I kept a few notes in my private journal leading up to and during my pregnancy so I figured I would add some of them to this post about the delivery and postpartum so far…
We talked about having a child a lot and I’m still on the fence given my issues with PCOS and other issues that I’m not ready to get into here. But in case we decide to start trying, I wanted to give my body a chance so I went off my PCOS medications and started cleaning up my lifestyle a bit by occasionally working out and mostly eating clean.
Something clicked while we were in France. C and I were just in sync on this topic. I started to see the possibility of building a little family for us. The opportunities we could give that child between the two of us were special. So a decision was made quietly.
Since France, I’ve refrained from alcohol, nitrates, and generally ate super healthy and clean in preparation for this mystical pregnancy. Too many negative tests though. I think it’s time we start coming to terms with the possibility that it may not happen for us. Feeling a bit frustrated.
January 16, 2020
So after a few days of feeling like I’d swallowed a balloon that refused to pop (bloating), I decided to take a test. There were other things too that prompted me — my period was late, not that this was very unusual given my history with PCOS. I was also so sore all over and my stomach felt like it was ripping itself apart. So in general, I had an inkling but we’d started to give up on the idea of a baby at this point so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But I had a feeling. So before we headed down to the gym in our building, I told C I was going to take a test. I waited. I watched. First line. That’s where it usually stopped. But this time the second pink line started to form and I was in utter shock. C came over and saw two lines. We just looked at each other and smiled. “No way.” I whispered. Could it be a false positive? We’d had so many negative tests the past few months that we couldn’t believe our eyes; we didn’t want to get too excited. I’d go to the doctor and confirm it. But in that moment it felt like our whole world shifted a few centimetres.
February 14, 2020 (Valentine’s day was a total coincidence for this appointment)
We got our first ultrasound today. Yep, there’s something in there. It’s a bit surreal.
I haven’t written much about the process because I’ve just been feel like absolute death. I don’t care if that’s an exaggeration. I’m nauseous for like 80% of my day. I am also exhausted 100% of the time. No matter how much sleep I get, I feel as though I can’t function past 4 p.m. Working has not been pleasant but apparently this is what first trimester is like. I feel like everyone omits the negative details of the whole pregnancy thing… Where is this pregnancy glow and happiness everyone talks about?
March 11th, 2020
2nd ultrasound and blood test to check for genetic issues (i.e. Downe Syndrome, etc.). Waiting for the results.
Update: Looks like everything is good. I’m starting to feel a lot better; nausea subsided and I have energy again. Though dizzy spells have become a thing now. On the bright side of things, I can eat and enjoy food again; C’s homemade pizzas are to die-for.
Though we’ve subconsciously been dreaming of having a little girl, we found out we’re having a boy and C wants to name him Leonidas. After a few other less stellar but equally strong proposals, I agreed but only if I can call him Leo!
Fun pregnancy fact — carpal tunnel is now a thing in my life.
We’ve both been working remotely since my second trimester mid-March because of COVID-19. This has given us a lot of quality time together. I am a bit sad because C has only been able to come to the first ultrasound back in February but it’s okay, we love daydreaming about what life with Leo will be like. We’ve also decided to move to KW for the length of my maternity leave to be closer to family then move back to Toronto once I’m ready to go back to work again. This seems like a logical thing to do since C’s work will be mainly remote this year and either way it’s closer to that area than it is to Toronto.
Right before moving out of Toronto, I got my Rh shot to protect baby since our blood types are not compatible.
Moving to KW has been an adjustment but the new place has more space and we’ve quickly made it home. Leo’s room is nearly ready and we are so excited!
Sad news: grandpa passed away the day we moved.
Simple tasks are becoming difficult – breathing, getting out of bed, etc. There’s been many times where I’ve just given up on my yoga workout quarter of the way through… I really need to power through this last stretch.
Also, this month with C’ grandma passing away and last month with my grandpa then last summer C’s dad’s passing… I realize these past 12 months have been full of loss and COVID anxiety … it’s hard to shake this feeling of exhaustion. Hopeful that better days are coming.
Positive plus: spent a weekend with the family doing nothing but eating, swimming, and hiking (yes, I hiked 5km while 8 months pregnant).
I have to work for a couple of weeks before my maternity leave officially starts but getting nervous since the due date is nearing closer and closer. I can’t believe schools are opening in-person but what can we do? Lots of kids need it.
Also, I’ve gotten so huge and cannot wait for this pregnancy to come to a conclusion so we can meet our baby boy. Some days I feel terrified of the labour process and other days I feel so strong and ready to face it. It’s been a roller-coaster emotionally but C has been wonderfully supportive through it all. He’s going to make a great father.
