I had just returned four days earlier from a 7 week recruiting trip and I was living at Adrienne’s apartment for the remaining two weeks of work I had until I went on maternity leave on Nov 18th. Friday was Remembrance Day, so I slept in and stayed in my pajamas almost all day. I had not been sleeping very well, due to the pregnancy rash that was covering my body. I was only sleeping 3-4 hours a night. Bryce came up to Squamish Friday evening and we went to the Quest basketball games. That night I didn’t sleep well. The bed was small and my itching was really bad. I went out into the kitchen to ice my legs several times to relieve the itch. Around 5am I started getting cramps in my lower abdomen. I figured they were just Braxton Hicks, so I tried to ignore them and fall asleep. I tossed and turned in bed since the pain started to radiate down my legs. Finally around 6am, I decided to get out of bed and run a warm bath to see if that helped. I sat in the bath for an hour and the pain was a bit less, but the contractions continued to come every 5-8 minutes.
Finally I got out of the bath and went to try and sleep on the couch, so my tossing and turning wouldn’t keep waking Bryce up. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t find a comfortable position. At around 9am, Bryce woke up and came into the living room. I told him I was having painful Braxton Hicks and that I didn’t sleep at all last night. Finally at 9:30am, I decided to call my midwife to see if she had any suggestions on how to relieve the Braxton Hicks. Janice was the midwife on call and as I described the pain I was having she said I should meet her at the hospital so she can check to see if I’m in pre-term labour. She said it’s unlikely, since I had no previous symptoms or risk factors, but it’s good to check to make sure. She said to pack an overnight bag just in case.
When I got off the phone, I started to cry. It was feeling very overwhelming to go to the hospital to get checked out and it was not how I wanted to spend my last Saturday with Bryce before I left for Kelowna. Bryce quickly made me breakfast, since it was hurting to stand up during the contractions. I ate a little bit of food, but didn’t have much of an appetite. As we walked out to the car, I had to stop and take a breather during one of the contractions. It was at this point that I started to wonder if this was something more than Braxton Hicks.
Once we got to the hospital, we checked into the emergency room and soon afterwards someone came to take me in. The nurse hooked me up to a monitor that tracked my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat. The one band went around the top of my belly and the other below my belly. Soon afterwards Janice arrived and asked if she could check my cervix to see if I was dilated, since the machine was picking up actual contractions. She reached down and checked and promptly told me I was already three centimeters dilated! I was in shock. Janice immediately left to go arrange an ambulance to Lions Gate Hospital and the nurse stayed with us. They needed to start an IV so they could start antibiotics since I had not yet been tested to see if I had Strep B bacteria or not. The first nurse tried to get an IV started on top of my left hand, but it didn’t work and instead it left me with a big swollen hand and bruise for a week. They finally got an IV in my right wrist. This whole time I was experiencing contractions every 5 minutes, which seemed to be getting more and more intense. Shortly after Janice determined that I would need to be transferred to Lions Gate, Becca arrived to help. While Janice was working on the logistics of getting me to Lions Gate, Becca helped me through the contractions by pushing on my back and suggesting some positions while I lay on the bed. At this point, Bryce called our parents to let them know what was happening. My parents decided to leave right away and meet us at Lion’s Gate and Bryce’s parents were on their way as well.
Finally the ambulance was all set up and they loaded me in. Bryce followed in our car and Janice came in the ambulance with me. It was quite uncomfortable having contractions being strapped onto a gurney, but Janice helped by putting pressure on my back. She told me to try and relax as much as possible because we wanted to slow down the labour until we got to Lion’s Gate. The contractions were intense and combined with the swerving on the highway, I threw up several times on the way to the hospital.
Once we got there, the cool air felt so good after being wrapped up on the gurney in the small space in the back of the ambulance. They wheeled me up to the maternity floor and dropped me off in the room that I would eventually give birth in. The room was large, with two chairs, one chair that folded out into a bed, where Bryce could sleep. There was also a bathroom and shower in the room and an area in the corner where the pediatrician could assess the baby after the birth.
It felt much better to get into the bed and I could move around more freely through the contractions. Bryce and Becca arrived about 15 minutes after we arrived and it was reassuring to have him there. He told me both our parents were on their way here. Janice checked my cervix and I was dilated 5cm now. She told us she thought he would arrive before my parents could get here, since I had progressed so fast already.
The next few hours all seemed to blend together. I continued having contractions every 5-8 minutes apart. They didn’t really get more intense, but I needed counter pressure on my back during every contraction to help relieve the pain. Bryce, Becca and Janice took turns putting pressure on my back. Bryce’s parents arrived around 12pm and they went and got Bryce some food because he hadn’t eaten anything yet and they grabbed me a smoothie since I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I knew I should try to fuel my body.
I tried out different positions during these hours. I liked standing up and leaning up against the bed, with an ice pack on my forehead. I also tried a similar position sitting on a birthing ball and leaning up on the bed. I also sat on the ball in the shower and had warm water spray on my back, but I didn’t find this position helpful. After a few hours I starting feeling really tired, so I laid down on the bed on my side and rested a bit between contractions.
