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Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Everyone Needs a Midwife: The Birth of Keenan James

If you asked me what a midwife is when I was in university, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I honestly had no idea they existed, in this time and place anyway. My husband and I planned our pregnancy right up to the day that I was to graduate from university. We thought that we would be pregnant in my last year, write my exams, and then pop out the baby. How naïve we were.

We conceived right away, on almost the first try. While waiting for the pregnancy test result, we talked about how we maybe should have waited until we were finished university and more financially stable. That was not to be the case, as the little blue lines soon revealed our baby’s May arrival.

The first few weeks of my pregnancy were uneventful. I did have morning sickness, but it wasn’t bad if I ate something before I got out of bed. As the weeks progressed the morning sickness got worse and worse. I soon found it hard to stay on top of my 400 level classes. Then at 12 weeks I started bleeding.

The doctor at the health centre told me that it could be stress related, and that while my cervix was still closed, I may lose the baby. He also said that it was common to miscarry in a woman’s first pregnancy. This was not a comforting thought. He suggested that I take some time for myself and spend a week on bedrest. I did one better. I withdrew from all my first semester classes.

The bleeding stopped after a week, which made me feel a little better. I kept going to my university doctor, but was feeling less and less confident that he was truly listening to my concerns. He kept telling me that my concerns were not warranted at the time that I was having them, and that worrying about them was not making my pregnancy any better.

I spent the early appointments asking about the birth, his ideas on intervention, epidurals, caesarian sections, and so on. He would brush my concerns aside and say, “The most important thing is a healthy baby, no matter what.” He was just not listening. My gut was telling me to go somewhere else…but where?

Then, while shopping at Safeway during my 15th week, I bumped into a mom wearing her baby. The baby was tiny and she was in a long piece of fabric to hold the baby close to her. I remember thinking that it was the most interesting way to hold a baby, but I was even more interested in cooing at her newborn.

I introduced myself, and told her that I was going to be a mom in May. I asked her for the one piece of advice she would give a pregnant mom. If she could tell me only one thing, what would it be? She replied, “Get a midwife.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I asked her where I would get one. She answered, “Briar Hill.”

The next day I called Briar Hill Midwives. I asked what a midwife did, and how much they cost: $3,500, ouch!! Then I called my mom and begged her to help me pay for it, because while talking with them I had fallen in love with the idea of labour support. Thank goodness mom agreed.

I set up my first appointment with Briar Hill team two, and called my doctor’s office to transfer care. They were very put off that I had chosen a midwife, and made me come down to the office to pick up my file for transfer. The nurse made a comment about how a doctor was the one to deliver babies, not a midwife. I plainly told her that this was my decision and that she was being extremely rude. So began the wonderful prenatal care I experienced with Briar Hill Midwives.

The rest of my pregnancy was uneventful. All my appointments were handled in a professional, supportive manner. All my questions were answered and sometimes, when I asked hard questions, the answer was for me to do the research. At the time I didn’t like it, but in retrospect it was the best thing for a person like me.

On May 10th I had some bloody show. I called the midwives and they said that labour would start in less than 48 hours. They told me to keep track of my contractions and to call them back when they were 5 minutes apart.

My contractions were very irregular. Seven minutes apart, 10 minutes, five minutes, back to seven. They just felt like bad menstrual cramps to me, and I used a lot of the pain coping skills I learned in “Birthing From Within” class to breathe through them. They really didn’t hurt as much as I thought that they should, and the day went by just as any other day would.

I went to bed, started May 11th with no real progress. The midwives would call every couple hours just to check in, but we were great. I kept thinking, “This isn’t really labour, it’s supposed to hurt more!” Lunch came, then dinner, and I was still feeling like I was having my period. At one point I had to take a minute to hold on to the stove while making dinner, and decided to have a bath after supper.

I climbed into the bath, and my contractions stopped. Or maybe I just couldn’t feel them anymore. I called Chris in to keep me company, and we started talking about those women on TLC’s “A Baby Story”. “ I don’t know what those women’s problem is”, I said, “because if this is labour, it’s EASY!” The words were not even out of my mouth when “POP” my water broke and “BANG” my baby’s head hit my cervix hard. It was like going from zero to sixty in less than one minute. My contractions started coming less than 5 minutes apart, one after another after another. This wasn’t easy, it was painful!

Chris ran to get the phone and called the midwives’ pager. Maura answered. He told her that I was having contractions and that she should come. She told him this was just the beginning, and that labour could take a lot longer. She told us to call her back in an hour to see how we were progressing. I took the phone and told her that I felt that it was sooner than that and if she would come, just to check, that would be wonderful. So she started on her way. Chris called my mom to get her on the move as well and to meet us at the hospital.

This is the part that gets blurry for me. My contractions kept coming at two minutes apart, and I was just riding them out. We headed to the birthing ball, and Chris massaged my lower back with a Tupperware pastry roller filled with hot water. My mom arrived and Maura was a minute behind her. They started talking about how it looked like I was in transition. They started asking me questions, and I got really irritated and Chris said that I cursed a couple times. I was definitely in transition.

Maura asked me to get on my couch (white suede) to get checked to see if we would be heading to the hospital. I said, “I don’t want to. I feel like I am going to push.” They got me onto the couch and checked…I was already pushing. Somewhere in the transition between the birthing ball and couch Maura told me that I may not make it to the hospital and asked if I was comfortable with a home birth. I really didn’t cae at that point, and Chris scrambled to call his mom to tell her to meet us at home.

While pushing, Theresa, my second midwife, showed up and got all the baby stuff ready. My mother-in-law came to witness Keenan crowning. After 45 minutes of pushing we had our beautiful baby boy, and a very blood stained white suede couch. Luckily, the stains came out with hydrogen peroxide!

I was in shock. It was so fast I didn’t really even realize what had just happened. I was much more concerned with the state of my house and furniture. Everyone was elated and crying, hugging, calling relatives, and I was ushered into the bath with my new baby.

Keenan and I were cleaned up. We nursed for the first time and were put to bed. His whole labour from start to finish was recorded at under 3 hours.

I always think about what would have happened if I had not met that mom in Safeway. I would have kept the university doctor, and we would have never made it to the hospital. I would have had my baby in my car or in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

I was destined to have a very fast labour, and fortunate that the midwives were sent to help me. I was also very lucky that my mom paid for them, because a student can’t afford $3,500.

If only midwives in Alberta received the government funding that they deserve, every woman would be covered!

*originally published in Birthing Magazine Autumn 2008


Hong Kong Mama said...

I remember when I heard you had your baby on your couch so clearly. I thought you were crazy! A little knowledge make a big difference!

Kelly said...

Now the midwives are covered, but there just aren't enough of them to meet demand!

I'm glad that you found midwives and were able to start your journey that way. =)

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