Woah, it’s been a while and so much has changed since I last wrote. In the past year or so the big ticket changes include leaving Toronto for a home in the woods in Quebec, changing focus at work, adopting our pup Freyja and the biggest of all welcoming our baby boy, Felix, into the world.
It’s been just over three months since he joined our little family and as cliche as it is to say, it’s been life changing. If you ever want to experience “all the feels” have a baby – holy freaking heck! Happy, sad, numb, exhausted, anxious, content, proud, insecure just to name a few. I can safely say that I’ve felt more during these past 3 months than I ever have before. The fourth trimester was an emotional rollercoaster. Now I’m over the moon happy and am really loving motherhood and getting to know this little guy but those first few weeks were so tough and a total blur.
I’m very thankful for the support our parents provided us during those first weeks, and since. Cooking, cleaning, holding the baby so I could sleep or take a bath and just being there for us. Simply put, Matthew was and is the best partner. He made me his focus so I could make Felix mine and stepped in when I just couldn’t, making sure I was fed, hydrated and as rested as I could be so I could keep going. So much love.
Not going to sugar coat it, the first five or so weeks were tough. I knew it was going to be a big change but nothing can prepare you… not that I really tried to prepare… I read about breastfeeding and had heard the anecdotal story. Looking back now it’s kind of like those weeks didn’t even happen… It was a bit of a Time Warp where it flew by quickly but also painfully slow at the same time. I went to the hospital at the end of October, had a baby and when I woke up it was Christmas. And while I said I had been feeling all the feels, I also felt like I had shut off my feelings following the birth as the experience wasn’t anything like what I had expected. When push came to shove (quite literally) it left me feeling empty both physically and emotionally. I was exhausted from the birth and then exhausted from having a newborn. On top of this I was, and still am to a lesser extent now, having a hard time with the recovery. Pretty safe to say I was experiencing the baby blues which included a lot of crying, staring off at nothing, questioning how I should be feeling and wondering if I’d feel normal again.
When I was pregnant, it never really felt real in a way and I never really thought about the birth aside from thinking how the skin-to-skin following him being born would make it real. I had fantasized about how that moment would catapult everything into reality for me and I really looked forward to it. That was my only plan for the birth and well, as they say, don’t go in with a birth plan. The birth itself was traumatic and I was (and still am to an extent) having a hard time dealing with how everything went. By chance, during a midnight feed, I saw someone share a Facebook group about birth traumas where I decided to share my experience. Getting to the point where I could put words to my feelings helped me be able to externalize and talk to Matthew about how I was feeling and allowed the weight and fog to start to lift.
I wrote down our birth experience during the early days when everything was still so fresh and thought maybe I should share it here as it was so cathartic in my healing to get it out. If birth stories aren’t your thing then close the window now but if you’ll indulge me I’ve shared my story below. Perhaps it will help someone else too.
Leading up to the birth it was pretty apparent that we were going to take our time. My doctor had wanted to attempt a stretch and sweep during my last three appointments but everything was sitting so high and back that she wasn’t able. We were told to wait it out and see if the baby would come on it’s own, but in the meantime I was placed on the induction list. How it worked at my hospital is that during a three day window you will get a call and you grab your bag and head in. My window was to be Sunday-Tuesday and let me tell you, I was feeling the anxiety about getting that call and hoping things would start on their own. We got the call at 8am on the Sunday and made our way to the hospital. Once I was checked in and set up for monitoring the doctor came by and inserted a tampon like thing around noon to try and get things started. I wasn’t able to leave the hospital so I was set up in a room. We spent the afternoon with my parents, knitting and playing cards. My contractions started around 8 or 9 pm and they felt ok to start, they were pretty consistently 3-4 mins apart and intensified quickly. By 1am or so I had a nurse come and check but I had only maybe dilated 1cm! That was a devastating thing to hear as the pain was pretty strong. They sent me over to the delivery room so I could get in the tub and try to distract myself but warned that I would probably be sent back to my room overnight… Well things just got more and more painful. At one point a nurse tried to have me drink some water and gave me some pills which I quickly threw up. Cool. Matthew tried his best to help relieve the pain using pressure points and I walked around as much as we could, getting in and out of the bath all night.
In the morning, the doctor came to check in, I was in active labour by 6am but only 3cm. They checked on me again at 8 but not much more progress and the doctor wasn’t recommending epidural until later. I walked as best I could, stopping to breathe through contractions, until a nurse came by and suggested it was time to get the epidural. Yes please.
