*Posted with permission of both parents*
Jason’s story is in italics, Sandy’s in normal font
To view the story with photos click “Jason and Sandy’s Birth Story” on our Homepage
Sandy and I would like to announce that we are the very proud, very happy parents of our new baby girl! It has been a truly amazing experience the past four days and we are extremely grateful that our Red Bean has arrived safely. Thank you everyone for their well-wishes and thoughts. Sandy and I will be “cocooning” with the baby in the next few days so we won’t really be very accessible but we will be in touch very soon as we would like you to meet Red Bean.
First off, allow me to apologize to anyone who tried to reach either Sandy or myself in the past few days without much success. We know some of you were concerned and we are very appreciative. We were just going through some challenges with the labour and we wanted Sandy to be free of distractions. So, we felt that we owed at least some of you a detailed breakdown of what happened
When my doctor first referred me to a ob-gyn at Mount Sinai, I was thrilled. The best hospital with the best team of doctors. Out of curiosity, I went for a consultation with the Riverdale Community Midwives, since it was conveniently located on my street. I end up going with a mid-wife because I really like their philosophy: birth is a natural event and they would try to minimize any unnecessary medical interventions e.g. epistomety (a cut..eek!), c-section, vacuum, forceps, etc.. Plus, I end up developing a really good relationship with my mid-wife, Cynthia, who gave us lots of 1-to-1 attention, stuck with me during labour, and will be providing 6-week care post-partum. All this covered by OHIP – sweet! With Cynthia, I had the option of delivering at home or at the hospital.
At first, Sandy was pretty adamant about getting an epidural as she anticipated that she would not be able to deal with the pains of labour. We eventually enlisted the help of a midwife, Cynthia and a doula (labour coach) Amanda to help us with the birth. Interacting with them exposed us to the idea that Sandy could birth naturally, perhaps even at home. So after much research, we were going to try to have the baby at home without any intervention. We rented a birthing tub, laid down lots of towels and plastic shower curtains, stocked up on snacks and bendy straws, and … waited.
Earlier in the pregnancy, I was positive I wanted to deliver at St Mike’s hospital with the mid-wife, because I knew “help” was close in case anything went wrong, and an epidural would be at my fingertips if I changed my mind. However, over the course of a few months, after reading many books by Ina May Gaskin and Sheila Kitizinger, talking to our mid-wife Cynthia, and watching countless documentaries (e.g. Orgasmic Birth, Business of Being Born with Ricki Lake), and with Jason’s encouragement, I decided to “try” for a home birth, stock up on supplies, maintain a positive attitude, and above all… remain flexible.
Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
Sandy woke up in the morning feeling like she had wet herself. So, it was just like any other day. Just kidding . Anyway, we weren’t sure what was going on so we went to our midwife, Cynthia, for an appointment. Cynthia examined Sandy and determined that it was likely that her water had broken. She sent us home with instructions to rest as much as possible and try to distract Sandy if any contractions occurred. The rest of the day was spent with me doing work, Sandy baking pies, and just trying to relax. Sandy was occasionally cramping but nothing regular so it was an uneventful evening.
Due date – Sunday July 4th, came and went. Nothing happened.
So, Monday night- Jason and I decided to take matters in our own hands and get the grove on On Tuesday, I woke up, and felt like I had wet myself… more of a slow leak, rather than a sudden gush like you see in movies. I started getting period-like menstrual cramps, so I knew things were going to turn up a notch. Feeling excited that things were starting to happen, I waited for Cynthia’s prognosis. After the exam, she told me that it was likely that I broken my water, but it was difficult to tell without doing a physical exam. She didn’t want to do one, in likelihood of increasing infection. So she made a few suggestions: 1) eat over-ripe fruit 2) go for long walks 3) stimulate the nipples for a least an hour to release the body’s natural oxytocin hormone 4) go see an acupuncturist to induce labour and 5) eat some home-made homeopathic remedy which consisted of castor oil, peanut butter, and orange juice… can you say yuckkk!???!
At home, I pretty much tried everything she suggested (except the acupunturist part and castor oil concoction) and waited for some ACTION!! The rest of day, I worked on my “labour project” to distract myself which included baking 3 pies (2 apple, and 1 cherry, for our mid-wife, doula and for us) popped in a movie, bounced on the yoga/birthing ball for a few hours, and waited. At one point- it was pretty hilarious – me walking around the kitchen island, Jason following me, and Jesse too! We walked and circled around the kitchen island for hours – like one big family!! Honestly, pre-labour wasn’t too bad. I laughed, moved around, and it seemed pretty much like a normal day.
