Today marks eight years since my first son was born. Eight years since becoming a Mother.
Below is the original birth story I wrote a few days after Lochlan was born for Squat Magazine's first issue, Hello World - Summer 2011 seen here.
Reading this, looking back on that day and thinking about the events that took place I definitely had birth trauma mixed with pride and gratitude. I can't say I would not make the same choices again to bring Lochlan into the world but I'm grateful I don't have to. After publishing this a lot of people attacked me and I allowed it to stifle my voice but, no more. I believe in my actions even if they were scary. I believe in natural birth. I believe women are powerful and we are being made to feel otherwise. We are being made to fear what our bodies are naturally designed to do. Not all births are traumatic. Not all births are peaceful. Birth is raw and real. There are highs and lows. Each woman deserves a choice on how she births. This was the choice I made with my first son.
On March 20th around 10:30pm I had a contraction; having had multiple contractions in the previous weeks I did not think a whole lot about it. However, when it came I said to my body, “Keep it coming.” I had prayed several times that day that my son would be born on March 21st, which is a special day because my little sister Emma was born on that day. Around 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30 I had more.
David came home around 1:30am from work and I told him I had been having contractions about every hour for the past four hours.
He said, “What can we do to keep them coming? I’m ready for our son to be here.” I told him to do some reflexology on my feet, which he did for a little under an hour. At 2:00am I had another contraction that was much stronger than the previous ones.
A little while later I called my Doula, Naomi O’ Callaghan to let her know I was having contractions about every twenty minutes. She told me to take a shower or bath, drink a glass of wine and try to get some sleep because if it was time for him to come I would need as much energy as I could get. I got off the phone with her and immediately had an intense contraction. David went and got me a glass of wine that I tried to drink. I could not drink it and ended up throwing up the wine, so then I tried to sleep.
I was so excited and the contractions kept coming every 10 minutes, then every 7 minutes and then they got down to every 5 minutes. I had to have David call Naomi to let her know because I could no longer talk through them. David called Naomi and she decided it was a good time to come over. I got in the shower to relax. I’m not exactly sure what time this was but I think maybe around 5:30 or 6; after my shower I continued laboring in my bedroom.
Naomi showed up at the house around 7:30. She came into our room and I immediately felt more relaxed and excited knowing my son was on his way. She told me her apprentice Stephanie was sick and would not be coming but asked if her other apprentice Sheree Edwards could come; I told her of course. The contractions kept coming on stronger and stronger and the best way for me to relax through them was on my hands and knees spiraling my hips or standing up with Naomi doing hip compression (these made the pain decrease by about 70% it was amazing). After each contraction I allowed myself to relax and enjoy my down time. I thought about the journey my son was taking and reminded myself he needed me to be strong and brave.
At one point Naomi, David, and I went on a walk around the block to help my labor progress. We passed by a man that was watering his lawn and I had to stop due to a contraction. You could tell he had no idea what was going on; I remember the look on his face…shock and awe. When we got back to the house Naomi checked me and told me I was at a 4. She said if I wanted to get the most use out of the birthing tub that we should head to the hospital.
We got to the hospital around 10am. I walked in alone while David parked the car and Naomi got her supplies ready. I was going through the doors when a contraction came; a nurse rushed over to me and yelled for someone to get a wheel chair. I told her I was fine and she insisted. I said, “No! I prefer to walk.” She looked at me and said, “You’re a warrior woman I can respect that.”
I went up to the labor and delivery floor where they checked me in to a triage room to monitor the baby and check my dilation. The nurse had me put on one of those awful hospital gowns and into a bed. I immediately felt nervous and uncomfortable. It was not a welcoming environment. A nurse came in and started asking me all sorts of questions, which was very confusing. I was in labor mode and anyone who has been in labor knows your brain does not work the same as in your “normal” state. The nurse checked my dilation and said she could not feel the head of the baby so she ordered for me to have an ultrasound. Before they did the ultrasound they informed me that my Dr. was out of town and so the on-call Dr. would be doing my delivery and she was not comfortable with water births. I felt so much disappointment at that point I could barely breathe.
Then the ultrasound technician came in and discovered the baby was a frank breech, another rush of panic. She immediately said, “Your baby is breech I’m going to order an epidural for your caesarean.” I lost my breath and felt tears swelling in my eyes. I had such a healthy pregnancy and he was turned down the whole time. I could not get my head wrapped around this. I asked her to wait a minute. Then the on-call Dr. came in and said she would be doing the surgery. She then said, “We need to get your epidural going.” I again asked her to wait and she said, “For what?” I responded, “To get my head wrapped around this.” She said, “Your baby is breech do you know what that means?” David and I looked at each other, aggravated that she felt the need to talk to us like we are uninformed parents. David asked me what I wanted to do. I asked him to get Naomi so I could talk to her. I did not want to have a cesarean but was not sure what my options would be. I asked the Dr. if I could get up and move around and try to adjust him myself and she said no I had to stay in the bed.
When Naomi came in I was crying. I could barely think through the contractions and being in the bed was making them so much worse. The nurse had been standing there staring at me, obviously wanting me to get a move on it. David asked Naomi what my options were and told her we did not want to have a cesarean. She saw that I was very upset and started calling Dr.’s to see if any of them would do a vaginal breech delivery at the hospital, none would.
