Jackson Bourne Hughes arrived on August 22, 2008 (nine days past my guess date) at 9:57 am. It’s difficult for me to write about his birth without also mentioning another event that occurred right around the same time in my life. My best friend Jill had been fighting cancer for just over a year, and she passed away the day before Jackson’s due date. I became pregnant while Jill was sick, and I feel like she will always be linked to my son in some way, even though she couldn’t meet him. The night Jill died, I remember being desperate for the baby to arrive right away because I wanted to be able to attend her funeral, which was 6 days away. I was writing a tribute to Jill with three other friends and I so badly wanted to be there to honour her in person. I did everything to get the baby to come… acupuncture, hypnotherapy, meditation, eating certain foods, walking, etc. None of this “worked” to bring on labour, but it definitely helped me feel more centered and relaxed during a very stressful time. I even let the doctor sweep my membranes (twice!) which he’d wanted to do for weeks, but that also didn’t do the trick.
The funeral came and I was able to give my speech for Jill, as I’d wanted to do. It was a very difficult day, but I remember being so comforted feeling the baby move and kick inside of me. It was a reminder that life goes on and there were still wonderful things to look forward to, despite the horrible circumstances. Jill had been so happy that I was pregnant, and was so excited to meet our baby. Even though she couldn’t, I feel like the baby helped me get through this time, and in retrospect, I’m so glad he arrived when he did. It gave me a chance to say goodbye to Jill before focusing on the baby.
I had been 4 cm opened and 100% effaced for weeks, and the baby’s head had also been fully engaged since 34 weeks. My doctor kept predicting that the baby would arrive early, so he was really surprised when I showed up at my 41 week final appointment still pregnant! I had been feeling cramps and a low back ache all day, but nothing too different from how I’d been feeling the last few weeks. Dr. Miller knew I was really opposed to induction, so he gave me the option of waiting until 11 or 12 days post-date. We signed the papers and scheduled it for Sunday, August 24th. I was a little depressed about the possible induction, but still hopeful I’d go into labour on my own. He also sent me for a non-stress test that day to make sure the baby was okay. Everything was great with baby and they noticed I was having mild contractions that were four minutes apart. I’d been having so many practice contractions that I didn’t pay much attention to these, but I was definitely hoping they’d be the start of the real thing! That night, we watched the Rider game, and throughout the game, I started feeling regular and noticeable contractions. They weren’t painful in the least… they just felt like a tightening sensation. They were still 4 minutes apart, and I wasn’t going to let myself get too excited until I knew this was really IT. After the game, our company left and I thought I’d try to get some sleep, but the surges were now coming every 3 minutes and there was no way I could sleep through them. They felt like a very strong cramp, but I found if I lay on my side and relaxed, they were totally manageable. I also listened to my affirmations and the rainbow relaxation, which kept me relaxed and focused. It didn’t take long before I decided to call my doula, Karen… things just seemed to be happening quickly. She arrived at about 11 and I felt like I was definitely in active labour. The contractions were about 2 minutes apart and I was focused inward during them and not able to talk. In between surges, I felt very relaxed and was still fairly talkative.
