I've been sitting on this post for a while - I didn't want to rush it; I wanted to do it justice and ensure it painted a complete picture of the most remarkable journey that now feels like a complete blur in my brain. I began this blog for my own personal self, and picked up a few followers along the way so I apologize, but this is a non-horsey post and i'm proud to use it as a platform to announce the birth of my daughter.
As I draft this post between naps, diaper changes and round-the-clock feedings, I can't help but feel like the details of the situation become less and less vibrant in my brain and I'm worried I will forget minor, irrelevant yet important and valued information about how my daughter came into this world and the days that followed. I'm sure even as I pick over these words with meticulous attention, I have already forgotten several things.
Prior to this pregnancy, I had an early loss in the midst of 4 years of struggling to get pregnant. As a young married couple, we constantly faced the questions of prying friends and family wondering when we were having kids. With each question, the heart ache and feeling of guilt and failure came rushing back, but finally in November of 2019 I discovered I was pregnant with the help of medication. I kept things a secret for several weeks, and broke the news to my husband Ray on Christmas morning through a cleverly planned gift. I received some backlash for not telling him sooner, but the truth is I couldn't handle breaking his heart again if I lost it in those first few fragile weeks so I wanted to wait until I was at least 8 weeks. I told my best friend and mother of two, but otherwise kept it to myself for several long weeks. When Ray finally found out, he was in absolute shock. I had planned the announcement well enough that I set my phone up to video him opening the gift, which i'll cherish forever.
That evening, we traveled to my in-laws for Christmas Dinner. The entire immediate family was there, and I had one more surprise up my sleeve. Ray's grandmother just celebrated her 97th Birthday last weekend, and it's no secret that we don't have many Christmas' left with her despite her being in excellent health. Just before we sat down for Christmas Dinner, I gathered the family and told them I wanted a family picture with Grandma, but much to their surprise I had a video going and instead of saying Cheese, I instructed them to say "Ray and Alaina are having a baby!". As I captured the shock and excitement on everyone's face, including my husbands as we had discussed not telling anyone until the new year, I struggled to hold back tears and continue to cherish now two irreplaceable videos.
My pregnancy went fairly well with only a few speed bumps along the way, but in the First Trimester I experienced spotting when I did anything physical, which included riding. Due to my history of an early loss and my struggle to get pregnant, I had a really difficult mental dilemma as a result. Sierra was boarded at the arena which was costing me money each day, and I couldn't afford to keep her there and not ride so I chose to ride light and infrequently. When I first got pregnant, I had been riding a ton and I was in the best physical shape I had been in for years - I felt strong and healthy, and I struggled with the change in plans. If you don't know me, I am very routine-based and when I get off my routine my entire life feels out of balance. I held onto the excitement of pregnancy, and did my best to keep the peace in my brain. Luckily as the first trimester came to an end, the spotting stopped and I was able to continue on as per usual through the Second Trimester.
Nov '19 right around when I found out I was pregnant
As the third trimester approached, I developed anemia which resulted in me feeling fatigued and run-down, but with the help of medication I was able to push through. Unfortunately as time went on, I then developed High Blood Pressure despite it being perfect up until that point. Pregnancy was taking a toll on my body, and I began to wonder if I tempted fate a little too much; perhaps using medication to become pregnant when it wasn't meant to be wasn't wise; perhaps I was selfish and the worst was yet to come.
Due to my High Blood Pressure, as my due date of August 5th approached my OBGYN broke the news to me - I wouldn't be reaching said due date - I would be induced. My Blood Pressure was continuing to rise, and because I had never had a baby before we didn't know how my body would respond to that level of stress. I really struggled with this conclusion - not only was I adamant I did NOT want to be synthetically induced with Oxytocin due to the horror stories of labour pains being 70% worse than normal, it felt like another nail in the coffin of my body failing me in my quest to become a mother. It only added to my concern of tempting fate, and added to the stress that comes along with late-term pregnancy and impending labour. It was at that time, with the approval of my Doctor, I began trying to self-induce at home. I was 37 weeks and therefore considered early but still "term", and I created a list of tried n' true self-induction methods in order from least to most invasive and began checking them off the list. For several weeks prior to that point, I had already been bouncing on a yoga ball along with other preparatory things like drinking Raspberry Leaf tea to strengthen my uterus for more productive contractions when the time came, but now I began looking to other methods like Labour-Inducing Exercises (basically a lotttt of squats), lots of walking, Cervical Membrane Sweeps, doing "the deed" despite feeling as big as a house, and even the ever-controversial Castor Oil. Unfortunately after 2 weeks of trying, nothing came to fruition and my induction date of August 2nd arrived.