My parents arrived around 4pm and I had only dilated to 7cm. My mom and I tried walking around and up and down stairs, but it didn’t bring the labour on. My labor seemed to be slowing down and we started to discuss whether or not we should try to break my water or let the labour slow down. I didn’t feel comfortable breaking my water and as I reflect back, I don’t think I was quite ready to have him arrive yet. I still needed some more time to process that I was having our baby already. By 8pm I was only having mild contractions every 15-20 minutes. By 10pm it was clear I wasn’t in active labor anymore, so the midwives went back to Squamish and our parents went home. Bryce stayed in the room overnight and helped me get settled in to sleep. I remember trying to fall asleep that night and thinking that I was going to wake up and this would all be a dream. It was so confusing why I was in labour and why my body and baby had decided to come now. I think that is partly why my body slowed down that evening. I had to process these thoughts and feelings before I was ready to give birth. Part of me was glad my labor had stopped, while another part of me was anxious to get everything over with and not have this be a long drawn out labor. However, this break in the evening allowed me to get some rest and upload my Hypnobabies tracks onto my iPod. I had been listening to hypnobirthing tracks for the past 8 weeks to help me get through labor without any pain medication or interventions. I had only been using the tracks I happened to have on my iPod earlier that day, but I really wanted to start using the tracks that were meant for active labor.
Around 2am the contractions started to come back and by 3am they were coming every 5 minutes and increasing in intensity. The funniest part was every time I felt a contractions coming on I would call out to Bryce to put pressure on my back and it would take several yells to wake him up and he would quickly stumble over to the bed. Several times he hit his foot on something as he walked over. He had a hard time waking up and was trying to get some much-needed rest, but my contractions were not giving him much of a break.
At 3am, I rang the nurse and told her to call Janice because the contractions were back and consistently 5 minutes apart. Bryce continued to help me through the contractions until Janice and Becca came back. They checked me when they arrived around 5am and I had dilated to 8.5cm. at this point, I felt much more prepared to give birth. I was listening to my tracks and they helped me concentrate on relaxing and opening up my body. It was so helpful! It was like having a personal coach reminding you to breathe and relax. I loved that it gave me positive images and words throughout my whole labour.
My parents arrived around 7am and I hadn’t dilated much more. These hours were going by so fast though. I felt like I was riding waves in an ocean. There would be these peak periods where the wave was high and I was just trying to keep my head above water and then the wave would wash over and I would be in the peaceful calm waters waiting for the next wave. It was strange as a reflect back on it because my labor was intense, especially with the back labor, but I wouldn’t describe it as painful. I wasn’t dreading the next contraction at any point. In fact, at many stages I was trying to coax the next contraction on!
By 8am I hadn’t dilated beyond 8.5cm, so we decided to break my water to see if it would help. I was very nervous about this, since the day before I had decided I didn’t want to do that. However, by this point I was confident my body was ready to have a baby and breaking my water would help me progress further. I was expecting the contractions to get really intense after my water broke, but surprisingly they stayed about the same. Except I could definitely notice him dropping down lower and putting more pressure on my cervix. After two more hours, I was stuck at 9.5cm. Becca tried pushing the remaining cervix around his head during several contractions to see if we could starting pushing, but it wouldn’t work. Since baby’s head was backwards, his forehead was putting pressure on my cervix instead of the back of his head, which is larger. This was the reason I was having so much back labor pain and why I was dilating so slowly. At this point, we decided to call in the obstetrician to see if she could help turn him, so help me dilate fully and get pushing.
This was by far the most intense and painful part of my delivery. The obstetrician had to reach her whole hand and forearm up, grab the baby’s head and try to turn him. I yelled at her to stop several times because the pain was so intense. It was also scary because it’s hard to know how the maneuver is affecting the baby as well. This was the only time I yelled during labor and I was so glad when it was over and she said she managed to turn him a little. In hindsight, if that hadn’t worked, I might’ve had to consider a c-section which was something I was praying wouldn’t need to happen. Once he was turned, I was fully dilated after two more contractions! I finally got to start pushing around 11am.
I started off pushing leaning up against the bed, with an ice pack on my forehead. However, I found it really hard to get deep into my pushing in that position. Surprisingly, after trying a few positions, I like being on my back with my legs up the most. I though by standing up the help of gravity would be more ideal, but I ended pushing in this position almost the whole time. Becca was really helpful and gave me a time that I had to push for each contraction and counted out loud while I pushed. It made me go beyond what I thought I was capable of and we made a lot more progress. Slowly his head started to emerge. I remember reaching down and feeling his head and hair. That was so motivating! Once he started crowning, Bryce’s mom filmed the remaining 15 minutes of labor. I have watched this video so many times and cried every time! I love reliving those precious moments as I was anticipating holding my baby for the first time. I distinctly remember thinking about how pivotal these last minutes were. With each contraction I was counting down the time until I could finally meet my baby. The second to last contraction got his head out and I remember it felt like forever until my next contraction came on. Once his head was out, I looked down and touched his head. Finally another contraction came and his shoulders and body easily came out. Immediately he started crying and when I say crying I mean screaming at the top of his lungs. It was the best sound in the world! Becca placed him on my chest immediately, as Janice toweled him off a bit. He continued to cry against my chest for almost 10 minutes. He really wanted the world to know he was here. Fortunately, since he was so feisty the pediatrician didn’t have to check him out until I had to birth the placenta and cut the cord. When he finally settled down on my chest, he immediately started looking around and taking everything in. He was so alert and curious.
