Baby Sunshine was born almost two weeks ago as the first light broke in the morning. She weighed in at 9 pounds 0 ounces and was 21.6 inches long. She is beautiful – fair skin, light hair and looks like her Daddy. We are so happy to have her here to complete our family. Her birth story is everything that I have ever wanted. We are so happy with the care that we received from Seven Generations Midwives in Toronto and are thrilled to have that care for 6 postpartum weeks.
Unfortunately, Whirlwind’s birth story could not be the same. With his pregnancy, I chose to go with a midwife because I felt that they could provide the support that I needed being so far from my family. While my midwives and midwifery practice provided excellent care, I felt that it was not culturally appropriate care. Whirlwind was a large neonate, born at 10 pounds, 10 ounces and is in fact still in the 98th percentile for his age. My midwives were constantly concerned about his size and were always scrutinizing my diet. I had to endure two short and two long gestational diabetes screens because they could not fathom that First Nation women often grow larger babies with no clinical cause. After made to feel like it was somehow my fault that my baby was growing too large, I was sent to a neonatologist who did have experience working with First Nation women. She made me feel a lot better because she didn’t seem to think that my baby was too large at all. She assured me that First Nation women were evolutionary built for childbirth and could push a baby out sideways. It’s too bad that this was not the case.
My water broke at 9 AM in the evening and I had to go to the hospital to begin antibiotics because I was positive for Group B Streptococcus. I paged my primary midwife and she was attending another birth. I paged the back-up midwife and she was also attending another birth. A third midwife, whom I had never met before, was to meet me at the hospital. Upon arrival we were greeted by hospital staff that did not seem too keen on midwifery care. The doctor on call was paged and she pretty much flat out lied to us by telling us that we needed to begin inducement immediately. What I didn’t know at the time was that as soon as we agreed to begin pitocin, we would be signed out of midwifery care and into medical care. The drip started and double peaked contractions in my back started immediately. I laboured like this for approximately 25 hours, receiving 6 doses of antibiotics. At this point, a nurse talked me into getting an epidural. She told me that it would help me rest and if a cesarean was required, I would already have a port for anesthetic. I was able to sleep for two hours and found I had progressed from 2-3 cm to 8 while I slept. I continued to labour and the effects of the epidural wore off (I did not have a remote to deliver a bolus). Fuzz requested more and he was told that they would be in shortly. They never came with more and when they did finally come, they told me that it was too late to get more. A nurse did check me and told me that I only had a lip on my cervix to go. She told me to start tiny push pulses until the doctor was able to come in. I did this for a while but it became almost impossible to stop from pushing. By the time the doctor arrived, my cervix had swelled back to 8 cm. I was told I needed a cesarean. Whirlwind was born at 3:10 AM, 30 hours after my water broke. I was completely drugged up and do not remember much of the surgery or first day of recovery. Apparently, I was screaming that I would not know how to feed my baby when being transferred to my room. I was also not able to keep my placenta for ceremony reasons, because it was hospital policy to retain placentas after cesareans. I was later informed it was sent to the incinerator.
The weeks that followed were a challenge as well. Not because of the recovery from the surgery itself (which was in fact, very easy for me) but because of the residual effects of the surgery. My breast milk was not coming in as quickly as it should have and Whirlwind had lost too much weight. I had to tube feed with formula and take herbal supplements. He also had impaired sucking capabilities and breastfeeding was excruciating. I would start crying a half hour before I knew it was time to feed him. We saw five public health nurses and one sucking specialist, but no one could help. Finally, almost three months later, I called my local La Leche League. Dee came to my house that same morning and within ten minutes had our problem diagnosed. We had thrush. No one had asked me about our birth experience before her, and it turns out our problem was directly related to it. The massive amount of antibiotics we were given (7 bags) had allowed yeast to grow on my breasts and in Whirlwind’s mouth. We treated that and everything vastly improved.
After everything, I was still greatly disappointed with his birth. I was so very happy that he was here but I felt the hospital bullied me into taking interventions that prolonged the labour. I then eventually required a cesarean. I did not want this for my second child.
When I found out I was expecting the second time, I immediately called Seven Generations Midwives of Toronto (a midwifery practice that prioritizes care for Aboriginal women). They were willing to provide care even though I lived outside of their catchment area. I made my appointments for days that I was in the city for work and drove in to the city when required. Receiving culturally appropriate care was that important to me.
My primary midwife, Jessica, is fantastic. She is knowledgeable, caring and patient. She explained everything to me before I knew it was something I should be asking. It was she who actually explained that I WAS actually bullied and I did not require a lot of the interventions forced on me at the hospital. She also questioned a lot of decisions made that day because I was actually displaying a lot of classic signs of various conditions (posterior baby, thrush, etc) that were not caught while in labour when they were easily mitigated. My secondary midwife, Alanna, is very nurturing and was able to provide emotional prenatal care. She also was able to alleviate some of my fear about integrating a second baby into our family unit. Lastly, Jessica’s back-up midwife, Nicole, was able to assist Jessica while I was recovering from active labour. She helped clean up, repair, complete reports and was able to find me the only food available in the ward at 5 AM…the most delicious cardboard-y cheese sandwich and jello. She also assisted with breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact. She even used an old Guatemalan trick to help me pee for the first time because my IV could not be removed until then.
The birth itself was wonderful. It was just Jessica, Fuzz and I in the most comfortable birthing room at Sunnybrook hospital. I arrived there at 11 PM with contractions 3 minutes apart and 4 cm dilated. I laboured with Jessica’s encouragement until 3 AM when I reached 6 cm. I was so tired at this point because I had again been up for almost 24 hours – why must my babies be born at night…it would be lovely to have them after a night’s rest – haha! I had asked for something to help me rest for a few hours so I could finish the job. After a lengthy discussion, I decided on an epidural because it would help me rest with no implications to the baby. Other medications would pass the placenta to also drug my baby. Jessica called the anesthesiologist and I got up to use the washroom for the last time. As Fuzz was helping me off the end of the bed, my water broke all over his feet. While sitting on the toilet, I told Jessica that I felt a lot of pressure and the urge to push. She checked me and I was already at 8 cm. The anesthesiologist came in and gave me the epidural at 4:00 AM. As he had me lay down to check my blood pressure, I told Jessica that I really needed to push. She checked again and I was 10 cm. I went from 6 cm to 10 cm in 15 minutes. So much for my nap! I pushed and 23 minutes later, Sunshine was there…even before Nicole arrived to help. It was just Jessica delivering the baby with Fuzz’s help. He did so well that he could moonlight as a midwife.
The last two weeks have been fantastic. Sunshine is an excellent sleeper and eater. We have not had any problems breast-feeding as she is a natural. Once my milk came in, she gained an entire pound in four days! Whirlwind is an excellent big brother. He is always kissing and rubbing her head while making cooing noises.
Regardless of how they got here, we are so happy they are here. Sunshine definitely completes our family and Fuzz and I are so in love with our kids.