A few days prior to my Induction Date I saw my OBGYN at the Hospital for my weekly appointment and a Non-Stress Test and Cervical Exam. It was my first time to the Labour & Delivery and Maternity ward of the Hospital, which is a 1.5 hour drive from our farm. As I sat on the bed for over an hour with monitors hooked to my belly measuring my Uterus for any contractions and babys heart rate and the cuff continued to check my Blood Pressure every 10 minutes, the nurse mentioned they noted a few small contractions - I hadn't felt them at all, but the night before I had the most severe Braxton Hicks contractions that I had throughout my entire pregnancy so I was optimistic things were ramping up. My OBGYN decided to do a second Cervical Membrane Sweep when she did a pelvic exam, in hopes that it would elicit Labour. The week prior she did a Sweep and noted I was 1-2CM dilated, so I was disappointed that not only did the first Sweep not do anything, following the second Sweep I was told I was no more dilated. We made the journey home in silence, and in that moment I decided to give up trying to self-induce and just await the induction.
I was on the list of 4 people scheduled to be admitted to the hospital on August 2nd; my OBGYN chose this date because she was on-shift and it would increase our chances of her being able to deliver my baby - something that was really important to me after having built a fantastic relationship with her in the months prior. I was instructed to call the Labour & Delivery ward at 7:15 in the morning to get their approval to head in because even though I was on the list, if they were short handed or had a crazy night, I would be rescheduled. I hardly slept the entire night, and woke well before my alarm. Our bags were already packed and in the car, and as I watched the minutes tick by like molasses in the winter time, I jumped the gun and called shortly after 7, where I was instructed to call back in 10 minutes as the nurses were in their briefing meeting still. I twiddled my thumbs, waited the 10 minutes and called back hoping for an answer - this time I was told they were a bit backed up and couldn't fit all 4 people in, so they needed to prioritize the list and would call me back within 15 minutes. Just before 7:30 AM, I received a call from the Nurse that my doctor had me at the top of the priority list, and we received the go-ahead to get on the road to the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital around 9:30 AM and began the hurry up n' wait protocol that is typically associated with most medical procedures. Luckily L&D had quieted down and we were able to get a bed in the Triage area almost immediately. The nurses began monitoring my Blood Pressure while we waited for my doctor to come by - she had decided because of my BP I wasn't a good candidate for the Oxytocin Drip (thank god, I really didn't want it) and selected a hormone-secreting insert called Cervadil. It essentially looks like a giant tape worm, and sits on the Cervix releasing hormones to jump start labour. I was a little leary, because I had heard of several people needing it put in 2-3x over the course of several days before it had any effect. Regardless, I was admitted to the hospital due to how far away I live, and would be moved into a private room once one was available - in other words, I wasn't leaving the hospital without my baby.
My doctor came by to do a Cervical Exam and insert the Cervadil at 11:45 AM and my husband and I continued to anxiously wait. Luckily for me, the Cervadil began working quickly and I was one of the lucky ones who had success with one use, because by 12:15 I was beginning to feel some mild period-like cramps. They were irregular and weak, but in the hours that followed they slowly increased in intensity, but were still extremely manageable.
As the minutes and hours ticked by, they continued to monitor my Blood Pressure. Ray left at one point to get Booster Juice for us, and I continued to do my best to rest in an active Triage area, knowing I would need my rest later. By 4:00 PM my contractions were slightly more regular, but still quite far apart and very manageable. I found myself thinking if this is 'it', this was going to be a walk in the park, and an hour later the nurses came by and suggested we go for supper and come back at 7:00 and they would have a room ready for us. I was certainly uncomfortable and didn't really want to leave, but we went to my Brother In Laws who lives 5 minutes from the hospital. At this point, I wasn't hungry and just wanted to lay on a couch, which is exactly what I did.
