By Marle Le
It seemed like a good idea. I was 32 weeks pregnant and about to leave my home in Kingston, Ontario, for a business trip to the head office in London, Ontario. My boss and I agreed that it would be good to schedule the trip now, as within a few more weeks I probably shouldn’t be too far away from home in case the baby came. It was my first pregnancy, and so far it had been an easy one.
I would be driving to London with a new co-worker, who would be the one covering my maternity leave while I was off. I would meet her for the first time ever at the carpool lot where I would pick her up and we would travel together in my car. This would be a nice opportunity for us to discuss the job, and once in London, she would do some job shadowing with me. We were due to see a client together that afternoon.
Just before leaving Kingston I was feeling a bit crampy. It was pretty minor, and I didn’t give it any thought, aside from mentioning it casually to my husband. I met my co-worker as planned and we hit the road. As the kilometres ticked by, the cramps got stronger and stronger. When we stopped for our first rest break, I decided I should Google “Braxton Hicks Contractions” in the restroom. Our prenatal classes were due to start in three days, and I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading up on this part of pregnancy. After satisfying myself that Braxton Hicks would gradually subside, and not intensify over time, I hopped back behind the wheel and we continued our journey. A few hours later we made it to St. Thomas, just outside of London, where we were scheduled to see our client. By this time, the cramps had become intense, and as I sat in the car, I seriously debated whether we should proceed to the client’s house.
In the end, I thought I should play it safe and get checked out. I also thought it was time to stop driving, so my co-worker (who I had now known for a total of five hours) drove my car to the nearest hospital and let me out at the door. Due to COVID-19 precautions, she couldn’t come in with me. We hadn’t been able to reach our client by phone, so I suggested she use the time to drive over to his place and ask him if we could push the appointment later in the day, to give me time to get checked out and back to work. After all, I had been seen by my obstetrician just three days earlier and was told everything looked fine and she would see me again in a few weeks.
In the ER waiting room, I decided to call my husband who was at work in Kingston, and give him an update. By this point, I was in so much pain I couldn’t sit in a chair, and had to be taken by wheelchair for examination. For some reason, I wasn’t worried that something was wrong, and it never crossed my mind that the baby might be coming. I had told myself I was just being cautious by attending hospital, and that I’d be back to work within a few hours.
I was assessed by a doctor within about 20 minutes of arrival at hospital. I was shocked to learn I was 5cm dilated. He told me that baby was coming, and soon. I then began bleeding. My water hadn’t broken. The medical team advised that they didn’t want me to have the baby there, as the hospital in London was much better equipped to deal with a premature baby and they would be rushing me there by ambulance. At this point, I realized I should call my husband and give him an update. The doctor suggested this was not necessary as he would never make it in time. I put my phone away and settled back into the contractions. After a few minutes, I asked the nurse if perhaps I still should call my husband. Shouldn’t he start making his way to London regardless? She thought that yes, he probably should. I agreed and made the call. My husband dropped everything and jumped in the car for the 5-hour drive.
I was rushed by ambulance to London Health Sciences Centre. Strange faces surrounded me, and I was told on arriving in London that the baby was coming and it was too late for an epidural. I was wheeled into the delivery room. The doctor broke my water and I was immediately told to start pushing. I was panicked. I had no delivery plan. I had not yet read about this part, or even started to think about it. I got it together, focused on pushing and put my trust in the medical team.
At 4:49 p.m., after what felt like only a few pushes, my baby boy arrived. It didn’t feel real when he was placed in my arms. It still didn’t feel real when they told me he was healthy and doing well, but would need to go directly to the NICU for specialized care. I was taken to a room to recover and wait for my husband. I vividly remember sitting in the hospital bed in a room by myself, staring at the wall, and telling myself that I just had a baby. I ate the sub I had bought for lunch just hours earlier. I looked around the room and continued to marvel at the fact that I had just had a baby. I would wait about two more hours in that room by myself until my husband arrived, and together we made our way to the NICU to see our boy.
Initially, we were told we might expect to spend a few weeks in London. The staff wasn’t sure what level of care might be available in Kingston, or if any beds would be available. The next day, we were told that they were hopeful we could be transferred to Kingston within a few days. Just an hour later, we got a call in our hospital room to come say goodbye, as the baby was leaving by helicopter in 20 minutes. We wanted to instill a love of travel and adventure in our baby, but never dreamed he would take his first flight at less than 24 hours old. The baby caught his flight out, and we were discharged soon after this and began driving back to Kingston. Luckily, my co-worker agreed to drive my car back so I could ride home with my husband. It was October 27, 2020 and we arrived back home in Kingston to a layer of snow covering the ground, adding to the surrealness of the past two days.
We would go on to spend three weeks in the NICU in Kingston, navigating life with a premature baby coupled with difficult visiting rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were very fortunate to have a healthy baby boy who simply needed some extra time to grow and develop before coming home.
In a way, I’m grateful I didn’t have time to develop a plan for labour and delivery. We learned early that sometimes you can’t plan for what life with a baby will bring. If I had had a plan, it might have been harder to deviate from this when the unexpected happened. It took me a couple of weeks to get over the shock of having a baby that arrived so quickly and so early, but we are forever grateful that he was healthy and received the best care he could have in both London and Kingston. My boss and I have agreed that there will be no work trips anywhere near my due date for any future pregnancies.
Marla Le was born and raised in Brockville, Ontario before moving to St. Catharines, Ontario where she obtained a degree in Kinesiology from Brock University. She then went on to obtain her Master of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. She works as a community Occupational Therapist, primarily helping individuals who have been seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents. She currently lives in Kingston with her husband and son.
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