April 9, 2010
Foothills Hospital with Midwives


Dear Finn,

When we found out I was pregnant with you, I immediately knew I wanted to have a natural, unmedicated birth with midwives here in Calgary. The previous year, the province of Alberta began covering midwifery services under the provincial health care plan (previous to this, the cost was upwards of $3000 to have a birth under the care of midwives) and because of this, the limited number of midwives in the city were very quickly booked up. The day we took our home pregnancy test, the first thing I did was contact all the midwives in Calgary and request to continue my pregnancy under their care. At the time, there were four midwifery practices in the city, and all were completely booked solid. They did however put me on their wait lists in case anything came up. Every week I would call or email to see if any spaces had opened up and to make sure I remained fresh in their minds should anything become available. I also went as far as to contact midwives in Cochrane and Canmore- also being added to their wait lists. Around the six-month mark, I got a phone call from one of the Calgary midwives saying they had an opening for us on one of their teams! This changed everything! We were ecstatic and beyond joyful to meet our wonderful team of midwives! We had talked about home birth, but being that we live in a rather small condo, I was nervous about the limited amount of space and the possibility of a lot of noise. We eventually settled on the idea of using the Arbour birth centre- a homelike setting with large birthing tubs, but also very close the hospital should anything come up.

During our first visit to the midwives, they took my blood pressure and noted it was a little higher than what was considered normal. We chopped it up to nerves! I had been looking forward to this day for months and was so anxious to begin care with them. The following few visits, my blood pressure continued to read on the higher end of things, and they began to become concerned. They had me monitoring my blood pressure through out the day, and I had to let them know of any higher readings. We also put a major focus on relaxing, not feeling stressed out and taking time off of work when we needed a break. We went for a lot of prenatal massages, and met a wonderful acupuncturist who gave us many treatments to try and lower my blood pressure and calm me down. Finally, towards the beginning of March, my blood pressure was measured VERY high! We were immediately sent to the hospital to meet another midwife on our team and run some tests. We were there ALL day! They monitored your heartbeat, took my blood pressure every 15 minutes, and did some blood work. Everything looked normal and you were still happy and healthy! They consulted with a doctor at the hospital, and she advised that I start taking some medication to lower my blood pressure. I was really uneasy and upset about the idea of taking drugs with you in my belly, but the other option was to induce me and deliver you right there and then, and I thought you would be better off staying in there to grow a little longer. I was told I would not be able to work anymore and was ordered to stay on bed rest for the next month until you were born.

Bed rest was REALLY boring! I wanted to get out and do things, clean the house, set up your room and shop for the final things you would need, but I also knew I needed to relax and keep my blood pressure down to make sure we were both safe and healthy. I cheated a little bit and would walk over to the mall once and a while. I figured some fresh air and a little exercise would be good for us both. I remember about a week before you were born, I walked over to the mall to get out of the house for a bit, and I got to the furthest end of the mall and was suddenly exhausted! My feet were so swollen and I didn’t think I was going to be able to walk all the way back across the mall and then home again! I stopped at the bookstore to have a glass of lemonade and rested for a little bit. That was just what I needed to give me a burst of energy to make it back home. Needless to say, after that I made our walks a little bit shorter!

Every week we had to go to the hospital and have tests run to make sure things were still normal and you were okay. Each visit, they gave me an ultrasound to ensure you were still growing and that my high blood pressure wasn’t affecting you at all. Again, I was really uneasy about so many ultrasounds and so much monitoring, but I felt like it was a safer alternative than being induced and delivering you before you were ready. Around the first week in April, they started talking about planning my induction The only way to cure my high blood pressure was to deliver you, and so even though things were still looking fine, they were worried that something could happen quite suddenly, and they didn’t think it was worth the risk. They decided that when I got to 39 weeks, they would induce me- about one week before your due date. Because of the induction, and the risk of my blood pressure, we were told we would have to labour at the hospital, and were not able to move forward with our birth as planned at the birth centre. I was really sad about this, but was reassured that regardless of the location, we could still have a wonderful and natural birth like we wanted.

The days before they were going to induce me, I tried everything I could to start our labour naturally. We went for acupuncture several times- she also showed us some pressure points to use that were known to stimulate the uterus and start contractions. We went and had some special adjustments with our chiropractor (you would later have your first chiropractic adjustment when you were just 1.5 weeks old!) and we had a wonderful “kick start” massage with our dear friends. The night before the induction, I felt some cramping and a few mild but regular contractions. You were definitely moving, but labour did not start.

