I wanted to share this memory with you, Ted. I don’t know if you remember this incident but I’ve told it to so many people and it always makes me laugh so I thought you might enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Many years ago, when we both had young kids and you were married to Karen, I bumped into you in the parking lot of the “7-11” on West Fourth Ave. We exchanged small talk for a while and, all of a sudden, you got a strange look on your face and blurted out the following, unforgettable (to me) sentence: “Gloria, is it true you were a topless dancer in China?” I couldn’t fathom how that thought could ever enter someone’s head. I’ve been accused of many things in my life but that was pretty far-fetched—I had never been to the Orient, I had never been to the local nude beach, none of what you said made any sense at all. But, somewhere in there, I started thinking “How could this husband of another birth attendant have gotten this idea in his head?”

Then, I remembered a birth that I had called Karen out to one evening. It was the second vaginal birth for the woman. When Karen arrived at the home, I went through the woman’s chart with her. The only surgery the birthing woman had ever had was a breast augmentation. She was a Caucasian woman who was married to a Japanese man. I explained to Karen that the couple had met in Japan and the first child had been born in a Japanese hospital, completely natural birth. The woman had been in Japan because she had taken a job as a hostess in a nightclub in Japan. japanese fan

Now, they were living in Vancouver and having their second child. The baby was born just after midnight and I sent Karen home soon after.

I’m guessing that what happened is that she crawled into bed with you, Ted, and you must have asked her “how did the birth go?” There wasn’t much to tell except that bit about her previous breast augmentation surgery so perhaps Karen told you about that. Somehow, in your sleepy state, that got changed into “Gloria Lemay was a topless dancer in China”.

Once I had retraced the strange pathway of that statement, I said to you: “You know, Ted, that’s not true about me BUT it’s way more interesting than my real life. Will you, please, spread that rumour about me!”

Thanks for the special moments and laughs that knowing you has added to my life. I love you and your dear family.



This story was told to me by a young man who came, on his own, to a birth film night that I hosted in Vancouver, BC. It was strange to have a 19-ish year old man in a room full of women. He said he had come because he saw the event advertised in a local paper and he thought it might be important in his future to know about birth. After the films ended, people milled about for a while chatting but, then, everyone dispersed except for him. He seemed to be loitering around. I wasn’t afraid to be alone in a building with him—he had such a pleasant way of being. As I packed up my gear and replaced things in the room, he said “Gloria, I’ve stayed behind because I want to tell you a story.” I was all ears. This is the story that the straggler recounted that night.

“My mother was born at home in Berlin, Germany. In Germany, it’s different from here. When someone has an apartment they stay in it their whole lives and sometimes pass it down through generations. It’s not like here where people move around a lot. In the old days, when my grandmother felt it was time to give birth, she would knock on her bedroom wall and that was a signal for her neighbor to come over and assist her with the birth. My grandmother did the same for her neighbor when the roles were reversed. So, my mother was born in my grandmother’s bed. Family Bed They were very close mother and daughter but my mother ended up falling in love with a Canadian and moved to Canada after she was married. She would take every vacation opportunity to fly back to Germany and be with my grandmother.

One day we got the news that grandmother had cancer and was dying. The doctors gave her six months to live. My mother took a leave of absence from her work and flew to Germany to be with her mother through this passage. The night that my grandmother died, my mother was holding my grandmother in her arms in the same bed and bedroom that my mother had been born in.”

That young man’s story has stayed with me. I’m so glad he came to my event and that he felt it was important to share with me. The more I ponder on this story, the more I think about him and I wonder if he has had children of his own. I think that, because he was the son and grandson of those two women, is why I felt so safe with him. Love Gloria
p.s. thanks for your encouragement to tell these stories, Babz Covington and Carla Hartley. I love you both so much. Please share your stories, too.



I wanted to write this story down because it is one I can’t forget.

I was walking back to my car after a late night downtown meeting and I was accompanied by Peter and Molly, old friends. Molly was someone I really admired and she had two young children. As we were walking along together, Molly said: “Gloria, I don’t think I’ve ever told you what an incredible difference you made to me.” My ears perked right up, I love to be acknowledged, but I couldn’t remember anything special that I had done for Molly.

She said, “Remember that day we bumped into each other on the street when I was hugely pregnant with Caroline, my second daughter? We hadn’t seen much of each other during my pregnancy and I was working with two registered midwives and planning a homebirth.End of Pregnancy

My mother had come out from Eastern Canada to help the family at the end of my pregnancy and it seemed to be taking forever for the baby to come. I was worried that my mom might be really scared to see me birthing and I had a feeling she didn’t like the idea that, this time, I would have the baby at home. I didn’t even want to talk to her about the idea I had of having a waterbirth. Everything else about the birth was going smoothly but I had this nagging fear about my mom’s reactions. Well, Gloria, you listened to everything I said and then you said “Oh, do you know what? I have the most amazing video of waterbirth that you just have to watch. Everyone who sees it has a lovely smooth birth, you’re going to love it”. (The video was Barbara Harper’s “Birth Into Being”). You went to your car trunk and presented me with the vhs tape. I took it home and we watched it that evening. My mom watched it with us and said at the end “Why don’t you get one of those water tubs and do it that way, Molly!” All my worries were gone and the next morning my birth process started. The birth was everything we wanted. Afterwards my Mom said “Honey, that is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened in my whole life. I’m so glad I came out to Vancouver and got here on time to be present to the miracle.”
My Mom returned home to Eastern Canada. She was a widow and she liked to live in her own home alone. A few months after Caroline was born, we got the terrible news that my mother had taken a fall down a flight of stairs and she died. The grief was terrible. Amidst all the grieving I had this sense of peace that my Mom had been present to a miracle and that we had shared a profound experience. I don’t know if it would have unfolded that way if you hadn’t run to your car and lent us that video.”

