily want. That can obviously happen whether or not you are induced, but I don't think you'll find many doctors willing to do a social induction for a first time mother for some of those reasons.
So the Thursday before my induction my OB gave me a stretch and sweep (I was 38+3 at the time). Some of you have asked what this is - a quick Google search will answer that for you, but from the perspective of a patient it's basically an exam of your cervix, where your doctor will use her hand to reach your cervix (not an easy undertaking if it hasn't started to shorten already), and sweep your membranes, which supposedly can help kick-start labour. They also determine at that time whether or not you are dilated at all and the status of your cervix. It takes less than a minute to do.
At the time of my sweep my cervix was 1.5cm dilated, which was nothing to get excited about - when you've already had a baby (or two!) I feel like your cervix is kinda permanently at 1cm at all times! And my OB agreed; she said it was unlikely I'd be going into spontaneous labour any time soon, so we booked my induction for four days later.
In the days to follow I did notice a few changes to my body that made me think I might prove my OB wrong - some cramping, pressure, discharge, etc., but the weekend came and went, and Monday morning arrived with no baby in sight.
My OB had said the hospital would call me around 8am on Monday morning to give me an idea of timing. So we had a typical morning with the kids, and dropped them off at school with the exciting news that Nana would be picking them up that afternoon because Mommy and Daddy would be at the hospital to have the baby. My son was very concerned that I might have to have surgery (I made the mistake of letting him watch Grey's Anatomy a few weeks earlier and he had since developed a total fear of hospitals - oops!). I explained that if all went as planned, Mommy shouldn't have to have surgery at all. That brought on more questions about how baby would come out without surgery, but c'est la vie.
We also went through our usual discussion about baby's gender - repeating once again how happy we'd be no matter if baby was a boy or girl. You see, just five weeks earlier when I announced that my sister had had a baby girl my son literally fell to the ground in tears. Apparently he had REALLY wanted his cousin to be a boy, and he felt even stronger about his new sibling being a little brother. So since then we had chatted about it nearly every day explaining how wonderful a sister would be too, if that was the case, but we truly all thought baby was a boy so I wasn't too worried about it! Spoiler alert: we were all wrong.
Unsurprisingly the call from the hospital came about two hours later than expected, and the nurse on the phone simply said, "please make your way in for your induction!" So surreal. I finished uploading my "What's in my hospital bag" post (I literally took the photos that morning!), and told my husband it was time to go. So it was then that he decided he would finally install the infant car seat (grrrrr) after weeks of me requesting he do this! To be fair, we're old pros at the car seat game so it only took him about five minutes but STILL. He also hadn't packed his overnight bag (again, WEEKS of asking!), but we both assumed I'd be given either the gel or balloon to kick off the induction and sent back home (as I had been with my second child), so he would have time to pack then. Spoiler alert: wrong again!
He dropped me off at the hospital entrance and went to park our car. The nurses commented on my one small bag to which I responded that my husband would be coming in with the remaining three - hah! I was the only patient checking in, everything was quiet and calm. They did a few quick tests - listened to baby's heartbeat, checked my blood pressure, etc. - and then I filled in some paperwork with the front desk. By the time my husband joined me (Toronto hospital parking is a b*tch!) the nurses were ready to take us to a really sizeable delivery room with a huge window - everything was off to such a great start!
Within a half hour the OB on call came to introduce herself. Some of you will remember that my OB had realized a few weeks before my due date that she wouldn't be able to deliver our baby, as she wasn't on-call for a four week window around my due date. She recommended a colleague, and my good friend who is also an OB in Toronto, confirmed for me that she would be a wonderful choice (she was right!). We chatted quickly about what had happened during my last induction, and she understood that I was really anxious to have a working epidural this time around. For context, when my daughter was induced in 2016 they gave me an epidural and it didn't take. By the time we realized it definitely wasn't working, I was already at 10cm and in desperate need to push. So once again (I chose not to have an epidural with my son in 2014) I gave birth with no pain medication and, well, it was painful!
So this time around it was a priority, to say the least! We were on the same page. She examined me and announced that I was 2+cm dilated and that meant she could break my water right then and there instead of going through any of the other interventions (gel, a balloon etc.) to open my cervix. This was awesome news, and Ben and I quickly realized we wouldn't be going home anytime soon.
Once that was complete (a 30 second process that is virtually pain free), the nurse began connecting me to all the monitors and set up the oxytocin for when the time came - she first wanted to ensure baby and I were okay before starting the drip. Sure enough, baby's heartbeat went a little bananas for a while after my water had been broken, so we waited about an hour before starting the oxytocin which would start to ramp up my contractions.
