Before I got pregnant I would walk by the midwife collective and think about how I would go there someday.  I knew it could sometimes be hard to get in with the midwives so I would think about calling them as soon as I found out to book my first appointment!  I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a home birth and I absolutely had no interest in a water birth (I hate baths) but I knew I wanted a midwife with me at the birth.  I knew very little about the prenatal and postpartum care because, to be honest, it had never crossed my mind.  In the end, it is the prenatal and postpartum care that made/makes all the difference.

I don’t know what my thoughts would be about birth if I lived somewhere other than Toronto.  I don’t know if I would have initially gone out of my way to go with non-OB care because truthfully I didn’t know a whole lot about being pregnant or having a baby.  I don’t know that I would have paid out of pocket for care that isn’t covered by US insurance (a problem that my friends and family have) because I’m pretty cheap. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to go against Daniela’s family and seek care that is not generally accepted by them.  I guess I’m pretty lucky that I live in Toronto.

We are fortunate to have a lot of options under our provincial health care.  We can chose to see a qualified family doctor (general physician), an OB-Gyn or a midwife.  If you chose midwife you get even more options!  We can chose between a home birth, a hospital birth or a birth at their office which is in an old home.  Just recently though one more choice got added: a birth centre!  It is the first of it’s kind here and a natural addition to the city.

Midwives support your goals from day one.  They take a lot of time at each appointment to hear about your concerns and hopes about the birth.  Daniela is generally medically conservative.  She believes in western medicine and trusts doctors and more importantly she trusts pain killers.  She hates being in pain.  The first time I told her i wanted to give birth without drugs I think she thought I was crazy.  I am grateful everyday that we had the option to go with a midwife and were surrounded by encouragement and reassurance through the pregnancy that it was totally natural and doable to move forward with those goals.  I fear that a doctor may have been ambivalent or supported Daniela’s concerns.  By the day of the birth Daniela was completely on board and she is actually the reason I kept my goal at the pinnacle of pain. 

At 21 weeks when I was pregnant with Carter I got shooting pains on the right side of my body.  I thought maybe it was a bladder infection but part of me was nervous it was my baby and something was wrong.  I went for a urine test and then walked to work.  By the time I was at work the pain was debilitating.  I was lying on the floor of my office in tears when the pain would come (it came in waves).  I decided I couldn’t do it, I needed more urgent care.  I walked down to the hospital to the ER only to find out that it is their policy that if you are over 20 weeks pregnant they send you to labour and delivery.  That made me even more nervous.  When we got up there and they asked me who my doctor was I told them I had a midwife to which they responded that they couldn’t treat me until my midwife was there.  My midwife came quickly and she stayed by my side for hours while the doctors ran tests that she ordered.  It was at this time my wife decided that having a midwife was pretty awesome.  The one-on-one care and focus we received was just what she needed to get more comfortable.  It turns out I had a kidney stone…pretty boring, super painful.

The other amazing things about midwifery care:  

-Minimal Ultrasounds at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 20 weeks unless additional are required (I didn’t like this at first but when I went for the 20 week ultrasound with Carter I never wanted another one)
-No weigh-ins.  This is important to me.  I don’t do well stepping on a scale for someone else.  Our collective feels that unless there is a specific reason there is very little that can be predicted by a scale and weight gain/or lack their of are not good indicators of a healthy pregnancy.
-Relaxed appointments.  I’ve rarely had to wait too long in the waiting room (which is super comfortable and living room like).  Appointments are calm and unrushed.  I have plenty of time to ask all the questions I can possibly think of and they never make me feel like there is somewhere else the would rather or should be.
-Flexibility.  I don’t have to make birth decisions early.  I can wait until i’m 7cm dilated before I decide if I want a home birth or a hospital birth.  That’s pretty awesome.
-After-care.  My midwives were at my house on an almost daily basis for the week after Carter was born.  They were there to help with breastfeeding and answer questions and check him for jaundice.  They sat with us and made sure I was doing well emotionally and I was able to call them crying when I just didn’t know what to do.
-Family style care.  We all have a relationship with my midwife.  My wife feels like she is HER care provider.  My mom feels like there is someone taking care of her baby.  My midwife was not even the one who was at the birth but her after care made her a part of our family.  When we go to appointments she plays with Carter, she asks about everyone.  You can’t ask for much more than that.



