Isabelle Rosalind: A Birth Story

On July 24, we welcomed Isabelle Rosalind to our family. The last six weeks have been a whirlwind of feeding, late nights and all the baby snuggles – and, if I’m being honest, quite a bit of online baby shopping and excessive Googling.

Newborn life in a nutshell is this: I started writing Izzy’s birth story three weeks ago and just feel like I have enough brainpower to finish it today. That, coupled with coffee and the Baby K’Tan that keeps her strapped to my chest so I’m handsfree, are how I’m getting through the day. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The weeks leading up to Isabelle’s arrival were like a bit of a late-pregnancy rumspringa. We saw pretty much all of our friends, indulging in our favourite restaurants (with me pining for the margaritas at Hacienda + all the Aperol spritz) and staying up late. We hosted friends at home, we spent a night at our favourite bar, we slept in. On the Sunday before her arrival, I went to Kleinfeld with my future sister-in-law and walked what felt like a million blocks (it was really just the length of the Eaton Centre) in the July heat. I did not, however, go to the Backstreet Boys concert like I’d hoped to – everyone I would have gone with was just a little too nervous. Next time!

Saturday night, before dinner with Amanda + John

We were ready to meet baby! On Monday, I had my 39 week appointment with my OB and when she offered me a stretch & sweep I took it. Throughout the pregnancy, we’d been keeping an eye on baby’s size – I was measuring ahead + baby’s head was in the 90th percentile (thanks, Mike!) – so waiting until 41 weeks was not in the game plan.

A stretch & sweep is something that either works or doesn’t. If your body is ready for labour, it can kick-start the process within 48 hours. The next day, I was feeling lower back pain and continued cramping which was very encouraging. Princess, our 17-year-old cat, definitely got the vibe. She spent the evening at my side, (big, scary stability ball notwithstanding). Around 9PM, I got up to make us a snack, making a pit stop at the bathroom first.

When they say you’ll know if your water breaks, they mean it. There was no mistaking what was happening. I gave my body a silent, grateful pat on the back for not destroying the couch and let Mike know that baby was on the way. A quick call to Labour & Delivery triage confirmed we’d need to come in as soon as we could, meaning our original plan of waiting out labour at home was not going to happen.

I made up for all the nesting I hadn’t done in the half hour that followed. Although my hospital bag had been packed for weeks, I demanded Mike bring up my luggage from the basement because that was what I needed. Word to the wise: never disagree with a woman in labour.

I raced around packing extra snacks, tossing additional things into my bag and changing my leggings three times (amniotic fluid doesn’t play games). I did my nighttime skin routine and curled my hair (this is where Mike really started to get antsy, if you’re curious).

In the elevator at EGH – still smiling! Clearly unaware of what’s to come.

Miraculously, we made it out of the house and arrived at Etobicoke General close to 10PM. We made a happy discovery when we checked in: my OB was on call! This almost never happens, so it felt like a really great sign. I was also assigned to a nurse who I’d had a great experience with prior – double win!

In this optimistic state of very early labour – I wasn’t even having contractions yet – I was convinced we’d beat the odds and my OB would get to deliver our baby. I was also convinced that I was probably 3-4cm dilated. That wasn’t the case.

I had barely progressed past the 1cm mark, so they sent us walking around the hospital for the next few hours. We also took the opportunity to call our families and let them know that we were checked in. We probably should have listened to the OB and let them sleep in peace instead of inspiring what was a restless night for both sets of parents and my sister-in-law. My brother slept through all attempts at contacting him, so at least someone caught some shut-eye!

By midnight, I still hadn’t progressed and was only having very light contractions. My OB recommended we move forward with pitocin. This required being hooked up to fetal monitors, an IV and blood pressure cuff – essentially trapping me in bed. Real talk. Everything I had been concerned about regarding the pitocin was true: it intensifies labour in an unnatural way, which my body did not handle well (I vomited multiple times). It’s miserable.

I spent the following hours in the kind of pain you’d expect closer to the end of labour with the added benefit of not really being able to get up and walk around. Since my labour still wasn’t progressing, every visit from the OB and nursing team meant an uptick in pitocin levels.

It didn’t take long for me to beg Mike to call the anesthesiologist. The nurse who was covering me at the time suggested we wait until 4AM for the epidural. Having one can slow things down, but it can also make things progress if you’re super tense. If you ask Mike, he’ll tell you that he’s never seen me watch a clock so intently.

These hours are all a bit of a blur. Since I went into labour in the evening, we’d both been up for almost 24h by the time I finally got the epidural.

The epidural should have provided us with some needed rest, but once I was completely immobile, it became even more obvious that Isabelle was not tolerating the pitocin well. Her heart rate dropped repeatedly and we frequently lost contact with her on the monitors. I was continually repositioned to make her more comfortable. We were assured that she was OK, but it was incredibly nerve-wracking and neither of us caught a wink of sleep, choosing to watch the monitors instead. At one point, they even attached sensors to her head to better keep tabs on her.

Luckily, we had lots of company and support throughout. My mother-in-law came in at 5AM, before her nursing shift began, and my parents and sister-in-law arrived by 6. After a brief detour to our house to feed the cat and pick up the headbands I needed for labour, my father-in-law arrived as well.