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
I woke up to the sounds of Sandy crying out in pain. Seems like contractions had started! So we did the coping exercises that the doula had taught us (breathing, moving, referring to contractions as “surges”) and things seemed to be progressing. Sandy was coping beautifully, able to breathe through her contractions without much difficulty and with enough ease to point out a couple of times that I was blowing my bad breath (e.g nachos, butternut squash soup) into her face. Since Cynthia had gone out of town for the day, the backup midwife Linda came and examined Sandy. Sandy was 1-2 cm dilated but Linda assessed that her water had not broken yet. The leaking fluid was likely just that, a leak, not a rupture. Linda gave us some homeopathic pills to help with the contractions which continued and grew close enough apart (5 min) that we called our doula at around 8 PM. Amanda came and mysteriously, things started spacing out. Five minutes became 7 minutes which became 10 minutes. By around midnight, both Sandy and I were pretty tired and, since contractions were slowing down, we decided to try to sleep that night. Well, we didn’t end up getting much sleep because Sandy was still getting contractions every 10-15 minutes which were pretty strong.
Wednesday morning was such a blur. Things started heating up! I can’t even remember how or when it started. Surges (contractions) started at about 7am, and I did a lot of walking around our kitchen island to cope. Anytime it felt like hurting, I would close my eyes, breath out-loud, spread my legs open and sway from side to side, and hang onto the kitchen counter or the closest wall (per Amanda, our doula’s recommendation). This seems to help alot!!! Linda, the back-up mid- wife came to check-up on me and told me I was only 1-2 cm dilated, gave me some homeopathic pills to speed up the surges, and left us. The rest of the day, Jason would feed me these pills every half an hour, and we continued to watch movies, and walk around the kitchen island to cope. I remember Amanda coming around 9:30pm but the surges slowed down, so we decided to take it easy, send her home at about midnight, and get some rest. What this really meant… was me sleeping on the downstairs couch, and Jason was sleeping in the arm chair, and every time I would have a surge ~15 mins apart, he would jump out of his chair, and motivate and encourage me through each painful contraction. What a horrible night sleep!!! But thank goodness Jason was such a good labour partner!
Thursday, July 8th, 2010
Surges started our day and Sandy kept coping. A little bit more difficult now but still able to breathe her way through the surges. At this point, I was totally impressed by Sandy, especially considering she usually has a low pain tolerance. But with zero sleep and labour pains that I’ll never be able to describe, she was managing extremely well. We got to a point sometime in the early evening where surges were coming every 5 minutes. Since Cynthia was still out of town, Linda dropped by for another checkup. Her assessment was that Sandy was 3-4 cm dilated and the cervix was 80% effaced (thinned out) which was a bit disappointing, considering Sandy had been in labour for almost 36 hours. Sandy forged on and with Amanda’s help, we were down to contractions about 2-4 minutes apart at around 3 AM Friday morning. At this point, it had been about 43 hours so both Sandy and I were getting very tired but very excited to be entering what appeared to be active labour. Amanda sent me off to bed since I was a zombie at this point so I thankfully caught a few hours of sleep while Sandy continued to labour with Amanda.
Thursday … we called Amanda back once the homeopathic pills, walking around the kitchen island, and bouncing on the yoga ball seemed to take effect — surges were now 4-5 minutes apart. Linda came back, and I was SOoooo disappointed that she told me that
I was only 3-4 cm dilated. Crap!!!!! All this work, and that’s it!!??? holy smokes! Amanda was ABSOLUATELY AMAZING!!! She talked me through every single surge, and kept me strong and motivated. Plus, it was really good having an extra pair of hands and having someone there whose been through many births. I remember taking a long hot shower, walking up and down the stairs on my hands & knees, and listening to Amanda who told me “to make each surge work as efficiently as possible.” Amanda sent Jason to bed at about 3am, and she stayed up with me through the entire night helping me talk through each surge. I remember sitting in the chair sleeping (‘cuz at this point it was too painful to lie down), and she would say “Don’t move away from the pain, let your body sit into the pain, and let yourself go into the pain.” As weird at that sounds – it actually worked!!!
