On July 29th 2007 seated in my doctor’s office holding my husband Paul’s hand tightly, we received the news that we were expecting. I met the wonderful news with tears of Joy, amazement, and tears of fear. This was indeed a miracle pregnancy and a miracle baby. Only a year before in June of 2006 my Husband and junior high school sweet heart had been diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Paul underwent a surgery to remove the cancerous tumor and when the pathology report came back it showed a non invasive semi nonmal type and the doctors felt they had got it all. We rejoiced as a family and decided to share our love with another child. Paul was so dedicated to creating another life that he refused radiology which would have destroyed his sperm. In May I encountered pain and bleeding during love making and I was diagnosed with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease as a result of an IUD I had removed 7 months prior. I was given antibiotics and when I asked how this would affect our chances of conceiving, I was informed that I would be infertile for a short time. I was shocked and a little discouraged but I felt if our family was meant to grow, it surely would and if not then we were already so blessed with our healthy and beautiful daughters, Aurora age 9 and Adeline 18months. Life continued as normal we all went on a trip to visit family in Ottawa.
Upon our return from the wedding in Ottawa On June 4th, we decided to cleanse and start trying to conceive. Paul and I thought it might take a little longer this time but we would just try and be relaxed about the process. In late July I started feeling a little off, although I was still having regular periods, I was feeling bloated and tired. I honestly did not think I was pregnant as I had had very early signs, cravings and consumed every tomatoe and orange in sight with both my daughters. I purchased a home pregnancy kit. With absolute amazement the test was positive even with all our hurdles. I was saddened to find not everyone felt the same sense of joy as they were worried about the future of our family. Enlarged lymph nodes had showed up on my husband’s latest CT scan. Paul and I continued to be optimistic and vowed to be strong and overcome any obstacles that would come our way.
On September 24 2007 we were told by Paul’s Oncologist that the cancer had in fact returned. I will never forget that day, my stomach jumped into my throat but I put on a brave face as she explained details of the Chemo. The therapy the father of my unborn baby and 2 children would undergo would be an intense one starting October 6th 2007. In a home where we have not used chemicals since 1999, just thinking of the harsh chemicals they wanted to pump directly into Paul’s veins made my mind scream “no”! We had come to the appointment in separate vehicles and when I reached my car I could only sit and stare into space. As I attempted to back out of the parking lot my head began to spin widely and I released a flood of tears. I called my family for help and this would not be the last time. I asked them to please pickup the girls as so Paul and I could go for coffee and digest what we had just been told. We went for dinner although neither of us ate much but as always my husband remained calm and positive about the upcoming treatments and this helped restore my sense of hope.
Originally we had decided to hire a Midwife as we both had yet to experience a natural home birth and I felt this may be my last chance at it. I was ecstatic when the Briar hill Midwives accepted us and I was impressed with their educated and caring attitudes, however my excitement was short lived as I encountered two episodes of bleeding and was diagnosed with placenta previa and was informed that I would require a hospital birth. I felt a little disappointed but told my self that I would do anything and go anywhere in order for this baby to come into this world healthy. I thought to myself ‘hospital bed or not I am going to make my birthing room a beautiful place’. In October I was four months along and I decided to take an early LOA from my work. I felt overwhelmed with the pressure of an Admin position, a baby on the way and my husband about to embark on a fight for his life. One night I had been crying for hours on end and so disappointed in my lack of optimism and my inability to balance my work and families crisis. I knew in my heart that the sound of my sobs was breaking my little baby’s heart so I decided to make a choice and take on a new role of supervisor of our family’s health and well being. I would take care of them whether that meant shopping for organic groceries, meditating together or just enjoying a cuddle on Paul’s hospital bed.
On November 24th, we hired a Doula, I felt we both could use the extra support and I was not prepared to give up on my dream of a natural birth.