Becca let Bryce cut the cord and then she helped me with getting my placenta out. Often times with premature babies, the placenta doesn’t detach from the wall of the uterus completely. When the placenta finally came out there were several large clumps and they suspected that some of the placenta was still inside. Janice had to reach up and start pulling out clots and seeing if she could find any missing pieces. This was almost worse than the labor. Once the baby and placenta is out, you think it’s all over and you can relax. Instead, I had to deal with Janice reaching around for clots. Since she pulled out several large ones, she got the obstetrician to come in to take a look. At this point I was so exhausted and did not want anything else going in or out of me! The obstetrician offered laughing gas and I immediately said yes. Fortunately she only had to reach up once and confirmed that there were no more clots. However, they scheduled me for an ultrasound the next day just to make sure. During this time, Bryce was holding baby skin-to-skin against his chest. It was the most touching scene as he peacefully rested against Bryce. We brought baby back onto my chest and tried to breastfeed. It was so incredible how he latched on right away! He was so eager to feed it made my heart swell up more than I could ever imagine. He managed to suck for almost an hour! My midwives and nurses couldn’t believe it. After that he was exhausted and he fell asleep against me.
At this point Bryce and I started discussing what we wanted to name our little guy. Both of us had Witton as our top choice while I was pregnant. I wanted to meet our baby before I officially decided, but he seemed like a Witton to me. Deciding on his first name was easy, but we had different ideas about middle names. Bryce really wanted a family name, particularly someone who was alive. I wanted a name that “sounded good” with Witton, but it didn’t have to have particular significance. However, I understood Bryce’s desire to select a family name so we chose to give him my Dad’s name, Jerel. Witton will always keep Bryce’s last name, so I thought it would be meaningful to give him a middle name from the Forsberg side as well.
By the late afternoon we had to give up our room in the delivery section of the hospital and move to the post-natal area. We also had to check Witton into the NICU where he would stay for the next few weeks. They assured me that I could go see and hold him whenever I wanted and after meeting the nurses I felt confident he was in good hands. It was a little scary seeing him hooked up to all the monitors with cords attached to him, but I knew he was safe. After I ate some dinner, I went back to the NICU to feed Witt. He quickly latched onto my other breast and nursed for another hour! However since he was expending a lot of energy nursing, but not getting much milk, if any, the nurses suggested we feed him some the of donated breast milk. They have an incredible program in the Lower Mainland where moms can donate breast milk for NICU babies. I was so thankful for this program because I really didn’t want Witton to have formula. Most babies when they are born lose weight for the first week of life. However, with premature babies they try to minimize weight lose as much as possible, which is why they supplement with donor milk or formula. For the first three days, as I waited for my milk to come in, Witton was fed bottles of the donor milk. Fortunately, my milk came in full force on the third day and he no longer needed any of the donor milk.
That evening Bryce’s sisters and their girls came up to visit. Unfortunately no kids were allowed in the NICU, so the girls had to look at him from the window outside. I was so proud to show off our newest member of the family. Despite being early he looked healthy and strong. That night as I went to bed my mind was racing. I couldn’t believe I had given birth to our baby, yet at the same time the timing felt right, I felt ready to start being a mommy to our little boy. I knew the upcoming weeks would be challenging with him in the NICU and Bryce having to go back to Seattle to manage his business, but I still felt like we were in the exact place we needed to be. So much happened over the next two weeks while he was in the hospital, each day felt like a week, but I am so thankful for the strength I received from so many people. My mom stayed with us in North Vancouver and she was absolutely incredible. She continually brought me healthy food to eat, she snuggled with Witt when I had to leave to go pump, she helped me shower and take care of my tired body, but most importantly she kept my spirits up and helped me remain positive. Bryce was my rock. He constantly called and texted me to see how we were doing. He drove up after long days of work to see us and drove back home in the early morning hours. He continuously told me how much he loved us and how proud he was of how wonderful our baby was. The nurses at the hospital were also fantastic. They were so positive and always willing to answer my many questions and give advice on feeding and taking care of Witton. I could tell from the way they spoke and held Witton that they loved and cared for the babies in the NICU as if they were their own.
There are still so many stories from the last three months I want to share, but it may take some time for me to write them all out and post them. However, these last three months have been by far the best months of my life. The simple joys I experience each day with Bryce and Witton make me want to cry for joy each night when I fall asleep. I feel so incredibly blessed to have these two boys in my life. I feel a strong sense of purpose and love with each task I do to care for Witton. Although I can’t imagine my love growing any more than what I feel right now, I know that he will continue to wind my heartstrings around his finger each day.