Leo’s birth story is very dramatic, much like him. Although his arrival into the world was the most magical moment of my life, it was also very sudden and unexpected. If I do end up having a second, I really hope that he or she will be more chills, as far as dramatic entrances go.
Whenever I tell people about Leo’s birth story, there are several stages of reactions:
5. Lots of *feels*
Get ready for a wild ride, people. It’s a good one, I promise.
Was I scared?
No, I was never scared of the pain of labor and delivery. My only anxiety and fear came from thinking about my baby and his well-being during delivery. My mama-bear instincts were starting to kick in and I hadn’t even realized it yet. I was not scared of the pain because I have severe endometriosis. The pain of endo is similar to labor pains, contractions and all. It is the worst! I’m no stranger to constant, crippling, debilitating pain. I have worked 12 hour days while bleeding profusely and feeling non-stop contraction like cramps. Essentially, I have experienced labor without having a baby. Awesome, right?
I think the pain of labor is monumental to our journey as mothers because that pain is abundant and intense energy connecting us to our babies and helping them make their entrance into the world. The pain signifies the importance of birth. I knew that when the time came, I would harness the powerful energy flowing through my body to connect with my baby. Instead of fearing the pain, I tried my best to embrace it. I knew it would be completely worth it and it totally was!
My mama-bear instincts were starting to kick in and I hadn’t even realized it yet.
How was my pregnancy?
My pregnancy was not chills at all. Due to my endometriosis, my pregnancy was considered high risk. I also had spotting from week 5 to about week 11 so I was always extra cautious. My entire pregnancy was very uncomfortable. I developed sciatica at around 16 weeks which made sleeping impossible. The pain started at my back and went down to my leg. It was awful. I also developed pregnancy arrhythmia, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I started having terrifying heart palpitations while walking my dog. I was straight-up terrified that I was going to have a heart attack.
At 34 weeks, Leo was sitting so low that I could feel his head in my birth canal. I kept telling my mom and husband that I was scared that he would come early but they just kept brushing me off like I wasn’t aware of the happenings to my own body.
Lesson number 1: Listen to your bodies! I cannot stress this enough; if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Be your own advocate! Threaten to break things if people don’t listen to you! Ok, definitely don’t do that.
My husband and I stupidly stayed up until about 3:30 am on Monday morning. Had I known that my baby would literally be in my arms less than three hours from then, I would have started sleeping and continued to sleep from the minute that I was born. Lesson number 2: Sleep as much as possibly can because you never know when the baby will come and rob you of years, yes-years of sweet, beautiful, perfect, peaceful sleep.
Listen to your bodies! I cannot stress this enough; if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Be your own advocate.
How did I go into labor?
Now here is the interesting part; I started drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea around 32 weeks with my doctor’s approval. My doctor told me that the tea helps strengthen the uterus which makes labor faster and less painful. One of my biggest issues is that I have a terrible habit of leaving tea bags in my teacup, waiting for the tea to cool down and then forgetting about it altogether. I can’t even tend to a bag of tea without forgetting about it after five minutes, yet had enough confidence to think that I was capable of raising an actual human baby. I feel bad about wasting tea, so instead of making myself a fresh cuppa, I usually just end up drinking nasty, cold, extra-steeped tea. Normally drinking this type of very strong tea would be fine for a non-preggo but shit started to hit the proverbial fan once this tea was in my system. I truly believe this tea helped kickstart my labor and made my labor and delivery extremely fast. A touch too fast. I would have actually appreciated Leo not practically flying out of me!
Pro-tip: If you’re a tired overdue mama and you want your baby out yesterday, try drinking Raspberry Leaf Tea. If your uterus is anything like mine, your baby will come out faster than angry crowd running into mall doors on Black Friday. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to help induce labor with Raspberry Leaf Tea.
Back to my story. I made my tea around midnight, obviously forgot about it, and finally remembered to drink it around 2:00 am. For some stupid, unknown reason, my husband and I were still awake in the wee hours of the early morning. Although my husband and I were so tired, we just couldn’t get ourselves to go to bed. I guess this was the universe’s way of hinting to us that something big was about to happen and boy, did the universe deliver (a literal baby, that is).
It was only February 6th and Leo wasn’t due until March 3rd so my husband and I were planning on resting real easy for the next month. That night, we were going to hold each other tight, dream about our last month together as a family of two. At around 3:30 am, we retired to bed in our in a pristine, empty home, filled with only the sounds of peace and quiet. I’m still astounded by my own naïveté. If I could go back in time and slap myself for being so foolish, I definitely would.