Between walking to the vehicle and so on, my contractions began to ramp up a little, and by 6:00 I was certain I was in labour and not just feeling crampy. I found myself waddling to the bathroom several times feeling the constant and unexplainable need to sit on a toilet and do absolutely nothing, and aver several contractions with nearly no break in between, things took a turn and suddenly I was having trouble standing through them.
When you're pregnant, you wonder what contractions will feel like. I had a lot of Braxton Hicks Contractions throughout my pregnancy and I always wondered if I would be able to tell the difference when the time came. When I asked my OB about it, she told me "when you aren't laughing anymore, you'll know it's real. Typically the rule of thumb is if you can't walk or talk through them, you better be on your way to the hospital". I chuckled, but when that moment came I knew it was exactly what she was talking about. I stumbled out of the washroom, glanced at the clock nothing it was 6:40 and said to my husband through gritted teeth "we need to go back to the hospital". We had been instructed to come back for 7:00 and things were clearly taking off and I figured 'close enough' so Ray jumped up and off we went.
I told the Nurse I would take a shot of Morphine + Gravol which they had offered earlier, but other than making me feel drowsy for about 15 minutes, my body was too far gone and metabolized the medication so quickly it wore off fast and did absolutely nothing for the pain. The Nurse who would be assisting the delivery did a pelvic exam and said I was a "good 4 CM" - what?! Seriously, that's it?! I was disappointed and knew I still had a long ways to go. She told me a lot of women find relief by sitting in a hot shower during labour and it sounded absolutely lovely to me, so I decided to give it a try. Ray helped me get to the shower (which was in our room) and set up a yoga-ball on a base to keep it from rolling around. Between the bed and getting in the shower, I had two contractions lasting about 50 seconds each which made the process a lot more drug out than it normally would be, but eventually I got into the shower around 7:45 PM - little did I know just how long i'd be spending in there.
By now, my contractions were consistently hitting about every 1-2 minutes and lasted roughly 1 minute; that meant I had about 1 minute between contractions to catch my breath and try and relax my body as best I could to avoid total fatigue before the real work was needed. The water felt great on my back, but the temperature constantly fluctuated which I found really annoying, but eventually my contractions were on time with it in that when the water got almost unbearably hot, I would have a contraction - as my contraction faded, so did the water temperature. It was a total fluke, but a fluke I was extremely grateful for as the extreme heat felt exceptional.
By now, my vision was blurred as I held onto the handle on the wall for dear life and breathed heavily through contractions, I noticed there was a fair bit of blood on the yoga ball and floor and when the Nurse came to check on me, she mentioned the Cervadil had fallen out and the blood was normal. As I glanced down through blurry eyes I saw the glob of tape worm-like material but it was quickly followed by another contraction that had me no longer caring what this neat little product looked like.
Around 12 AM I was asked to get out of the shower so they nurse could do another pelvic exam, and I begrudgingly waddled to the bed buck naked - Ray offered to help me get in a gown but I told him that unless I was pushing, I was getting right back in the shower and to not even bother shutting it off. The nurse was both impressed and excited to announce I was "about 7 CM" now, and in that moment my OB poked her head in between deliveries to check on me. They told me that if I wanted an epidural, now was the time to order one. I had previously decided I didn't think I wanted one, but I would decide when the time came because I had no idea what labour would feel like until it happened; but despite feeling like crawling out of my own skin with each contraction, I declined and asked for alternative options. I was told I could get an IV of Fentanyl, and as a contraction hit I became silent and my wonderful husband advocated for me knowing I had a bad past experience with medical Fentanyl and refused to have it again. My OB joked that it was "medical grade, not recreational" and he stood up for me, explaining what had happened and that I did not want it. They finally accepted that, and offered gas which I accepted. My goal had always been to use Gas first, but initially they didn't offer it at all. I liked the idea of Gas because it was something I was in control of, and it wasn't long before they wheeled in the cart and gave me a quick How-To on using it and made me demonstrate using it through a contraction. They advised me I could take it in the shower with me, so I didn't waste any time jumping up between contractions and heading straight back into the shower. In the roughly 2.5 hours that followed, I would go through FOUR bottles of gas as the contractions were essentially back to back with almost no break in between, all while sitting in the shower as Ray stood on the other side of the curtain (because it was really cold when it was open due to a draft) with a cup of water, offering me sips in the measly seconds of relief between contractions. I wouldn't say the Gas numbed the pain, but rather it made me care less and between that and the shower, it was an absolute godsend.