 Only two remain undilated.

Only two remain undilated.

Molly (not her real name) only told me this story when the baby in this story was about 12 years old. You never know what the ripples in the pond of your actions might be. Love Gloria

A Doula’s Experience with Breech

After a birth, it helps to get a perspective on what could have/ should have/ might have been different in order to learn and grow. Every birth story is different. Gloria

The family had a super healthy (first) pregnancy, with opportunities
galore; access to acupuncture, chiropractics, yoga, watsu, massage,
walking, biking, good rest and healthy food (they are both vegan and
eat really well). They chose not to have any ultra sounds and had
her first internal exam at 40 weeks, at her request. She was quite
anxious about having internal exams, learned that it is possible to go
through pregnancy and birth without any fingers up her vagina and
decided that would be best for her. She asked for the exam at 40 weeks
because she felt it would be better to have a ‘practice’ exam in a non
labour situation to see what it would be like just in case she wanted
to have one in labour.

Throughout her pregnancy her various health care professionals
palpated her belly and were sure the head was down. I don’t touch
bellies, I just pay attention to how women are carrying and moving and
what they are saying, and it seemed like a vertex presentation to me
as well. At 39 weeks, her chiropractor and her midwives noticed a
difference, but figured maybe the head was engaged. On her due date
she had an appointment with one of her midwives, who is quite new to
midwifery and she basically freaked out from feeling what she thought
were hands presenting and told the family they must go for an ultra
sound the following morning at 8am. The family was left quite worried.
I asked what she felt about the baby’s position. She said she had been
feeling flutters down below, and figured it was simply mild
contractions. I also asked if she was feeling pressure up in her ribs,
or if she was pushing down on her belly in discomfort, and she said
she had been feeling that way all week. I told her not to worry and
offered to join her for the ultra sound in the am.

Later that night I received a call that labour had started, she had
been contracting since her midwife appointment, but thought it was due
to the internal exam. The contractions were building, so she called
the midwives and they told her to go straight to the hospital for an
ultra sound and one of the midwives would meet them there. The ultra
sound indicated baby was breech and the OB on call was one of the only
in the city who was open to vaginal breech births, although he clearly
stated he was not interested in any marathons and she would have 6
hours to labour (no pressure!) The midwife assured them he was good at
what he does, but he was known to have no bedside manner. That was
pretty clear, but they didn’t care.

At this point their midwife said they could go home to grab their
stuff and take a pause. She was well aware that this was a total game
change from their water birth at home plan, so taking a moment at home
seemed an important part of their birth experience. They called to
let me know the baby was in fact in a breech presentation and that
they were heading home to get their stuff. I was pleasantly surprised
they were encouraged to go home, and told them to keep me posted and
take their time. I said I would meet them back at the hospital when
they returned.

We met at the hospital at 9:45. The midwife did a very gentle and slow
internal exam and found her cervix was 4 cm and stretchy. They had her
on the monitors after that. I asked if she could be on hands and
knees, but they couldn’t get the heart rate as clear, so that was
ruled out. She was laying on her side and after 10 minutes on the
monitor we heard major dips in the heart rate over and over, tried
getting her on her other side and baby was still dipping quite a bit.
The midwife was concerned of a cord prolapse, so the nurse came in and
did a very different internal exam, got right in there fast and
vigorously and felt bulging membranes and what she thought was a cord.
Suddenly two nurses had their hands inside of her, it was terrible.
They said they were trying to push the baby up off of the cord.
breech presentations

You can imagine how intense this was for the mother to be. The room
filled with nurses and it was announced that she would have an
emergency cesarean birth. They wouldn’t let her partner go with her,
this was also terrible. The midwife wouldn’t take no for an answer and
got her scrubs on to accompany her. I stayed with her partner. He was
a mess. We found the only nurse on the floor and asked if she could
keep us updated and I asked if there was any way her partner could go
in. They were waiting for the doctor to come (this whole time with the
nurses hands inside of her…) the doctor would do one more check to
make sure the cesarean was necessary. The nurse grabbed scrubs for the father
and he got changed, but just as he was going to go in the doctor

I later found out instead of determining whether a cesarean was
necessary, he yelled at the midwife for having let them go home. One
of the nurses spoke up and suggested they instead focus on the task
at hand and he determined the cord was not presenting, but a foot was,
and her cervix was 8cm dilated. They went ahead and gave her general
and she heard the OB yelling at her midwife as she went under. Her
partner and I waited in the hallway, he made a comment that being the
dad waiting in the hallway while his baby was born felt like we time
warped to the 1950’s.