September 8-10, 2020
So my delivery was one for the books, so to speak. I’ve been somewhat traumatized by the whole thing so I’ve wanted to wait to get through the fourth trimester to write about it as emotionally stable as I can 😛 I’ve worked through it and I decided to give it a go.
So.. My water broke randomly on September 8th in the evening as I was asleep in bed. I kid you not, I thought I’d peed myself. You know that feeling as a kid when you were first learning to be potty trained? You just feel warmth around you in bed? No? Was that just me? So because yours truly always has a a tendency towards pessimism, I decided I must be bleeding and I was too afraid to turn on the lights to check so realizing C hadn’t come to bed yet, I texted him “Can you please come upstairs?”. Seconds later I hear him barrelling up the stairs; I think he had a feeling too. I explain “I’ve either lost the baby or I peed myself… or my water broke?” as he flicks on the light… and thankfully it’s just wet and anyway, I don’t think I was capable of peeing that much water so we come to the conclusion (genius, eh?) that my water must’ve broke. I get up off the bed and more water gushes… yep… definitely water broke. As I make my way to the bathroom, I am starting to shiver like it was -10 and I look at him and say “But it’s too early, we still have 2 weeks!” as if that’s going to stop things right now. And even though I’m the one who took all the prenatal classes and prepared for this moment, I felt frozen (mentally and physically) and didn’t know what to do next. C was the one to ask me if I was feeling contractions. “Nothing. Not an iota of pain. I’m just freezing cold” I muttered as I shivered some more. He turned on the hot water and helped me into the tub (this will be the first of many bathroom visits C would later help me with). I let the hot water run over me while he ran to get towels. I could also hear him on the phone with the hospital. He came over, noticing I was still shivering under hot water, he got in and held me. I started to feel better but I noticed he was now shivering too. I laughed “I think we’re nervous”… “No shit” he responded and we held each other a little longer. Apparently the hospital told him that we should come in “but no rush” because they were pretty busy. Eventually when we both stopped shivering we got dressed and C got what I liked to call my “go bag” and we went on our way.
When we got there, C obviously couldn’t come in so I was admitted to triage to be assessed. As I waited, there was another woman who seemed to be way farther along than I was (I could only conclude that by all the sounds she was making)… Then, I think to distract herself, she started talking to me and asking me questions. Seeing how much pain she was in (I could only assume it was contractions) I started to dread what was to come. Finally, I was called in to be assessed and I was asked about whether I felt any contractions yet, I said no and the nurse went “Hmmmm”… Nothing like a health care provider going “Hmmm” to drive my pregnant brain into overdrive. “Is everything okay?” I asked. She proceeded to tell me that it was unusual for water to break before contractions start; I knew this from all the Googling I did in the waiting room — it happens to about 10% of women who give birth. She wasn’t giving me any new information and I was impatient “So, what does that mean tonight?” She told me she wanted to keep me around for a couple of hours to see if contractions will start or if I dilate. Fast-forward a couple of hours, neither had happened. At around 4 a.m. when nothing was happening I was sent home to sleep and return in the morning to re-assess.
When I woke up the next day, still no contractions, I assumed I’d go to the hospital only to be sent home again so I didn’t take my go-bag or C with me. I insisted that C continue to work that day instead of waiting for me like he did the previous night for hours only to be sent home. Anyway, as my luck would have it — they admitted me when I got there. Apparently it’s not safe for your water to break and to be without contractions after 24 hours so they wanted to keep an eye on things. I got hooked up to fluids and monitors etc. and was told my chance to eat was now because I couldn’t eat anything once they hook me up to oxytocin (to bring on contractions)… so when C got there, the look on his face was that of surprise and concern then quickly turned into surprise because he could hear baby’s heartbeat for the first time. I’d heard it many times at check-up appointments with the OB but this was his first and I cherished being able to see the excitement on his face in that moment. It truly felt like the world stopped for those few seconds that I watched his face light up at hearing that sound.
From then on things went downhill. After a few hours of no contractions I was told I would be put on oxytocin to help induce them. So that started. After hours (around 16 at this point), I was feeling contractions at the intensity that women feel during active labour but I was not dilated beyond 1 cm. I asked for pain medication options and at this hospital, they were morphine or an epidural. I’d read a lot about epidurals and really wanted to avoid one if I could. I took the morphine. It dulled the edge. C held my hand and assured me we can change the birth plan, it was all up to me. I felt like screaming that none of this was going according to plan (apparently this happens a lot).
