The very civilized daytime birth of Ella Pearl on October 16, 2003.

I woke up at 1am for a usual bathroom break, sound familiar? As I was settling back into bed I wondered if I felt a contraction. By 3:30 I nudged Jer and informed him we'd be having a baby that day. I was dozing off in between mild contractions every 15 minutes or so. I'd had some show the evening before so I wasn't surprised. I was at 40 weeks +1.

We got up at 4am because I was restless and excited. We started getting birth supplies ready and I made sure I had a good snack. I had no intention of getting as low on energy as I had been with Ivy. I managed to lie down again by 5am although contractions were down to 5 minutes apart and were lasting 30-40 seconds. Between the heating pad and Jer rubbing my back at exactly the right times I think I was able to half doze. I couldn't believe how normal and relaxed I felt between contractions - I have no recollection of that with Ivy's labour. That was tense all the way through.

At about 7:30 we called the families to give them the heads up and asked my mother-in-law to pick up Ivy at 8:30. My parents were in town but I wanted them to hold off coming for a while since things seemed to be going so well the way we had it. We called the midwife around 8:30 to let her know it was really happening but that it was still relatively mellow (I'm comparing to Ivy's birth, not to a walk in the park). It is very significant to me that this was the same midwife who had helped me out with Ivy and had since become a wonderful friend. It blew my mind that I had the privilege of having one of my best friends catch my baby.

We updated her at 9:30 to say we were at 50 second contractions, still 5 minutes apart. I figured I still had a long, long way to go. She told us to call back when the contractions kicked up in intensity. Jer and I looked at each other and thought that was a very vague request. Within seconds it happened though and there was no doubt. I had the first completely involuntary gasp and the "oooh, I remember why I wasn't going to do this again" sensation. I had quickly gone to one min. contractions, 3 min. apart. I couldn't believe that I had done that kind of labour for so many hours last time.

The midwife and my parents both arrived shortly before 11am. I was hanging over a rocking footstool, moaning politely (is that possible?) and engrossed in my own little world. The midwife said she expected I'd have a baby by lunchtime and I thought it was a very cruel joke to tell me when I was bracing for hours and hours ahead. It took me a while to acknowledge that I was feeling the baby move down because I was terrified that I was barely dilated yet. This was the most distressing part of labour. Even though I was focussed, I stayed communicative and energetic - totally surreal compared to my previous experience. I recall being determined to enjoy this labour as much as possible and managed to crack small jokes at various intervals throughout. I consider that to be a major miracle and hope to repeat that if at all possible. It lightened things up so much and kept me from taking myself too seriously.

I remembered how good it felt to sit on the toilet during my previous labour so that's where I moved when I needed a change. I think anyone in the house who had needs had to use the nearby Tim Horton's facilities. Things got more intense almost immediately again and I started that grunting stage. The midwife poked her head in and said "Uh, are those grunt pushes or just noises?" and proceeded to call the second attendant to come over. That was exciting, even though I thought it was too early.

I checked my cervix around this point and was very disappointed to feel that lip there again and note that the head wasn't really low yet. I got up to go to the bed so the midwife could check as well. I consented to her breaking my water while I was there and ho-ly it came on fast then. I thought I'd spend the rest of labour in the shower. After what felt like less than a minute and one mighty roar later they came to haul me out to have my baby in the bedroom. I still don't know how I made it from one place to the other and was shocked at how easy I was getting off with this labour.

I could feel exactly where the baby was and was totally coordinated with pushing. It was fully involuntary this time and I had energy to spare. After pushing hard for a few contractions Ella crowned. It stung but not too badly. Then she got hung up on her shoulders, just like Ivy had. I recall being ticked that I had to work so hard after the head was out. It may have been the most effort I've ever put out in my life to get those shoulders to move. Such a little miraculous baby once she made it through! I had forgotten how little anything else matters at that moment. She was born at 12:12 pm, one day after her due date and weighed 9lbs, 10oz. I had a "skid mark" but didn't need any stitches at all which made recovery even faster.