Baby was born at 10:45pm and dad held him for the first time in the
hallway at 11:10 pm. Apgars 8 & 9, and he was 5lbs 11 oz.

Mom and baby were moved to the recovery room and dad right away took
off his shirt and gave baby skin to skin cuddles until mom was ready.
At 12:45am the nurse said baby’s sugar was low and suggested formula
or glucose water. I asked mom if she was ready to try breastfeeding or
if she wanted me to get on the phone and call her friend who had
offered expressed breast milk if they needed. The nurses were outraged at this
suggestion, said they couldn’t allow it and so she did her best to
try breastfeeding. An hour later they did the sugar test again and it
was way up. The midwife and nurse were both in disbelief (the sugar
level raised from 1.9 to 3.7 in one hour!) The midwife commented how
interesting it was that they had no trouble believing the low number.
I told them it must have been the skin to skin contact with mom and
some colostrum that did the trick. Once they were settled and resting, I
drove home with their placenta and made them some quick prints and a
smoothie. They were happy to have had some of their birth wishes

Today the family is doing quite well. They are breastfeeding, resting,
eating well, have lots of support and are processing their unexpected birth
experience a little bit each day.

– Could we have avoided those low decels if she could have been up on
her hands and knees?
– What happened when that nurse felt bulging membranes? Did she cause the membranes to release?
Or is it possible to feel a prolapsed cord through the bag?
– Could a baby with apgars 8 & 9 have been in such distress moments
before? (or was it that they were worried baby couldn’t handle two
more centimeters as well as pushing?)
– Was this the only way it could have happened? In general it felt to
me like everything happened as it had to, except those few questions
above that leave me feeling a bit curious.

I have never attended a cesarean birth (I have been a doula for four years).

Any way in which we can learn together from this story would be great.
Comments and feedback are very welcome.


Gloria’s thoughts

    Dear Ruby, It’s getting to be hopeless to have a primip give birth vaginally to a breech.
    You must be traumatized/grieving about all this. Thank goodness you were able to give them some measure of getting their wishes met.:

    When the adrenalin gets going at a breech birth, they basically find reasons to head to the surgical setting. The cord wasn’t causing problems so, in hindsight, the heart tones were fine.

    Don’t know what the nurse doing the exam was intending but I would hope she was being careful NOT to rupture that membrane with a breech. Did she break the water bag? You would have seen amniotic fluid with clear poop coming out of the woman’s vulva after that exam if the membranes released.FOOTLING BREECH

    As far as diagnosing a prolapsed cord through the membranes with a footling breech, it might be possible because the bag is thin but it’s highly unlikely and, we know in this case (again, good hindsight), it wasn’t there.

    Apgars of 8 and 9 indicate a healthy, well grown term baby (again, golden hindsight). We do know that monitoring increases the risk of cesareans without any evidence that it is helpful in improving health.

    From what that dr with no bedside manner said, the woman wasn’t going to be given much of a chance to give birth vaginally. Since she hadn’t had previous uterine surgery, it would have been nice if someone with the skill to do a cephalic version had been there when she was first at the hospital. The baby presenting by the feet is the easiest to turn, especially if the baby is small and it’s early in the birth process. To be fair, a first birth with feet presenting is not a good vaginal birth risk to take. Luckily it is a rare situation to have so the numbers should be very low.

    If the caregiver is palpating bellies and listening with a fetoscope (instead of doppler) in the prenatal period, the caregiver should be picking up when it’s breech at 36 weeks gestation (if in doubt, the woman can have a one-swipe quickie ultrasound to double-check). At that point, if it’s discovered, there’s time/space to get baby turned to head down. As I said, a footling breech is easiest to get turned. Frank breech is a more optimal position for safe vaginal birth of breech but not for turning baby to cephalic. Querying rib pain, listening in the 4 quadrants with a regular fetoscope (and finding the true fetal heartbeat low in the pregnant belly) and observing the shape of the pregnant belly are your best tools for early diagnosis.
    Thanks for being there for this family. Gloria

What NOT to Say When a Woman says “We’re pregnant!”

There’s only one appropriate response when someone says “I’m Pregnant”. The response is “Congratulations! how wonderful” and then, keep very quiet. You will be told what you need to know and what you aren’t told is none of your business. Here’s a pre-emptive reaction to all the ‘not so helpful’ things people say. It was the FB status of Kasie Monchak when she announced she was pregnant with her 7th child today.

Quoting Kasie: “ Let’s get this out of the way early.

We aren’t Catholic.
Or Mormon.
It was planned.
We know what causes this (and we are very good at it, too!).
We own a television.
I am aware of birth control.
Yes, seven. No, I am not kidding.
They are all ours.
Are we done? Are my fertility and sex life really your business?
We are not finding out the sex.
We are having another family birth.
Yes, that means no doctor.
Or midwife.
Yes, it’s legal.
Yes, that means no epidural. How did you guess?
I catch my own babies. No one “delivers” them.
No, I’m not brave.
Or crazy.
No, you may not touch my belly.