As I continued to labour, I suddenly felt a lot of pressure in my pelvis and an uncanny desire to push into it with each contraction - in that moment, I knew the pressure was the baby descending into my pelvis and I told Ray "I think you better go get the nurse, I feel like I need to push". I waited in the shower for her arrival, and she instructed me to get into the bed. There was no time in between contractions at this point it seemed, and I opted to once again get into the bed buck naked; the last thing I wanted on me in that moment was clothes or starchy hospital gowns.
I climbed up onto the bed and the Nurse said "Oh my god, there's just a tiny rim left. You're fully dialated girl!" and she slipped out to track down the OB, who was delivering another baby. Suddenly, my body began to take over and before I knew it, my body was pushing and there was nothing I could do about it; I felt a gush of fluid and I pushed and curled into a ball trying to escape my own body knowing the worst was yet to come.
Like most pregnant people, I had done copious amounts of research throughout my pregnancy and I had several plans about how I was going to get through things. For starters, I love the smell of Lavender and it really relaxes me so I packed Lavender Essential Oil and a cloth which I had planned to have wet down then dabbed with oil and put on my forehead or chest. I also packed a version of A535 I use to ease the lower back pain that goes along with labour, and purchased Mints and Gum that I thought might help. I had several thoughts about the mental game that goes along with it - I searched easy brain games Ray and I could play to get through it, and so on. Guess what? I didn't use or do ANY of them. When the time came, I wanted the hot shower and gas and that was it. The contractions were so powerful and close together I could barely get out "water" and "thank you" and my brain was so preoccupied I had no interest in anything else. I didn't even like ice chips in my mouth; the only thing I wanted was cold water and the only thing I wanted on my skin was, well.. nothing.. lol.
As we approached the summit of this ginormous mountain, I entered the negative phase - Suddenly I felt like I couldn't do this; it hurt too much I couldn't possibly go on. No one in their right mind would willingly do this, let alone more than once. I had decided in that moment I was never doing it again. Despite the negativity circling through my brain, my body pushed on - both literally and figuratively. No matter how much I felt like I couldn't possibly reach the summit, my body wasn't listening - it persevered and even if I wanted to roll over and play dead, my body wouldn't let up. By 2:25 AM, Ray and the Delivery Nurse had ahold of each leg and the nurse and my OB were talking me through how to push. The nurse continually told me to relax my legs and all I could think of was "How?!". Ray was quiet, but once I recall him telling me what a great job I was doing. With each contraction I was able to push three times, and it felt like we were getting nowhere. It seemed as though I pushed for hours and I was making no progress. Between each push, the baby would go back inward and I was becoming discouraged but yet again, my body wouldn't stop.
After what felt like hours, I finally heard the OB say "Oh, there's a full head of hair, she's crowing!". Funnily enough, that short sentence of irrelevant information gave me what I needed to bare down; I was ready to meet this kid. After the next contraction, the OB told me to stop pushing and breath to allow things to stretch as her head came through. In that moment I remember thinking about my Mother In Law telling me that the head isn't the problem, it's the shoulders. Great. Just as I began to spiral back down into that negative mindset, I felt another contraction coming and I heard the OB say "last contraction and she's out". I gave four of the hardest pushes I ever have in my life, and our beautiful baby girl came flying out at 2:55 AM. I went into a bit of shock about what I had just gone through, I barely noticed the tiny thing sitting on my chest. She wasn't crying and she felt surprisingly soft and squishy. I just had a fricken baby.
As I caught my breath, the room around me was a blur. I heard noises, but I couldn't tell you what or who they were. I remember being touched, and trying to put my legs down and being told I had to wait and to just rest. I remember the delivery nurse confirming "it IS a girl!" and asking her if she's going to give us a cry. I suddenly remembered there was an unreal thunderstorm going on in the world outside, and shortly after she was out and it came to a screeching halt. I quickly remembered through gritted teeth, momentous pushes and squinted, tear-filled eyes during the delivery that the room would occasionally light up with the sheet lightning wreaking havoc outside. I remembered copious amounts of praise from the OB, the delivery Nurse and Ray about what a fantastic job I had done. I remember the delivery nurse telling me she was shocked I did it all without an Epidural and what an absolute "warrior" I was. Then, I remembered a few moments of silence while the OB and nurse stepped back and let Ray and I share our first snuggle with our daughter.