Our midwife holding Carter and the student midwife that was at his birth.


Birth Story – Nothing Short of Amazing

I’ve been wanting to write out my birth story for a while now, I suppose for about 7 months and 9 days.  The truth is that I typed it out once and felt like it captured it really well and then I went and deleted it by accident.  I don’t know that I can do it justice but I think that it’s time to get it out and at least have something written before I forget even more.

There is much that precedes the birth of my son but not much that is more magical than that moment in time.  If you’re reading, I would go ahead and skip most of Friday and Saturday but it’s important to me to write it out.

Friday January 11, 2013 – 3 days past his due date

-I woke up feeling strange.  I was full energy and not having contractions.  I wasn’t swollen and I wasn’t in pain but my hands felt weird.  I felt a buzz running through my body like I had had a coffee on an empty stomach.  It wasn’t a great feeling, but it also wasn’t that bad.  I had little planned for the day except for my chiropractor so I headed there and had some acupuncture done for SPD and then met Daniela for a walk down to a coffee shop.  I was still feeling off so as we passed by the drug store I decided to pop in and check my blood pressure.  It was 140/95.  That didn’t seem right so I had Daniela check hers.  Surely the machine was broken.  She came out with numbers that would lead you to believe she was training for a marathon.  I jumped on the machine again and came back with 141/98.  I figured I should probably tell my midwife but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it so I went ahead and texted her the numbers.  My student midwife called me back immediately.  She suggested I drink some juice and head home and wait for them to get over, they said they weren’t sure about the accuracy of the machines.  Daniela held my hand tightly as we walked home slowly without much conversation.

-The midwives arrived around 11:30am and my student midwife(Tracey) took my blood pressure.  Still high. My primary midwife (Julie) didn’t seem to believe it and acted as though it must have been done wrong.  She said she would check it in a bit after they checked everything else out.  They poked and prodded at my belly and he kicked and wiggled around trying to get away.  His head had been locked in position for weeks at this point and mostly he was just stretching his legs out aching for more space to grow.  They checked my cervix and said I was under 2cm, nothing remarkable.  Blood pressure was taken again…still high.  Julie took both hands and with all her kindness said “We’re going to go to the hospital now and have them check you out”.  She said to bring everything we needed.  I was still processing what she was saying but Daniela was up and slowly stuffing anything she could think of into the hospital bag.  Daniela has a knack for putting EVERYTHING into a bag as long as it’s edible.

Julie and Tracey packed up and assured us they would be waiting at the hospital with us.  I went to my bedroom to change but end up in a heap of tears.  I was overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty mixed with excitement.  We drove downtown to the hospital that we planned to give birth at if we didn’t end up having a home birth.  It looked like home birth was off the table now.

-At the hospital there was a lot of waiting with all the monitors attached.  A doctor came and did another cervical check, still under 2cm.  She said she wasn’t going to induce me if I wasn’t most dilated.  In the hours of being there my blood pressure ended up dropping a bit to a point where they weren’t so concerned.  The doctor was great but simply said that it was in our best interest to get him out before the BP became more of an issue.  She suggested a Clean & Sweep and then send me home for the night and check again in the morning if I hadn’t gone into labour.  At this point there was a transfer of care from the midwives to the doctor.  Unless I went into labour that night the midwives wouldn’t be back with me until I was in active labour.  Daniela and I went home that night with mixed emotions.  I wish I could remember what we had for dinner that night.  I know it doesn’t matter but it still bugs me that I don’t know.  That was the last meal we had at home together, alone before the birth of our son.

Saturday January 12, 2013 – 4 days past his due date

-I was supposed to call the hospital at 7am to make sure I could come in for an induction.  This of course meant that i was up all night and fell asleep just before 7am and startled awake at 8:36 (it’s strange the details we remember).  I panicked like I had missed the opportunity for his birth.  I jumped up and grabbed my phone to call as Daniela groggily told me to relax.  The hospital told me to come in for 9 (was that even possible).  We grabbed everything and hurried there.