I think that covers it.”
(end of quote)

Thanks, Kasie, for this reminder and BTW, “Congratulations, how wonderful!425pregnant.jpg” Gloria

Letter from Jenny (Homebirth after 2 cesareans)

My dear sweet Gloria,

A year ago today at 4:45 a.m. I gave birth. I have treasured that moment every day. I know it is really Rowan’s birthday. But it’s my birthday too. I feel like that was the day I was born as a woman. Whole, powerful, beautiful, healed.

As you know my other births left me with scars. Scars on my body and scars on my soul. This birth healed me. I am not broken, I am whole. I am not helpless, I am powerful. I am not less than a woman, I am beautiful. I am healed.

Thank you, Gloria, for being there for me. I will never forget the first time you put your hands on my large belly. I could feel love through your touch. For me and for my baby. Visits with you were relaxed; you spent so much time with me. You told me so many stories. Stories to make me laugh, give me courage and impart knowledge. You challenged me to dream of this birth. To really think in detail how I wanted it to be. And I had the birth I dreamed of! What a gift.

Thank you, Gloria, for your quiet confident presence during my labour.
You gave me my space and that’s exactly what I wanted. You gave me quiet encouragement as I pushed, and through the fog I heard your words and they helped me. You reminded me to get ready to catch my baby; you knew how much I wanted that! And you left us to get acquainted with her as you went to get me some tea. What a peaceful birth. I still remember her looking at me with those eyes. Nothing is like that first look a newborn takes at the world around, and I got to see it!

Thank you Gloria for being who you are. You are a woman to be reckoned with! You supported me and my desire to have an amazing birth. And it has changed me.

Happy 1st birthday, Rowan. Happy birth day to me, too. Thank you, Gloria!
PS. My placenta is still in my freezer waiting to be planted under a Rowan tree when we have our own place 😀

Marginal Placenta Previa Birth

Thor’s Birth

Things had been going well until one morning I went to the bathroom and noticed that the toilet was full of blood. I’d passed a small blood clot at 30 weeks but we had just finished moving and I knew I’d been overexerting myself. It concerned me but I wasn’t going to run off to the hospital just because of a small blood clot so I took a number of days of bed rest and since there wasn’t any more blood I figured that whatever the problem was had resolved itself.


But, then at 34 weeks, there was a lot of blood. Bright red and painless. I knew what that likely meant but I was really hoping it would be something else, like maybe an irritated cervix from doing too much laundry or something. But no, when I went to the hospital and had an ultrasound the doctor told me exactly what I didn’t want to hear, “It’s very concerning, your placenta is beside your cervix…it’s definitely a previa.” I live on an island and the biggest hospital only has a basic ultrasound machine, so the u/s I had was only able to show the placenta beside my cervix. In order to find out whether it was attached to my cervix or just near to it, and exactly how near, I had to go to a hospital on the mainland and have a transvaginal ultrasound. So yuck, I never do things like that, but I talked with my husband and we agreed that it was necessary information so the appointment was made.

I had about six days in between my previa diagnosis and my next u/s and they were a very long six days. Mostly I cried a lot and didn’t sleep and spent a lot of time trying to imagine myself having a cesarean, which I couldn’t. When I wasn’t torturing myself with visions of nightmare birth scenarios I was researching, gathering information on the different types of previa. It was hard, there aren’t a lot of good ‘placenta previa’ stories out there. It was scary because, well, placenta previa is bad. It’s one of the few birth complications that are actually really a problem. The placenta is supposed to come after the baby, not before. So it was stressful times. If the placenta was attached to my cervix I was screwed, not much chance of a normal birth there, but if it was beside my cervix so that it could open without making my placenta bleed, I had hope.

My appointment was with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at a large teaching hospital. Total twilight zone for me. My first three births were unassisted so the only other obstetrician I’d met was the one who diagnosed my previa. I had my appointment and they took a number of measurements of my baby, which I didn’t think were necessary except that they’d done it at my previous u/s and had said my baby looked ‘small’ and that my fluid was possibly ‘low’. I thought both suggestions were likely bullshit but I was also a bit concerned because placenta previa can be associated with other placenta abnormalities and birth defects. Thankfully, my baby and placenta were both normal. The placenta itself was posterior, on the left, and 1 cm away from my cervix. He estimated that the distance would increase to 2 cm over the next few weeks and that vaginal birth was possible but that a home birth was out of the question. The hospital also manages the midwives for the province and he said that “none of the midwives here would be willing to attend this at home”. (Well good for them, I had thought.) He seemed to have some kind of highly monitored hospital birth in mind, he mentioned that they’d like to check my progress regularly and monitor me in other ways, which didn’t sit well with me. I was very relieved to know I didn’t need to schedule a c-section, but still the mention of a highly-monitored hospital birth really got my back up. It’s incomprehensible how these medical people assume I’m going to allow a number of strangers to stick their hands up me while I’m in labour. But I digress…

At that point I was planning a low-intervention hospital birth, or at least that was what I was telling myself. I really couldn’t picture myself giving birth in a hospital but at the same time I didn’t feel like I had much choice. I mean, placenta previa is “bad”, that and a cord prolapse are the two things that are really serious life-threatening problems, the kind that you don’t want to deal with at home. I also think I was still a little stunned from finding out about the previa, and knowing that an automatic c/s was off the table made a hospital birth seem almost palatable for a while. And it wasn’t like the fact that it was a marginal previa meant that everything was going to be okay, there are still a number of complications that can arise when the placenta is in the lower half of the uterus and that close to the cervix. One involves bleeding before the baby is born, the other involves bleeding after, and neither is good.

