Papa’s Birth Story

I rather need to start right from the beginning. Before we were even married, I remember one specific discussion on the births of our future babies that stands out in my mind. In fact, if I recall correctly, it was our first. When I was being adamant about a hospital birth, and Mary—whose greatest desire was to become a midwife—was adamant about having a homebirth attended by a midwife. I am truly the most stubborn in our tiny family, so I always thought I would “win.”

Ten months after being married, we finally got pregnant. We had wanted to get pregnant right from the start, and it got to a point when Mary asked God if he would make her pregnant—even if it meant a miscarriage. What an exciting day that was for us—to find out we were expecting. Both of us had wanted children for a long time. We had many dreams and goals for our first baby. We enjoyed going through all the pregnancy books and seeing where he was in his development. Unfortunately, three months after being conceived, Mary miscarried. On May 20, 1996, we lost our little boy Ravine Meadow Reine. It was a sad day, and we longed for quite a while to have another. One must be careful for what s/he wishes.

About a year and an half after we were married, we finally got a computer and access to the Internet, and we spent a lot of time surfing the net every day. Some days I would be on late (especially when we discovered chat rooms), and looking back I feel bad about spending that much time away from Mary. Luckily, the frequency and length I was online for was not enough to make our marriage suffer, and we spend more time going through our email now than anything.

By this time, I had agreed to homebirths (so much for stubbornness), but not with the first one. We were not sure how it would turn out, I would say, so we had to be at the hospital. Just in case.

Anyhow, one day I was surfing on the Internet—I am quite sure it was after we were pregnant the first time—and somehow started looking at pregnancy and childbirth pages. Most of them were experiences of people who had babies. We wanted babies right from the start, so this was intriguing to me. Well, it was not long before I stumbled on to some homebirth experiences, and the ones written by the fathers really stood out.

Well, after quite a few of them had been read, my mind started thinking, “you know, that sounds pretty neat…having a baby in a nice calm, relaxed, familiar setting.” After reading through some more experiences, I soon realised it was quite late, so I shut down the computer, and joined Mary in bed. She was surprised when I turned over and said, “If you want to have a homebirth with the first one, then that is fine.” You should have seen the expression on her face. “Oh Kim, do you really mean it?” It was worth the expression. She told me just this afternoon (14 Jan) that she felt a very spiritual feeling after I mentioned that.

Each day after Ravine’s death, we kept praying morning and night that God would provide us with another baby. It seemed like a long time that He was making us wait, and many times were counselled that it was for our good that we had to wait as long as we did. Some of the times, however, it did not mattered and we just wanted to replace the void created with Ravine now gone.

Sometime in 1997—I think it was the summer—Mary had a dream. In the dream, she and I were at her 10-year high school reunion. We had two children, and one was on the way. There was a boy—he was he oldest—and a girl. The boy was 3 years old, and the little girl was 9 months old. Mary really enjoyed he dream and enjoyed remembering the little boy playing with me. She said he looked just like me. However, when she awoke from the dream, she felt a great loss for the little boy. None for the girl, but a great loss for our son. It saddened her.

Finally, in early May 1998, while I was at work, I took a lunch break as he did every day, and stole to the bathroom while my food was reheating in order to offer a word of thanks to God for the food I was going to eat. While I was doing so, I mentioned in the prayer that I and Mary still wanted a baby. An incredible feeling came over me, confirming the fact that Mary was already pregnant. It was the same feeling when I discovered that Mary was expecting Ravine.

I phoned Mary and told her what happened, and she was skeptical right at the start because similar, but weaker, feelings had happened before. It wasn’t long before she believed me however, and she went out and bought a HPT just a few days later. When it showed positive, she cried, and then phoned to tell me the great news. We were ecstatic.

We offered some serious prayers of gratitude that night, thanking Our Eternal Father for the blessing He had given us. We made sure to ask Him not to let us lose this one.

Once again, goals and hopes surfaced for this new baby. It was truly a happy day when we got past the first trimester without any complications, and even a happier day when the second trimester was over. Each day began and ended with a prayer to God asking Him to watch over this little child he had blessed us with and to make her strong and healthy.

A few times Mary, asked me to giver priesthood blessings, which helped calm her fears and anxiety, and encouraged her that everything would be all right.

In the meantime, and even before conceiving again, Mary had enrolled with the Utah School of Midwifery (now the Utah College of Midwifery) and had begun her studies to be a midwife. I, now interested in a homebirth, took it upon myself to not be a regular “Joe Dad” who sit back and let the doctor go after Mary like a maniac, or to let the midwife help her along without me knowing what was happening, so I started studying about pregnancy and childbirth.

