When I got pregnant with our first child, we decided to go the traditional way. I was nervous, scared and had many questions. My husband and I talked about it and decided it was, at that moment, the best choice.
I was curious about midwives and talked to ''hubby'' about maybe, going to see one, but he was too scared: What if something goes wrong?
So we kept the gynecologist and planned to give birth in a hospital in Montreal, Quebec. I did keep informed during my pregnancy, and even almost switched to a midwife, but I was still too nervous to make the switch.
The birth went well, I had two great nurses that took care of me during labor. It did not, however, go exactly the way I wanted. I was not totally satisfied with my experience. I had Pitocin, an epidural, and constant monitoring—none of which were in my birth plan, which no one read. I had wanted a more natural birth without Pitocin, unless needed as a last resort. I didn't want the epidural. I wanted to be able to move around, to use the ball, and to be in the bath. All options that were all available me at the hospital we chose. I did not want to be plugged into a monitor constantly and thus lose my freedom to move. I hated having to call the nurse every time I needed to go to the restroom.
I especially hated our afterbirth experience; it was awful, everything to wash a mother's confidence down the drain.
I wanted to breastfeed, nobody needed to convince me; they just had to help me!
Instead I got mixed information, mixed concerns and in the end, mixed emotions. I only wanted to be treated with respect. I especially wished to get out of there and be in my home, in my bed.
When I got pregnant with our second child, Things were going to be different.
I had a good talk with hubby and he told me: I trust you completely; I should have listened to you the first time. You're the one that gives birth, not me. You know much more on the subject and I trust your judgment.
The decision was easy I wanted a Midwife.
I contacted L'ordre des sages femme du Québec to ask: what should I do?
They replied quickly and suggested I call the closest birth center to my home, as fast as possible. Spots within a birth center are difficult to get your hands on, many women want midwife service, but unfortunately, not all will be able to have it. There are not enough birth centers in the province. In order to be able to get a registered midwife there needs to be an available spot in a birth center. Our new government promises 125 new jobs for midwives and 7 new birth centers, but that remains to be seen. Until then, women have to act fast and call birth centers as soon as they find out they are pregnant.
I called one birth center in Montreal; they put me on a waiting list and told me that I would receive a call if a spot became available.
Lucky for me, I only had to wait two weeks to get the call that told me there was spot for me.
I went to an information session given at the birth center; they gave us a tour, and answered all our questions. I was satisfied, and my husband as well. I knew I had made the best choice, for me.
I got assigned to my midwife team—in Quebec they work in teams of two. A principal midwife who follows the pregnancy, she was the one I would call first, should I have any concerns or emergencies. With a secondary midwife acting as backup to the team, allowing the primary midwife time off. They alternated weekends off, thus making someone available 24/7. Both midwives were amazing. While I knew my primary midwife better, I did meet with the secondary midwife a few times at prenatal visits. We broke the ice and, actually, formed a good bond as well.
My appointments lasted at least 30 minutes, except the first one, which was one hour. They always took the time to explain everything to me, how my body worked, and to tell me how the baby was doing. Told me all the tests that I could get and explained why it was there and what would or could happen if I chose to do it or not. I always had the choice to refuse though, and never would be judged based on acceptance or refusal of a procedure.
I was also empowered. I got to do some of the testing myself. I was in charge of checking my weight, looking for the signs of proteins in my urine, and also able to the test for Strep B by myself.
I learned a great deal. I felt so confident in my body and my abilities, I was not nervous at all with the upcoming birth, which I was set on experiencing naturally, as opposed to the first one.
I decided to give birth at the birth center.
When my water broke at home, I paged my secondary midwife, as she was on call, and she coached me over the phone on what to do. I stayed home for a little while to see how labor would progress, but after two hours of intense contractions, I was ready to leave.
When we arrived she was waiting for me and took us to our room—a beautiful bedroom with all the comforts we could need. The lights were dim, the only sounds were of another mother giving birth in the adjacent room.
My labor was pretty quick and easy, but most importantly; it was all done in an environment of calm and respect.
I was able to ease the pain of some of my contractions in the bath. I moved around freely within the room and the midwife suggested and helped me get into different positions to help things progress.
She called a backup when I was close to pushing.
And there we were, pushing a baby girl into the world.
I was so overjoyed by that experience.
As soon as the baby was born, a plate of fruit was set on the bedside table.
