Saturday, January 23, 2010

Born in the Bathtub

At the beginning of our first pregnancy someone gave us the well-known guide: "What to Expect When You Are Expecting." We consulted the book on a weekly basis (along with to understand what was happening and to prepare ourselves for what might happen next. The book had life-size sketches of the baby to illustrate the level of development. It was particularly useful to have explanations of various symptoms like aches, pains and nausea. There was also good advice about preparation -- both practical and psychological.

Every week I wrote at least one blog posting to summarize this guidance, usually adding my own observations about how R's experience matched or differed. The result was that we had our own comprehensive reference manual on how R handles pregnancy. This could be titled: "What R Should Expect When Expecting."

For example, she experienced significant discomfort at one point, and started to wonder if something might be wrong. She checked the blog and found that she had experienced very similar symptoms at approximately the same point in her pregnancy. In that instance, we had gone to the hospital and had learned that everything was fine with the baby, and the discomfort was likely broad ligament pain. The funny thing is that neither of us remembered this particular visit until re-reading the blog entry jogged our memory.

The blog promised to be quite useful for weeks 1-38, but we didn't have any pregnancy information on the blog for weeks 39-40 because Scott came 12 days early. It looked like we might be on our own for those weeks. However, we didn't get there this time either, with Katie born 13 days early (compared to Scott's 12 days). If we find ourselves expecting again, I guess we should expect the have the baby 2 weeks early.

...Two weeks early and lightning quick.

The morning of Scott's birth was all about speed -- there was no time for an epidural and there was no time to stop for traffic lights on the way to the hospital. Although R had some early pains that were later identified as contractions, it was really just a matter of a few hours from the time contractions started until the baby was ready to come out -- about 3 hours.

This time was not much different -- except maybe a bit faster, and minus one hospital visit. Sure, this time it all started after lunch (rather than after midnight), but it was all over long before dinner. R had been preparing a double-batch of gluten-free lasagna so we could eat one and freeze the other for after the birth -- something she had already done with a few other meals (gluten intolerance was was diagnosed in week 26). Her mom dropped by in the afternoon to pick something up, and found that R was cooking kind of slowly because of an occasional cramp that forced her to take breaks. After some discussion with her mom, R decided to consult with the midwife team.

The lady who took the call agreed that R was feeling contractions, but she could not immediately assess whether the contractions meant that labour had started, so she told R to get into the bathtub. Apparently, a warm bath will quell false labour and accelerate the real thing. R called me on the phone and then slipped into the bath.

My office phone rang at about 3:20pm, and I listed to R tell me in a tired voice that things were starting. I was all ears. I asked how fast I should come back -- train (35 min) or taxi (20 min)? She figured I had some time, so she recommended the train. I emerged onto the street a few minutes later, breaking into a run with an anthology of Roald Dahl short stories tucked under my arm, and my watch still lying on my desk upstairs.

While I quickly covered the distance to the north-bound platform, the warmth of the bathwater rushed R's contractions closer together. I had barely changed my Facebook status to "Contractions" when I received a call from R's mom that they planned to leave for the hospital because contractions were coming 2.5 minutes apart.

Instead of riding the train out to our area, I would get off a few blocks from the hospital and make my way there if they didn't have time to pick me up. I was about to get off the train when I got another phone call update.

The midwife had contacted the Foothills Hospital to let them know we were coming and had learned that there were no delivery rooms available, so the next closest hospital was Peter Lougheed, way out in the NE part of town. Both the midwife and R had agreed that there was no time to travel so far, so they decided to deliver the baby at home. You see, the midwives are allowed to make use of the hospital facilities, but they sometimes get bumped if there's no room. During a recent visit they warned us that this might happen, but they said the probability was quite low. It rarely happens.

I had been standing at the door of the train, ready to get off when I received the call. Instead of disembarking, I sat back down and arranged for a friend of ours to pick me up at the station and bring me home. As we were pulling up to the house, I saw the midwife lugging an enormous equipment bag up the driveway, and a close neighbour standing on the front step. The midwife had been in the north suburb of Airdrie and had managed to shorten a 40-minute drive down to about 25 minutes with some "aggressive" driving.

The laughing gas that arrived too late

That was about 4:15 pm. I found R lying on the bed wearing a pair of maternity jeans, one of my t-shirts and a look of agonized desperation. Our neighbour (who goes to our church) assisted me in a prayer to bless R while the midwife dumped medical equipment into strategic locations and R's mom worked to prepare the bathroom. The neighbours whisked Scotty away to their house to play for a while and R eased into the tub. I vaguely remember doing a circuit along the midwife's trail of supplies, clearing away more room for her to work.

It could not have been more than 15 minutes from the time the midwife and I arrived and the time that Katie was born, making it about 1.5 hours of labour -- if you don't count the sporadic contractions that hampered R's lasagna preparations during the afternoon. It was so short that it caught R completely by surprise. She was bracing herself for at least an hour of pushing at the end, but that part was over before she knew it and she had our new daughter bobbing peacefully in the tub.

Normally, when you see movie or tv footage of a baby entering the world, the child comes screeching and wailing. Our little girl had none of that. She simply squinted a lot and pretended not to know what all the fuss was about.

All the fuss was about Katie. All 6 pounds and 4 ounces of her.


Grandma Lynne said...

This is one amazing story and a wonderful outcome! Katie will love reading all about her arrival in the years to come. Great job everyone !

Kage said...

An awesome birth story that I expect you to submit to Design Mom as soon as you get this comment in your inbox. You better do it.

Signed, your favorite cousin.

D said...

I don't know much about Design Mom, but I do know that I'm neither a mom nor much of a designer.

Is this really a story that they would be interested in, favourite cousin?

Jessica said...

I loved the play-by-play Facebook status updates. It made us feel like we were a part of the action. We were feeling the rush with you.

Congrats to all of you!

Lisa said...

I have been looking forward to reading all the details! What a story!

Heather said...

Congratulations! I can tell you right now that she is going to be the most amazing girl you ever encountered...I say this because my mom went into labour with me while also preparing lasagna for dinner...and it's been nothing but bliss since that moment.

ReeSe said...

That's the coolest story! She'll love reading this when she is older. Great job to all of you! I agree with Kage...submit!:)

Grandma Walters said...

Hey, what's with the Lasagna thing? Must be hungry babies in the womb wanting out. We are so glad all went well. It was funny that Rachelle at one point asked her mom how SHE was doing?? What a brick, Rachelle. Glad no cops around for Derek and the midwife. Or they may have had to deliver the baby. That happened on one of our streets a week or so ago!
We love you Katie, all ready!! Love, Grandpa and Grandma Walters

Clairissa said...

Wow! She is beautiful! Congrats!! And what a crazy/amazing birth story. Justin and I are so happy for you. What a beautiful family you have :)

margo said...

I finally read the commentary of the amazing event...great job D..and congrats to all! and yes....SUBMIT!! (i'm sure kage could help you out)