I was pretty calm about everything happening, but definitely had some anxiety around that epidural; I was really worried that the oxytocin would speed things up super quickly and I might not get it in time. I was basically super traumatized from my last experience. But my nurse convinced me we'd have more than enough time and all I had to do was say the word and they would send in the anesthesiologist. Sure enough, things moved along at a really reasonable pace, and it wasn't until I started feeling pretty uncomfortable during contractions that I decided to make the request. It had been about three hours since my water had been broken and two since starting the oxy. I was maybe a five or six out of ten on the pain scale.
It wasn't long after the epidural was in that I started to experience a wave of warmth and comfort throughout my body. It honestly felt a bit like I had just had about three glasses of a good red wine. The epidural was working, and I stopped feeling the contractions all together. My husband and I watched on the monitor as they came and went - if it hadn't been for that I never would have believed I was still in labour.
At this point I remember my girlfriend texting me to say that I should have a nap, and I replied that I was just too excited to do that! But the epidural was making me a bit sleepy and I had hardly slept the night before, so I did manage to doze off for a little bit in my blissful epidural haze. However, I still had one more source of anxiety: I had no idea when I should call my birth photographer, Nicole, to make her way to the hospital!
As I wasn't feeling the contractions and my OB was in a surgery, I had no clue how far I was progressing and I knew that the last time I was in labour I jumped from three to ten centimeters in three hours. My water had been broken at 11:35am, and it was now around 3:45pm, so I was beyond that already. Contractions were three minutes apart (again, the monitor confirmed this rather than me actually feeling them), but I didn't know how dilated I was. My photographer was on standby just 20 minutes away.
Around 4:30pm I asked the nurse to examine me just in case. I was 6cm dilated and contractions were increasing. My girlfriend (the OB) told me I should call my photographer around 8cm, and that even if I did hit 10cm before she arrived, they could hold off pushing for a little while as long as I wasn't in pain. This was reassuring, and while we were slightly worried about Toronto rush hour traffic, we continued to wait.
It was about 5pm that I started to feel pressure with each contraction - a sign that things were reaching a peak. I told my husband that I thought I should ask our photographer to make her way over; I had a nagging feeling that these were the same contractions that come at the very end and completely take your control away. Anyone who has had a drug-free birth will know what I mean - the contractions suddenly take over your whole body and literally start pushing out baby despite your best efforts not to push. They are insanely painful, and come right at the end. It was weird to know I was experiencing them but still not feel any pain, just a very specific pressure that brought back very specific memories! So I texted Nicole with an update and we agreed she would start making her way over in about twenty minutes. Again, without any pain nothing felt too imminent, so we were still playing it cool.
After Nicole had texted to say she was leaving her house, my OB finally returned from surgery and examined me. It took her about three seconds to say "Yup, you could basically sneeze this baby out. So let's do it!" To which I replied, "Umm, can we wait for my photographer?!" Priorities right?! She said that was absolutely fine but we could only wait as long as baby would allow. I immediately texted Nicole asking for her ETA and announcing "baby is ready!" I was relieved to get her immediate text back that she was in the hospital! She showed up, pulled out her camera, and we basically started right away.
Again it was SO surreal to start pushing without the all the drama and pain of my previous births. My doctor and nurses calmly reminded me of how I need to be positioned, how to push and how to breathe through them. I could feel the pressure of the contractions so I knew when to start pushing. My nurse, who I had grown to love in our six hours together, held on to one my legs while Ben held the other. I was totally caught off guard to feel my eyes welling with tears as soon as I started to push. I wasn't in any pain, but I was completely overcome with intense emotion.
After the second contraction baby's head was out, and I heard my OB say that the cord was around her neck. She didn't sound concerned, so I was strangely calm. She spent some time maneuvering baby's head and guiding the rest of her body out. I only did one more push before they handed her up to me and on to my chest. She was quiet, but making small gurgling sounds, and I asked if she was okay because she hadn't cried out yet. She was. She was totally perfect.
I laid there sobbing, with her body on my chest, Ben's face pressed against mine, and a good minute or two went by before we realized we didn't know yet if she was a boy or a girl. The others in the room started saying "What is it? Check! Check!" and all at once various voices cried out "it's a girl, it's a girl!" If I hadn't already been sobbing I would have started then! We were shocked. We were thrilled. We were in absolute awe of her and all that had just transpired.
The next morning our two older children arrived to meet their little sister and, as I've said in an earlier post, I was very nervous to tell them their baby was a girl.
I was sure my son, Theo, would be devastated and I didn't think I could handle him regretting anything about his perfect little sister. But I had nothing to worry about. He beamed. He hugged me. He looked around the room full of pride and Josephine announced that she had a sister!
Our third child, Daphne Ann, had brought nothing but complete joy to our family, and she continues to do so as every day passes with her in it.
* Our amazing birth photographer was Nicole Lewis. She can be found on Instagram @blondecoffeebean