My baby was in my arms the whole time the midwife was stitching me up (only one stitch). She took the breast by herself, and we simply cuddled for one hour.
During the three hours after the birth, the midwife did all the exams and tests needed. Baby was administered the vitamin K shot (which I had chosen to give her), she was weighed in and all her vital signs were checked. The midwife also showed me the placenta, which I had asked to see. It was fascinating.
I was completely relaxed.
My midwife paid us a visit the next morning to examine us again. We left for home that afternoon. Even though it was sooner than my fist birth (where I had spent 36 hours, in the hospital, post birth), I had much more energy.
Two days later, the midwife visited us at home and came back three days later. I had follow up appointments, at the birth center, for six weeks after the birth. They did all the same tests my doctor had done during my first pregnancy, including a pap test. They also verified the baby's weight, reflexes, and general health.
My last appointment was bittersweet; I was going to deeply miss these women who had become so important in my life and the bond we had created.
Of course when I found out that baby number three was on the way (8 months later) my choice was obvious. I wanted a midwife, again. But his time I wanted a home birth, and what an adventure it was.
Chapter Thirty One – The Conception
There I sat in a dimly lit dive in south Ajax. The odour of stale beer and second hand smoke hang in the air as though the grimy yellowed window in the corner hadn’t been opened since the honourable Kim Campbell had served as Canada’s 19th prime minister. The mundane chatter of past their prime labourers aggressively critiquing the Toronto Maple’s hummed in the back ground as I received a text message...it was from her. This dame I went to high school with and later had two children with. Her text read “When the hell are you getting your fat ass home, I’m horny.”
Crap... Allie just told me to skip the conception part...
Chapter Thirty Two – The Office
There I sat at my desk. The Jays were playing the Yankees. I had just Face booked that Rogers is a bunch of douche waffles because “their watch every game online” wasn’t showing the game. (A problem which I must commend Rogers for as they had corrected the problem by the second inning). My sister had just emailed me that her and my dad were sitting in the back yard watching the game with some cold beers in hand. Allie, the boys and I had lunch in the mall food court that day, which made it hard to drag myself back into the office.
The sun danced through my desk plant, flickering beams of summer on my paper work and mocking my confinement. I had serious thoughts of taking a half a vacation day to join my family in my parent’s yard to watch the ball game. I strained to conjure up the will power to remain motionless at my desk. Just as I thought I would break and start packing up my belongings I received a text. “I think my water just broke” I picked up the phone but was too nervous to remember our number which I have a hard time recalling at the calmest of moments. I tried three numbers with no success. Another text message comes though “Yep, it did.”
I finally pull myself together enough to dial the right number. “Serious” I say as Allie picks up the phone. “Oh, yeah, this is fucking gross.”
“Ok, I’m on my way home, or do you need me to come home? Of course, I’m coming home”
“Ok, but I’m fine, no contractions, it just really gross”
“I’ll see you soon.”
I called my daughter and my parents and worked out some details. My office mates over heard me say that Allie’s water broke and were all over me. I think I did a good job of hiding my nervousness. After some jokes and well wishes I was out the door and on my way home.
I took the most traffic polluted route home, forgetting that there was construction at our high way cut off, listening first to some classic rock then some classical music to calm things down.
Chapter Thirty Three – The Murray McBride Manor
I sped into the drive way, slammed the car into park then put my cool as a cucumber persona on again. I gather my bag from the back seat and went into the house. Everything was normal. The boys doing their thing, and Allie chilling, except for a few washroom breaks.
I was nervous, but seeing Allie’s calm brought me into the right groove. I looked at the mess the boys and ourselves had accumulated over the last little while and started cleaning so that the eminent arrival of the midwives and guests would have somewhere toy and laundry free to park themselves. As we folded laundry, picked up some toys, and move some things around Allies friend Jordan showed up.
We got the birthing pool in place and then sat to relax for a bit. I was nominated to go the beer store. (This is my story, that’s how it happened).
Chapter Thirty Four – The Beer Store
Nothing “contraction wise” was happening at home so I went to the grocery store to gather supplies. Muffins, trail mix, ginger ale, fruit... all the essentials necessary for extracting one human from another. I rushed through the grocery store crossing items off my list and buying about 20 items that weren’t on the list. After running through the cash and loading up the car, I can see my next stop from where I was parked. The beer store, standing strong and proud at the other end of the parking lot. With its oversized frothing beer-mug-store-front guiding my way, I pulled the car around and entered the store.