Ella Pearl arrived at a decent hour after a very gracious birth. The negative feelings of frustration, exhaustion and anger I felt the first time were totally absent. I was euphoric and feeling great. I lounged in bed for an hour with Ella, had a shower and then went downstairs to have a bowl of soup with the midwife, who was just making notes on the labour. The experience was amazingly natural, calm and strong.


The births of my girls were as different as night and day. Ivy was my night birth, born on June 30, 2001.

I woke up for a bathroom break at 12:30am, at 39 weeks. I felt warm water running down my leg and confirmed that it wasn't just the effects of an over-stressed bladder. We paged the midwife and she requested that we come down to the clinic to check fetal heart tones and confirm that the water had indeed broken. After a short visit she told us to head home and get some sleep before labour started! Not much of a possibility when you're hopped up on adrenaline, giggly and more than a little nervous. We did sleep a bit in the end.

By morning contractions hadn't really started although I gushed copious amounts of water at random intervals. We took advantage of the hot weather and headed down to the nearest beach to wade in the water. I still only half believed it was happening but was also wondering when it was going to kick in.

Shortly after lunch I had a few distracting contractions but was fairly social until 2:30. By 3:30 contractions were 2-3 and a half minutes apart and lasting 35-50 seconds. Technically irregular but pretty frequent as far as I was concerned. I was rather uncomfortable already and experimented with various positions but it seemed to be best if I moved less. By 4:30 I hit the tub where I found some relief although it was obviously getting more intense. The midwives arrived around this time I think and officially labelled it the beginning of "active labour".

My memory may not be right, but I'm pretty sure that at this point Ivy was "sunny side up". She managed to rotate herself in time for the trip out - does anyone know if that might have slowed things down? That may also be the reason I didn't feel relaxed or comfortable even between contractions. Mental note to ask the midwife. (she says yes, it can slow things down and make it harder between contractions although it didn't cause problems during my labour)

I wondered often how long it would go on and how I'd be able to stand it. Other than being dehydrated the midwives said that both baby and I were doing great. One of them was kind enough to say I looked like a goddess as I laboured in the tub. I made a colourful side comment to Jer at that point about how I actually felt (which wasn't remotely related to a goddess). He was nice enough to make a note of the exchange for posterity.

Throughout the labour I didn't want much attention although I vaguely resented the pizza party I knew was taking place upstairs. I found that any kind of backrubs etc. increased the sensations and made it harder. Jer was great at adapting to what I needed, which was basically for him to be fully "there" with me. The midwife was also fabulous, occasionally offering quiet suggestions but always betwen contractions and never in a pushy or directive way.

6pm? I lost all sense of time but I know I spent a long time leaning on the bathroom counter, rocking my hips and throwing in an occasional squat when I could bear to do it. I threw up a few times and got a nasty case of the shakes. I thought I was in transition and got excited about my progress. Guess not.

Sometime in the early evening (I think) they checked my dilation for the first time. I was 5cm and 85% effaced. This knowledge had the effect of me wanting to bash my head against the wall hard enough to pass out. I had been working at it for hours, several of which were a lot more than I thought I could ever deal with already. I gave up. Lots of times. Funny thing is, labour didn't stop. The gears kept grinding and all I was aware of was that the only way to make it go away was through it, not away from it.

Here's a plug for home birth (or the terror of it, depending on your point of view). If I'd been in the hospital without the comforts of a familiar home with strange people attending me, I would have most certainly accepted any drug at that point. Legal or not. At the time it may have been bliss but on the other hand I did manage to make it on my own after I thought I couldn't. There were no uncomfortable side effects to wear off and the baby wasn't doped up. It made me feel powerful and I got the full benefit of the euphoria later.

9pm? At some point I registered that the sunlight was fading and was shocked that time was still passing. This labour thing seemed to be both endless and timeless. I took a long, nasty shower. I didn't know at the time that I was at the peak of pain and intensity and I whined at the midwife, asking her if it would ever end. Much to her credit she answered me politely and took it in stride. I was physically and mentally beat.