Post Twist: I never slept again.
I felt a weird cramp as soon as I got into bed. It was a few minutes before 3:30 am and I felt a tingling sharp pain in my uterus. Pain that I had never felt before. I told hubby that I felt a weird cramp and his exact words were “just go to the bathroom”. I followed his advice and used the bathroom and didn’t feel the pain again, so I didn’t think anything of it and came back into our room. As I pulled back the duvet and bent down to get into bed, I heard a loud POP! Instantly, water was gushing out of me like in the movies. I looked down at the carpet and saw water coming out of me. I almost passed out right then and there. The adrenaline hit me like nothing I’ve ever experienced and I started shaking uncontrollably.
I never wear pants to bed and this time was no exception so I only had on my pajama top. I told my husband hubby to get up immediately because it was time. He jumped out of bed and into his clothes in one fell swoop. Very slick! I ran into my parent’s bedroom (because they were living with us at the time), pant-less and screaming hysterically. My mom was also now shaking and screaming hysterically. At this point, everyone is screaming. The zen-like mood I wanted to set for myself was coming along really well. Not.
Fortunately, everyone else in the house was wearing pants. My mom followed me into our room, where I was maniacally packing my hospital bag while hubby was walking around in circles. Somewhere in between trying to stuff my bag with random items at arms-reach, I remembered that I should take a shower before going to the hospital. I ditched my hospital bag and jumped in the shower.
At this point, I was still leaking fluid and shaking uncontrollably. I managed to climb into the shower quickly rinse myself off before running out and throwing on the first set of comfy clothes I could find – yoga pants and a bathing suit cover-up. Perfect outfit for birthing – check! I threw a few random outfits in my bag for Leo. (I didn’t pack any diapers or wipes. Who needs them? I thought. I need them, I learned). We were out the door by 4:00 am. My hospital bag literally had zero baby items or aftercare items for myself. Reflecting back on this experience, I realized you really don’t need much in your hospital bag but having a few essential items would have been very nice to have. Check out my list of hospital bag essentials so you don’t end up scrambling like I did!
As I pulled back the duvet and bent down to get into bed, I heard a loud POP! Instantly, water was gushing out of me like in the movies.
Did I make it to the hospital in time?
Barely. I literally couldn’t move. I was in shock that this was happening to me and I knew that something was very wrong. We rushed into the car and prayed that we would make it to the hospital safely.
At this point, I was in active labor and my contractions were five minutes apart. Considering that the hospital was about an hour away, I realized that there was a very good possibility that I may have to give birth in the car. I was absolutely terrified. I did not utter a word to anyone because I didn’t want my husband and my mom to freak out even more. My husband casually asked me if I was in active labor. Trying to remain as calm as possible, I replied: “no babe, I’m totally good, we have plenty of time”. I obviously didn’t want him to drive any faster and kill us all, so I had to pretend that I wasn’t feeling anything at all. Meanwhile, I thought I was slowly dying a very slow, painful death. The contractions were coming hard and fast. My mom was timing the contractions and they became two minutes apart so I was starting to seriously (internally) freak out. I had about 17 panic attacks but of course, I didn’t let anyone catch on and continued to act super chill.
We must have had an angel traveling with us because with my husband’s stunt driving, combined with Leo’s impeccable timing, we got to the hospital in only 30 minutes.
At The Hospital
Mortified at the thought of giving birth in the elevator, I didn’t even think I was going to make it into triage on the 16th floor. I was in so much pain.
Once we entered triage, I noticed that the entire floor was almost empty, except for one nurse and the cleaning staff. I approached the nurse as calmly and respectfully as I could and explained to her that my baby was coming. She said that I needed to wait until I was registered in the main office and told me to change into a hospital gown. She didn’t ask me anything about how I was feeling and didn’t care at all that I told her that my baby would be here very soon. I told her I really needed to use the bathroom, which I know now is a clear indication that the baby is about to arrive. She told me to walk out of triage and into the guest bathroom as the triage bathrooms were being cleaned. Then she left.
My mom and I were left completely alone in triage and I was bleeding heavily at this point. I somehow made my way to the bathroom and sat down on the toilet and felt this unbelievable, otherworldly pain like nothing I have experienced before.
