Today we welcome Cat to the blog. Cat’s birth story is both heartbreaking and profoundly beautiful so brace yourself for some #REALTALK. Cat’s story is a lesson in trust, surrender, adaptation and love. THANK YOU Cat for sharing.
If you’re reading this and you’re interested in sharing your experience with others, check out our #REALTALK Birth Stories main page.
Pregnancy and my father’s diagnosis
When I was two months pregnant my parents moved home after living in the UK for five years. Not long after that, very close to Christmas time, my father was diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer. For the next seven months I endured the most intense emotional roller coaster of my life. I was one of my father’s main caregivers. We would spend hours together in waiting rooms and at home by the fire. He promised me he would fight as hard as he could to meet my firstborn child.
It was my little sprout who gave my father hope. It was my little sprout who kept me grounded and healthy. Every ultrasound photo was quickly copied and dropped off to my father. He was the first to feel her kick from the outside. He was so frail and so sad but at that moment, with his hand on my belly, he looked at me with such joy in his face, it brought me to tears. My little sprout gave us all joy in a time of great distress. As my belly grew, my father shrank. As my skin glowed, he aged at a terrifying pace. We were all staring at the circle of life in plain sight. Love can be so excruciating.
My father died ten days before my daughter was born. His funeral was on her due date. Even now, typing this brings me to tears. The fact that he missed meeting her by only days is impossible for my heart to process.
My birth experience
On July 11th I was one week overdue and I went in for an ultrasound. I had been having what some call “false labour” for days. I had contractions that would increase in intensity and become closer together, then suddenly disappear. During the ultrasound I could sense that something was not right. The sonographer told me to go to labour and delivery right away; my baby was not moving well. Still mourning the loss of my father, I thought to myself, “Awwww hell no! Not sprout. Not my rainbow, my light. There’s no way I’m losing her too. Whatever you need to do to make sure she is okay, do whatever they advise you to do!”
I grew up with the knowledge that my mother, her mother and her grandmother all had trouble dilating and all had to have c-sections. I grew up thinking it must be genetic, I must be destined to have the same “malfunction” and a c-section would be the only option in the end. After meeting with my midwives, I changed my mind. The more I learned about how greatly labour is affected by your state of mind, the more determined I was than ever to break the cycle.
Throughout my pregnancy I read all the books about natural birth and I was obsessed with watching births on YouTube. I meditated, I did prenatal yoga, I practiced mindfulness. I planned for a hospital birth just in case but I carted a huge box into the hospital with supplies to create a “homey” atmosphere. To counterbalance what was happening with my father I was preparing for the most peaceful birth. I wanted to do right by my little sprout while also going with the flow since I knew going with the flow would help me dilate!
But…I wasn’t dilating, at least not yet at one week past my due date. I felt at war with fate. I lost my father, I wasn’t dilating after doing all the “right” things and now my daughter wasn’t moving well. It was at that moment on the way to labour and delivery that I realized I had to learn to accept my situation. I had to let go of any sense of control. Lo and behold, by the time my midwives arrived to check on me at the hospital, I’d started to dilate and it was determined that I was in early labour and my little sprout was okay. We were sent off to labour at home for a while.
On the way home from the hospital, my husband and I decided to go get brunch – our last date before parenthood. Brunch was interesting: my labour increased in intensity but I practiced my breathing and we were able to enjoy a lovely meal. Outside our brunch spot I noticed a sidewalk sign that said, “Inhale confidence, exhale doubt.”
We got home, my sister came to join us and I managed to get myself into that trance-like state of mind I’d read all about, listening to soothing music while bent over my birthing ball, breathing deeply through waves of contractions. I surrendered and it stopped feeling painful. I learned that it is possible! It was such a profound experience. When my labour got very intense my midwives said it was time to go to the hospital.
When we got settled in there I got into the same position with a birthing ball and back into that beautiful trance-like state. I stood up to take a bite of my dinner and suddenly I felt dizzy. I was hit with an overwhelming sense that something was not right. My midwife suggested I walk around a bit to help me dilate more but I couldn’t walk! She checked to listen to sprout’s heart rate and it had dropped.
Things got frantic. Fear kicked in and my contractions hit me so hard. I got scared and the pain was suddenly unbearable! Decisions had to be made quickly. My care was transferred from the midwife to the OB-GYN. Epidural was recommended. The doctor broke my water and there was meconium (baby’s first poop) in the fluid and the next thing I knew I was signing consent forms because it was c-section time. That c-section I tried so hard to avoid ended up happening despite all my hard work. Why? Because it turned out that my little sprout got stuck in my pelvis and was not tolerating it very well. All the while, my perfect little cervix was dilating like a champ.
By the time they wheeled me into the operating room I was making jokes and laughing at the situation. It was all too ridiculous, I couldn’t help it! My sister said at one point while she was waiting outside the operating room, a roar of laughter came from inside and she just knew it was me making jokes. Making light of a stressful situation. I was eager to meet my daughter and hold her in my arms.
My midwife told me she felt a presence in the operating room; her hair stood up on her arms when she felt it. I felt something too, and I know in my heart that my father was there to witness the birth of my daughter. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. He was there when my daughter Diana came into the world.
Watching my husband’s face change as he saw our baby for the first time was so beautiful. It was love! She let out strong, healthy, glorious scream. The feeling of holding her in my arms and the relief of hearing that she was as healthy as can be was profound. My heart ached with intense love as I watched every single perfect movement of her tiny little body.
I wouldn’t ask for a different experience. Was it the birth I planned? No, not at all. Was it perfect and incredible and beautiful? Yes. It was the most powerful experience of my entire life and I wouldn’t change a single thing. Through birth and death I know how deeply we can love. I learned to finally surrender; to trust and to accept things that are beyond my control.