10pm? I plunked myself down on the nearest seating which happened to be the toilet. Oddly it was the perfect place. Over the course of about an hour my contractions started spacing out and I started to feel involuntary little pushes. I got my dilation checked again only to find I was full except for a swollen lip of the cervix that the baby had been pushing against. The exam was painful but nothing compared to the feeling of the midwife pushing back on the lip while I pushed. I think I almost passed out. In any case it turned out to be more successful than either of us had expected.

11pm-12:30am. Learning the pushing thing. I was totally wiped and had no urge to push anymore. The contractions were so much easier to deal with I honestly wanted to take a nap. In retrospect, I probably should have rested for a while, rather than trying to push right away. At some point the midwife explained that I was pushing the baby down each time but not holding her there between pushes so she kept sliding back up. Back and forth. From that point on I would say I made progress with a vengeance. Apologies to Ina May (whom I greatly respect and admire) and the "birth as bliss" folk, but it honestly had little to do with bringing a lovely child into the world at that time, it was about making the hell go away as quickly as possible. I felt and sounded more and more like an angry moose. Jer knows that the best way to get me to do anything hard is to get me mad. I hit that point and pushed HARD.

When Ivy's head crowned I remember thinking what a joke that whole stinging thing was - it seemed so insignificant compared to all the other sensations. Just one more push and those shoulders should slide right out. Or not. Ivy made another half rotation before she decided to show us the little hand beside her head. After that it was still a lot of effort to get those shoulders out. (It wasn't bad enough to be "shoulder dystocia" but the midwife did call it "sticky shoulders".) Ivy's head came out a deep shade of blue and she took almost a half minute to breathe on her own. I was oblivious and saw only her eyes. I would have sworn she started screaming immediately and was pink within seconds. When she weighed in at 8lbs, 15 oz and I saw the video of how her little hand was in a strange spot the long pushing seemed to make more sense.

The placenta and one stitch seemed kind of insulting after all the hard work and I already had a baby in my arms but it was minor. The relief from the stress of labour was immediate and overwhelming. I went back to giggling and delerious. After everything was cleaned up and the midwives had gone home Jer and I looked at each other in terror and awe as we realized that we were essentially on our own with a small human to care for. We were so tired, totally clueless and laughing at the bizarreness of it all.

Learning to breastfeed Ivy would be another long, painful post that I'll save for a very rainy day. The short of it is that it was that after two weeks of brutal effort with intense support and another month of working hard we hit that sweet spot and then made it successfully to 19 months.

intro to birth stories

If this topic doesn't interest you, you may want to skip the next few entries. Since I am once again with child and have some friends in the same boat it's suddenly more fascinating again. I made extensive notes on each birth within days of it happening so there hasn't been too much re-interpretation over time. I've also taken the libery of drawing up my own stages of labour, just for fun. I'll be interested to see if the third birth follows the same pattern or if I have to revise the theory.

There were a lot of people up front and behind the scenes that were there supporting me throughout both labours but I wanted to keep it pretty anonymous. Our families were wonderful and literally kept us fed, clothed (mostly the babies) and sane for a good part of the newborn stage. Many thanks to all of you if I forgot to mention it at the time!

I have some pictures I want to include with the stories but they have to be scanned in - so passe. If I hold up the posts until I do that it may never happen.

my phases of labour

The textbook stages of labour don't tell me much. There are plenty of medical descriptions of what happens, but none of them could prepare me for how I was going to feel. I imagine that everyone would have their own unique flow, perhaps even different with each baby. This is purely for my entertainment and preparation purposes - I don't expect these ideas to be universal.

1. Excited
I realize that a lot of people don't get to experience this part specifically, but both times I knew a few hours before it got going that it was coming on. This was the time to snack, laugh, get nervous and prepare.

2. Curious
Getting uncomfortable now. Hmm, wonder how intense this is really going to get? Interesting experiment. Might be nice if it was a short one. ("early labour" in texts). This is the part where lots of stuff I read recommended playing cards, cleaning the house or otherwise trying to put off paying attention to labour. Good luck with that. I had to fight the urge to time obsessively which I found discouraging for the most part. In my experience there is no doubt when things kick up a notch, numbers don't necessarily correlate.