That’s When I Felt It
Leo had started crowning while I was on the toilet! I remember the intensity of that moment so vividly. The sensation felt like my entire body was frozen but on fire at the same time. The pain was sharp and I felt it permeate throughout my entire body. I can’t explain the pain but it was so powerful and so overwhelming. Immediately, I started screaming at the top of my lungs. I walked out of the bathroom and the second hit of pain came and I screamed again. I didn’t even recognize my own screams.
My mom and husband were just staring at me from across the hall like they had seen a ghost. I guess they had no idea why I was screaming, especially when I had remained so calm this entire time. I realized that I had to communicate what was happening to my body so I started screaming “the baby is here, the baby is here!”. The color started to drain from their faces once they realized what was happening.
Walking Around With a Crowning Baby!
We were still completely alone in triage and I can’t even explain how worried I was for my baby. I slowly walked back into triage, feeling like my heart was going to explode out of my chest. We were waiting for that awful nurse that completely ignored me to come back from her break. Once she finally came back, she asked my husband for my registration papers. My husband was so livid and he just told her that I need help right now and to forget the papers. I suppose a doctor had my screams and came rushing into triage. Things started to move quickly from this point on.
The negligent nurse told me to get onto the bed so she could check me for dilation and I told her there is no way I can get onto the bed with my baby’s head practically falling out of me. She demanded that I get onto the bed so I hesitantly obliged. Very carefully, I climbed onto the hospital bed while trying to get my legs as close together as possible. At this point, the pain was becoming unbearable as Leo was full-on crowning. She went to check me and saw Leo’s hair!
I couldn’t believe the nonchalance of this woman from the minute I walked into the hospital. Her negligence was astounding. I am still so upset about the negligence because I could have had Leo in the toilet when the nurse was only a few meters from me. Just thinking of that moment upsets me so much and takes away from my entire labor and delivery experience because I feel so angry about the lack of care that I received.
I was immediately rushed into the delivery room and transferred to another hospital bed. The energy in the delivery room was completely different than triage. While the energy in triage felt cold, uncomfortable and unwelcoming, the delivery room felt warm, calm and peaceful.
It was time.
When I was brought into the room, there were already about a dozen people setting up. I saw the wonderful nurse who helped me a few weeks prior when I went into triage with a cholastis scare. There were several other nurses in the room and three doctors, including the one that came to my rescue. The nurses became my guardian angels. The amount of strength and reassurance they gave me was incredible. The power of nurses during that pivotal moment is essential because they are your cheerleaders and your coaches..
Before I gave birth, I read somewhere that babies make their way out of their mother’s womb, even if the mother has passed away. I thought that was absolutely insane when I first heard about it. However, after experiencing labor, I completely understood how our bodies and our babies are designed to go through this process. The whole idea is so strange because women shouldn’t even be able to live through this type of trauma. Yet, our bodies are built to know exactly what to do and our babies also know exactly what to do. It’s simply miraculous. There is no other way that I can describe birth.
I never understood how people just went to the bathroom and gave birth or gave birth at home, completely unmedicated until it happened to me. The baby will come when he or she is ready and the process cannot be stopped!
What Did Pushing Feel Like?
The lights in the room were dim. I was feeling rather calm and relaxed, despite the astronomical pain. The entire experience felt surreal. I felt like I was having an out of body experience. Time felt like it was moving very fast and very slow all at once.
I started using the breathing techniques that I learned from prenatal yoga while practicing mindfulness. I went into a state of calm and drowned everything out. Closing my eyes, I harnessed all my energy into connecting with my baby.
Istarted to connect with my baby. Communicate with my baby. Work with my baby. Be one with my baby. The moment before I started pushing, I distinctly remember connecting and communicating with Leo. We were both working toward the same goal. Leo and I were completely in sync. We both wanted to meet each other so badly and be in the comfort of each other’s arms.
I think that is why I felt so calm and sure of my ability to bring him into the world. There was absolutely no fear. Simply breathing and connecting. Breathing and connecting. Leo did just as much work, if not more work than me. My mind was blown. Here you have this tiny being, who doesn’t even know how to breathe outside of the womb, pushing with all his strength and might.
This little 5lb 4oz person pushed himself into the world with all his force. He pushed with every inch of his life, just so that he could come out and be on my chest, in my arms. What an overwhelming feeling that must have been for him. He didn’t know why he was doing what he was doing, but he did it because he felt in his heart that he needed to do it.