I spent the 35th week of my pregnancy trying to imagine a hospital birth and gathering information from people who knew about hospital birth and about placenta previa. My biggest concern was that my placenta would start bleeding in labour and I’d have to have a c-section anyway. I’m an herbalist and a student of Susun Weed so I called her for advice. She suggested a half-gallon a day of herbal infusions, alternating nettle, comfrey and raspberry leaf. I’d already ordered nettle and raspberry but it hadn’t occurred to me to drink that much, so I had to find local sources where I could buy it by the pound. So that started me on infusions, I drank at least 2 liters a day for the rest of my pregnancy. The other thing Susun recommended was visualization. At least once a day I spent at least five minutes visualizing the bottom edge of my placenta toughening up and adhering strongly to my uterus, and then I’d see it moving, crawling slowly upward toward the top of my fundus. When I’d drink my infusions I’d picture this and I’d remind myself what each infusion was for – nettle for my blood, raspberry for my uterus, comfrey for my placenta.

When I’d talked to Judy (the herbalist I ordered my herbs from) I’d told her my situation and she reminded me about the importance of language. She picked up on me saying “I don’t want a cesarean” and reminded me that the universe doesn’t hear the “don’t” part. She gave me an affirmation to use: “I am having a vaginal birth and it is easy. My baby and I are perfect and healthy and safe. All is well.” I also started going for acupuncture treatments to help my placenta move up.

I also went to see the OB I’d met at my local hospital. If I was going to have a hospital birth I was going to need an OB and he had seemed like a reasonable guy. He was respectful of the fact that I was a homebirther and that hospital birth was completely out of my comfort zone. I went with an open mind and the intent of finding some agreeable terms for me to have my baby in the hospital. I had some legitimate concerns about homebirth in my situation. Mainly that if I started to bleed badly, either before or after the birth, we wouldn’t be able to handle it at home and were too far away from the hospital to get there in an emergency. We live at least a ½ hour from the nearest hospital in good weather. Since my baby was due in November we couldn’t count on good weather. When I talked to the OB about my concerns and my preferences he was fairly reasonable. He said that I had the right to make whatever choices I wanted and that they couldn’t do anything to me that I didn’t want them to do. So he talked a good line and made hospital birth sound like a viable option, but even then there were lots of little things that were setting off alarms for me. Like when I first went to the hospital with my bleeding I was sent directly to L&D and the first thing the nurse did when she showed me to an exam room was to tell me to take off my clothes and put on a gown. I asked her why I needed to take off my clothes when all they were going to do was use a doppler to check my baby’s vitals. She said that most women like to put on the gown just in case the doctor wants to do an exam but I said no thanks. They also tried to get me to sit in a wheelchair at the hospital, first they wanted to wheel me to L&D and then again from the exam room to the ultrasound. Both times I refused. The second time the nurse had gone to ask the doctor’s permission for me to walk, which I didn’t understand. At 35 years old I don’t see why I’d need anybody’s permission to walk anywhere. Then at the doctor’s office the nurse had wanted to weigh me and get me to pee in a cup and put on a gown. All of which I refused, saying “Oh no thanks, I don’t do that.” Of course, she’d had to go and ask the doctor if I was allowed to do that. Then when I was talking to the doctor about the birth and explaining that my husband or I always caught the baby he said that that was fine but that he “might just have my hand on top of his to guide him”. That really didn’t sit well with me, or my husband for that matter. Having brought our first three children into the world by ourselves we really couldn’t fathom what this guy thought he’d be doing with his hands between my legs while our baby was coming out. Despite my best intentions to be open to a hospital birth, I was having second thoughts.

Then at 36 weeks the baby dropped, which was weird because mine don’t usually come early. When faced with the prospect of being in labour and going to the hospital I realized that I didn’t want to do it. A number of times already I’d started crying, like while doing the dishes or something, and when my husband asked me what was wrong I’d say that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. But at that point I was still telling myself that staying home wasn’t an option this time. At the same time I’d started having dreams where I’d be screaming angry at someone for cutting off my hair. Symbolically a person’s hair represents their power; my dreams were telling me that I’d be really angry if I gave my power away. I had to accept that this less-than-ideal situation I found myself in was still mine to deal with, that the fact that I was no longer having a simple pregnancy didn’t automatically mean that I was going to be able to absolve myself of the responsibility of dealing with it. This is a lot of what UC means to me. It’s not just about avoiding unnecessary interventions and the many other abuses that come with the modern western way of birth. It’s about taking responsibility for myself, my body and my baby and knowing that each birth is my journey and my task, that whatever is given to me is mine to address.