Friday, July 9th, 2010
I was awoken at around 7 AM by Cynthia’s arrival – she had returned from vacation which was great but we never thought that Sandy would still be in labour! For whatever reason, things had started slowing down again to 10-15 minute apart contractions. Needless to say, this was very discouraging and Cynthia presented us with a few options. Since the water had still not broken and we were 48 hours in, we could A) go to the hospital and get drugs (pitocin) to induce stronger contractions or B) manually break the bags of water to hopefully progress the labour to the birthing stage. We decided to go with option B but go to the hospital anyway so that we could check out the health of the baby. Baby was good, Sandy was 5 cm dilated, so Cynthia manually broke Sandy’s water with a huge chopstick-like contraption. Sandy’s contractions were pretty strong by now so she seemed ready to set up shop and get pumped up with some drugs. However, knowing that this was not what she really wanted, the birthing team (i.e. Cynthia, Amanda, and myself) encouraged her to continue trying at home.
Friday morning – I was getting desperate. Where was Linda? When is she coming back? How far along was I dilated now? Would it be time to deliver soon? I was really tired both physically and psychologically at this point and wasn’t sure how much longer labour was going to be. Linda informed us Cynthia had returned from vacation, and was coming over to check up on us and talk to us about our options at this point. In an hour, Cynthia finally came over to our place and gave us our options A) go to hospital to get drugs to speed up labour B) Check the baby’s stats using the hospital equipment which would give us the well-being of red bean C) break the bag manually. So – we grabbed our hospital bag, jumped into the car, and with Amanda, met Cynthia at St Mike’s maternity ward.
Once there, I have to admit – I had my weak moments. Cynthia had just manually broke my water bag with this chopstick like thing (which surprisingly didn’t hurt, and I felt a gush of warm liquid slide down my legs). But then, when I saw the big spa-like tub, I changed my mind and just wanted to stay at the hospital. I even thought to myself – heck! Now that I’m here, I can get an epidural and be rid of this pain, and avoid the jiggly car ride home. I remember Cynthia saying “You DON’T WANT to deliver here! It’ll be way better to deliver at home”, and Jason said “Yea, Jesse’s home, and you can be with her”, and Amanda said, “Yes, plus, there’s better snacks at home!” So I caved, and went home to deliver.
Friday, 2 pm
At this point, Sandy was in the birthing tub, coping with the increasingly stronger contractions. It had only been two hours since returning from the hospital and Sandy was already feeling the urge to push! Holy birthing tub – the thing was an insane labour accelerator for Sandy. Amanda paged Cynthia who rushed over. She examined Sandy and, to everyone’s delighted, declared that she could feel the baby’s head and that Sandy was ready to give birth. After dilating 5 cm in a span of 48 hours, the insane labour accelerator had increased the dilation by 5 cm in 2 HOURS! Highly recommended.
In the end, I’m so glad I went home. Once the birthing tub was filled with hot water, I jumped in and went into high gear mode. My body completely took over. It was like a whole another part of my instinctual side took over the intellectual thinking part of me. Amanda warned me, “When you feel the shudders, don’t be scared, just let it take over.” Okay… and boy did my body shake. That was scary. I closed my eyes, writhered around like a snake, and groaned in the tub for 2 hours. The hot water felt relaxing, and Amanda, was putting a cold face-cloth smeared with lavender essential oil… sweet blissful relief!!
During these shudders, I remember even telling Amanda … “I can’t help but feel like I need to push”… uh-oh! Amanda quickly called Cynthia, and she rushed over. When Cynthia finally arrived and examined me, she was surprised that I had dilated to 10 cm in 2 hours and said she could feel the baby’s head really low in my pelvis. When she called the back-up mid-wife, Linda, and ran to the car and grabbed her medical bag, I knew there was going to be some ACTION!!! Yippeee! Finally, it’s happening!!!! I was totally excited!!
Friday, 5 pm
For 2 hours, it was an awesome scene at our house.
1 sheepish Jason getting yelled at for having “Peanut Butter Breath!” + 1 obliging Amanda getting ordered with “FACECLOTH!” after every contraction + 1 midwife flashing everyone twice + 2 other midwifes yelling “PUSH!” + 1 beautiful, courageous, awe-inspiring, woman that I proudly call my wife EQUALS the delivery of the newest member of our family at 5:16 PM.
