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Maggie’s Rainbow Birth Story

I am so excited to share the story of Maggie’s birth.  More than 16 months after her birth, it’s ready for sharing!  It took 5 months to write, and another 11 months to post!  It’s only fitting, that for my fastest birth, this story has been slow to be shared.

I blame the postpartum hormones for the delay in writing this birth story, but really, it’s just been a hard one to sit down and process.  Perhaps this is because Maggie is my last baby, or perhaps because I didn’t plan to have three babies and three birth stories… and only two children visible to the outside world. This comes up a lot, even 16 months later.  I occasionally catch myself referring to Maggie as ‘a second baby’, which bothers me. She is our third. But she is the second baby that has come home to live with us. I’ve taken to calling her ‘a next baby’ when comparing the behaviour of our first to her – ‘Oh, well she’s a next baby, so of course she sleeps more’.  But I digress… to the birth!

My pregnancy with Maggie was typical of next babies – more generalized aches and pains, feeling bigger than I thought I should, more tired than I wanted to be.  Overall, I had no real complaints though. Interestingly, I felt confident that the baby was healthy. Often in pregnancies after loss, there is a lot of fear around all the things that could go wrong, but I didn’t feel much of this.  I did have a lot of worry in the first trimester about miscarriage, I just wasn’t sure my heart could take another loss. The chance that I’d have a miscarriage in first trimester was 25% (1 in 4 pregnancies) so I was more worried about that than another brain tumour. Once we got through the first trimester with nausea, low appetite, and being so so so so tired, I felt pretty great.  I realize that this is not the experience of most women having a baby after a miscarriage or stillbirth, and I want to acknowledge that. I am lucky to not have been riddled with anxiety throughout. Second and third trimesters felt slow, but I think I was just impatient to meet our baby. We did do an ultrasound this time around, at 24 weeks, limiting it to examining major organs and looking for major defects that would change our plan to birth at home, and everything looked great. I stopped work with my team at 37 weeks, but did go to two homebirth back ups between 37-38 weeks to pass the time!  The weeks off were nice and restful, I visited Audrey’s grave a few times and the last time I was there told her that I hoped to send news of a new baby brother or sister soon. My birth team and I did the ritual belly cast around 37-38 weeks.

On June 12th, I had my 39 week appointment with Amy (officially 38+6), and my blood pressure was up from my baseline. Not technically meeting criteria for high blood pressure, but high enough that given my history of high blood pressure with Norah, I was a bit nervous.  I really wanted baby born at home and didn’t want to have to make or talk through any tough decisions with Brian as I knew he was feeling scared about the upcoming birth and really just wanting a live baby in our arms. I went for blood work the next day and it came back with one abnormal value, same as with Norah.  Given that the recommendation in my first pregnancy was to get things going sooner than later, I knew that I wanted to do the same this time, before I developed high blood pressure requiring treatment/admission to hospital.

Also, I’d been induced twice (once with the castor oil and once with misoprostil), and both were successful, so I felt really comfortable. I was actually a little nervous about spontaneous labour, though I have a little twinge of regret that I don’t know what spontaneous labour feels like!

The evening of the 13th, I gave myself a membrane sweep (not an easy task!) and thought I was about 2 cm dilated.  I went to acupuncture the morning of the 14th, and after talking to Amy, I decided that I wanted to start the cocktail in the late evening of the 14th, hoping to birth while Norah was asleep. Of course, best laid plans….

Amy came over around 8pm and gave me a sweep to see if that would start things a bit more naturally. I was 4 cm dilated and stretchy, but ZERO signs of labour!

At 10:15 pm, I started drinking the cocktail, commenting to Morag, Jess, Amy, and Sav via text that it was grosser than I remembered!  I managed to get it down by 10:30 pm. At 10:32 I was nauseated and wanted to throw up, but didn’t, and I felt some cramping start, sporadic, maybe every 3-7 minutes. Brian was watching something terrible on TV and I needed something to keep myself occupied so I wouldn’t throw up, so I made him put on Thor: Rangkok (we are huge Marvel movie fans).

Suddenly, at 10:56, I felt or heard a pop of sorts, almost like my bones moving in my pelvis. I wasn’t sure what happened, so I asked Brian to grab a towel in case my water was breaking, and I ran from the couch to the bathroom.  But nothing was leaking. I sat on the toilet, experienced some ‘castor oil effects’, and at 10:58 I had my first contraction. After the second contraction, I called Anna to come and watch Norah, as I had a feeling things would move along quickly, and I wanted to make sure there was someone here just for her.  I told Brian to start filling the birth pool with straight hot water, and that we would add cold later. I crawled upstairs to grab my bathing suit top and had at least 2 contractions on the way, and I was already moaning through them. I made it downstairs to our lowest level where the pool was set up, and into the bathroom downstairs. Things were intense, I remember feeling surprised and upset that things seemed to be going so quickly.  Most of the pain was low in my abdomen and my back – no hip pain this time! The lack of hip pain was awesome to recall after the fact, though I didn’t appreciate it at the time. It was my biggest complaint through my first and second births.