Bright and early on the morning of Thursday April 8th, we packed up and drove to the Foothills hospital to once again meet one of our midwives. We were excited, nervous, and really scared of what was to come. The hospital was VERY busy that morning. We waited a while before we got a bed in triage, and they weren’t sure if they would actually start the induction as there were no available rooms for us. They checked my cervix and I was 2cm dilated, but not effaced. Finally, at around 11:00am they decided to get things under way and I was given a dose of Cervadil, an internal drug to help ripen my cervix and start the induction process. We spent the rest of the day waiting for something to happen- eating yucky hospital food, going for walks in circles around the hospital hallways and talking about how excited we were getting to finally meet you. At around 4:30pm, we were walking the hallways and I started to have some contractions. They weren’t very strong or long, but it was a start and I was excited! We walked A LOT to try and keep the contractions going. That afternoon a big snow storm started- we had had beautiful weather up until that point, but I remember having one contraction and looking out the window to see this gray snowy blizzard. I was happy to be warm inside and spending my last few hours with you in my tummy. At 11:00pm, the nurse told us that your Dad would have to leave for the night. That we both needed our rest and it was better for him to go home and sleep well and for me to try and rest- they said they would call him if I went in to labour. I was really sad about this, but knew it was best for us to both get some rest. It seemed as though as soon as your dad left, the contractions got much harder and were consistently coming every 30 seconds. I wasn’t feeling very well and the lady beside me was eating fried chicken. The smell to me at that time was unbearable! I spent most of the night in the bathroom as to try not to wake the lady beside me, and to get up off my back. I was thankful that the bathroom had a cold air vent at the perfect height to blow cool air into my face. It was a wonderful feeling during a not so wonderful feeling time. Around 3am, I was getting cold sweats and was feeling really sick. The midwives left for night with instructions to page them when labour really started, so I left under the care of the hospital nurses. I decided to call to make sure everything was normal. She said everything I as experiencing was a result of the Cervidil, she checked my cervix and I was still at 2 cm, so she offered me morphine to take the edge off and hopefully let me get some rest for when real labour started. I knew I needed some sleep so I agreed and was very grateful to be able to get a few hours of rest.

In the morning, your dad came back up to the hospital around 7:30am and my contractions had completely stopped. I ate breakfast and waited for the midwives to come back and check on us. She stopped by around 9 am, checked to see how we were doing, and said I had only dilated to 3 cm. I was a little sad as I had had a rather rough night of contractions, and thought I might be further along, but was still excited that soon we would get to meet you. She gave me a second dose of Cervidil and again left us, saying to page when the contractions got really long and close together. Grandma came up to visit around lunch time. She brought sandwiches and cookies and when she arrived, Papa decided to jet out to the bookstore to grab a book as he figured we would have another day of sitting around the hospital waiting for things to get going. I was about to take a bite of my sandwich, when I suddenly got the strongest contraction yet. It took my breath away! After that, they started coming fast and furious. They were so strong and very painful! Nothing I could do was helping to ease any of the pressure or pain. By 2:00pm, the contractions were 15 seconds apart, lasting over a minute and were VERY intense. Your dad showed up right as they were reaching their peek and I told him to call the midwives right away. A nurse came by to check on us and shortly after, our midwife arrived. She checked us out and we were quickly transferred to a labour and delivery room. I remember telling your Dad I couldn’t do this- that I NEEDED an epidural. I was too embarrassed to tell the midwives this, and was hoping your Dad would tell them for me. He later told me that while I was in the shower, he and the midwives had a good chuckle- she had said that I DIDN’T want an epidural, or I would have asked her directly. She was so right, but in that moment, I really thought I couldn’t do it. I lost trust in the process and was looking at endless contractions over the hours, rather than taking them one at a time.

