The Birth of Ava
Ava Lily Sulsky was born on April 22, 2008, her “Earth Day Birthday” guess date. She came into the world at 7:06 p.m. weighing 7 lbs, 1 oz and measuring 19 inches long. She is the greatest thing that has ever happened to us.
Bringing our daughter into the world was the most intense and most magical thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I don’t know that the experience would have been possible without our HypnoBirthing preparation.
On April 21st, we went to our final prenatal appointment. As promised, Dr. Morton did an internal examination and reported that I was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Our baby could be coming to us any time! We went home very excited and I began to lose my uterine plug that evening before settling in for a good night’s sleep.
I awoke at 5:00 a.m. the next morning with irregular surges. By 7:00 a.m. I let Nic know the surges had become more regular and he timed them at about every 6 minutes. Still unsure whether I was in true labour, we just ate some breakfast, practiced some breathing and called Jennifer, our doula, to give her some advanced warning that she may need to clear her schedule.
Throughout the morning the surges advanced steadily in both frequency and intensity and by 11:00, the surges were about 4 minutes apart and Nic called Jennifer to let her know that things were getting more consuming and she should make her way over to our house. Up to this point, the surges were very manageable with slow breathing and visualizations. Nic was doing a wonderful job of talking me through each wave; reminding me that each surge would build, reach a peak and then flow away – bringing us that much closer to the moment our baby would come to us. I remained focused on breathing up the vertical muscles of my uterus and visualizing the opening of my cervix (like a morning glory).
By 12:30, Jennifer had arrived, our bags were checked and rechecked, and I was finding that spending some time in a hot shower was very relaxing. The surges continued to gain intensity and I spent time in different positions and stretches, in and out of the bath. I was aware of needing to go within my body as the surges washed over. I wouldn’t describe this time as painful but very intense. I remember focusing on some words of wisdom: We can’t control the physical sensations of the body any more than we can hold back a wave in the ocean. Allow the wave to wash over and surrender to it unscathed; try to fight it and get pummeled into the sand.
It was beginning to get more and more difficult to keep from getting pummeled when my water released at about 2:40 p.m. By this time, I was nearly completely in my animal mind. Time had little meaning and I was aware of meeting the most intense phase of each surge with low, visceral grunts and groans. It was time to get to the hospital.
By 3:35 we were on our way to North York General. The surges were intense and steady; one minute on and one minute off and consuming all of my concentration. I remember asking Jennifer what else I could be doing to manage more effectively. She simply asked me what more I could want but a strong, productive labour. This was very calming and I knew I could continue to do the work even as Toronto traffic became a reality. Nic was the picture of calm (at least on the outside) and continued to give me confidence and reassurance that we would make it to the hospital just fine (despite the distinct ‘urge to push’ that I chose not to mention to Nic).
We pulled up outside the hospital at 4:10 and made our way to the second floor assessment room. Walking provided a much appreciated distraction and but for a few pauses to lean on Nic during surges, we made it past the front desk to an assessment bed. Our nurse, Karen, performed an internal exam and checked the baby’s heart rate. She let us know that I was 8 cm dilated! Within 5 minutes we were in our birthing room. I got into the Jacuzzi tub and Nic went to get our bags and then shared our birth preferences with Karen. The water felt good but I found the jets too distracting. The surges were very intense and I found that I couldn’t breathe as slowly as I intended but I just kept going with what my body was telling me to do. The best way I can describe the experience is through a quote I read during my pregnancy: You are a storm – a force of nature. The universe whirls through you and you are the universe. You are the storm and the eye of calmness in the centre of the storm. Sharing what the magic of life and death feels like. A portal into this world.
After about an hour in the tub, I felt the need to change positions and climbed onto the bed on all fours and just kind of wagged my hips back and forth. By this point, I felt some serious ‘urge surges’ and the pressure sensation of needing to go to the bathroom. Karen checked my cervix again and sure enough, I was fully dilated and it was time to bring the baby down (the pressure I was feeling was actually our baby).
At 5:35 I got into a semi-sitting position on the upper level of the bed and propped myself up on my hands and began to nudge down with my breath (and some very loud and unexpected grunts). I went deep inside my body – aware of my surroundings only occasionally. I knew Nic was there, telling me how great I was doing. I knew Jennifer was there, reminding me to make lots of room around my baby’s head. And I knew Karen was there, making sure our baby was doing well. I was unable to judge the passing of time but after about an hour, I began to irrationally fear that I wouldn’t be able to bring the baby down quickly enough and medical intervention would be necessary. I was assured by both Jennifer and Karen that we were making progress and everything was normal but I felt somehow that the baby wasn’t moving down well with the surges.
Karen had explained to Nic that it was taking time for the baby’s head to make it’s way under my pelvic bone. He knew that I needed this information and got my attention long enough for Karen to explain the situation to me. This I could understand, and I knew somehow that I needed to change my position to side-lying. In this position, I could tip my pelvis forward and visualize the baby moving down and out. With a few more surges, I could feel the pressure of the baby in the birth canal and everything happened pretty quickly after that.
Karen announced that she could begin to see the top of our baby’s head and Dr. Morton was called in. I was able to bear down hard with each surge, bringing the baby closer and closer to us. Nic was called over to witness the emergence of our baby and Karen told me that if I reached down I would be able to feel our baby’s head. It was miraculous. I could see our baby. I could feel her mass of dark, curly hair. I knew our baby was really coming to us and experienced an awesome burst of energy. Three surges later, our Ava was in my arms. The little girl that Nic had dreamed of was real. Face-to-face for the first time, the power of the emotion I felt for this little baby was beyond description.
Ava Lily Sulsky looked deeply into my eyes and began breastfeeding 5 minutes after being born. We were allowed to just ‘be’ for about 45 minutes before Nic cut the umbilical cord and the placenta was delivered. We consented to a pitocin shot to help my uterus to contract. All of the exams of baby and repair of my small tear were completed with Ava nursing on my chest. Ava’s eye drops and vitamin K shot were delayed to just before taking Ava to be weighed. Nic then shared some skin-to-skin bonding time with our little girl while a nurse helped me to get cleaned up. About 2 hours after the birth, we moved to our recovery room and began our first night together as family.
We are so thankful to the wonderful staff at North York General who respected our birth preferences so completely. Pain or pain management was never discussed in front of us. Our birth experience was peaceful and beautiful. The energy of our wonderful nurse, Karen, was calming and reassuring. Our excellent OB went beyond the call and supported our dream of a gentle, unmedicated birth. We are eternally grateful to our doula, Jennifer Elliott, who taught us the hypnobirthing philosophy and brought an immeasurably precious calm and confidence to our pregnancy and birth experience.
Mostly, we are thankful for our happy, healthy little baby who has already brought us more joy than we could have ever imagined.