by Sheena McDonald
Sheena lives in Toronto with her husband, two-year-old daughter and two cats -- who gets a shout out in her story! Although she is able to fulfill her love of writing on a daily basis as a communications professional in the non-profit sector, she will seize any opportunity to write creatively.
As I sit on my toilet, dazed and confused at the fact that I’ve just delivered a baby in my apartment, my midwife gently wipes my face. “Is it blood?” I croak.
“No” she replies with a sympathetic smile. “Just some poop.”
It is eight hours earlier and I bolt upright in bed. Ow. Even though I’m pregnant with my first child, I somehow know in every fibre of my being that it’s time.
I shake my partner awake and tell him firmly, “This is it.”
“Oh yeah? Ok,” he mumbles groggily back. He thinks I mean that this is the very beginning of labour, the minor contractions that will slowly build over many hours. At 40 weeks pregnant, I’ve had plenty of time to watch countless birth videos on YouTube that show this gradual progression, often transpiring over multiple days.
But that’s not what I mean. I’m telling him that THIS IS HAPPENING NOW.
It’s time to call my midwife and hastily make our way to the birth centre, where I’ll ease into an enormous birthing tub and find solace in a quick supply of nitrous oxide.
My midwife arrives about an hour later and performs a quick check to confirm that this is, in fact, happening right now. Her head jerks up in surprise. “You’re 10 centimetres dilated,” she exclaims. It takes me a moment to realize that this means I’m fully dilated.
“Listen, it’s entirely your call. But how would you feel about doing this…here?”
I laugh nervously and glaze around my surroundings.. to the dust bunnies, pile of dirty laundry and general clutter surrounding me.
Then I imagine delivering my baby in a Honda Fit on the way to the birth centre. “Um, yeah, let’s do this,” I say.
A flurry of activity follows – the nightstand is cleared to make room for equipment, a plastic covering is draped on the bed and our two cats are shooed from the bedroom. There’s nothing quite like being in the throes of active labour while a cat sniffs your face, I discover.
I soon learn that lying flat on my back in bed makes no sense to my body. No, I need gravity and something to push violently against as the contractions ramp up.
I find myself on my knees and gripping my headboard, screaming through the pain. When I release my death grip, I notice the thick layer of dust that coats the surface, now partially coating my sweaty palms. Mental note: don’t forget to dust the headboard.
There comes a point, as the sun begins to rise, when the pain is so horrific and constant that I don’t think I can make it. Does this happen to everyone? A rising panic that you’ll die, that your baby will die? That this is it?
“I can’t do it!” I scream.
Calmly and confidently, my midwife replies: “But you are. You are doing it.”
Thankfully, I’m not doing it alone.
My partner, the one who just a couple of hours earlier could barely time a contraction, is now a doula.
He is there, by my side, through it all – feeding me frozen grapes, gripping my lower back during every contraction to help widen my pelvis and a host of other things I’m unaware of as I travel deeper within myself.
It’s time to push and I am now fully in my head, focused on the excruciating task at hand.
I find myself gripping onto the side of my bed while standing in a sort of squat, my legs trembling with the effort of each push. I’m now fully naked and bathed in sweat.
My partner opens the window in the room to let in the fresh, spring air and it occurs to me that my neighbours must be waking up to my animalistic howls. I dimly wonder if they’ll call the police.
In the end, no one does – but I wonder to this day if this is something I should be grateful for or concerned about.
My partner is now on the floor below me, prepared to catch the baby. This is it.
An extended scream escapes me and I feel my baby fully emerge into the hands waiting below.
“Oh my god,” my midwife exclaims in amazement. “She’s so… BIG.”
I reach down between my legs and pull up my nine-and-a-half-pound baby girl, a surprise considering that both my partner and I are relatively small people. I weighed a measly five pounds at birth.
I climb gingerly onto the bed and lie down clutching my giant, slippery, beautiful baby to my chest.
This is only the fourth baby I’ve ever held in my life.
I don’t have a lot of experience with kids. No big extended family with lots of little ones running around, limited babysitting experience and only a handful of my friends have children so far.
I’ve never changed a diaper. I don’t know what I’m doing.
And yet – I’ve just climbed Mount Everest and run a marathon. For a moment, I am filled with the knowledge that I am capable of anything. All along, I had a profound inner strength just waiting to be tapped into.
But I certainly had help.
As my midwife calmly wipes the poop off of my face a short while later (is this poop from the baby? I will never be sure), I am in awe of the physical and emotional support she has just given me. I don’t know what to say, how to fully express my gratitude. I try to articulate my overwhelming feelings over the phone the next day, but will never find the words to truly do it justice.
Soon, she cheerfully packs her bags and heads off to attend another birth, just another day on the job.
Another mundane miracle awaits.