I’ve tried to describe best in words what I consider to be an indescribable experience. Over the course of the last two hours of labour, I gained even deeper respect for Sandy. Her strength, resolve, and endurance blew me away and I feel so very lucky to have her in my life. Yet if you talk to her about it, she will be humble about it. So I’ll toot her horn for her. As we held our baby together for the first time at 5:17 PM, I told her that she is my hero. What a great day.
So over the next 2 hours I pushed in the birthing tub, squatted on the birthing stool in the tub, and finally was coaxed into moving onto the couch so that I would be in better position. With my legs spread wide eagle, I had completely lost all care for dignity or covering up. I just wanted this baby out. They kept telling me “Yes! You are doing great! Just in a couple of more pushes, and this baby will be out!” Little did I realize that in the middle of all this pushing, you really lose a sense of time. When I shrieked in pain, Amanda kept encouraging me to keep the noises low, purse my lips together, and use my abs to push baby out. That was helpful. And every after surge, I would yell out “face-cloth” for my sweet relief!!!
Surprisingly… Jesse, our pooch, was wonderful. Calm. Attentive. And amazing. She watched me in the birthing tub, licked my feet, and was right there when red-bean was born. I’m so glad we didn’t send her away. Ever since the birth, Jesse has been my “guard” every time I am nursing… I kind of feel like she’s protecting my space, and watching out for intruders.
At one point during the labour, it was funny – because Jason tried to take over the mopping my face with the face-cloth but I didn’t like his technique. He wasn’t giving me enough pressure, and was smearing my hair like an old man’s comb-over… YES! Comb-OVER!! So, I bluntly asked Amanda if she could keep doing it, and Jason said he felt dry. hahahaha…
Even at 3 different points during the labour, Jason kept blowing his smelly breath in my face. While his intention was good to try and “breathe” through every surge with me, I kept smelling his nacho / butternut squash soup/ peanut butter breath. And, I even yelled out to stop it during each surge ‘cuz it was making me very irritated!!! LOL =) I’m glad he understood. So point of advice, make sure you have your partner/spouse/etc. brush his/her teeth!!! LOL =)
So looking back, it honestly didn’t feel like a 58 hour labour!! Time all blurs together. Must be the blend of adrenalin, oxytocin and excitement your body produces that makes you lose a sense of time. All I can say, is that I’m so happy that red-bean’s heart beat was strong and healthy throughout the labour. When she was born, I said to myself “Shit! I can’t believe this just came out of my body!” It’s an incredibly surreal experience. I’m still in a bit of a daze.
The team of mid-wives were amazing!! And, the doula… incredible. Highly recommend it!! They helped put a warm cloth and massaged olive oil over my perinneum so I was lucky to have NO stiches… just a minor tear, which I can’t even feel now. And, they placed the baby on my chest and got me to breast-feed. Apparently, if you can do this within the first 2 hours, it helps with the baby latching and makes breast-feeding easier. So far, it’s worked!
Amber Joyce Yuen
Born: 5:16 pm Weight: 7 pounds 10 ounces
Name: Amber Joyce Yuen – I wanted a name from nature, and I always thought the amber stone is beautiful… a golden honey brown colour. Fitting, I think. Apparently, according to the internet, Amber in Hindi means “sky.” Joyce is Jason’s grandmother’s name, so we decided that as the middle name.
Thanks to everyone who called and left us messages of concern. I’m sorry I haven’t called each one of you back, but I just want you to know that your emails/voice mails are all appreciated. I can’t wait for you to meet Red-bean ( aka Amber!!! )
It’s Day 7 now… and there has been lots of ups and downs. Exhausting with the 2-3 hour feedings. I’ve been trying to take naps during the day whenever Amber is sleeping. Had a bit of scare earlier this week ‘cuz the baby lost 11% of her birth weight, a bit jaundice (which apparently is pretty natural), and not peeing or pooping. With Jason’s attentiveness to all things, he’s been keeping us on track for timely feedings, washing bottles, preparing meals, washing dishes, getting me drinks so I stay hydrated and changing all the diapers!! A truly amazing dad and hubby. And, my parents and Jason’s parents have been amazing – bringing us meals, and helping around the house. We’ve been using a supplemental tube, and renting a breast pump from the hospital. (MOOOoooo! I feel like a cow pumping out the milk, but heck, it works, and it’s been helping Amber regain her birth weight.)
Much love and thanks for reading, Jason, Sandy, La Red Bean, and Jesse.