A Birth Story
Claire was a model midwifery customer. She was healthy, interested in good nutrition, had a loving marriage, and she had an 8 year old son, born vaginally. The only hint of what was to come in the second birth was the fact that her first birth had been quick, five hours from start to finish. The best bet when a woman has given birth to her first child in five hours is that the second birth will be under one hour in length. This was not a big concern because she lived about 20 blocks away from me so I felt confident that I would be able to make it to her birth.
Through her pregnancy, her partner worked odd hours so it was impossible for them to attend my organized prenatal classes for couples. The only video input that I was able to give him was the film “Squatting Position Delivery” which shows 5 births in 12 minutes. All the births on that video depict women pushing out their babies themselves with no illusions of “delivery” by a practitioner. The film really illustrates that it is the woman and the baby who do birth and that it happens according to Nature’s plan, just as with other mammals.
At the end of Claire’s pregnancy, my midwifery partner and I went to their home to do a prenatal clinic visit. It was a lovely spring morning and I had dropped my 4 year old daughter off at her pre-school. We checked Claire over and then sat chatting about plans for the birth at her kitchen table. Every five minutes or so, she would get up, pace around the kitchen, stretch backwards, and then come and sit down again. Two or three times, I asked her “Are you going to have the baby right now?” She laughed and said “Oh no, this is the same way I’ve been for weeks now.” When we had finished chatting, Mary and I left to go pick up my little girl at the pre-school. As we pulled up at the school, my pager went off. Mary looked at it and said “That’s Claire’s number; we must have left something behind.” This was in the days before cell phones so I asked to borrow the phone at the school and called Claire back. Her husband said rather urgently “Gloria, she is having the baby, come back right away.” I rushed out to the car with my daughter under my arm and told a surprised Mary what was happening. We drove the 25 blocks back to their house and, as we pulled in the driveway, we were greeted by Claire’s father who had been doing some repairs on the outside of the house. He said “Go right in, she’s had the baby.” We thought he was joking. Not even ½ hour had elapsed since we’d seen her in the kitchen but we ran up the stairs two at a time. When we got to the bathroom, there was a sight that was completely incongruous to me: a woman sitting on the toilet with a baby in her arms. . . . woman fully dressed in blouse, jumper dress, socks and SHOES. For some strange reason, those shoes looked so wrong to me and it became my first order of business to make sure they came off.
The father was elated! He said that as soon as we left, his wife said she had to go to the toilet. She had only been there a few minutes when she called to him “Honey, I think I’m going to have the baby. Call Gloria to come back.” After he paged me, he had gone back in and there was the little head crowning. He said he felt very glad that he had watched “Squatting Position Delivery” because he knew that the birth would happen without any interference. He was able to catch his little girl calmly. Claire, too, beamed from ear to ear.
We helped her to get the rest of her clothing off and got her bed ready. We got her tucked in with her new daughter and cleaned up in the bathroom. Sometime later, she birthed her placenta and the cord was cut. It took a bit of getting used to the idea that the baby had really been born that quickly and I had to laugh, in hindsight, about my reaction to someone having shoes on during a birth. When I came to visit the family the next day, Claire gave me a cheque in final payment for my midwifery services. It felt strange to take money for attending a birth that I had missed and I expressed that feeling to her. Her reply “Oh Gloria, we couldn’t have had the placenta without you!” That just shows that I’m not the only one who had superstitious reactions to that birth.