But then, something happened. I started to read, a lot. All kinds of posts on all kinds of experiences… in books, in magazines, all over the web. That was a mistake. The seed of doubt, once planted, is impossible to dispose of. My mind started to weigh down with all the horrible things that could happen at any—-and every—-moment. Miscarriage, pre-term labor, gestational diabetes, eating the wrong thing that can affect the baby… the list goes on and on. There is truly an endless list of things that can go wrong in a pregnancy.
I took my prenatal vitamins every day. I actually quite liked them. Rainbow Light Certified Organic Prenatal Vitamins (in vegetarian capsules!) were gentle, and never upset my stomach, a problem I consistently have with superficial vitamins. I tried to eat healthy, and yet would worry I was not eating healthy enough. I’d worry the fumes of something could hurt the baby. It became ridiculous. And then I started to freak out about labor. I thought to myself, How am I ever going to do this? Now that I’ve gotten myself into this, there’s no going back. I’ll never be able to do it!!!
A friend went to a baby expo with a parent friend of hers, and picked me up a few things. I won’t ever be able to repay her for that kindness, as it had a priceless affect on me. Among other things, she had picked up a book called Adventures in Birthing: Natural Childbirth Stories and Approaches by Janet Schwegel, published by ASAC, the same people who publish the Birth Issues magazine in Alberta. Forget What to Expect When You’re Expecting, this is the book I’d recommend every pregnant woman to read.
I read the book slowly and thoughtfully, really visualizing the experiences these women were having in the book as they shared their stories of labor and childbirth. There were a lot of moments I was grossed out, “Mucus plug? What? Eww!!!” But something slowly started happening inside me as I worked my way through the book. I’d come to accept the things I was reading, and acknowledge them as natural. By the end of the book, I wasn’t afraid anymore. Although unassisted childbirth didn’t seem like what I wanted, I did want to use a midwife, and although a home birth wasn’t an option for me (house was under renovations), a birthing centre seemed like a beautiful idea. I called around to the 5 midwifery groups in Edmonton, AB, my hopes high for having the birthing experience I now had in my head. I was quite disappointed to discover they were all booked up already. So I resigned myself to a hospital birth at the Royal Alexandria in downtown.
Things proceeded as expected. The months came, and went. When I was 23 weeks along, we went to UC Baby for a 3D ultrasound. I was in awe of this perfect, chubby-cheeked little guy sitting in my belly. We also found out the gender. My suspicion had been right: we were expecting a little baby boy. After it was over, we ran errands while we bickered over the name. We had two favorites, and had opposite opinions about which name was the most suitable for our little boy. Now that we’d actually seen him, it seemed only appropriate to find his name.
One thing I was immensely surprised by, was that I never… ever… got the pregnancy waddle. I swear, I really didn’t. Each day, I’d expect it to start happening, but it never did. I also never had to roll out of bed. At 7 months, my husband and I took a road trip to Vancouver, and on our last day (we were there and on Vancouver Island for a total of 8 days) I climbed the Grouse Grind trail of Grouse Mountain. It was slow going, as the 1.8 mile hike (which was very steep, mind you) took us 2 hours. But we did it, and I can’t even explain the amazing feeling that overcomes you when you get to the top and realize you made it.
Around this time—-after all, I hiked up a steep trail for 2 hours and didn’t go into labor early—-I started to suspect our son would be born late. One thing was starting to weigh heavily on my mind. Shortly after we got back from our Vancouver trip, an ultrasound done for medical reasons came back showing some white spots on the heart. My OB informed me that is a soft marker for down syndrome. She told me that it was very unlikely, and that I should forget about it. But, still. The seed was planted. I worried, mostly in silence. When my husband brought it up, I acted like I wasn’t concerned so as not to scare him.
Then, our second scare happened. Around 36 weeks, I went in for my usual appointment with my OB. She listened to my baby’s boy’s heartbeat, like any other appointment. But this time, there’d be a random stop, and then the heartbeats would continue again. I thought it was nothing until I heard it for the fourth time. My OB said, to be safe, I should go in for an ultrasound the following week. I said little, but internally, I was really freaking out.
Five days later, my husband and I went in for the ultrasound. As I looked at the monitor of my baby, I thought to myself how perfect he looked. “Everything is going to be fine,” I told myself. The technician said nothing during the whole ultrasound, and then excused herself to consult the supervising doctor on shift. When she came back, she wasn’t alone. “Oh my god, something must be wrong,” I thought. I felt tears threaten to unleash themselves, and I held them back. Even my husband, when he looked up, was startled to see that the doctor had come in. He also suspected it must be because there was bad news. The doctor introduced himself, and said he was going to do the ultrasound. After a minute, he said, “I’m trying to find out why you’re—-otherwise perfectly healthy—-baby is having a skipped heartbeat.” He didn’t speak for another few minutes. “Here,” he said. Pointing it out for the technician as well as us. “You see this?” There were a few lines under the baby’s head. “The umbilical cord is wrapped around his neck, I’d say three times.” That was the culprit. He told us that it did not harm the baby, and there was no reason to intervene with anything. “There are precautions they will probably take with delivery, but chances are things will be fine.” Then he was gone. Finally, I felt I could exhale.
My due date, August 27th, came and went. Finally, 6 days overdue, my husband and I welcome our son into the world. He was perfectly healthy, so I had worried for naught.
One thing to remember about pregnancy, is that each experience is unique. Your pregnancy, labor, and birthing experience will be yours, and yours alone. Even with multiple children, each pregnancy is its own, so enjoy it for what it is. It only happens once.
Me at 23 weeks