-The rush was far from necessary as we waited until 11am to be seen by the doctor.  They checked all the normal things.  I wasn’t having contractions that were remarkable and everything felt pretty normal and my blood pressure had even stayed down.  Cervical check showed I hadn’t budged.  Still under 2cm and so they didn’t want to induce me.  They did another clean and sweep and sent me to a different room down the hall to wait.  They would check me out later in the day.  Daniela and I were bored.  Very, very bored.  We are very different people in our boredom (we are very different people all around).  I walked around the hospital all day.  I knew all the floors very well and knew where all the great views were.  Daniela watched netflix on her iPhone for hours on end.  Nothing was happening.  Afternoon checks said I still wasn’t ready.  I was having contractions but they were mild and infrequent.  They said they would do the final assessment of the day at 11pm and likely they would just go ahead with the induction the following morning.  I should mention my fear of induction.  I fear pretty much anything that isn’t natural and the idea of them telling my body to do something my body didn’t think it was ready for really freaked me out.  I had a chat with my belly and gave it one last chance.

-After hours of walking I decided I was tired.  I got myself tucked into bed and had just fallen asleep when a new doctor walked in.  Of course, it was after 11 and time for my checks.  They ran through everything and nothing had budged.  He told me to rest up and they would reassess at 11am.  I tossed and turned for a while trying to get comfortable and then decided that what was missing was an arm around me.  I knew the hospital bed was little and my belly was huge but I asked Daniela to come up out of her cot and snuggle behind me.  I think she was happy I asked and she climbed in quickly.  It was just after midnight and we laid there chatting for a bit.  She reached her arm around my belly and as she settled into it there was a pop.

-I rolled myself out of bed and rushed to the washroom sure I had lost bladder control but no, there was blood and stickiness and and general panic.  I waddled out to the nurse and asked her if i would actually feel my water breaking.  She said “it’s possible” and handed me some lovely large pads and told me she would go speak with the nurses in the birth wing.  I went back in and told Dan to get our stuff together.  The nurse rolled in with a wheelchair that I didn’t really want.  She insisted.  I hate being down at wheelchair level but I climbed in and Dan stacked the bags on top of me (so she didn’t have to carry them of course).

-There was some back and forth about whether they were ready for me or not but they eventually put us in a room.  It was huge.  Completely not what I expected.  It felt so empty with just the two of us in there.  I walked around (read: paced) and paused every so often for a mild contraction.  I could feel Daniela’s nerves but I was just too tired to care.  The doctor finally got to us around 1:30am and did yet another cervical check.  He said “well, you’re almost 3cm so I’m going to go ahead and have them call the midwives so we can transfer you back to their care.”  I felt like he just didn’t want to be responsible for me.

-So, I wasn’t even in active labour yet. (That’s a very dramatic period for the record.)  I decided we shouldn’t call my doula yet or my friend Beth who wanted very badly to be there for the birth.  I didn’t want them up all night for no reason.

-That’s when the contractions started and they weren’t gentle with me.  A nurse came in to tell us that the midwives had been called and would be in around 3.  She reminded Daniela how to apply counter pressure.  Then we were alone again in the big giant room. Around 2:45 I decided my pride was unimportant and I should just get the epidural.  The pain was far more than I expected and the average 8 hours of this was unbearable to think about.  I told Daniela I needed it.  Daniela who has a way of reacting completely inappropriately to my pain was cool as a cucumber and told me to just wait until the midwives got there and we could discuss it.  Neither of us knew I wouldn’t be able to form a sentence by the time they got there.  She also made the independent decision to call the doula and have her come right away. Birth Partner Extraordinaire.

From here on out I am just retelling a mix of moments of consciousness and what the people present told me after.  

-I don’t remember the midwives arriving but I remember looking up at one point from my hunched over position against the bed and seeing my back up midwife (Melida) and my Tracy standing near the door observing how Daniela and I were getting through.  I know the room was silent.  I had told Daniela to “shut the fuck up when I was having contractions” after she had asked me one too many questions.  I think she decided it was best to just not talk to me. I’m not one to make much noise and I held to that through most of the contractions.