A few more hours and I needed something stronger because I’d only dilated another cm, now only barely at 2cm. Finally, I looked at C and I said “I want the epidural” and he said “whatever you want; it’ll be okay”. I was terrified of the epidural. After I’d requested it, it took a couple of hours to get someone to administer it because they were so busy that night. C couldn’t be in the room when they did it. A lovely nurse held me while I got it. It took effect right away in the left side of my lower body but I could still feel light contractions on my right side. This went on for another few hours.
This was on September 10th now – 2 days after my water had broken. And this was also after I’ve been checked for what felt like the 100th time only to be told that the previous doctor’s assertion of 2cm was generous and I was probably only just over 1 cm dilated. I called it. I tapped out. I said I wanted a c-section. I didn’t realize how emotional that decision would be until I asked for it and my voice broke. And anyway, it wasn’t really my choice – it had been 42 hours since my water broke and we couldn’t risk an infection to the baby. I won’t ever forget the doctor on call who said “you gave it your best shot; don’t be so hard on yourself” — I hated that she said that and I hated that it made me tear up and nearly cry.
[C’s note here: the last doctor told her she was basically overdosing on Oxytocin and we needed to stop that. Also, while there I did a lot of research about ‘failure to progress’ and was shocked to learn that most places in the world have policies about what should happen in those cases but here in Ontario they didn’t. They didn’t even try to ‘ripen the cervix’ to get her to dilate more. I have a lot of anger and shock about how Hiba’s care proceeded over those two days.]
So I had to wait a few more hours to be slotted in (yes, that’s how many c-sections they had that night). Anyway, once an OR was ready I was given antibiotics before I got wheeled in. As they were wheeling me there, I started to feel very hot then itchy under my armpits… then the itching quickly made it to my back and suddenly my chest. I could tell something was very wrong and my heart felt like it could jump out of my chest and explode (picture that fun image). I told the nurse who was wheeling me in. She asked if I had trouble breathing but what I felt was my eyes puffing up and closing so I relayed that information. This is when I knew, I was having an allergic reaction. I’d never had one before. When I got into the OR, the team saw that and they gave me Benadryl and an oxygen mask. Everything happened so quickly after that. The anesthesiologist topped up my epidural and used a needle to ask if I felt anything — first on the left side, I couldn’t feel a thing. On the right though, I felt every prick. He seemed surprised by this. He looked over at the OB and said he needed more time to give me more top-up and she said (I will never forget the dread I felt here) “we don’t have time; the baby’s heart beat is dropping” in a low voice. Then quickly raised her voiced to speak to me and cheerfully said “Sweetie, you’re going to sleep and when you wake up you are going to see your baby”. And that’s the last thing I remember.
[C’s note here: I was pacing the hall outside the OR for what felt like years. I memorized every detail in that hallway. When they brought Leo to me, I asked about her. I needed her to be okay.]
When I woke up, I looked up and I saw C holding this baby skin-to-skin. The rush of emotions I felt can be summed into one word: stunned. I was surprised both of us made it through the shitshow of a delivery. Nothing had gone according to our birth plan but we made it. Science, eh? If it weren’t for c-sections and drugs, I’d more than likely be dead. Ha. Anyway, moral of the story if you are planning on giving birth naturally: be ready to throw your birth plan out of the window and don’t feel bad about it. Also, get an allergy test done on medications — apparently I was given some very common antibiotics and I had a severe reaction to them. I am currently undergoing some allergy testing to confirm this reaction along with other possible drug allergies. Also, get yourself a partner who will advocate for you because so much happens and you won’t really be in the right mindset to make logical decisions. I’m glad I chose C to be in there with me.
We had to be kept at the hospital for a few days because of the nature of my delivery and because Leo’s bilirubin levels were high. After being in the hospital for 5 days, we were finally discharged. I remember walking out of the hospital and saying to C “this must be how wrongfully imprisoned people feel when they’re let out”. I have mixed feelings about the after-care we received at the hospital; we had some amazing caregivers and other not-so-stellar ones (that’s putting it mildly).
Even after being discharged we had to return to the hospital every other day for them to draw Leo’s blood to ensure his bilirubin levels were regulating themselves so those first two weeks took a bit of a toll on me. The fourth time we got the phone call saying we had to go back in for another test, I lost it and broke down in C’s arms. It was tough. And I think on C too but he was good at not showing it and instead became my rock. Anyway, because they drew blood from Leo’s foot each time; he hated his feet being touched and would launch into a crying session every time we tried to change his diaper and accidentally touched his feet. After a few days it felt like he had calmed down and I think he started to feel at home. After a week, his bilirubin levels normalized and we were done with hospital visits.
