With my husband Jeff by my side, I gave birth to Jack Richard Calvin Thrasher on September 28, 2011 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Being pregnant with Jack was an easy and believe it or not, enjoyable experience. Frequent urination aside, I actually loved being pregnant! And I’m still trying to decide if the fact that I was able to sleep well throughout my entire pregnancy turned out to be a blessing or a curse. Sometimes I look at Jack and can hardly believe that for nine months, he was a part of me. Every day, he heard the beating of my heart and every time I went to the doctor’s, I heard his. He felt my every move constantly and I felt his (hiccups included). And now, it’s the thought of that ultimate closeness, that extraordinary time in my life, that incredible journey that we took together that keeps me strong in my moments of weakness, exhaustion and exasperation. My advice to new mothers struggling through the trials (oh and there will be trials) of motherhood is to take one look at your baby’s perfect little mouth, tiny little nose and delicate little fingers and just remember where he or she came from.
The birth of our baby began with a “POP”! It was 12:30 am on Sept. 28th (only a half hour after my due date had come and gone) when Jeff and I went to bed. Suddenly, we both heard and felt what can only be described as a water balloon bursting, followed by a gush of liquid. The very surprising and strange sensation jolted us out of our almost-asleep states. Immediately, Jeff got up and started getting dressed while I decided I should stay in bed and try to relax since I wasn’t having any contractions. Very soon after making that decision, the contractions started. Unlike the many books that we had read in preparation for this moment, the contractions were all over the place, coming and going for 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 9 minutes. Some contractions seemed to just roll into the next, getting stronger and stronger. By 1:30 am, Jeff was on the phone with triage and the on-call resident at Mount Sinai, relaying what was happening as I paced the apartment to get through each contraction. As soon as the on-call resident suggested that we come in, we grabbed our bags, said bye to our cat Marvin and were off!
We made our way to the hospital through half-empty streets. When I wasn’t gripping the door handle of the car to ease the pain, I grappled with the reality that our lives, as Jeff and Carolyn, were about to change forever. The little being that had been growing inside of me for the last 9 months would soon be in our arms. I think the reality of our situation was also hitting Jeff but he seemed to be dealing with it a little differently, cracking jokes and taking photos in the car, in admitting and while we waited for a bed in triage. I laughed at him for a while but when the contractions turned into the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life, comedy hour was over for me. In fact, I couldn’t even crack a smile at the nurses who were helping me. All I could think of was how much it hurt and how badly I wanted the epidural. All I could do was squeeze Jeff’s hand, mutter obscenities and repeat ‘oh God’ over and over. Going through labour pretty much diminishes any inhibitions or reservations you have about others, even complete strangers, seeing you so vulnerable, whether it be experiencing extreme pain, being completely naked, or openly having bodily functions that usually take place in private.
Another thing I found strange about the labour process was the passage of time. From the moment my water broke, I felt like I was in a time warp. Several hours felt like only minutes, which when I was in pain was quite the blessing. At around 4:30 am, Jeff and I were taken from triage to the birthing room where our baby would eventually be born. Within a few minutes, the anesthetist arrived to give me the epidural. As she got everything ready and sat me on the bed in the proper position, I began to worry that I would have a contraction while she was inserting the needle but somehow, my body just seemed to know that now was not a good time because not a single contraction came as she administered the epidural.
The drug took a few minutes to start working and when it did, I became a whole new person or rather I became myself again. I was smiling, laughing and chit-chatting with the nurses and doctors. I honestly cannot fathom how women have natural births and endure such pain for so many hours. Kudos to them because I’m positive that I wouldn’t be able to do it unless I had no other choice.
With the lower part of my body feeling comfortably numb, I was able to rest and prepare for the big event, which is what Jeff and I did from about 5:00 am to 2 in the afternoon. Various doctors and nurses stopped in to check on the baby and measure my progress. At first I started dilating quickly from 3 cm to almost 6 cm in just a couple of hours. Then the progress slowed down and I had to be given oxytocin to speed things along. Finally, I was fully dilated by 2:00 pm but not feeling any pressure from the baby wanting to come out. The doctors decided that I should try pushing anyway to see how I would do. With my legs propped against the hip of each doctor, I began pushing. At first, it seemed futile because without the pressure of the baby’s head, I wasn’t able to bear down and push in the right spot. But as I kept at it, the pressure started to build and the pushing became easier and harder at the same time.
When one of the doctors was called away to check on another patient, Jeff stepped in and coached me from the “front row”. With my leg against his hip, I took a deep breath and pushed 4 times with each contraction. With the pressure building from the baby’s head getting closer and closer to the outside world, it became a lot easier to push more effectively but the pressure itself was extremely uncomfortable. I wasn’t offered a mirror to see what was happening and even if I was, I don’t know that I would have taken it. However, I could see just enough of what was happening in the reflection of the television set that was directly in front of me. The more I pushed, the more I could see what I guessed was the top of the baby’s head.
I had been pushing for about two hours (although it didn’t feel that long at all) when the baby’s heart rate began to slow down with each contraction, prompting the doctor to massage the top of the head to bring the heart rate back up. As the baby’s head started to come out, the doctor’s picked up the pace, working so quickly, I wasn’t completely aware of what they were doing (Jeff filled me in after the fact). They told me that they needed to do an episotomy in order to give the baby more room to get out quicker. I nodded that it was fine as I was open to doing whatever needed to be done to get the baby out safe and sound.
I’m not really sure what happened next down there, all I recall is seeing the baby’s head come out completely, followed by shoulders, arms, torso and legs. It felt like a giant suction that took my breath away. As I struggled to catch my breath, I also started to cry – I just couldn’t believe that the baby that was inside of me was now here, in the flesh.
The respiratory therapist checked the baby quickly and next thing I knew, our baby was being put on my chest. With Jeff by my side, we looked at this little person for the first time, still in so much shock that we hadn’t even looked to see if we’d had a boy or girl. Within seconds, we clued in and realized that we had given birth to a healthy boy at 4:44 pm!
Shortly after that, the nurse whisked him away to be weighed and have his APGAR score checked while I delivered the placenta and the doctors worked on sewing me up. A few minutes later, the nurse gave him back to us and she and the doctors left the room to give us a moment before our families came rushing in (who we could hear from the doorway asking if the baby had been delivered yet). That moment that we shared, just the three of us, was entirely magical and utterly indescribable. I felt so at peace, so grateful, so close to my husband and so in awe of my newborn baby — for me, that moment defines the entire birth of our son and the beginning of his life as it was in that very moment that we decided he would be called Jack Richard Calvin Thrasher.
Many thanks to the great nurses and doctors on the 7th floor at Mount Sinai Hospital for their care in the safe delivery of baby Jack!