Mary has an extensive library on pregnancy/childbirth publications, and I went to this first. I also began looking on the Internet for informative resources, especially concerning the controversial topics. I especially talked to others who had their babies already. I talked to some who birthed in the hospital attended by an obstetrician; those attended by their GP; those assisted by a midwife; those who delivered in a birthing centre; those who delivered at home with a doctor; those at home assisted by a midwife; those who birthed at home as a couple; and even single mothers who delivered at home by themselves. I must have talked to thousands of people. It would never have been possible without the Internet.

The last two really intrigued me. Parents who birthed their babies at home unassisted by outside help. It got me thinking about how close it could really bring a family together, and how peaceful and relaxed it would be for the baby to have only his/her parents there touching her. What a way to develop a strong maternal/paternal bond with a child — one that would last forever.

I have to say that I was a bit skeptical at first, but after studying more (Laura Shanley’s book, Unassisted Childbirth really helped take away a lot of that skepticism), and speaking to a lot more people, and reading a lot more experiences, I became more and more turned to the idea.

One day, after much study, I suggested the idea to Mary to see what she thought (an important element in any successful marriage). She did not like the idea of unassisted childbirth at all. Well, it was not very long before she had agreed to an unassisted childbirth, but not with the first one. We were not sure how it would turn out, she would say, so we had to have someone there. Just in case. Sound familiar? We had come around full circle, and switched roles (compared to before we were married).

Unassisted childbirth appeared to be an option for the future, and we both continued to study and research about the subject, and pregnancy and childbirth in general.

In the summer of 1998, after moving from Vancouver, British Columbia to Lethbridge, Alberta, we got talking about the dream Mary had had the year before, and we got talking about how this second baby may be the little girl in the dream. Mary’s ten year reunion was going to be in the summer of 1999, and if Ravine were still alive, he would be three years old, just as the dream said. This second baby will be around nine months old at the high school reunion, just like in the dream. I prayed about the dream and I asked Our Father if the little boy in dream was Ravine. I got an astounding yes. I then asked if the little girl in the dream was this present baby. Again, a blatant positive answer. I was elated. I had wanted a boy, but now my heart was at peace with Ravine, knowing that he is fine, and that he will someday be ours to raise, and that this baby would be fine as well.

Shortly after moving, we found a doctor right away. We told him our desires to have a homebirth, and he said, “well, you know, I don’t do homebirths.” We assured him that that was fine, and we had been looking for a midwife anyhow. He said he was ok with that and if we still wanted to continue seeing him, he would be fine with that. He was supportive and let us make our own decision.

Midwives are very scarce in Southern Alberta, and we were very lucky to find one less than 30 min away. The other nearest one was nearly 200km away. Our midwife, as our doctor, was also a great blessing. She was a nice change from the doctor, but it was a good thing we had them both because we were able to get a very objective view of this pregnancy and the entails of the birth.

They were both supportive of whatever we wanted, and they are truly each, one in a million. We just would not be able to find another like either of them—especially at the same time. We were truly blessed.

Well, the day after getting back from a week-long Christmas holiday in Vancouver, we were supposed to have an appointment with our midwife. We had returned home late, and wanted to see if we could move it to a bit later in the day, so we could rest a little. That is when we heard some disturbing news:

Apparently, the Government of Alberta organised a Midwife Registry of Alberta, and passed a law stating that if a midwife was not registered with the Government and still delivered a baby, she could be prosecuted. We were shocked! How could this be? We were only 2.5 weeks from the delivery date, and we did not want to go to the hospital. We were quite annoyed that no one told us anything for five months.

We talked to our doctor about it at our next pre-natal visit and he said he had not been informed about anything like that. He knew how we felt about hospitals, and even encouraged us to go pre-register at the hospital, but one thing he said really floored us. He said, “Well, you could always stay home and say you couldn’t make it in time.” Imagine…a doctor saying that unassisted childbirth was an alternative!

Well, we discussed it a bit, and about a week before Sinéad was born, we made the decision to do it alone. We continued the research we had been doing for 3.5 years, and focused a bit more on getting more responses and opinions from people we knew.

We were getting excited about Sinéad’s delivery coming up, and knew that it was around the corner; however, we just did not know how close around the corner. Two Sundays before Mary was due, some bloody show began to appear. This did not make much difference to us. Many women had weeks go by after their initial show. However, Monday morning, shortly after eight, Mary had some contractions that were noticeably stronger than Braxton Hicks. Of courser, even that did not faze us, as we still figured on at least a week.

Then shortly after three in the afternoon, the contractions began to get heavier, and by one the next morning, they started getting close to ten minutes apart. We knew this was it.