The first couple of weeks with Leo were exhausting and exhilarating but mostly exhausting. Just when you think you’ve figured things out with a newborn, they throw you a curveball. That being said, we’ve had some good days over the past couple of months and I’m grateful for those. But I will not sugarcoat it; this journey has been the hardest thing I’ve experienced mentally and physically (and I’ve gone through some trauma that would make Oprah sad, hah). Keep in mind I have a very supportive husband sharing the load and an amazing set of family to call on. I don’t know how moms do it without a support system. I won’t get into the sordid details of the bleeding and general shock at how weakened your body becomes in the first couple of weeks postpartum but trust me when I say, prepare yourself if you’re planning to embark on this journey. Please reach out if you need any advice on any of this or just someone to vent to. I had one friend who was honest, open, and understanding of what I was going through. I will always be thankful for that understanding (looking at you, Charlotte — thank you).
Perhaps the most shocking to me was experiencing baby blues — I did not expect to go through this because I wanted this baby so badly, what did I have to be sad about? I don’t even think it was the baby per se. I was an emotional wreck the first few weeks. I would cry dramatically in the shower by myself and I didn’t know why. Every time I looked or touched my scar I would be overcome with a sense of dread and extreme sadness. Now I realize that the combination of drugs, hormone fluctuations, and sheer exhaustion may have had something to do with my feeling this way. C was wonderful but I could tell that sometimes he just didn’t know what to do to help me. He was also running on fumes being up at all hours of the night. He would bring Leo to me every time he woke up so I could feed him and not have to get out of bed. I could say thank you a thousand times to this man and it wouldn’t be enough.
I also think the lack of postpartum care contributed to my general anxiety about everything. For example, while baby had tons of appointments — I felt like I had nothing. I was Googling everything to do with my own body. I dread anyone looking through my search history now, hah. I basically had one over-the-phone appointment with my OB and that summed up my after-care check-up. That being said, aside from the usual postpartum annoyances, my scar is healing up nicely.
The one other hurdle for my personally was breastfeeding. After nothing going according to plan with the birth, I was determined to breastfeed despite the challenges. My challenges in this department were many and lasted way too long. Aside from the usual growing pains of breastfeeding etc. I got an extreme case of blocked ducts. I would not wish this pain upon your worst enemy. One night it got so bad I considered going to the ER but I called my mom instead and cried through the pain. I almost gave up and was about to resort to formula but the next day I ended up seeing a lactation consultant who helped me out and was like an aunt who knew everything and showed me the way. By the way, reach out to me if you have issues with this — I know all the ways now, haha.
Now that we’re just over four months in, things are a much rosier. I forgot to mention that I’ve been dealing with a wrist injury that has been exacerbated by “mom wrist” and C got into a mountain biking accident and has a grade III AC separation (Google it, it’s gross and very painful). So even though both of us are broken in the dominant parts of our body (lucky boy, you are, Leo) we are getting into a routine and feel like we might be thriving instead of just surviving at this point. Leo is slowly becoming more aware of his surroundings and he seems a bit more human now. He is also more predictable and we’ve gotten to know each other well so that helps too.
I’ve decided to make a list of things I adore about Leo so far since my post has mostly been about how negative my birth and postpartum experience has been, haha.
- I feel proud of myself as a mom when he quiets down as I walk into his nursery after I hear him crying because he knows I can provide comfort.
- I like the fact that I miss him after he takes an extra long nap. It makes the task of putting him down for a nap worth all the effort.
- I adore that he smiles now whenever I say good morning to him.
- I love watching him interact with C because he brings out a silly side of him that I just love to roll my eyes at but secretly adore. I also love watching him be an amazing father.
- I am thankful for this experience so far because it taught me true patience and grace. My colleagues at work used to always say to me that they admire my patience with students. However, I think motherhood takes the cake in the patience department.
I could go on and on … and I probably will during my time off work while I’m home with the little coffee bean (that’s what we call him, because he keeps us up late at night… haha; get it? Also, C loves coffee as you know).
I am sure the blog will have more active posts on the journal section rather than the travel section. I’m okay with that because I’m genuinely looking forward to see what else this little human teaches me.
Thank you for reading. This was very difficult to share but it has brought me some peace to do so.
Also, thank you all for checking in and showering us with love — everything from cards to porch deliveries — we are so touched by how loved Leo is by our little community. We hope to connect with everyone once this COVID stuff is over.
Love from our little family to you, dear friends! Stay safe.