The Hospital does a delayed cord cutting if you wish, which allows all the last bits of goodness from the placenta to come through to the baby and after a few minutes, Ray cut the umbilical cord that tied us together for the past 39 weeks. Immediately following that, she began sniffing and bumbling around as best she could, searching for food and the nurse helped us get started. The first hour after birth is often referred to as the "golden hour" where bonding and nursing is crucial, and given that my Placenta was being stubborn to vacate my body and she was the last baby of the night born, our golden hour turned into more of a golden 3 hours. As we visited and waited for my placenta, the OB joked that after all that, she may need to give me that Epidural afterwards and take me into surgery if it wouldn't pass on it's own. After several failed attempts at massaging it out externally, the nurse continued with this while the OB did an internal massage with gentle pressure - let me tell you; it was EXTREMELY uncomfortable; almost as much as the actual birth.. but luckily, out she came and in one piece. When it did finally come out, it was the oddest feeling; like what I imagine passing a jellyfish would feel like.
Once my Placenta passed, the OB got to work with putting me back together. I sustained some second degree tearing, but it was all external. Unfortunately one was in a rather unfortunate spot that resulted in the OB needing to insert a Catheter to ensure nothing had been adversely affected - luckily it wasn't, but if you've never had a catheter - trust me when I say, you don't want one.
Once the OB put me all back together, we began preparing to move to our recovery room. The nurse needed to take the baby to take her measurements and things, and it was recommended I take a shower to clean myself up. I was so exhausted and a little worried about the shower being uncomfortable, but once again my love for the shower was rekindled and I didn't want to get out. If I didn't have a newborn baby waiting to get to know me, I swear I could have sat in that shower for another 6 hours. The hot water and getting cleaned up felt incredible. My hair was a disaster from sitting in the shower for so long and then the sweat and mess that comes along with giving birth, and it felt incredible and rejuvenating.
One thing no one told me, is it's not uncommon to not sleep for 48 hours after giving birth; you're in shock and running on adrenaline more than ever before in your life. When we got into our recovery room, it was 6 AM and I was absolutely wired. The sun was up and while Ray and our daughter both snoozed after the long night, I couldn't help but stare at the wall in shock of what happened, and what is yet to come.
Following being discharged, the Pediatrician made us go to the local hospital for a follow up Jaundice test the next day, and unfortunately her levels were even higher which landed us back in the hospital for 36 hours of light therapy. I'd never cried so much in my life; I was so scared and felt so much guilt as though it was my fault. The first night Ray wasn't allowed to stay overnight with us due to COVID, but the second day in my hormone-induced spiral, I had a bit of a mental break down and threatened to discharge myself and the head nurse made an exception and allowed Ray to come stay the night with us. During our stay, her numbers continued to get lower and lower and after the second night, we were allowed to leave but had to come back again the next day for another test. Thank goodness for my sanity, her numbers were even lower and we didn't have to be admitted for a third time; we could finally go home and start our life together.
Motherhood has been a hell of a journey and little did I know that a mere hours following birth I wouldn't even remember what it felt like and the regret I felt at the time wouldn't last. You often hear people say "I didn't know I could love something so much, so fast" and I always thought it sounded so cheesy, but damn is it true. I'm not rushing into it yet, but I honestly can't wait to have more. This has been hands down the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I'm loving every minute of it - even though I cry often, I cry just as many happy tears as I do sad and frustrated ones.
Without further ado, welcome to the world Eowynn Annalisse Nikiforuk, born on August 3 at 2:55 AM and weighing 7lb 8oz at 20" tall. She has an incredible mohawk that i'll miss like crazy when it grows out, has grown to love her swing and is overall doing pretty well despite our rocky start.
During our 36 hrs of light therapy for Jaundice
Chillin' ring side
If you read this entire post, koodo's to you and I promise i'll have horsey updates coming soon when my body is healed!