-3:20am my doula (Also a Rachel) arrived.  She jumped right in to support Daniela.  I was exhausted from lack of sleep the previous night (read: previous 36 weeks).  With each contraction I told myself I just had to get through it and then I could take a nap.  Between each contraction I closed my eyes and rested my head on the bed despite the fact that I was still standing.  My “sleep” was always disrupted with another contraction.  I remember just wishing i could turn it off so that I could go to sleep.  Rachel asked if we had tried the tub yet.  We hadn’t yet but everyone was in agreement that I should try it out.  I was out numbered and in no position to contest.  They filled the bath and Daniela helped me get ready to climb in.  This is approximately when all my insecurities disappeared and being naked was no longer a fear of mine.  Being in a tub with everything else coming out of me still wasn’t high up there on my list of good ideas but I welcomed anything that would offer a little respite.

-I got into the tub and the next thing I remember is being completely submerged.  Rachel was pulling to bring my up.  I just wanted to sleep.  She tried to get me into a position where I could relax but then I saw it.  I was in the tub with blood clots, not where I wanted to be.  As I turned to protest a contraction came on and with it was the worst feeling.  I just knew I was going to poo in the tub.  I knew it.  I couldn’t think of a worse thing at that moment.  Then I remembered the midwife telling me about the “need to push”.  This was it, but no, it was far too early for that.  Never the less I turned and mumbled to them that I was feeling it.  They looked at each other and I could tell they didn’t believe me.  Tracy said she was going to check me after the contraction.  I remember the surprise in her face so clearly as she said “his head is right there!”

-They said they had to pull me out of the tub as tub births were not allowed at the hospital.  They wrapped me in blankets and walked me to the bed and helped me climb up as quickly as they could before the next contraction.  There were only a few pushes before They could see him.  All of this is very foggy except for Daniela’s face when she saw his hair.  I could never capture in words the way she smiled in that moment.  I turned to my doula and said “I can’t do this”, she held my hand and said “you don’t have a choice.” I suppose it’s a good thing I’ve always been up for a challenge because she was right.  With one more push (with Tracy exclaiming “Slow down”) he came flying out covered in a thick layer of vernix.  In one smooth motion that had him, my screaming son, up on my chest and a hat on his head and blankets around us both.  I wanted so desperately to see his face but he settled into me and I was terrified I would drop him. I held him so tightly for close to an hour.  Daniela wrapped her arms around us both and kissed me repetitively.  I know that the first thing I said was “I love him!”.  In my mind this escaped my mouth with much relief before they even placed him on my chest.  One of my biggest fears through my pregnancy was that I would have a hard time bonding with my child and I was so overjoyed when he came out because I knew instantly that I loved him with all that I am.

-I remembered from the prenatal class that they only cut the cord right away and use oxytocin to deliver the placenta if there is something wrong with the mother or the baby.  She pulled out the syringe and gave me warning.  I knew there was nothing wrong with the bundle in my arms so it must have been me.  I heard something about blood and probably should have been concerned but nothing in the world mattered more than the small body in my arms.

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-I delivered the placenta quickly and easily and everything seemed okay.  At some point Daniela and I looked at each  other and without speaking it was clear that his name was Carter.

-There was a lot of stitches and Tracy asked “aren’t you glad my background is in textiles?” We laughed.

-I went into shock at some point but I never let go of my boy.  I was chattering and shaking everywhere.  They wrapped me in even more blankets and didn’t separate us until I had calmed down and the nurses outside were saying they needed his details.  As Daniela went with him for his measurements and Vitamin K, I decided I needed a shower.  Rachel helped me to the bathroom and stood with me and spotted me while I stood under the shower head staring at my belly that until just over an hour ago had looked so differently.  I ran my hands over the skin and looked down at my feet.  Everything was still there.  My heart fluttered, my life changed.

Carter weighed in at 8lbs1oz and was 22.5″ long.  He was beautiful and peaceful and everything I dreamed of with a VERY round head.

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