I was miserable throughout every contraction – it just felt like it was happening too fast.  At 11:08, I called Jessica to come, and to call Morag and Savannah as well. Things felt serious.  I knew Amy was close by and I was worried that I was overreacting, so I didn’t call her yet. But within a few more contractions, I started to feel pushy. I called Amy at 11:16.  At 11:18, Jess texted to ask if she should stop for bubble tea (a craving I hadn’t indulged in all pregnancy, in fear of a 10 lb baby!), and my reply was ‘IMMEDIATE TO ME’. I knew I needed everyone here. I don’t know when everyone arrived, but Amy came first, followed by Jess and Sav and Morag, then Anna and Tracy.  While they were all arriving, I managed to get off the toilet and into the birth pool (remembering to tell Brian to turn the cold on before I got in!). The birth pool felt amazing, I’m glad we got it set up this time. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my bathing suit top on. I keep trying, but as you can see from the birth photos, it’s just hanging off the side of the tub, but I guess you can’t have it all. Ha.

Once in the tub, or possibly before, I was probably fully dilated, but I did not feel ready to birth her. I was hoping to make it to the 15th, because both Norah and Audrey were born on the 15th of their birth months! At one point I asked Brian what time it was, and it was 11:38. At that point, I knew baby was coming on the 14th, I could feel her head moving down and was trying so hard not to push her out all at once. This labour was my hardest labour, despite being the shortest. I’m not sure if it was the speed, or maybe just some fear causing it all to feel harder, but I did not enjoy it at all! I kept saying things like ‘Slow down baby’ ‘Don’t come too fast’ and ‘NO. NO. You can’t come right now’. Writing it out, I’m chuckling a little, but in the moment, I was serious.  Poor kid was being scolded before being born! 

Norah woke up probably 8 minutes before Maggie was born and Jess was able to settle her on the stairs (she didn’t want to come down), where she waited till Anna arrived and whisked her up to bed. Norah was super chill and went back to sleep after a quick chapter of Dragon Masters.

Maggie’s head was born into my hands at 11:46, just as Tracy, our back up, walked in the door. I moved positions slightly, and felt what I thought was a nuchal hand (hand at the side of the head/neck), but figured out it was cord (just like Norah!). I noticed the blood in the pool just before she was born, and made the announcement, that ‘oh no, there’s blood’ and was disappointed to see it! No tears with the other two babies.  I slipped the cord over her head, and with the next contraction pushed the rest of her body out. 11:48 pm on June 14th – 12 minutes until the 15th. I’m not gonna lie, I was tempted to lie about her birth time/date.

Maggie was brilliant, she was all calm and purple and beautiful, as all waterbirth babies tend to be. Covered in vernix like her eldest sister and with a true knot in her cord to boot!  I love looking at the pictures of these moments immediately after – I’m all ‘midwife mode’, assessing and checking her out, meanwhile, Brian is a hot mess of tears. We are so different, him and I, yet perfect for each other. 

The next few hours are pretty blurry for me. Probably 10 minutes or so after Maggie was born, I got out of the tub and delivered the placenta in the spare bedroom. My perineum was super sore and Amy checked and noted a small tear.  Within a few minutes though, I was in AGONY. I was developing a vulvar hematoma. We tried to put some pressure and ice on it, but it was way too painful for me to want to stay home, and it was continuing to slowly expand (though there was a short period where it seemed to get a bit better). By one hour postpartum we decided to transfer to BC Women’s expecting to have the hematoma incised and drained.  We had a great EMS team who transferred us to BC Women’s and once there, I was extremely well taken care of by my fabulous nursing and obstetrical colleagues. I may have been a tad bit bossy, but thankfully, no one was too upset with me about that. And I was right about what I needed anyways! I ended up losing 1.5 L of blood and needing 2 blood transfusions to compensate.

My birth team, minus Tracy, stayed with me in the hospital, Morag documented the moments in PAR and back in the labour suite where I was monitored for a bit. I’m so grateful as I really don’t remember any of those hours. We got home around 1 pm and settled in to our bed, our new family together at last.

The adjustment to being a bigger family has been good, mostly what I expected. There have been some harder moments with Norah wanting to be ‘the baby’ again, and testing out some behaviours (adjusting to new baby plus kindergarten is hard!), but there is also so much love for her new sister.

We also remember Audrey so much and wish she was here, though this is bittersweet, as we know that without Audrey’s death, Maggie would not be here. It’s a hard pill to swallow and brings lots of feelings with it.  Norah likes to talk about what it would be like with all three of our girls here, and I tease her and say ‘Gosh, we’d be busy!’  But oh, sweet Norah, how I wish the same thing – to have all my babies in my arms would be perfection, however impossible. Our family is a family of four to those who don’t know us, but we are five forever.

– Dawn

Image by Sakura Photography Leslie Biggar

My three babies by Sakura Photography Leslie Biggar

Dawn has always been a huge supporter of my work over the years. You will see her attending births as the midwife in a lot of my blog posts.

All images by Morag Hastings with Apple Blossom Families.

A huge thank you to my clients for sharing their birth stories with the world. It means so much to so many.

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