Mary was uncomfortable a few times at the start and she would sit in the bath to relax. As labour progressed, Mary switched from the bed to the bath at least five times, and it really helped in making them not so painful. Around 7am, however, many of the contractions were intense enough that Mary had to lean on me to keep her upright.

The contractions were close by now, but we had stopped timing them because we were getting pretty worn out, and besides, we knew she was coming any way. Why did we need to know anyhow…so we could get to the hospital on time?

I put on some surgical gloves and had tried to check Mary’s cervix twice, but it was a whole lot different feeling for it, than looking at a picture of it in a book. The second time, I could barely feel it, but it was too far back for me to check. I did check one more time after seven, and I felt the end not too far in, so I knew delivery was on the way.

By 08:00, the contractions were close enough together that Mary was not able to get much relief between them, and she decided to get back into the bed. The most comfortable position for her seemed to be on all fours, so that is where she stayed.

I began to massage the perineum to help keep it elastic, in order to prevent tearing, and once I felt Sinéad’s head on the other side of it; I began to massage only when Mary pushed. I could see her head moving as it slid past the perineum, and it was a remarkable sight. I could not believe how much the perineum had stretched and how thin it had gotten. it was unbelievable.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t long till her head began to poke through. I noticed a fold of skin running from the front to the back of the crown, and it looked like a spine, so I began to think the back was coming first. Once I felt the “spine” and realised it was simply skin, I was much relieved. I then thought to myself, that would have made for one hairy back. I told Mary, that this baby looked like she had her head of hair. It was nice and dark.

It took about 5–6 pushes before the baby’s head stopped retracting whenever Mary stopped pushing. Finally, on the sixth or seventh push, Mary gave it all she got, and out came her head. It was a relief to see her in a vertex position, and that her head was centred perfectly when it came out. She had a very fat head when she was born, and she had a huge amount of vernix. She was so white, that I thought she was grey, and that she was dead. However, upon looking further, I saw that there was pink/red under all that white. Another relief.

Anyhow, there the head was sitting, and I was waiting for it to turn to the side, so I could deliver the shoulders, when all of a sudden, whoosh, here she comes. I quickly extended my hands and caught her before she could hit the mattress. All of the water came out with her, and really, there wasn’t as much as everyone kept saying there would be.

I sat Sinéad up, and she gurgled, so I quickly laid her on her stomach and massaged her back to help her force out the mucous. Mary asked if she was a girl, and I answered back, after checking, and said she was. After Sinéad’s crying was clear sounding, I handed her to Mary and she tried to feed her. That is quite the task for an inexperienced breast feeder and a very slippery baby! Somehow, they managed to do it, and it was not too long before Sinéad was content.

About 1.5 hours after the birth, we decided the umbilical cord had finished pulsing, and that Sinéad had received all the nutrients and extra oxygen from it that she was going to and we cut it. I opened up our package of cotton shoelaces, and tightly tied a square knot 1 inch from the navel, and another tight square knot three inches from that one. I took out the scissors I had sterilised and cut the cord halfway between the two knots.

After seeing Mary and the baby were doing fine, I began phoning everyone. Both her mum and aunt were worried that the placenta hadn’t delivered by this point. I assured them not to worry…Mary’s uterus was until hard, and the contractions were still occurring. It would come out when it was ready. After another phone call from each of them, and it still had not been delivered yet, I suggested to Mary that she should try getting out of the tub and sitting on the toilet to see if that would help, knowing that sitting on the toilet would let gravity help out, and would help open the vagina more. Well, within 30 seconds it came right on out. What an intriguing looking organ. I commented to Mary when we were disposing of it, that some cultures actually eat this. We both looked at it and were disgusted at the thought.

About an hour later, we started getting ready to go to the doctor. We washed Sinéad, dressed her, and I held her while Mary soaked in the tub and had a shower. The doctor looked her over, weighed her, measured her, and was pleased to announce her wonderful health. The midwife stopped by to visit, looked at the baby and Mary, and was pleased everything was well also. Both of them were supportive of what we had done, and we are indebted to them for such wonderful support and understanding.

Since then, Sinéad has lost only half a pound, and her hands no longer turn blue when she is cold. She has the biggest feet, and the longest fingers. Everyone who comes over always comments on how pretty and beautiful she is. She is very strong, in addition to being healthy, and it has been answers to true prayer. We felt we had been inspired and directed by God through the entire pregnancy and birth, and we are so grateful for his mercy and guidance.

She sleeps a lot, and is very quiet, except when we go to bed, and when we change her diapers. She sleeps in our bed, so that is not too much of an inconvenience, but it sure gives us more of a respect for our own parents.

I think I will phone my Mum tonight and apologise for any grief I have ever put her through.

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