3. Focussed
I would characterize this stage as starting when my exclamations over contractions are no longer voluntary. Gasps, moans, some sailor-like cursing and raised eyebrows. For me this coincided with what professials call "active labour" although as far as I'm concerned it had always been going on quite a while by this point. Still lucid between contractions.

4. Zoned
I'm gone. The time/space continuum is fundamentally altered. I am in my own bizarre, intense world. Don't talk to me, touch me or heaven forbid, try to move me. Unless it's very, very important (which it sometimes is) or you have guaranteed extremely helpful advice. It takes everything I have to keep it together. I didn't have a very clear "transition"phase, but this was certainly the hardest for me.

5. Down
Focus slides back in. Contractions space out and change. Still super intense and totally out of control but in a really different way I find easier to deal with. I can feel exactly what the muscles are doing and know the baby is moving down. Wild but finally feels like progress. Involuntary grunting as I wait for the dilation to finish.

6. Out
This I can understand. It feels more like a physical challenge than mental now. I didn't expect to have to learn how to do it but it took me ages to get the hang of it with Ivy. I've had both the experience of being exhausted and not having the urge to push and also that of having no choice with the baby coming fast. Both hard work but soooo close now. Finally meet the baby!

7. Blissed
Instant relief. Total euphoria. Possible megalomania. Yay, look at me! Do you see what I did? I am amazing! A superhero! Please wait on me hand and foot for several days (weeks, months) while I sit back and appreciate the amazing thing I've just accomplished.



Greata Ranch Vineyard between Summerland and Peachland

In a casual discussion about learning last night, I realized that I don't recall having taken a formal course of anything for close to five years. I have done a lot of reading and learning on my own but I've been missing having a little bit of external motivation. The brain needs exercise. Jeremy pointed me and a friend towards this course in "Cool Climate Viticulture" in March and I signed up this morning:

”This intensive, five-day short course will introduce the viticulture skills and knowledge required to work in or manage a cool coastal climate vineyard. Students will learn about the physiology of the vine, establishing a vineyard, pruning and trellising techniques and key management tools such as irrigation, pests and diseases and canopy management. Who should attend? Horticulture professionals, wine grape growers, vineyard managers and others interested in improving their skills and service to the cool coastal climate viticulture sector of our region. This Cool Coastal Climate Viticulture Short Course experience will include four days of classroom and a vineyard tour. A certificate of completion will be offered to attendees successfully completing optional exams administered during the program. The following topics will be covered; -Grapevine phenology, growth cycles and stages of development, varieties and rootstocks. -The vineyard year, management and timing of cultural practices. -Site selection, preparation, cool coastal climate considerations and grapevine propagation. -Timing and principles of pruning, pruning systems, yield determination, training and trellising systems. -Soils, fertility and nutrition, cover crop management. -Irrigation systems, soil moisture management, canopy management. -A field trip to local vineyards.”

It's a pretty long description but it's essentially about how to grow grapes for wine. Given the insane amount of vineyards and wineries in the area it's not a bad idea for potential employment. It combines interests I have both in wine and gardening, which is the main motivation for taking it. I have to remind myself it's okay to take a course because it looks fun and interesting, this does not have to be a life quest or means to an end. I'm looking forward to the 5-day intensive learning!


more change

This would seem like an odd photo choice unless you happened to know that little Hiebert #3 has been forming for over 3 months already and my belly used to be even flatter. That alone is amazing, now that I think of it. For prenancy geeks, the picture was taken at week 14 (end of January). More dramatic change on the way - the little one should be arriving late July/early August if all goes as expected.

I'm thrilled to be out of the first trimester which was pretty much as miserable as I remembered even though I had way less nausea than with the other two. I worked hard to be thankful for the small things. Now my energy is way back up and eating seems mostly normal. The belly is starting to peek out and for me this is when the fun starts. I'll keep you posted on progress occasionally. Maybe even more often than every two months, you never know.