The only cash open is the bottle return cash. I rush in narrowly beating a man with a shopping cart full of loose cans, but lose my place as I veer off to grab my standard 28 case of Moosehead lager. As I head back towards the cash the man with the cans is nice enough to let me go first. I say “Thank you, my wife is in labour and she will probably appreciate me getting back quicker”. The man looks at me for a second then just laughs. The lady working the cash says “Really? Your wife’s in labour and you’re out buying 28 beers?”
“Yes, It’s our fourth kid” I respond.
“Wow, I don’t know what to say” she says next.
“Hey, she’s having a home birth and she’s the one who send me out to the grocery store, which is very close to the beer store.”
The lady chuckles, she and the man wish us luck and I am on my way home.
Chapter Thirty Four – The Wait
I spent the next couple of hours asking what I need to do and getting it done. We filled the pool. We got blankets and towels ready, we watched dancing on TV??? I eventually changed it to baseball. The midwives showed up. First one, then the second, and later a third. I was expecting one, but towards the end didn’t know how many would show up. Regardless of the number of midwives I found each one just as pleasant and accommodating towards Allie’s needs as the last.
A few hours went by without much progression in Allie’s labour. First Willy went to bed (which I think happened before the midwives showed up) then Dewy followed a few hours later. It was as Allie fought off contractions while putting Dewy down that things started getting juicy.
Chapter Thirty Five – The Big Squeeze
Contractions went from, “ouch” to” WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT!” in a matter of minutes. Next thing we know Allie is being checked for dilation, and minutes later she is in the birthing pool. This is where all the ladies shined and I took a step back to make sure my oafish demeanour didn’t step on anyone’s toes. Though I’ve seen my other three children born from start to finish, I find others are better prepared at encouraging the labouring mother through these moments. My strengths lie in repeating the encouraging words of others, being a hand holder and water boy.
Allie has found her position in the pool that offers her the most comfort. The midwives and Jordan are incredible. Allie is howling through the pain with Jordan soothing her the whole way. The midwives are prepared with everything you would need. That is when I’m asked if I would like to catch the baby. For a split second I think “Sure, I haven’t done that before” followed by “No way, I’m not dropping a brand new baby into the water”. I decline. Luckily Jordan didn’t even let me finish my sentence before she was already putting on the gloves and jumping into position.
I don’t know how many minutes passed but looking back it seems like it was two. I heard Jordan exclaim that she could feel the head, and then the midwife said something about a girl part being in the way, then that part wasn’t in the way anymore and Allie was good to start pushing.
Chapter Thirty Six – Welcome Declan
I swear it was seconds after Allie started pushing that the ladies said “...and the head is out” which I’ve known from my other children to be the most challenging part of giving birth. A couple of seconds later, mixed with some guttural primal screams from Allie, and Jordan is holding up our brand new son... she shows me the baby and gives me a look, I swear I see a penis, it must have been the way the cord or some other birthing goop was sitting but I swear I saw a tiny little wiener.
Allie is passed the baby and goes nuts... “We have our Emilie!!! I have my little girl!!!” That’s about when I clued in that look that Jordan had given was “It’s a girl!” I’m stunned, sitting absorbing Allie’s reaction to having the baby. My heart is warm. She is so estatic. It is then that I’m reminded that I should have been taking pictures. That’s when I fetch Jordan her camera and go and join Allie and Emilie. It is then that I see my daughter’s face for the first time. She’s precious.
Chapter Thirty Seven – The After Party
I cut Emilie’s cord and got to hold her for the first time. She’s so tiny compared to Willy, so fragile, so not a pain in my ass yet. She’s precious. We move our party upstairs to the bed. Allie gets to feed her for the first time. She’s a natural, which is good because she’ll need that baby fat and muscle to defend herself again her older brothers until they turn into her protectors.
We send out our texts and call our family. Everyone is relaxing in the room. A job well done. I don’t think it could have went any more perfect.
I drive Jordan home before the midwives have to leave. I could really hear the excitement in Jordan’s voice as we chatted on the drive. She is truly a great friend to be there for Allie with such emotion and passion.