By noon, I still hadn’t progressed past 6 cm and Isabelle was intermittently in distress. The OB on call decided to broach the topic of a C-section, asking first how tied I was to a regular delivery. Things weren’t improving for baby and the team wasn’t confident that I could get to the end stages of labour without a lot of additional stress on her. Our birth plan had always been to get baby out safely, so I signed consent forms for a C-section to be performed at 2:30 that afternoon.

Well, 1PM rolled around and the nursing team began prepping me to transfer to the OR. There was time before a scheduled section and they decided to squeeze me in. Hilariously, Mike had just left to get a sandwich – leaving my side for the first time since we’d checked in the night before. He very quickly received a call from my sister-in-law and ran back upstairs.

Hello, Baby!

I didn’t think I’d handle a c-section well, nevermind an unplanned one, but it was quite honestly a very positive birth experience. Everyone in the room – and there were a lot of them – was exceptionally calm, which relaxed me. A girlfriend had recently delivered via section at the same hospital and gave some last-minute pointers before we headed in. Thanks to her, I requested that Mike & baby remain in the room with me throughout the procedure. We also made sure to bring in a phone to take photos.

After topping up my epidural and ensuring I was completely numb, they got started on delivering baby. By the time Mike walked in the room, my “guts were on the table next to me” as he so graciously puts it. It wasn’t long before they told me I’d feel some pressure and tugging.

I remember holding my breath as we waited to hear her cry for the first time and the relief when she did. Having checked beforehand that he wasn’t squeamish, they told Mike to pop his head over the curtain to see baby and share the sex with me. Let’s just say he thought the umbilical cord was something else and they quickly told him to take another look!

Day 2: unintentionally in all the black & white

In that moment, it was surreal that our baby had arrived – and that we had a daughter! The entire pregnancy had been filled with everyone and their mother predicting the baby was a boy, so I almost didn’t believe that I had been right. A girl!

In unprecedented prescient fashion, we’d finalized her name during a brainstorm session during dinner the night before. Isabelle Rosalind.

Isabelle, the one girl’s name we were able to agree on after months of debate. I’ve always loved Elle as a nickname (you can blame Legally Blonde for that), so we’d gone through various iterations of “Elle” names. The joke’s on me: we haven’t called her Elle once!

Rosalind for our grandmothers: Rosa and Linda. We had a girl’s middle name from very early on in the pregnancy, realizing that these names went well together and would make a beautiful tribute to our Nonnas.

* I should note: Isabelle was born on my friend Kat’s birthday; a few weeks later she gave birth to her own Isabel! Today, we realized we’re a 4-pack of Leos. As she said, unstoppable!

Once I was all cleaned up and transferred to a stretcher, they handed Isabelle to me for the first time. The tiny burrito and I made our way to recovery, where Mike was waiting, and spent the next two hours snuggling and spending time together as a family. The first photos we took during that time are so precious and we’re very clearly in a baby daze. I still can’t believe she was so small!

After what felt like a lifetime, we were wheeled upstairs so Isabelle could meet the rest of the family. Anthony, my brother, was the first to hold her and she was soon passed around the room for snuggles with everyone.

With a c-section you’re in the hospital for 48 hours after delivery which means we ultimately spent three nights. The first night was a complete blur, but I’d been warned about the second night. The rumours were true! We didn’t get much sleep, but we did learn how to work as a team to care for baby.

We were discharged on Friday, my birthday! I got the best 31st birthday gift ever – and went home to a birthday celebration of Memphis BBQ ribs and my favourite birthday cake from The Rolling Pin.

It’s completely wild that you’re suddenly completely on your own with baby, but that’s how it works! A friend described being a new parent as extreme hazing and I couldn’t say it better. There’s no easing into it: this tiny being is completely dependent on you.

We’re so incredibly happy that baby Isabelle arrived safely. She’s been the sweetest baby, always preferring to snuggle over anything else. She has quite the set of lungs and isn’t afraid to exercise them on the regular, earning her the nickname Shrieky. Her favourite activities are tummy time, being wide awake at 4 AM and (newly) watching Leave it to Beaver. She loves all of her Jellycat bunny rabbits, especially the small ones and the brown one wearing a Ferrari bib from Uncle Jeff.

Our bunny + her bunny

As far as recovery goes, I’ve been incredibly lucky with my c-section recovery. It’s been very seamless. Although I was provided with some pain relief in the hospital, I didn’t need to take anything once I was home. We were very careful with monitoring and caring for my incision so it’s been a non-issue since the dressings were removed.

Again, I have been so lucky to have a number of other c-section mamas who reached out to check in (asking exciting topical questions like whether I’d farted yet) and to offer advice. We’ve also had so much support from our family & friends – from bringing food to loving on and caring for this little one and providing endless advice. We’re very lucky.

Two weeks old, before her newborn shoot

I’ll be sharing a bit more about my parenthood journey, including what I’d recommend for your hospital bag and the baby items I’ve loved in the first month, soon! Please let me know in the comments if there’s anything you’d like me to share.