Letting Go of Fear
While pushing, I spoke to Leo in my mind and told him that I would hold him really soon. I could feel him understanding me and trying to push himself out even harder. When he pushed, a wave of pain came over my body. The pain didn’t feel like anything I had ever felt before. It was almost like an ocean of pain washing over me. Every single part of my body was vibrating in pain, from my eyelashes to my toenails. I felt the pain course itself through my every one of my veins. I continued to breathe. Deep breaths in and pushing out, without making a sound. I was determined to focus on breathing and communicating with my baby.
I forgot who was in the room. The nurses and my husband were no longer in my line of vision. I just remember seeing darkness and breathing and pushing. The room was extremely quiet with just the doctor’s gentle rhythmic reminder to “push, push, push, push, push”.
All of a sudden, I was overcome with exhaustion. A full-body, near death exhaustion. I told my doctors that I had to stop pushing and needed a break. They kindly obliged and let me catch my breath and relax for a brief moment. After a few seconds of rest, I felt Leo wanting to come out again and this time I was ready.
The Moment I Met My Baby
My entire body felt lke it had been lit on fire. I felt like I was literally burning alive. I was convinced that I must have died because I couldn’t fathom surviving that much pain. About a milisecond before I threw in the towel, the doctor said “give us your hands, give us your hands, grab your baby”.
I managed to snap out of my daze and stretch my arms. To my absolute shock and surprise, I was handed, my baby. My beautiful little boy was in my arms before I realized that I even stopped pushing. Just like that, it was all over.
The breathe I took immediately after Leo came out felt like the first breath that I have ever taken. I felt like I was born again. This time, as a mother. I remember the first breath I took as if I had never known to breathe. I was overcome with joy and an enormous relief. Leo and I bought took our first breaths together. We entered into this beautiful, complicated, monumental lifelong journey together, without knowing anything about each other except just how much we love and need each other.
We were still connected by the umbilical cord while he quieted down on my chest. I slowly started coming out of my trance. My husband came back in my line of vision. He was sobbing. The doctors and nurses were cheering for me. The doctors started telling me that I needed to deliver my placenta. After the pain of pushing Leo out and the endorphins spreading through my body, I barely felt the doctors gently massaging my stomach while I pushed my placenta out.
OMG, The Stitches!
Next came the most dreaded part of this entire experience, the stitches. Oh. My. God. The. Stitches. I had a second-degree tear. The doctors gave me a local injection which did absolutely nothing to ease my pain.
I felt like I was dying all over again from the pain of getting stitches. I felt everything. The doctors then offered me laughing gas which I agreed to immediately. With Leo still on my chest, the nurses put a mask over my mouth and nose and told me to take a few deep breaths. Then the hysterical laughing started. For no reason at all, I started telling everyone how much I loved the Mindy Project. The doctors started laughing and I was laughing, even though I was still in excruciating pain. What an odd feeling to be experiencing indescribable pain while also laughing like a hyena.
The pain was becoming unbearable again and the laughing gas almost made me more sensitive to the pain because I was (for lack of a better term), high AF. I pleaded with the doctors for one more injection of local numbing and they quickly and happily obliged. After the second injection, I felt the pricking only slightly less but at that point, even a small amount of pain management was a huge relief.
Although the stitches were killing me, I would look down at my sweet boy and my heart couldn’t be any fuller.
The moment Leo entered the world was the moment my world stopped and the earth had shifted. Everything became slightly differently. I became wholly different. I couldn’t imagine how I ever existed without him.
What Happened After the Stitches?
Once the stitches were finally complete, the nurses took Leo to be weighed and given his vitamin K shot. That was the first time, Leo was separated from me. I was instantly longing to have him back on my chest as soon as possible. They weighed him quickly and efficiently and wrapped him up beautifully, like the most beautiful gift that I have ever received. The nurse then proceeded to hand me my perfect baby with a huge smile on her face, saying he’s all yours.
I felt so proud at that moment. Proud of myself for surviving this ordeal. Proud of my husband for rooting me on (even calling me a boss bitch at one time while I was pushing, which I’m sure were met with raised eyebrows from the doctors). Most of all, I was so proud of Leo for being so strong, brave and determined.
As soon as I went into my room, I started walking as if I hadn’t been through the equivalent of a severe car accident. The endorphins were still in full force, I suppose. I was a bit sore but completely mobile. I went to pee, which was absolutely terrifying.
My water broke at 3:30 am and Leo was out at 5:29 am. By the time I got to my room, it was almost 7:00 am. The next few hours were a blur. Since Leo was so small, the nurses kept coming in to check his sugars. When he was being pricked, my heart was exploding into a million pieces. I could feel the pain he was in. Since Leo was very weak and having a hard time sucking I was told to start pumping right away and encouraged to give Leo formula.