Once in the delivery room, I immediately got in the shower. The hot water felt nice as it pounded against my back. We brought in a birthing ball and I sat on the ball and let the water run over me. I remember bouncing just a little bit on the ball and feeling my water break- I was so nervous about that as I remembered in class talking about how once your water is broken, the contractions get even more intense. Luckily, I didn’t seem to notice much of a difference in intensity. Shortly after I wanted to get out of the shower. We moved to the bed and I tried to breath and focus through some of the intense contractions. I could feel your head very heavy and low in my pelvis- right against my pubic bone, and moving from position to position or walking around was very painful. I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom, but remember saying I was worried I would start pushing- I was feeling the urge. The midwives drew me a bath and helped me to get in it. Once in the tub, I relaxed and closed my eyes. It was a lot easier to relax in and breath through the contractions in the hot water. They said if I felt the urge to push, I should go with it. She offered to check my dilation if I wanted just to be sure I was fully dilated, and I was happy to let her. She held back a lip of my cervix for the first push and we were ready to go. I had dilated from 3cm to pushing in 2 hours and literally had no time to go through transition, which was so nice as I was really not looking forward to that. It was good being in the tub- the room was dark and quiet and when I think back to that part of the labour, it was definitely the least painful and most relaxing. At some point, our second midwife arrived and I moved from the tub back to the bed. We tried a ton of different positions all of which felt painful and uncomfortable. Moving from position to position was very difficult, as you had now dropped down even lower. I remember in class talking about how pushing was the best part- how it was such a different kind of pain. I didn’t like the sensation that came with pushing and apparently wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t realize it, but one of our midwives said we had been pushing for over 2 hours. She said normally this stage only lasts about an hour, so we really needed to focus on getting you out during the next couple of pushes. She attached a fetal monitor and noticed your heart rate was fluctuation, which was a cause for concern as it could mean you were struggling. She immediately inserted an IV into my hand to try and replenish some of my fluids, all the while trying to really get me to focus on pushing you out. All this chaos and panic really took the wind out of my sails. My contractions became very faint and would taper off quickly, and I wasn’t able to sustain my pushes for very long as a result. The midwives immediately noticed this change, and had to page an OBGYN to come and help with a vacuum extraction. I was so nervous, very upset that this was how it had ended, but so excited that in a few minutes I would get to meet you! Within minutes, the room filled with a TON of people! There were two doctors, a med student, and a bunch of nurses- all talking loudly! The doctor did a quick in and out catheter to empty my bladder, all the while encouraging me to try and push through the mild contractions I was still getting. They attached the vacuum, and after about 2 or 3 pushes, you were out! 8:25pm on April 9th, 2010!

I remember the feeling of you coming out, and then a huge rush of fluid coming after you. Apparently Papa said to me “it’s a boy” but I have no recollection of that. I remember I looked up and said quietly to myself “it’s a boy!” As the doctor was lifting you up, you coughed out a bunch of the amniotic fluid. I remember the midwives saying “that’s where the rest of that fluid was”. You also had a little bit of merconium coming out of your bum. I remember before going into labour that the only thing I was worried about was you pooping on me right after being born- at this point I didn’t really care. I was a little worried that maybe you were stressed, as that is sometimes what causes babies to poop during labour. Because of the fluid you coughed up (and likely because doctors had been brought in to assist) they quickly wanted to whisk you off to suction out your airways. They let Papa cut your umbilical cord and then took you away for just a minute. We had requested delayed cord clamping (which didn’t get to happen due to the fluid issue) and all other tests to be put off until we had had some family bonding time, so they quickly brought you back to me. As soon as they laid you on my chest, all the pain just dissolved. I couldn’t even recall any of the struggle I had just gone through- it was the neatest feeling. Grandma was in a side room, and I remember calling to her to come see. I held you against my chest and just stared at you for what felt like hours. You had SO much white hair and your little eyes were so blue. Your skin was perfect. You were perfect! A doctor helped me deliver the placenta and stitched up my tear that was caused by the vacuum. All the while, I snuggled you and tried to get you to breastfeed. You quickly got the hang of it and started sucking away. It was such an amazing moment. The room quickly cleared out and we cuddled as a family for a while. The midwives filled out paper work and we just sat in awe and utter delight. One of the midwives took you and Papa aside to do a few more tests- she had Papa change your diaper and dress you. I was helped to the bathroom, given lots of juice and helped to get dressed. We didn’t know what we were going to name you, so we just called you ‘Panda’ (the nickname we had called you during pregnancy) for the first little while.

The midwives asked if we wanted to go home, or stay the night in the hospital. I was so eager to go home, and couldn’t fathom spending another night in the hospital alone while Papa tried to sleep at home without us, so we quickly jumped at the opportunity to go home. Three hours after your entry into the world, and we were in the car listening to Bob Dylan on our way home! What a crazy whirlwind of a night!

It was nice that a lot of things from our birth wish list came to fruition. I was SO very happy we were able to avoid Oxytocin and other drugs. We were able to have your birth without pain medication, and with minimal augmentations. It wasn’t exactly what we dreamed of, and it took me a while to accept how things played out and understand that having to ask for help with the vacuum did not mean that I in any way failed you (or me) in our wish for a gentle birth. Looking back, there were a lot of things I would do differently the next time around, but I honestly think that considering the alternative and where things could have ended up going, that it went how it needed to go. And I’m forgetting the most amazing part of all- we had you! A perfect, healthy, happy little man that we love more than we ever thought possible! What more could we even ask for?

Calgary Foothills hospital birth with midwives