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Chantal, Mark and Josef

‘If this little one decides to stay with us it’s going to be a boy’.

I felt a strong connection to him from the very start. I meditated with him almost daily and decided to ask him when he was going to arrive. I always thought he’d come earlier than term, so when I got the answer of 8 I took it to mean 38 wks, June 28 or July 8. As each of those markers passed I began to feel a sadness set in. At 39 wks I felt like my ‘birthing window’ had closed.

On July 9 I woke up in the middle of the night in tears, feeling like I had lost that connection and that perhaps it never even existed. I spent the next few days trying to re-focus. I meditated holding my tummy, did yoga and wrote pages in my journal and his letter journal.

On July 12th, my due date, we went to the midwife in the AM and was told I was only 1 cm dilated with a posterior cervix. She said I could go into labor this weekend but she could always strip the membranes on Monday if not. It seemed like my body wasn’t ready. I went home not knowing what to do with myself. I read an article my doula sent me which had the line ‘Shouldn’t there be a word for this state of being, describing the time and place where mothers linger, waiting to be called forward?’ and flooded up again. Not because of this ‘in-between’ but rather the realisation of how sad I was that this pregnancy was coming to an end. It had been such an incredible time and despite some of my discomforts I’d never been happier. I was grieving the end of my pregnancy.

I took out my letter journal to Snowman and wrote him one final note. I thanked him for the beautiful journey together and told him that now he was free to start his own adventures. I let go of my attachment to him inside of me with great sadness but almost immediately felt a weight lift off my shoulders. That night Mark was at a work dinner and I was feeling exhausted but thought it was from the emotions of the day. Mark got home around 10pm and as we were catching up I felt a twinge

“I think that might have been a little contraction”, I said…

Three small twinges in my lower abdomen started at 11:10pm. I had spotted a bit but thought it was because of the cervical exam. The tightenings stopped, we went to bed. At 12:40am a stronger tightening woke me, I waited but nothing.

I tried to sleep but couldn’t. At 1:46 a clear painful contraction shot me up. Mark woke at 2:30, I told him that I had been having irregular contractions. Another painful one at 3:00, another three then nothing. We waited an hour to call the midwife. At 4:30, we woke her and she said we would be laboring at home for a long time.

I had started to make noises and they were getting more powerful. I threw up. The doula arrived an hour later. Everyone said we had a long time to go. At this point I started to question if I was weak or crazy as I couldn’t understand how. I could no longer speak to anyone. Every time one would come I would barrel my head into Mark’s chest like a bull. We were sweating and I found comfort in the skin to skin and hard work. He was talking me through each one as I held his thighs and pushed my body forward to counter the pain.

We took a position on the floor, my arm around Mark’s neck, my shoulder pushing into his, my head rocking against the birth ball and me pulling his boxers. The noises that began to come out of me were unrecognizable. My doula told me to breath the baby down. Mark coached me through every one, reminding me to relax and recover in between. Straws were coming in from between arms and cold compresses appeared on my neck.

I had no idea where I was or what was happening. At one point all I could hear were negotiations to get to the hospital. I asked for the time, it was 7:39, I thought of the number 8. I didn’t know how we would get there.

The elevator doors opened to a full car. Mark said ‘she is in labour’. No one moved. So we all got in. Another huge contraction. Down to the lobby, another contraction. The Uber, who knew I was in labour, had left. The doorman suggested an ambulance, Mark told him to get a cab. Another huge contraction, this time the pressure was surreal. Something was opening.

I got in the cab and could not sit down. I put one knee on the seat and one foot on the floor. Mark crawled in and we resumed our position.

My noises changed again. With every contraction I felt an opening. I kept thinking is this transition. I better not get to the hospital to be told I’m only 4cm! The contractions started getting closer and closer. The cab ride felt like it was taking forever. At Central Park I said:

‘It’s too far’.

My body knew the baby was coming. My brain was still trying to convince itself that these were just intense contractions. I continued to breath the baby down, the contractions were 30 secs apart and as Mark said ‘I can see the hospital’ I said ‘his head is coming out’. Mark said ‘No it isn’t’. I pulled down my shorts and I could feel his head, it was half out, then came his face.

Mark started yelling: ‘he’s blue, he’s blue’! As we pulled up to A&E he started yelling for help. I remember looking at my baby’s head, looking for the cord around his neck and then pulling him out and up on top of me. He wasn’t moving.

‘Is he ok?’ I asked the doula, then a little squeal and then a cry.

Tears of relief came flooding out.

I told Mark to stop yelling, to not scare the baby. The doors were flying open and people were all over me. I was holding my baby as an FDNY officer was yelling out his APGAR score, saying he was perfect and calling Mark over to cut the cord.

As I was helped out of the cab I saw the driver cheer his hands up and tons of people all around. Little Josef was given back to me wrapped in foil to keep him warm, he had arrived around 8:19am. But I guess no one knows for sure…

I was wheeled from the street into the birthing centre and all I could do was stare at this little creature in my arms. I don’t even remember who was around me or what I said or did but once we got to the birthing centre I thought it was over.

I had completely forgotten about my placenta and so had my body. My midwife told me to push out my placenta and I had no idea how to push, as I hadn’t needed to do this to get the baby out. My contractions had stopped. They brought Josef to my chest to latch and create the oxytocin needed to release the afterbirth. It didn’t work.

They flipped me on all fours, and then stood me up, still nothing. It was like a smaller version of labour. Finally they brought in a doctor from the OR. My placenta was tightly attached to my uterus and was not letting go. I had to go into surgery. After a drug free birth I was injected with a spinal, a drip of pitocin and something to relax my uterus. My legs started to numb and tingle and were lifted up into stir-ups.

I started to panic, the sensation of not feeling my legs was so strange. My placenta was attached to the top of my uterus so you can imagine how far the surgeon had to reach in to detach it. I could feel all the pushing and pulling in my abdomen. It took 15 mins but luckily it came out whole and healthy.

​They tore me in the procedure so had to give me stitches. I was wheeled back to recovery and for the first time I was alone. I was empty, there was no one around and I couldn’t move from the waist down. It felt horrible and scary. Luckily after 20 mins Mark and Josef were allowed to join me and my heart was full again. Finally together as a family, a team of three.

I was separated from Josef for most of the first day of his life, as he had to go under the UV lights that night as well. I’m still processing this and am surprised by the impact it has had on me. I realised the other day that other than in the Taxi I had never held him fully naked until his first sponge bath or kissed his little bottom. He is growing so fast and I already want time to slow down. He’s definitely a lesson in enjoying every moment.