As soon as I knew Shari was going to be apart of our birth team, I felt an instant sense of relief and confidence. I trusted her and had known Shari for 2 years. In January, Paul’s Chemo had been completed for a month and he was starting to get stronger and a sense of stability was returning to our lives. I started reading the Hypno Birthing book and practicing the exercises daily. I was afraid however that I had begun theses meditations too late as I was already eighth months pregnant, Shari helped me to release my fears and encouraged me to write them down. I started to place positive affirmations like “I will have a pain free birth”, “My body and mind are calm” all over the house. On February 29th at around 9:30pm I reached for something in a cupboard and as I came down from the stepping stool I felt a little gush of water trickle down my leg, laughing it off I said to Aurora whom was starring with wide eyes at the puddle on the floor, “oops either my water just broke or I just peed myself.” I called my husband who had just left for hockey and said that although I was not contracting that perhaps he should stay close to home just in case. With Both my daughters labor was a bit slow to start (my first took a total of 11 hours and second 42) but once my membranes and water broke I transition quickly and baby was born within 20 minutes of pushing the first time and only ten minutes for my second daughter. I wasn’t due until March 22 so I was a little surprised by my water breaking so early. We live on acreage, and I didn’t want to take the chance of having the baby on a bumpy gravel road. Paul returned home 10 pm; we called Shari to ask her for suggestions. Shari said that I should take a nice warm bath to relax. I enjoyed the bath and felt so relaxed and tired that I called Shari back say I was just going to slip into my warm bed. I knew that I was about to embark on some enduring moments so this was much needed rest. I called Shari back in the morning and she reminded us that since my water had broken last night that we would need to check in at the hospital. I had only experienced a few light contractions throughout the night, before heading to the hospitable we would enjoy breakfast as a family and go for a walk to do our “happy 4s”. A tradition we started when Paul was in Chemo. Our toddler named it “happy 4s” after I stared asking everyone in the family to recite four things they were happy for while on our walk; starring at our view of the Rockies.
We headed to the hospital to be checked because my water had been released for almost 12 hrs and I may need antibiotics at this point. Upon arriving in the triage at Foothills the nurse brought me to a stretcher bed and I laid back and read magazines. When the nurse came in to check on me and look at the readings from the belly monitor, she exclaimed “don’t you feel that?” I replied “feel what”? I guess the mediation and exercises from the Hypno Birthing book was working because my body was already working hard, but my mind hardly working, I was just being there in the moment and loving it. They confirmed that I was leaking amniotic fluid; I was 2cm dilated and they wanted to admit me. However my room was not ready yet so we kindly asked if it was ok if we went for lunch. They said fine as long as I was near by. We saw that as our window of opportunity to spend some precious alone time in a non sterile environment and headed for our doulas house which was nearby the hospitable. While there Shari gave me some castor oil to help move things along and suggested taking a brisk walk. Hand in Hand my husband and I enjoyed the scenery and we reflected on the past year and our future dreams. We then Told Shari we would call her as soon as we had our room and labour was more active, at this point I was still feeling only the occasional contraction but they were not painful. Once admitted to our hospital bed we went to work making our room as comfortable and familiar as possible. We set up flickering fake candles, a soft glowing salt rock light, my Birth Focus board and of course the Hypno meditation CD. We informed nurse Jillian we were prepared to have a natural birth and wanted to continue on with letting my body progress naturally. Dr. Slocum said she felt I needed to be induced and with a respectful tone and some good humour we made a deal with her to give us another hour and then I would go on the Pitocin drip. Our Nurse was wonderful and gave some great suggestions which I tried like walking the stairs and taking a shower and stimulating the nipples. I felt threatened at the thought of being induced. I didn’t want to loose control of this dream we had worked so hard for so I called in my support team to join me and Paul. Shari Gorman and my good friend Kylie Hanner whom is a labour and delivery nurse arrived shortly. I felt I needed them now in order to steer this labour in the right direction. After the hour things still had not picked up enough, and when Dr. Slocum saw my apprehension she was wise to ask “why is it you don’t want to be induced” I explained how rapid and sharp my contractions were after being induced with both the girls and how it lead to an epidural each time and I really wanted the chance to do it on my own this time. She explained that I didn’t have to have an epidural and that they could start me on a very low dose of Pitocin and that the contractions would stay manageable. I agreed and thanked her for giving me the chance. I had the IV hooked up at 5pm and was still 2 cm dilated when Dr. Slocum checked but I didn’t let it deter me in fact I had made a point of ignoring all the usual signs of progression, like timing the contractions, and I left it up to Paul to take notes and my body to do what it was made to do. At 7:00pm Shari was guiding me into helpful positions like the “grade 7 dance pose” and I felt so safe and loved in my husband’s arms. I felt like it was a full circle moment, it seemed just like yesterday we were a couple of nervous and shy kids dancing in the gym at the grade 7 dance and with sweaty