I wanted to run away. I did not want to be at the hospital anymore. I had the strongest urge to get the hell out of there. My maternal instincts kicked in. I felt like if I stayed there my child and I would be in danger. Naomi then started calling midwives to see if any were available that had experience in breech deliveries. She finally was able to get in touch with one, Marvelys Lopez, who had actually delivered Naomi’s last child.
Naomi informed Marvy of the situation and asked her if she felt comfortable and confident in delivering a frank breech. She said yes but wanted to talk to use about the risks. David spoke with her and got all the pros and cons. After weighing them I decided I wanted to leave the hospital and deliver at home. We informed Marvy that we were broke and would not be able to pay her right away and she said, “The most important thing is that this baby is born into the world with love and care.” David and I could not have agreed more.
I told the nurse I was leaving and immediately asked to get unhooked from the machines. I had to sign an against medical advice form to leave. As we were walking out you could have heard a pin hit the floor. The nursing staff was in shock that I was leaving the hospital. I was so sure everything was going to be okay with the delivery. I knew it was a “risk” but I felt in my heart it was the right decision, even if it was against medical advice. As I was walking to the car I had another very strong contraction a nurse that was on break ran up to me and asked if I needed a wheelchair. I said, “No thank you I’m going home.” I will never forget the look on her face. It was priceless, one of complete confusion and disdain.
On the way home David called his parents, Gene and Diana and told them that we were coming home to deliver and that we were going to set up the tub outside. Once we got home everything after that became a blur because I was in active labor, but what I can remember is we arrived at the house and I immediately went outside and laid over a chair to labor while waiting for the midwife.
Sheree was rubbing my back and keeping me relaxed while David’s parents and sister were helping David and Naomi move the outside furniture for the tub and getting towels handy. I had a few contractions and all of a sudden the midwife was there along with her assistant Merrijayne Melnyk. I was so happy when she showed up because I knew the baby could come now.
Even though I had never met Marvy she had a relaxing, soothing and nurturing energy about her. I knew the baby and I were in good hands. A moment later another midwife showed up, Kim Trower, to be of assistance to Marvy. I had five women there to help me deliver my son. Incredible.
The tub was taking a long time to fill up so I asked if I could labor in the Jacuzzi. David came in with me. It was so intimate and loving having him behind me, holding my hips and rubbing my back. While we were in the Jacuzzi the doorbell rang and it was a police officer. The officer said there was a noise complaint and asked if “People were F!@&ing in the back yard?” He informed Gene that the neighbors called and said they thought a porno was being shot because a naked man and women were in a Jacuzzi while people were filming. David’s Dad informed him that it was not a porno that it was in fact a woman in labor. The police officer did not believe Gene so Gene said he could see it for himself. In the middle of a contraction I look up and a cop is standing there. We made eye contact and he looked a little scared. I smiled at him not quite sure what was going on and went back to laboring. He realized he could leave.
A couple minutes later my water broke and I felt the baby drop. I had to get out of the Jacuzzi because it was not a sterile environment. The tub was not ready and the midwife asked what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to be in water because I was scared it would hurt more if I were not. I suggested the master bath and they decided to get it ready for me. In between contractions I got out of the hot tub and rushed upstairs. When I got up there I threw my body over Gene and Diana’s bed because the tub was not ready and I was having a very intense contraction. I had a few more and then the babies’ feet came out.
At that point they realized the baby was not frank breech but in fact footling breech which is a much more complicated type of delivery. David said the midwives and Doula’s looked a little worried at that point. They asked me to get into the tub and might I say walking with feet hanging out of you is a little bizarre. As soon as I got in the tub the baby kept coming faster and faster and the pain kicked in full force. I started pushing as hard as I could with each contraction and with each push I felt my energy level deplete. At one point I could no longer feel contractions and it did not seem like I was getting anywhere. I kept looking down and could see his legs hanging out of me but nothing else. Naomi kept telling me to push, push, push, which I was but he was stuck.
I could feel a slight fear set into the room. Apparently, he had an arm caught by his neck and his cord had collapsed which meant he was no longer getting oxygen. All the midwives were doing what they could while I pushed to help him come out but nothing was working. After a couple minutes Marvy asked me to get me out of the tub. She asked me to lie on my back on the floor. I pulled my legs to my chest and with every ounce of energy in my body I gave one more push and she twisted the baby and he came out; he was very grey. He was not breathing on his own so they immediately began an Ambu bag.
At that point I thought to myself, what the hell did I do? I killed my baby. I am so selfish I should have had a c-section. I was scared but I knew I had to be there for him. I could not give up now. He was lying next to me looking so helpless. I then held his hand and started talking to him. I told him how much I loved him and wanted him to be here. I told him I knew he had just had a hard time but everything was going to be okay. I was so afraid. He did have a heart beat the whole time, which is one thing that kept me calm.
At about five minutes his color had gone from grey to pink. I looked up at David and he had tears in his eyes. As much as I wanted to comfort him I knew I had to stay in the moment with the baby to help him come to. After about 10 minutes he started taking breaths. At 12 minutes he was breathing on his own. I immediately felt happy and relieved. The air in the room got lighter and people started laughing and smiling. I loved him so much and was beyond proud of him for being so strong and brave.
Lochlan Eugene Johngrass was born on March 21st at 1:25pm on the bathroom floor in his Grandparents’ bedroom with the assistance of 2 Doula’s, 3 Midwives and the love of an entire family standing by. He weighed 6lbs and 8oz. A true miracle birth.