My Birth Story

My Birth Story – Gabrielle Sofia – Born December 9th 10:25pm.

My water broke around 7am. I was giddy. Finally something was going to happen! Marc and I ate breakfast quietly, waiting for Brendan and Andrea to wake up. And waiting for contractions to start happening. I text my doula and friend, Emily Baxter in Vancouver, asking her for instruction. She text back promptly and asked if the waters were clear, and if I’d tested negative or positive for Group B Strep. I was negative, so she said that I wouldn’t be worried about getting the antibiotics. She said to wait a couple hours and phone my midwife Angela.

Brendan and Andrea woke up around 8am and we told them with huge smiles that my water broke.

At 9am, we phoned Angela and left a message for her on her office phone. We did not page her as it wasn’t urgent that she phone us back. It still could be a while before we got to meet our little one.

At 9:30am, we met our friend Theresa in Cook St Village for coffee. I was spilling water in little gushes by then and we had to go buy some pads to catch all this water. I was using cloth diaper inserts and I was leaking right through them. I had a big ol’ decaf mocha with lots of whipped cream and we sat on the couch and talked, breathless, about what was to come.


We went for a walk at Beacon Hill Park and while we were parking the car, Angela called. She wanted to meet with us at 12:45pm to see how I was doing and to give me the “potion.”

We walked and I started cramping a little but nothing significant. I made Marc take photos of me with my belly. I couldn’t tell you how excited I was to get rid of the uncomfortable 9-month-pregnant belly.

We met with Angela and she gave us the recipe for inducing labour. Castor Oil, Lemon Verbena, Apricot Juice, and Almond Butter. Mix it in a smoothie and give it a few hours. She said that she would phone us and come visit us after she was doing her clinic appointments around dinner time. We agreed and tromped off to find apricot juice and almond butter. Angela supplied the other two ingredients.

We went to the grocery store which was pretty busy, me still gushing water in little spurts, and Marc running around the grocery store picking up snack food in case we were in for a long night at the hospital walking the halls.

We got back to Brendan and Andrea’s place and Marc proceeded to make “The Potion.” Brendan sat on the couch with me and felt my belly, the baby’s little bum and he whispered “Brendan” into my belly, trying to convince the baby that Brendan was not only her favourite uncle, but also her first word.

At 1:30pm, Marc handed me this smoothie, which tasted… healthy or earthy or something. Not unpleasant but not something I’d say to myself “Oh today I want to drink a whole jug of that labour inducing cocktail! Bring it on!” Marc had strict instructions that I was to drink the whole Potion in 30 minutes.

We gave my parents a call to let them know that my water had broken and they were required in Victoria in the next few hours. Mom asked us “What do you want me to bring?” and Marc shouted out “Poppycock” which is one of his favourite Christmas popcorn treats.

I finished the smoothie just under the half hour window, and Marc and I sat down to watch a couple episodes from the first season of The Office. Brendan and Andrea decided to go for a walk.

At 3pm, I had my first strong contraction. After cramping for the last week, it was great to feel like this was actually happening now. A few minutes later, I had another one. Then another, and it was quite a bit more intense. I looked at Marc and said “I’ve decided I don’t really want to do this! That one hurt!” He smiled and said “I think they’re supposed to.”

I began having contractions every 5-7 minutes and they were still mild enough I could talk through some of them. I concentrated on keeping my hands and lips loose and thinking “Open. Open.” to my cervix. Marc used pressure points on my hands and feet that my acupuncturist had shown me.

Mom and Dad arrived between 5 and 6pm and Marc greeted them at the door. Mom handed Marc a big tub of poppycock with a smile and a hug. Marc laughed and told her she really didn’t have to make poppycock for him while her daughter laboured.

By 6:30pm, the contractions were getting strong and more painful. I was starting to moan through them, while Marc would work on my pressure points and I would work on breathing and keeping my hands loose. Angela showed up and I felt like things were really getting going. She checked me to see how dilated I was. I was convinced I would be 3 or 4 cm by then, but when she checked, I was 1 cm dilated. I was distraught. All this hard work and pain for 1 cm?? Was I going to make it?

Angela listened to the baby’s heart rate and it was great, she took my blood pressure which was normal. And she said “This is going to be a while. I’m gonna go home to get some sleep,” She’d had a birth the night before. “Call me when things really get roaring.”

My doula, Emily, text us and told us she would catch the 7pm ferry from Vancouver, getting into Victoria at 9:30pm. Emily and Angela were preparing themselves for a long night.

My contractions were getting quite painful at this point and I was making a lot of noise during the intensity. Moaning and breathing and crying out a little. I moved from an arm chair, to a couch on my side, to the floor to try on all fours, or on my knees. I was getting cold and shaking, then hot and sweating and I was intermittently in and out of the bathroom to relieve myself. But I found I was getting stuck on the toilet because I wouldn’t want to get up in case of an accident, but I didn’t want to be on it because I was getting so cold.