By 10 I was 5cm and we got the epidural. Thank you! If I wasn’t in so much pain I probably would have been nervous about the fact that the anesthesiologist dropped a needle on the ground twice before successfully inserting the epidural.
I promptly fell asleep until noon, during that time I dilated to 8 . As the day moved along I realized the epidural wasn’t working in one area of my back (I have a herniated disc and spinal stenosis in one section and think this is where it wasn’t working, it felt like it lined up) so I felt the contractions as we got closer. Throughout the whole process I was quiet, focused on my breathing. When the time came, I pushed for almost 2.5 hours. This happened to go over a shift change thankfully my original team stayed and I had an extra doctor team there to help. They ended up having to call the gynecologist in to help finish the delivery so in total we had 6 doctors (3 doctors and 3 residents) plus the nursing team in the room making for roughly 12 medical staff. It was a full but quiet house. After some time our heart rates started dropping so they used forceps… but the first set weren’t the right size for his head so they quickly removed them for another pair. Thank, thank, thank goodness the epidural was working down there!
Then seemingly out of nowhere our little guy was born… but I didn’t know. I was pushing with my eyes closed, it wasn’t until I heard them tell Matthew to cut the cord that I opened my eyes, caught a quick glimpse and got my hand up to barely touch him before they took him away. It all seemed to happen in the blink of an eye and I remember his colour and thinking ‘why don’t I hear him’ until I heard a little peep. Just like that the room cleared as he was taken to the neonatal unit. He wasn’t breathing at first, he had swallowed some meconium and there was an issue with his lung so needed extra care and attention. I remember telling Matthew “Go! Go! You have to go with him!” and then it was me, my mom, nurse and gynecologist in the room. I ended up having just over an hour’s worth of stitching thanks to 3rd degree tearing and episiotomy. Fun thing I learned after naively asking the doctor how many stitches… they don’t count stitches at a certain point. She also told me that if I didn’t have the epidural I would have been in emergency surgery. We also had a general surgeon come in to double check things. Errr… yay super fun.
While I was in the room being tended to one of the doctors came to give me an update on Felix, letting me know that everything was going ok. Felix was now breathing ok on his own but had been hooked up to an oxygen machine as back-up and he was placed on antibiotics and on an IV. When I finally got to see him a few hours later it was hard to actually see him. Matthew wheeled me over, there were tubes and wires and he was covered up with a small patch of skin showing on his leg. The pediatrician told me it was ok to touch him. I was drained, I was exhausted, the pain meds were fading and I couldn’t see him. I went to bed that night not knowing what he looked like. Luckily, I only had to wait that night. The next morning the oxygen machine was off, he was breathing on his own, I finally got to see his face, hold him and we started breastfeeding. We were so incredibly lucky.
We both spent the next three days in the hospital recovering. Felix was being monitored and running his course of antibiotics. For me, my bladder wasn’t cooperating and I ended up needing catheters (not fun) which made for a longer stay. During those days we spent our time in the NICU with Felix learning how to breastfeed and if we weren’t in the NICU we were back in our room eating or sleeping. The last day in the hospital there was a fire on the first floor which is a story in its own right.
It took me a long time to be ok with feeling lucky and fortunate that things worked out and we were able to go home with a healthy baby but also ok with being unhappy with how the experience had gone for us because I know people live through far more difficult situations. When my back started acting up as a kid I always thought, if this is all I have to deal with then I’m pretty lucky. I still think that’s true and a great outlook to have… but it’s also ok to recognize that sometimes things can suck, make you sad and be scary. Learning to embrace those feelings, the good with the not so good, have helped me feel better and get back to my myself.
Now, on the other side of the haze I’m feeling so much better. I’m finally starting to physically feel better and be able to walk and cook pain-free as long as I don’t overdo it. Felix is doing great and we’re having a lot of fun each day being silly and following a very loose routine. I won’t lie, I do wish I would have been feeling better, emotionally and physically, earlier but it is what it is and I’m strong as heck.
For me, it feels good to open up about the experience in this way, I also found it helpful reading and relating to other women with similar yet different experiences. So if you’ve made it this far (congrats and thanks you) and just so happen to be feeling similar feel free to reach out, I know how much talking things out helped me ❤️