Karen and my husband Brent were anxious to get to the hospital because the surges were so close together and they knew I was already 4cm opened and fully effaced. We decided to head to the hospital at 1:30 am; in triage, they determined I was still only 4cm and were questioning whether or not I was in labour! They wouldn’t let me go home, but suggested I stay in triage for an hour or two to see how things progressed. I knew for sure that I was definitely in labour, and begged to be given a room so I could relax and get settled in. Luckily, they agreed and I was sent to room 8. At about 2am, I had a tub bath with Karen pouring water over my stomach, which felt SO good! The bath really seemed to help me relax, and I was quite comfortable and totally calm. I used my HypnoBirthing breathing techniques, and I also used a lot of visualization techniques- imagining my cervix opening and the blue ribbon visualization. We went back to the room about an hour later, and I was 6cm opened. The surges were getting stronger and I was more uncomfortable, so we headed back to the tub, where I stayed for about an hour and a half. I definitely loved labouring in the tub, and I wished I could have stayed in there all night! At 5am, they checked me again and I was still 6cm. My doctor was quite insistent that we rupture my water. He’d been suggesting it since I had arrived at the hospital and I’d said no up until that point. I agreed this time, and they broke my water at about 5:15 am. Unfortunately, the amniotic fluid was stained with meconium (likely just due to the fact that the baby was a little post-due), so they had to put the monitors on to keep track of his heart rate. In retrospect, I wish I wouldn’t have let them break my water, because the contractions and pressure became instantly extremely intense and I wasn’t really prepared for it. They offered the nitrous oxide gas, which I used for about 30 minutes. It was really helpful and just allowed me to get back into a more relaxed state. Within 15 minutes of breaking my water, I was at 8cm, and then about 15 minutes after that, I was at 10cm.
At about 6 am, I was ready to push the baby down. I definitely felt an urge to push and my doula suggested I just go with what my body was telling me to do. So, I did push but I was also trying to continue breathing deeply and to remain open and relaxed. Dr. Miller arrived at 7am and he was confident that the baby would be born very soon. He was crowning, but his head would then go back up after each surge ended and he just wouldn’t come down any further. At 8am, Dr Miller had to leave, and his back-up, Dr. McMeekin-Down arrived. I pushed for about another hour. I was so ready for the baby to be born, and it was getting disheartening that I could feel him come partly out every time, only to go back further after the contraction was over. We also tried changing positions a few times, but nothing seemed to help. Meanwhile, the doctor was getting concerned about the baby’s heart rate, which was going quite low. She wanted to help get him out and suggested the vacuum. I was a little worried about this, but again, I was so ready to have him be born, and I could tell he was so close to being out, so I agreed. The vacuum was the only time I felt true pain. It was very painful to put on, and the worst part was that it popped off three times. At this point, after being in the “pushing phase” of labour for 4 hours, they called in a specialist, Dr. Onasanya. He was very concerned about the baby’s heart rate, which continued to decrease, and was also concerned that my contractions were now quite far apart (about 15-20 minutes). The doctors agreed that we needed to get the baby out “NOW” and the only way to accomplish this was an assisted delivery with forceps. I was apprehensive, but the Dr. said it wouldn’t be bad at all since the baby was so close to being out; he just needed a little assistance to get his whole head through. The forceps were put on; I pushed with the next surge, and in about 30 seconds, Jackson was finally born!
I felt instant relief and total happiness when I saw him. Everyone then realized why it was a struggle to get him out. He was a very big baby….9lbs, 7oz, and he had a huge head!! He was also 23 inches long! He was perfectly healthy, despite all the concerns about his heart rate. I held him right away, but then I had to give him to Brent because I ended up with a fourth degree tear that had to be repaired. It was nice because Brent really got a chance to bond with him initially. But when I was ready, I got to hold and cuddle with him longer. He was so alert and calm, and nursed very easily. I felt totally elated afterwards…absolutely nothing can compare! It seemed like I was on a natural high, and even the hour long stitching and repair session didn’t bother me in the least. I really felt fantastic, despite having what doctors told me is the worst tear a person can get. Things didn’t work out exactly as I’d hoped for with his actual delivery, but that’s okay. I’ve learned that life usually doesn’t go as planned and you have to be flexible and find the positive in every situation. That said, the labour process went very well, and HypnoBirthing helped me to be very relaxed, calm, and positive. My recovery afterwards was also very smooth and I credit that partially to using my relaxation and positive visualization techniques. I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish; before I took HypnoBirthing, I thought there would be no way I could do it without an epidural and I was terrified of the whole process of birth. But I now realize it was the most amazing and rewarding experience of my life. I’m very grateful to have had such a wonderful birthing experience and I feel blessed and happy to have Jackson in my life now.
Written by Sarah Hughes, Oct 2008