Just after 7pm, I found myself dreading the next contraction. I started wondering if I could do this. I thought “No wonder people want drugs!” I thought about how we were possibly going to get to the hospital when I was in this much pain. I was focusing on my fear and the pain, even though I was still keeping my hands loose. Marc and Mom were asking me questions like, did I want more ginger ale to keep up my strength? Did I want to move positions? At one point, we sent my dad out for straws for the ginger ale so I could drink it laying down.

At about 7:15pm, I moved to the toilet because I was worried about soiling myself. Marc sat across from me on the edge of the tub, I wouldn’t let him out of my sight, though my eyes were mostly closed at this point. He was doing pressure points on my hand to try to alleviate the pain. I found it was a good place to try to focus my attention and it let me know that he was right there, encouraging me, telling me that I was doing so good, and that I could do this. He kept coaching me to think thoughts of opening and he kept saying “Canyon, think Canyon.” which now is pretty funny.

While I sat on the toilet, Mom came in and asked a couple questions to Marc and I told her firmly but in a low voice “I need quiet please.” and she left the bathroom immediately. (I really appreciated how well she listened to me in this.)

I turned inward at this point. I could feel the contraction building up, and I concentrated on my breathing, I was quiet but taking deep long breaths. Then it would end and I would keep my eyes closed and talk to myself and the baby inwardly. I realized that I was dreading every contraction and even though my hands and lips were staying loose, my mind was not. It was clenching up, wanting and waiting it to ebb. I decided this kind of thinking was not helpful. If I approached every contraction with fear, it was going to be terrible. I told myself “I can do this. Millions of women give birth all the time. This will not kill me. They aren’t getting worse, the pain is staying the same.” And as I encouraged myself to embrace this intensity, the pain began centralizing in my pelvic region. Marc was so quiet and he couldn’t tell when I was having contractions anymore because I wasn’t crying out, but focusing. When I’d throw my head back to take a deep breath, he would say “There’s another one down, another one you’ll never have to do again. You’re doing such a good job!”

Then a contraction came on and I felt the urge to bear down. I let out a sound that I’ve never heard myself make. It sounded animalistic or instinctual, primal? I had two of these contractions, where I felt this overwhelming urge to bear down, and I shouted “Call Angela!” Marc shouted to my mom to call Angela and where the number was in our phone. She called back “I called her office.” and I said “No Page Her!” I had a couple more contractions where I was bearing down.

It was 9:30pm, and I’d been on the toilet for 2 hours. Angela called and heard my deep guttural noise as my body told me to push! She said “Get her to the hospital right now! I’ll meet you there.”

My family flew into action. Marc grabbed the backpack we’d packed for the hospital, Brendan got the keys and they worked on getting my shoes on and walking me to the car. Angela told Marc not to let me push, but told me to breathe through the pushing urge. Yeah Right!

Marc was in the back of the car with me, Brendan was driving, and drove he did! Everytime I’d have a contraction, Marc would say “Breathe Breathe!” and I would try so hard to breathe and not push. Then Marc would shout out directions to the hospital. Often it would take us 30 minutes to get there, but we made it there in record time. I remember being worried that we’d get pulled over and I didn’t have my seat belt on.

We made it to the Emergency room between 9:45 and 10pm, Brendan and Marc are nearly picking me up to get me out of the car and through the automatic doors, as I’m starting to bear down on another contraction.

The nurse says “Oh no, you’re in the wrong section. Go back outside and walk around to the North Tower.” What? Walk to a North Tower? All I wanted to do was have this baby. Someone was suddenly behind us saying “Do you want a wheelchair?”

I was plunked in the wheelchair, while Marc was running ahead of us, and Brendan was running, pushing the wheelchair. We went outside and around, it was raining.

Then we were inside again, trying to follow signs to Labour and Delivery, they had no idea where to go. The halls were empty and there was no one to ask. Finally they saw a janitor and he pointed them to the left. (I think)

At one point, we were going so fast down the hallway, I could see an automatic door ahead of us and it wasn’t going to open in time, I yelled at Brendan between contractions “Slow down!” before I went crashing into the closed door.

We found labour and delivery at 10pm, Angela was there. The nurses, Marc and Angela began ripping off my clothes from the waist down, and lifted me onto the table. Angela checked me and she said “Plus 2” but I thought she meant I was 2 cm dilated. But she meant that the baby was 2 cm past the cervix, into the birth canal.

She said “Alright Manda, it’s time to have this baby. Push like your body is telling you to.”

Another contraction came and I pushed, and she coached me to push without making any noise because my energy for pushing was going out my mouth instead of where it needed to be.

Suddenly, Emily my doula was standing by my head. My mom had arrived too and I had them on my left side and Marc and a nurse on my right side. Angela was down south.

The baby’s heart rate began dropping as she entered the birth canal. The obstetrician was at my feet, vacuum in hand.

He said “We’re going to have to vacuum this kid out.”

And I cried “No!”