At 36 weeks I was drinking infusions, visualizing a strong placenta, affirming a safe and easy birth and having weekly acupuncture. My husband and I had started talking homebirth or maybe birth in a hotel near the hospital. I was still afraid of a c-section, especially an unnecessary one, so we were talking about how we’d handle a hospital birth if we ended up going there. I had talked to Gloria Lemay and Susun Weed. All was well. And then I woke up at about 4 a.m. and felt wet between my legs. It was the night after the baby dropped and I wondered if it was my water breaking. I went to the bathroom and saw blood running down my legs. When I turned on the bedroom light there was a blood clot sitting on my bed. It was about the size of a small pancake, oval shaped and about ½ an inch thick and it was sitting in a pool of watery blood. I woke my husband up and we talked about what to do. I was having some contractions, they felt like Braxton hicks, but given that the baby had dropped and now there was all this blood, I wondered if the baby was coming. We talked about what to do and I have to say that my husband is such a blessing as a birth partner, no matter what’s happening he is so calm and has such faith in the process. We lay there in bed and watched the baby move in my belly. My husband listened to his heart rate and it was normal. And we watched my bleeding to see if it continued. Gloria had told me that bleeding that could be measured in tablespoons was acceptable but that bleeding that was approaching a cup or more was not. We estimated the clot was a few tablespoons and the rest of the blood was about 2-3 more and it had stopped. I asked if my husband wanted to go to the hospital and he asked, Why, what will they do? We figured that at best they could hook me up to machines to monitor the baby and at the worst we could get some completely spastic doctor that would want to cut the baby out of me at 36 weeks for who knows what reason. So we stayed home.

The same thing happened about a week later, except that I woke up to a gushing sensation and the clot wasn’t nearly so big. Again we estimated the blood loss, checked the baby’s heart rate and activity, and decided to stay home.

The doctor had given me the phone number of the head obstetric nurse at the hospital so I could talk about their policies and procedures. He had explained to her that we were a homebirth family and that we were really only interested in being in the hospital as a precautionary measure. They assumed that I’d be agreeable to the heparin-lock but I told her that I wasn’t and that I thought having a needle stuck in my hand would be uncomfortable and distracting. I forget how often she said they like to monitor the baby but I said I’d refuse that too. The nurse said that some of the nurses would get snippy with me for refusing but that I should ignore them. She also told me that the nurses would be told not to check my dilation because of my previa. I told her that no one would be checking my dilation because of my previa and she said I’d need to talk to the doctor about that. I didn’t understand why, it’s not like he would have any say in it. I asked her about all of their standard newborn procedures and told her I’d be refusing those too. I could tell she was trying to be accommodating but it really wasn’t going that well. The final straw for me was when we came to the issue of the placenta and the cord. I explained to her that my husband always cuts the cord, which she was okay with though for some reason she thought he’d need help with it. Then I told her that we leave the cord intact until the placenta is born and she was silent. After a minute or so she said “Oh…” I don’t think she’d ever heard of that before and didn’t know what to say. Once she regained her bearings she told me that I’d have to discuss that with that with the doctor because that was his decision. I told her that she didn’t understand, that my husband would not allow anyone to touch the cord before the placenta was out. That he would physically prevent them if necessary and that it wasn’t negotiable. That made her very uncomfortable and she again told me I’d have to discuss it with the doctor. And then came the deal breaker. When I told her that we would be taking the placenta home she said they couldn’t give it to us, that the health board doesn’t allow them to, that it wasn’t negotiable.

By the end of the conversation I knew I would be having my baby at home. Besides how misguided they were about whom the placenta belongs to, I realized there was a serious disconnect between the nurse’s view of the situation and mine. Essentially, she thought that the doctor was going to be in charge at my birth, whereas I thought I would be. I knew then that I wouldn’t be going anywhere near a hospital whilst in labour unless I was dying.

Aside from just how wrong and bizarre most of their thinking was, my husband and I realized that the hospital actually had very little to offer us. They offer the illusion of safety, but an illusion is all that it is. When we looked past all of their technogizmos and protocols we saw that the two things they had that we didn’t were monitors and surgery and we decided that if we needed monitors or surgery then we’d go there. We also decided to cancel the appointment for the second ultrasound. Both doctors had put a lot of stock in knowing the exact distance between placenta and cervix, but to me it wasn’t so important. I wouldn’t plan a c-section just because it hadn’t moved as far as the specialist had predicted.

After that I went back to preparing for the arrival of my baby. I continued my infusions, visualizations, affirmations and yoga and all was well. Then at about 40 weeks I stood up from a chair and walked into the kitchen and felt a gush. I hoped it was my water breaking, though even that would be weird because my water’s never broken before, but when I went to the bathroom I saw it was blood. Probably a few tablespoonfuls. I was pretty sure the baby was napping so there wasn’t much movement but his heart was normal and I managed to get him to squirm a couple times after nudging him. Still, I was very upset. I have a couple friends who really understand UC and they heard from me a fair bit the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I talked to them because I knew they understood where I was coming from, that I was scared but that fear alone wasn’t a good enough reason to go to the hospital.

