You Can’t Give Birth in Your SHOES

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.

13 thoughts on “You Can’t Give Birth in Your SHOES

  1. I love this story. It is a funny combination of prodromal labor and precipitous birth. It reminds me (very slightly) of my second daughter’s birth (we named her Claire!) in which I spent most of the day trying to distract myself from the contractions so as not to be disappointed when they petered out “again.” I had my baby within a couple hours of returning from the public pool. My midwife only made it by 25 minutes.

    It was a most satisfying birth experience when all was said and done! (Though that month of prodromal labor was no picnic, I’ll be honest:)

  2. Oh, lovely!
    I think I needed a really feel good, light hearted birth story. The ones where your main concern is the shoes that need to come off 🙂

    I love it!

  3. Love it! What a great story, and I love the reaction to the shoes (and placenta!)! Thanks for mentioning your blog on Julie’s FB page.. I’ll be back to read more!

  4. This is a great story. Thank you for sharing. I can’t even think of having clothes on during birth let alone shoes. I was nude for the whole thing.

  5. Me, too, Marissa. I’m a very modest person but even the lightest nightie felt oppressive to me in the birth process. I can’t imagine how those women in the videos keep their sports bras on.

  6. Great story, Gloria. I’m pregnant with my fifth baby now, and I’ve been watching the odd unassisted birth video on youtube, too. The sports bra thing *really* jumps out at me. I wrote a silly little blog post of my own about how I can’t relate, and got lots of flack, of course. And indeed, yada yada, every woman is allowed to make her own decision about what to wear and what not to wear, yes yes yes. I get that! But I still find it strange that a woman would go through all of the effort to make her unassisted homebirth happen (ostensibly in part, at least, in order to avoid most of the unnecessary junk that negatively affects baby’s first experience of her mother’s body, the outside world, that mama-toto bonding) to give birth and bring her child up to nuzzle her…polyester bra!!! Don’t get me wrong, if I ever had to birth in the hospital, I’d be wearing a snowsuit to protect my modesty and my soul against the abuse that happens there. But at home? I think the bra thing also relates a bit to why it’s a bad idea to stick a hat on a newborn. No matter–just my thoughts.

    The birth story above also made me think about how a mother’s headspace/psychology so profoundly affects the course of birth. You describe “Claire” as a “model midwifery customer”, and while I know you love your squirrelly and difficult midwifery customers as much as your “model” ones, I couldn’t help but think back to my own babies’ births–first one at 20 hours, second about 4, and then my 3rd baby…14 hours of really not being there, in my head–and upon reflection, I had to make a very conscious and potent mental shift to get that little guy out–and once I did; ta da! He swam out, no problem. In a way, I had to work through all of my emotional issues *during* the birth process, as it hadn’t happened in its entirety during pregnancy.

    Anyway, thanks for another great post.


    • yolande, when I read your comments, I feel like I’m sitting at the table talking to you. I can see your face and how much it expresses everything and how you make me laugh. I love you and miss you. . . time for another trip out West? Glo

    • I haven’t watched the video, but I did want to add my two cents. I’ve birthed seven babies. Some at home, some in hell, I mean the hospital. With all of them, with the exception of my first, I’ve left my nursing bra on. Why? Because I have large, heavy breasts. And they don’t like to stay up front where they belong. They like to wonder around and enjoy the view from east to west and even south, if they can manage. In other words, the dang things just get in the way if left free. Another, very valid in my opinion, reason is the fact that they are so heavy, when bra-less, the weight flattens out my nipples, making it difficult for my newborns to latch.

      All that aside, this story was great. Reminds me a bit of my third birth. Almost born in the toilet after three contractions and total denial I was even in labor. Fun stuff those precipitous births.

  7. Thank you for this story. I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe my new labor patterns, which developed with numbers 4-7. No 1-3 we’re “normal” labor’s with a gradual build-up from early labor, although they were not long at 4.5, 12 & 9hrs. Labors with No. 4 & 5 started off with a gradual build-up, but I went from a 7 to baby out in 2 contractions and 1 push with both. With no 6 & 7, I had at least 2 weeks of prodromal labor, finally resorted to pitocin post-date, and after hours of not reacting to pitocin, finally felt active labor contractions and delivered baby in less than an hour. At this rate, I’d like to rent a room in a birth center if I’m pregnant again! It is helpful and reassuring to read stories like the one you tell here because most birth stories, even natural, follow the typical birth pattern of a 1-2 time mom. Thank you!

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