palms and racing heart beats the energy and love between us then was already strong. Today that love was deeper and it would be the unspoken power that would get us through all the highs and lows. Later Dr. Slocum came in and commented on how quiet and peaceful the room was. I had been cheerful and joking around at the beginning but now was concentrating too deep and had not spoken a word in hours. Several nurses have also commented on how nice the room looked and that I appeared too calm to be in labour. The doctor checked me and said I was now 7cm. I was proud but continued to focus. With every surge I imagined myself sitting on a warm beach and the waves were gently coming up around my waist and then as the tide went back out I pictured the wave helping to pull my baby down and out. I don’t recall hearing the sound of the fetal monitor but Kylie later told me the baby’s heart beat remained at a level 130, strange because often baby’s heart rates race and drop during labour. It was as though baby and I were a team trusting one another. Shari and our new ingnuitive nurse Jody put together a birthing stool for me. And it helped take some of the pressure away from my bottom. Shari massaged my back with a hot rolling pin and another nurse who had once been a midwife took over to give her a break. This kind lady made me melt into the hospital bed as I bent over it with my face on my hands. I found myself enjoying the birthing stool with Paul behind me rubbing my shoulders and leaning against the window sill staring at my focus board and swaying my hips back and forth with each surge. I remember sleep breathing with each one and telling my self “wow your doing it, you haven’t had any pain medications and it doesn’t even hurt your really doing it!” at the most intense part of my contractions it felt like a period cramp. At 945pm Dr. Brown arrived to take over and found me to be almost 10cmm dilated. She wanted me to feel a little more of an urge to push before we started and suggested I move around and use the squatting position. I did this and at one point felt the baby descend hard down through the canal and I felt a sense of panic as I said out loud “I don’t want to do this anymore” and when I needed it most I received the largest prep rally ever as the room erupted in words of encouragement. I remember focusing on my child hood friend Kylies voice Saying “Michelle your almost there, your doing so great, you can do it!” I felt Paul’s love; I felt Shari and our nurse’s support. They all had been on this Marathon with me and had quietly observed and tended to my every need and now they wanted to see me cross the finish line. Dr. Brown came in and the team put up the squatting bar. I stood up straight on the bed and let gravity and my body do the work.
At 11:10pm I started pushing and it felt good to put some counter pressure on my perineum and then my baby’s head was delivered, Dr. Brown was wonderful and I felt good with her there just observing and ensuring I was safe but not speaking harsh or intervening. Only to help sit me back so we could deliver the baby’s shoulder which felt a little stuck and because all my fluid had leaked out by then it was not lubricated and I remember feeling the first real pain and saying “Get it out!” It was a pain that only lasted a few moments as our son was born soon after at 11:28pm on March 1st 2008, and it is a pain I would endure a hundred times over just to give my baby a safe and beautiful birth again. Our babies birth made me feel a sense of pride, joy and belief that with faith all things are possible. They weighed our sweet baby in at 6lbs 8oz and he appeared healthy and placed him in my arms. I couldn’t believe how much energy I had and how happy I was just starring at our new bundle of joy. It was as though I had a long relaxing nap during all that meditating and visualizing. And it is a good thing I had extra energy for it would be a long night. As luck would have it Owen was born 3 weeks early and it was one of the quietest nights on the postpartum floor in months thus we received extra attention and a caring nurse named Andrea closely examined Owen and noticed his nostrils flaring.
We had chose the name months before because I liked the meaning “young warrior” and he was about to fight his first battle. Owen was brought to the NICU to observe his laboured breathing and was later diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect. I had felt something was very wrong when my newborn was too lethargic to latch on yet kept attempting in hunger and in vein. I kept trying to nurse him in the NICU every couple of hours to no avail. At 6:00am March 2/08 while doing an Echo Dr. Fruitman very gently and simply explained what Owen’s heart defect was to me. He had a Coartation (narrowing in his Aorta) and a bicuspid valve. He was transferred by air to the University Hospital in Edmonton and we were left to drive up on our own and wonder what happened? I felt as though it was my fault and I truly had broken his heart with my sadness in my early stages of pregnancy. I had done every thing else right, so why had this happened?
His birth had healed both me and Paul’s hearts and we were not about to give into despair, we would sit by his side day and night caressing his little head, and helping with his care in any way possible until we could care for him our selves in our home 24 days later. Our little warrior hardly cried, after all he endured and was adored by all the nurses. His fighting and gentle spirit inherited by his dad inspired me and all whom met him. Owen has earned his name and is a healthy happy boy with a smile on his face at all times. I am grateful we had a Hospital home birth and that Owen had no extra stress placed on his heart with having a calm birth, I am grateful for all the twists and turns in my pregnancy because they all lead us to where we needed to be. I am grateful for our wonderful Birth support team and Family. That is my “Happy 4’s” and this; my son is a tribute to you on your first Birthday.
Love from your mama.