After the bleed at 40 weeks I had a few days respite and then I had bleeds three days in a row starting at 41 weeks. Prior to this my longest pregnancy had been 40 weeks 6 days; it never occurred to me that I’d still be pregnant at 41 weeks. I was wondering if this baby was ever going to come out and then my placenta started bleeding again. That was really upsetting. But the baby was still moving normally and I figured that if I went into the hospital at 41 weeks with a bleeding placenta they’d feel compelled to try and do something. So I stayed home. After the third bleed I realized that it was always happening after I got up from sitting on the living room furniture. I’d tried putting cushions under my butt to keep my spine straight but it hadn’t helped. What was happening was that the placenta was on the bottom back wall of my uterus and whenever I sat down the baby’s head was pushing into the placenta and making it bleed. I think that’s also why I passed the big clot after he dropped at 36 weeks. Up until then he’d been sitting really high on my right side but when he dropped he went LOA. I think that’s why he kept on switching back and forth because no matter how much time I spent doing Cat and Cow positions in yoga my baby would not stay anterior. Once I realized that sitting was making my placenta bleed I just stopped doing it. I spent the last 3 days of the pregnancy standing, kneeling, or lying on my side. It was uncomfortable and a little boring and I was beginning to wonder if the pregnancy would ever end but I didn’t bleed again after that.

My husband and I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth, reviewing all of the hemorrhage treatments we had. I’d had a bit of luck and my TCM practitioner had given me Yunnan Baiyao pills for controlling bleeding and shown me the acupuncture points to stop uterine hemorrhage. I’d had him mark the points with a black marker for my husband. The one tincture I’d been unable to find on the island was witch hazel bark but I asked around and found an herbalist who grows it and she gave me an ounce.


I started having regular contractions after the first bleed at 41 weeks. They had gotten to 5 minutes apart and I thought labour was starting but then they just stopped. After that there was nothing for a couple days and then I started having low cervical contractions early in the morning. They’d start at about 4 am and stop by about 7 am when the kids got up. There were three days of that and I was really beginning to wonder when this baby was going to come out. I hadn’t sat down for three days and I was having contractions every morning. Then finally, at 41 weeks 4 days, after dinner when my husband was putting the kids to bed I had a few contractions that felt like they were going somewhere. There were only a few of them in an hour but they were intense.

By 8:15 p.m. I’d had a few more contractions and my husband was watching something banal on TV. I’d told him that I thought I might be in labour but that it still wasn’t consistent. I was in the living room saying that I wasn’t sure if the contractions were picking up yet and he asked me if the TV show was distracting me, instantly I realized how irritating the show he was watching was and told him to turn it off. At 8:30 I had another contraction and it was painful. A few minutes later I had another one and holy crap was it really painful. I told him I was having more contractions but he didn’t get it. He was in the kitchen getting some ice cream and I had this contraction that went on and on and on and it really hurt and I yelled at him “Now is not a good time for you to be getting ice cream!” And then he understood that I was serious about this labour thing and came to be with me. I didn’t really need him to do anything I just like having him around when I’m in pain. He asked if I was sure this was it and I said Yes and asked if he was okay with staying home and he said Yes and went to get my birth kit. Over the next hour I had a number of contractions that were insanely painful. The baby was somewhere between ROT and ROP, I knew this because he had kicked a number of times while I was having a contraction and his feet were over on the left front side of my belly.

I had about 10 or 15 of those insanely painful contractions and then they stopped for a few minutes. I waddled into the kitchen to get a glass of water and while I was at the sink I got this contraction that felt like pushing so I pushed a bit and thought ‘Am I pushing?’ I pushed again with the next contraction and a glop of fluid ran down my legs. I took my underwear off to see if there was blood but there was just clear fluid. I pushed a couple more times and felt the baby move down and then he stopped. I’d had this with my last posterior baby; getting the back of the skull past the tailbone is hard. I tried hanging on to the counter for leverage and pushing hard but nada, nothing budged. My husband had come in to the kitchen and asked me if I wanted to come into the living room where all the birth stuff was but I said No way am I moving, so he brought some towels and the birth basket in the kitchen. I got on my knees and pushed again but still nothing was moving, and I thought Oh shit how am I going to get this baby out? I scuttled around a bit, got myself in a better kneeling position and with the next contraction pushed hard and yelled, I felt a bit of movement so I pushed harder and yelled louder and suddenly the whole baby shot down and the head was crowning. I felt myself stretching a lot and put my hands down to support where it was burning and I realized the baby’s head was at a weird angle. Instead of facing directly front like my last posterior baby he was looking at the inside of my thigh, so I had to ease him out slowly to avoid tearing. Once the fullest part of his head was out his body shot out along with the rest of his amniotic fluid. He started crying right away and I pulled him up and checked his sex and said “Oh Thor you’re here!” It was such a relief to finally be holding my baby.

Sitting on the floor holding my baby I did start to bleed more than usual but my pot of witch hazel was sitting right there on the stove so my husband poured me a glass and I gulped it. I thought it would taste horrible and acrid but it was actually kind of tasty so I think I must have really needed it. After about 10 minutes I moved to the living room where it was more comfortable. We spent some time loving our baby and after a while the placenta came. The fetal side of the placenta looked fine but when I tried to turn it over it was like trying to grab jello. The maternal side was jiggly and one edge was sloppy and coming apart and had a few pieces missing. The other pieces of the placenta came out over the next half hour and when my bleeding eased up Thor and I went up to bed. He took to nursing with great zeal and I had some wicked after pains that night but I was happy. I’d had my baby at home and all was well.
Written by Alice, July 2010

Third births: finally getting it right

This came in as a comment on my blog post “What’s a Poor Midwife to Do?” but I think it should have it’s own blog space. Gloria

Gloria, this jumped off the page for me: “Something to notice is that for many women, it takes two screwed up births to get the third birth somewhat acceptable.