When I arrive back home I help the midwives out and Allie and I sit in the bed and soak in all that has happened that evening. Our daughter is beautiful. She’s perfect. We’re wired and can’t sleep. I grab a beer and make some bagels for us. We eat and talk, our eyes almost never leaving this beautiful little girl who has made our family complete.
I thought I would share a little background about myself before I jump into my story. I'm a military wife. My husband and I were stationed at Marine Corps. Base Hawaii when I gave birth to our little angel in April 2011. Because we were so far away as a military family, it was just the two of us for the birth. Especially now and looking back, I feel so blessed to have had it so private and intimate. I gave birth at Tripler Army Medical Center, and although military hospitals generally have an awful reputation, I personally had an amazing experience. The hospital had a midwife program for low risk mamas and I opted for a midwife the first chance I got and after a terrible first experience with one of their OBGYN's. I could not have had a better hospital birth thanks to the wonderful midwives. And here is my story...
I suffered pre labor contractions for a week before I finally went into active labor. I became extremely impatient, frustrated and increasingly dissapointed when it wasn't the real thing. The day before I went into labor, I went in for my 38 week appointment and I told the midwife (who saw me about my contractions) so I allowed her to check my cervix which was 3 cm dialated and if I remember correctly about 75% effaced. She then told me she expected me to go into labor within the next 24 hours.
The next day on a beautiful Saturday morning, I woke up to my husband's alarm clock. I had no idea why he set an alarm for 6 am on a Saturday morning (later he explained to me he just "had a feeling"). I rolled over to ask him why and.. my water broke. HUGE gush. I told him I thought my water had just broken and...another huge gush. Definitely broken. I began to get so many butterflies in my stomach and couldn't believe after all my frustration and disappointment in the last week, it was FINALLY happening and I was about to experience what I'd been preparing for so long for. Most importantly, I would soon meet my precious baby girl.
I then found the business card with my midwives pager number and gave them a call. When she called me back and asked if I had felt the baby move since my water broke, I told her "no" so she suggested to get to the hospital as soon as possible just to be safe. I honestly may have felt her move and had just been to excited to notice.
So we got our things together and got on the road. The contractions at home and the entire way to the hospital were very tolerable. Not much more than what I'd been experiencing the week prior. It was a half an hour or so drive, no traffic and a beautiful and sunny day (like most days on the island). My husband and I were so giddy the whole way there with excitement; singing, laughing, and sharing our feelings about what was to come that day.
We arrived to the hospital and the labor and delivery seemed to be a ghost town. It was very quiet and it didn't seem as though they had many patients to attend to that morning. They took me to a small room in triage and checked to make sure my water had indeed broken, asked me some basic questions, did some fetal monitoring for about 30 minutes and all was well with Lily.
My midwife, Rosemary, then read a copy of my birth plan. She saw that I was planning a completely natural birth and said "Ok those are pretty common requests." The whole time I got the feeling she didn't have much faith in me because she "heard it all the time." She discoverd I had regressed a little to 2 cm and a little less thinned for some reason but she admitted me anyway since my water had broken. I got in my gown and they wheeled me to my delivery room where I met my nurses who were Godsends through my entire labor. I was still feeling fine at this point, smiling and answering all their questions with no problem. Once they checked my blood pressure and set in my heplock. I didn't allow the IV to be attached and they were perfectly fine with that as long as I stayed hydrated. They allowed me to walk around and do what I needed to be comfortable (anything but getting in the jacuzzi because it could have regressed my labor by relaxing me too much.) So my husband and I went for a stroll around the hallways in l&d. My contractions were getting a little stronger and I couldn't walk through them anymore. We went back to the room and my midwife asked if I had taken any lamaze or bradley classes or anything similar to cope through the labor. I hesitated for a moment to tell her "no" because I felt like she'd really have low faith in me then and assume that I wasn't prepared.
After that, I got on the birthing ball which was my the most relief I had during labor. The nurse continued fetal monitoring every hour for 20 minutes which was extremely annoying but she at least let me stay on the ball, which made it more bearable. After a few hours of that my midwife asked her why she was checking me so much, that I didn't need to be checked that often. I couldn't believe what I had just heard and that it took so long for someone to notice. I didn't know enough then to think to say something myself to the nurse and she did try to make me as comfortable as possible during the process.