I will go into detail about my entire pumping and breastfeeding journey in a different post, outlining the lessons that I learned and my regrets. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have insisted on trying to breastfeed him before introducing him to formula.
We stayed in the hospital for one additional night since the pediatrician that was assigned to us wanted to keep an eye on Leo’s sugars and his weight drop. Since I was pumping and bottle/breastfeeding Leo literally every fifteen to thirty minutes, his lowest weight was 4lbs 10oz when we left the hospital and I was told he was within the range of normal weight loss. Being in Toronto, we were in the middle of a giant blizzard so getting to and from the hospital was a terrible pain.
We were cleared for discharge the following day. Leo and I waited downstairs in the main lobby of the hospital while my husband pulled up the car. I didn’t have any warm clothes for Leo or really any clothes that fit him. He was just so tiny. We dressed Leo in the smallest outfit and sleeper we had and packed him up with several blankets to keep him nice and cozy.
While in the waiting area, many people approached us and wanted to take a peek inside his car seat, which honestly made me extremely uncomfortable. My baby was less than 48 hours old and I had patients in a hospital trying to touch him and breathe on him. I tried to be as polite as possible and quickly gave several strangers a chance to take a quick glance at him which I probably wouldn’t do again if I was given the chance. I really don’t understand the obsession strangers have with looking at, touching other people’s babies. It is probably my single biggest pet peeve.
My husband pulled the car around, we clicked Leo’s car seat into the base and I hopped in the backseat with Leo. My husband slowly started making his way home. He was driving as if he was transporting a thousand pound of precious hold-encrusted diamond sculpture worth billions. Precious cargo, indeed. After a long, long drive through a terrifying winter storm, we were home.
Home, Safe and so in Love
I settled into bed with Leo. An overwhelming amount of exhaustion came over me because I had gotten all of two hours of sleep total in the last 2 days. I still felt a lot of adrenaline which kept me sane through the first couple of exhausting days. The moment I had been so anxiously waiting for had arrived and I finally met my baby. I knew what love was before I met Leo but this love was different. This love was something else. I didn’t even know that I was capable of loving someone this much. The day that Leo was born was literally the BEST day of my life.
The love I have for him is deeply rooted in my very being, my existence and my soul. Life before him feels like it was black and white. After having Leo, I felt like I was seeing colors for the first time in my life. He showed me colors I didn’t even know existed. He was and still is the most exceptional little human I have ever met. The love of my life. He is vibrant and magical.
My sweet, loving, kind and colorful little boy was finally home.
LizNovember 11, 2018
I love birth stories and yours is great. Definitely all are a wild ride. With my first I had 4th degree tearing and episiotomy. With my 2nd I went into labor early and an hour away from the hospital, had to drive myself and 1 year old to meet hubby at hospital with 4 minute contractions. #3 was born in the bathroom at hospital. #4 was a 3 hour labor.
Farah SheikhNovember 12, 2018
Loved hearing about your birth stories! Mine was definitely a wild ride, especially being my first. Thank you so much for reading! I love hearing birth stories as well. It’s so crazy how each birth is so different. With your 2nd and 3rd, omg I can’t even imagine the stress! You are so strong, mama! Great job bringing your littles into the world with so much strength and bravery <3
Micaela HessJune 26, 2019
Thank you for sharing your story. It’s very helpful. I have a question, though: when you started drinking the raspberry leaf tea at 32 weeks, how often were you drinking it? And were you letting it steep for a really long time then as well, or was that only the night of his birth? I’m 36 weeks now so don’t want to go into labor too soon. Thanks!!
Farah SheikhJune 28, 2019
Congratulations! How exciting! I was drinking one cup a day at 32 weeks, steeped for about 10 minutes. I only steeped it very long that ONE time which I think pushed me into labor! Definitely only steep it longer once you’re overdue. Continue steeping for 10-15 minutes and enjoy! Happy birthing!!
Noor mahmoodAugust 17, 2019
Such an incredible story!! I have done the exact same thing with the raspberry leaf tea but only started drinking it for couple of days and now the last one I have had brewed for 4 hours because I forgot. 39+4 weeks literally have anxiety thinking about going overdue. So fingers-crossed I got into labour soon just about to go to sleep. Can’t wait to hold my baby boy ???
Farah SheikhAugust 19, 2019
Thanks so much for reading! I’m so excited for you! Sending lots of happy baby dust your way! Enjoy your new precious little boy!