This is me. I had two coerced c/s without labour and thereby two premature babies, the first of which was so premature that his skull would mold to my hands while I breastfed him and from sleeping so that I spent weeks gently re-forming his skull manually. He had breathing problems until 6 months pp, and his skin was so soft that I couldn’t even feel it under my fingertips.

I look at pictures of him now and see how obviously premature he was. He was my first and a c/s because otherwise, “if I [went] into labour, he could [have] die[d]” from his frank breech position. His brother was also a no-labour c/s for the very same positioning ‘reason.’

For my third baby, I saw an OB in my 1st trimester (midwives wouldn’t even talk to me seriously- I’d had ‘shared care’ for the first two pregnancies after breech was indicated in the 3rd trimester) but left his office and never returned.

I freebirthed the next baby with my first labour- at 46+3, a 9 hour painless birth. It was GLORIOUS! He was 10lbs 3oz, strong and beautiful. 🙂

I then freebirthed another boy at 42+3 at the tail end of a flu that my whole family had. It was a precipitous labour- 3 minutes long, and he was 10lbs 8oz. Also beautifully formed and strong.

Now I am 45 weeks tomorrow with our fifth baby.

Our first 4 were born in Ontario and now I am in a Canadian territory. I would not even consider asking a midwife to be present at my births after the first two. I have a deep respect for midwifery and have seen through years of research that began after my second c/s, how it has collapsed as a woman-centered and truly beneficial art.

Just the hockey-bag-sized tote of intervention paraphernalia that a midwife in Ontario was required to have present at births was extremely off-putting. If birth is safe, and midwives support that reality, then why the hospital-in-a-bag???

My then mw, who became a friend, a few yrs later said that she felt like OBs hands, like she was expected to go through all the same motions with all the same cautions and procedures, but just on a much more rigorous schedule. She felt used- doing more work for less pay, enduring the upheaval of her whole family to be present for her clients, and then being highly scrutinized by the OBs who were her overseers. She was only a few yrs in, and already burning out. 🙁 She began with passion and an overflowing heart for loving the families she worked with.

Anyway, I don’t need any pity. I enjoy freebirthing and happen to prefer to be alone anyway, and if someone even tried to examine me during labour, I’d likely send *her/him* to the hospital, lol- not intentionally of course, but I am very focused and mama-bear-like in labour and pp since my 3rd birth experience.

BUT the lack of truly woman-centred midwifery has obviously left a huge vacuum for the majority of women in childbirth.

Natalie, I didn’t know my dates for my first two because I was taking birth control pills and had bleeds while pregnant. So, I was ‘required’ to do u/s for dating, which ended up being waaaaay off and obviously not helpful when two premature babies were taken early because of it. The first was extreme, and the second child not so much, but still obviously early.

Also, my surgical records indicate nothing (even though I spent time in the ICU for full-body anaesthesia paralysis and a heart rate that wouldn’t go above 38 bpm after the surgery- for three hours) and the hospital staff refused to admit that my child was obviously premature and instead just told me that I cannot take my eyes off of him ever- not to pee, not to eat or leave the room at all- ever, not for a second. So I didn’t.

I tended a baby and brought him to health at a stage of growth and development that would have usually meant him living still in my womb, and in the worst case scenario, in the nicu for at least a month or longer. It was very, very difficult and it has taken me seven years to recover my own health from those experiences- and with a huge amount of diligent effort, not passive recovery.

My midwife was then just newly practicing and we grieved this whole scenario together. She didn’t know the horrors of the medical industry so intimately previously. She was not prepared for it, and the medical industry representatives (OBs) took full advantage.

Gloria, thank you for your willingness to address these issues. And thank you for being available to discuss them openly. I have tried to talk people out of supporting the regulation of midwifery where I live, but I have not found a single sympathetic ear. It may be more helpful to attend to how it is regulated, I don’t know, but it would be better to have a better model in place before regulating so that midwifery doesn’t end up swallowed whole, like it will be if this goes through.

I am sad for what will happen once midwifery is regulated and it’s “available to all” through gov’t funding. I’d rather pay the $2500 out of pocket and receive actual care than pay more with my life and births than I’ll ever be able to recover. But that’s just me. The women here want the regulation for funding. 🙁 They don’t know how much that will change things- how it will create the conflict of interest that plagues midwifery in Canada where this has already happened.

After my 3rd birth, I was asked to do a lecture from the perspective of a (finally) educated former client on the state of midwifery by the College. I was also asked to consider becoming a midwife. I declined both: the first because I was due with my third child during the conference, and the second because I could not adhere to the stipulations and counter-conscience requirements placed on midwives.

If it were legal (here it still is), I would only consider lay-midwifery and my clientele would have to choose my offer of service based on their own perspectives on their needs and whether or not I am suitable to meet them. This would be the only chance we’d have at enjoying a mutually fulfilling and compatible relationship.

I wish you well, and again, thank you. 🙂

Update Dec 2014: Adding this exquisite film from Slovenia of a family birth of a 4th baby. The mother had her first baby in hospital and, after that, three home births.