The birth of my son was the most empowering, emotionally challenging and life changing experience of my life.
I’ve sat down to write the story of his birth countless times, but every time I could feel this block in sharing, a vulnerability I was uncomfortable with. I’m finally ready to share this story. Here is his story, here is my story. This is our story.
Jackson Paul Campbell. He was born on June 3, 2021, at 5:16 p.m. I was 39 weeks 3 days pregnant.
My plan was to have a natural birth at the Toronto Birthing Center under the care of my midwife. Nothing went according to plan.
His due date was June 7th and as the day came closer, I was feeling all sorts of anxiety about when he would arrive. Originally I thought I would have an early arrival, but once I hit 39 weeks I was convinced that our guy would be late. So, 5 days before my due date I went on an overnight trip to my sisters house which is an hour away. I wanted to be with my niece on her first birthday. My Mom was there visiting too and we had a really good night, just us ladies. I woke up the morning of Zoey’s birthday on June 2nd at 4:00 a.m. to go to the washroom as I usually do, and something felt different. As I got to the toilet, I realized my water broke. Full out. It wouldn’t stop. I yelled out dramatically and my Mom and sister came rushing into the washroom. I’ll never forget this moment. So many emotions took over me as I tried to grasp whether this was real or a dream. This was actually happening. I called my husband Will and told him the news. He had been sick in bed for days battling severe side effects of getting the covid vaccine the week prior. I told him to get some rest as I made my way home. I called my midwife and she told me to relax, try to get some rest, and let her know how I feel in a few hours.
I quickly packed up my stuff and hit the road at 5:00 am hoping I would be OK. I was feeling nervous about the drive. I remember how beautiful the sky was that morning. It looked like cotton candy. I put on my playlist that I listened to throughout my pregnancy and thankfully made it home safe. I made a tea and sat in bed. Then the waves started. It was 8:00 a.m. I called my midwife to tell her I was in early labour and she told me to monitor how close together they were. By the afternoon I was in active labour. My waves were getting intense but I felt confident in my breathing and with my eyes closed I visualized future moments with us all together. By 6:00 p.m. I was having intense 6-8 minute apart contractions.
My mother-in-law and mother came over to be with me and took me to the midwife clinic so that they could monitor the baby and do a non stress test. Once I arrived at the clinic, my contractions were not consistent anymore, they were further apart. The baby’s vitals were good and I was sent home to rest and wait for the contractions to progress again.
The waves continued throughout the night, some close together, some further apart. I was on the couch with my Mom all night and neither of us slept. By the morning, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I had laboured for over 24 hours and still wasn’t in the transition phase. I was really worried about my husband’s health and my body was not able to fully relax and let nature run it’s course.
The more I waited, the higher risk of infection and complications because of my water breaking. I called my midwives and was given the option to get induced – but they don’t do inductions at the birthing centre, I would have to go to the hospital.
Part of the reason I had planned to go to the birthing centre was that my own personal experiences at hospitals haven’t been great. I fully trust and believe in midwives whose ability to bring babes into the world in a safe and beautiful experience. For me, I was nervous about being in an environment that was cold, unfamiliar, and with people I had never met who might not see me as a person.
I was faced with a tough decision. Do I wait it out and hope my contractions progress closer together but risk an infection? Or do I go to the hospital and get induced? I decided to go to the hospital. I called my midwives and told them my decision. They have privilege access to Mount Sinai Hospital, so we arranged to meet there at 8:30 a.m.
Because my husband was sick, he wasn’t allowed to attend the birth unless he had a negative covid test. But there was no time for that. And even if there was, he was so physically sick that it would have been an awful experience for him – and me. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I cried, a lot. I got my hospital bag and hugged him, and he told me to be strong, that I can do this.
My mother-in-law drove my Mom and I to the hospital. We arrived at 8:30 am. and met my midwives. Once we checked in and got comfortable, I was examined. At that point I was 3 cm dilated. I was induced at 10:30 am. A few hours went by and the waves started to get intense. Really intense. All along they kept checking the babe’s heart rate and he was ok. So I kept trying to breathe through my own pain not having any comparison of what I should or shouldn’t be feeling. As long as the babe was ok, and everyone felt that things were ok, then I was ok because I trusted the people around me.
I meditated, listened to music, and tried to breathe through each wave. It was difficult to lay down. The best position for me was leaning over the bed. I kept reminding myself that every wave brought me one step closer to my baby. I tried to welcome every one as much as I could, but there was this undeniable sensation that no one could coach if they tried. It was such a primal, earth force, that I had absolutely no control over. It felt like an earthquake moving through my body and I knew this was intensified because of the Pitocin.
By 4:00 pm I felt I needed to surrender. I needed the epidural and I was terrified. I was more scared of a giant needle in my back than giving birth. When the anesthesiologist came into the room I cried. But he was amazing – he made me feel calm and comfortable. The hardest part was trying to stay still during the contractions. I remember holding my Moms hand and her saying “just squeeze my hand and breathe, and try not to move”. The pain wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be. The sensation was heavy pressure. After I got the epidural I felt so much relief.
My midwives checked me again after the epidural kicked in and I was already 9.5 cm dilated. It was now time to push. This was the easiest part of my labour. It took about 10 strong pushes and it was the most pleasurable sensation I have ever experienced, a tiny human body squirting out of my own. My husband was watching the birth via zoom, and got to see our baby born. My midwife placed Jackson on my chest so I could snuggle my face into him, and kiss him. But he wasn’t crying. Worry and panic came over me when the umbilical cord was cut and they rushed him to the baby bed to give him oxygen. I looked at my mom with sheer panic. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his head twice and he was purple and blue. It was the scariest moment I’ve ever experienced. After what seemed like eternity, I heard his soft little wimpier and he was placed back on my chest. I had tears of joy, relief, and love. Things felt safe and good.
I had a small tear that needed 2 stitches and it didn’t cause me any discomfort or pain, even weeks after. Our vitals were checked and we headed home. I was home by 8:30 p.m. that evening and felt so relieved that I didn’t have to stay in the hospital. I just wanted to be home with my husband. The best part of midwifery care for me was the aftercare. My midwives came to my house to check on me the next day, and days after that. There was something really comforting about that.
I felt pretty darn good the days after giving birth. I made sure that I was up and moving, but also taking a lot of time to rest and recover. The swelling in my feet lasted a couple of days and my bleeding subsided after a week. I am currently 8 weeks postpartum and physically feeling amazing. Staying healthy and active throughout my pregnancy made a huge contribution to my recovery. I was able to avoid pelvic floor issues, Diastasis Recti and incontinence. Exercising through my pregnancy helped me prepare for birth. It gave me the strength to endure over 30 hours of labour. It took a lot of strength not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. I know more than ever how important exercise can be during pregnancy – not only as a way to feel better throughout those rigorous 9 months, but as a tool to help prepare for the truly hard part: postpartum.
It’s a magical moment bringing life into this world. Let’s not lessen the magic of mothers who are strong and capable enough to see it through.