As I mentioned before, my husband is a Marine so he was my only support person. He went down to the car to get our bags and while he was gone I talked to my mom on the phone while breathing through contractions on the ball. Later, I finally got permission to get in the jacuzzi which I was really looking forward to but unfortunately it didn't help me as much as I expected. It relaxed me between contractions because at this point I was utterly exhasted, but during the contractions it was almost as bad as laying on my back in the bed. While I was in the jacuzzi I came to a rock and a hard place. I told my husband "I can't do this" He encouraged me and told me I could do it and to remember that I didn't want any pain medication. I told him "I don't want an epidural I just want to die." I realize this statement seems dramatic but I think most, if not all women get to this point during labor. I had mentally prepared my self so well for a natural birth that the epidural was not even a thought in my mind, although that's what my husband thought I was referring to. I was just in so much pain and so tired I didn't know how I could carry on. But of course I did, one contraction at a time I got through it. One thing I had to remember is that it wouldn't last forever.
Eventually, I decided to get out of the jacuzzi and try something else for relief and shortly after I started going into transition, the most painful and intense part of labor. The contractions were increasingly difficult to breath through at this point and my back labor was excruciatingly painful. My nurses and husband were massaging my back, which I wouldn't have survived without, during my contractions. If they weren't already massaging I would grab the nearest hand I could find and press it as hard as I could into my lower back because it was the only thing that helped whatsoever. The contractions became so long and close together I had no break in between. The nurses were trying to take my blood pressure and were waiting until a contraction would end to check it but right as one started fading away, another would pick back up. I was feeling helpless and honestly terrified of the pain every time a contraction would pick up. The pain would start in my lower back and wrap itself around my body, tightening more and more until I felt like I would burst. I think if I had the strength to I would have cried.
At that point, I started feeling an urge to push which was truly unbearable at that point. Since I had the urge they checked my cervix which to my dissapointment was only 6cm! My husband told me "You're so close, you're almost there" but in my mindset I felt like it would never be over and couldn't understand why he would say that.
The nurses and my husband helped me get into different positions that might help ease the pain but nothing gave me relief anymore and the urge to push was getting stronger, my body literally forced me to push. There soon came a point when I couldn't change positions anymore because my contractions paralyzed me they were so strong. For a long time, I was stuck with one leg standing on the ground and one leg on the bed because while trying to climb in it, I was unable to move through back to back contractions. At this point I also ripped off my hospital gown because it continued to fall off my shoulder and the feeling of it hanging on me was extremely annoying and uncomfortable. I didn't have a care in the world who saw me naked and it was truly the last thing on my mind at the time. When I would get a short break between contractions, I hurried into a postion I was trying to get to before a contraction would start and leave me stuck.
As I was getting onto my side in the bed, my midwife noticed I was crowning, picked up my leg (I was still on my side which was the best position for me at the time and I couldn't even move if I wanted to) and she told me to just do what my body was telling me to do. So I pushed through the pain, exactly like they say, and after being exhasted through the labor I got a huge adrenaline rush while I was pushing. I pushed with all my strength. I even got mad when my contraction would fade away because I just wanted to keep pushing so it would be over. While pushing, I told my husband "I'm doing this, I'm actually going to do it." The reality of it all was just starting to hit me.
In about 5 contractions of screaming and squeezing my hubby's hand (poor guy, he said he almost cried he felt so bad that he couldn't help me) I delivered a perfect little baby. Lily Elizabeth. 6 lbs 3 oz 18 inches long. When she was finally out, the most euphoric feeling overwhelmed me. There was suddenly no more pain, and the room was completely still and quiet. I looked up and saw my midwife holding up my baby and she layed her on my chest. She came out with her hands by her face which tore me a little but I got two stitches and couldn't even feel it being done while I was on cloud nine holding my baby girl. It was the most empowering and beautiful experience of my life and I get teary eyed just thinking about it.
After I gave birth the nurses and my midwife were just in awe that I had actually done it. They kept saying how amazed by me they were and asked when I was going to start teaching a childbirth class at the hospital and saying "You were made for this!" They made me feel so good about myself but I did it for Lily and it was completely worth it. In fact I wish I could do it all again just to experience that moment of seeing and holding her for the first time all over again.
Lily latched on within minutes of her birth which was another new and beautiful feeling I can't find words to describe. She was so beautiful and perfect. My husband and I were both in tears as we met her. We were, and still are, simply in awe of her.
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