Angela stepped between the OB and me, and said firmly “She does not want a vacuum.” then she turned to me and said “Manda, let’s get this baby out on the next contraction. You’re going to push, then take a breath, then push through this next one ok?”

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the nurses were very skeptical at this. A first time Mom pushing out a baby in one contraction is extremely optimistic.

The contraction came and I bore down, 3 pushes in one contraction and suddenly she was out!

Angela said “It’s a girl!”

She held her up, and I touched her. Then the doc’s cut her cord and kept it like a foot long, later I found out that my mom cut the cord right near the belly button. They brought her to the incubator right beside me and checked her oxygen levels. She was screaming by that point.

I was hemorrhaging pretty good so they gave me an IV with some oxytocin to help the uterus contract. I remember leaning over to Emily and putting my hand on her belly. She is nearly 5 months pregnant. I looked up at her and smiled and said “I’m so glad I’m not pregnant anymore!” She laughed.

They gave the baby back to me for half hour or so while I birthed the placenta and they stitched me up and we named her right then and there. Gabrielle Sofia.

Then they took her away in an incubator to monitor her oxygen saturation levels to insure she didn’t need surgery immediately. Marc went with her to the Special Care unit.

My parents and Brendan and Andrea came in to see me. They’d seen Gabrielle being wheeled out. My dad got my other brother James on the phone and we talked briefly. Marc called his mom to let her know and she headed immediately for the hospital.

I was helped into the shower then I got to go see my baby sleeping in her little incubator.

She was so tiny. 5 lbs 11 oz, or 2600 grams.

The next morning the specialist was taking a look at her heart when Marc and I rolled into the room at 8am. He said that she looked great and though you could hear a whooshing sound when you listen to her heart, her oxygen saturation level was really good at 92%. (Most people have a saturation level at 99 or 100%.) So our new little one got an A+ in oxygen class! The specialist said we could discharge her from the special care unit and into my room. They wanted us to stay until the next day and then we could go home. We were thrilled after steeling ourselves for a possible 5 day visit, a 2 day stay-in sounded quite palatable.

The nurses were rather shocked that a heart defect baby was being transfered into the Mother/babe unit and able to stay with me. I was only thankful.

We entered the hospital in a mad rush on Thursday night at 10pm, and we were out by Saturday at 3pm. By then she was breastfeeding well and my milk was starting to come in. We stayed with Andrea and Brendan for a couple more nights then on Monday we moved to a friend’s suite so we wouldn’t keep Bren and Andrea up at nights if she cried. Andrea is studying for her final exams in her last semester of her undergrad, so sleep should definitely a priority for her right now. Apparently it’s quite distracting to have a niece in the house that is “The Cuteness” and try to do anything productive but stare at her. And we do stare. So much. We can’t help ourselves.

We met with the specialist yesterday and her oxygen saturation level was 99%. We have an appointment once a week with him, measuring her saturation levels and her weight. We need to her to have high saturation levels and really start gaining weight to show that she is healthy and growing.

We’re utterly succumbing to the “baby moon” and falling in love with our little girl. We revolve between calling her Gabrielle, Brie, Brielle or once in a while Elle. We’re avoiding Gabby because we prefer the other names.

After Christmas, we’ll head back to Pender to acquaint her with boat life and the kitty cats. Until then, we wanted to say how much we have appreciated your prayers and love and support over the last couple weeks as we found out about Gabrielle’s tetralogy. I am completely convinced that all the love and prayers made the difference in my birth experience which was positive and fast. I would not say easy because as I was reminded, it is called “labour” for a reason. But it was exactly the kind of birth I dreamed for. Thank you Thank you thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

Because of your love, we experienced Peace that passes all understanding. It brings tears to my eyes to think how blessed we are.

Blessings to you in this holiday season.


About Amanda

Living a simple quiet life on the Gulf Islands, BC.

9 Thoughts on “My Birth Story

  1. riveting birth story! Congrats, she is stunning

  2. there is no “comment” fitting to that story so i’ll just say WOW and leave it at that. congrats again :)

  3. I’m so glad I got to be as much a part of Gabrielle’s birth as I was. She is an amazing little girl, and you are inspiring!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. “Bearing down” sounds extremely foreign and incredible………
    Congratulations!!

  5. Yay! Welcome to the world fierce little Gabrielle! Amanada, I am so glad you got the birth you dreamed of and thrilled that she is doing so very, very well!

  6. LOVED reading this friend. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Tears and more tears…very grateful for healthy mom and babe. Thank you for allowing me to take part in your birth story, Manda. Please tell Marc, “you a treasure and a gift to our family and I love that you love my little girl so well!”

  8. Deb Weyrich-Cody on 17 December, 2010 at 8:52 am said:

    Tears streaming down my cheeks, but tears of joy… So, so glad that everything is going so very well for all of you!! She is an angel: CONGRATULATIONS!! Such a beautiful photo of you and the babe.

  9. What a beautiful and intense story. I’m so glad her levels were so high! That last picture of you and her is just incredible. Frame that one!

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