Room 8

Was it just this week that I attended two labours in Room 8 at BC Women’s? Was it just this week that my daughter came with me for the first time to attend a birth?

Midnight on New Year’s Eve came while we were in the assessment room, during a contraction. Nurses blew horns while my client laboured. The nurses station was laid out with food. It was surreal.

Throughout the labour, my daughter held the space like women did a long time ago - knitting, crossed-legged, low to the ground - bearing witness to this sacred event.

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Picnic at BC Women's

I was concerned that she'd think I was crazy... "Let's meet at the hospital, on the hill across from the emergency entrance. Bring a picnic and a blanket." It just seemed the right thing to do on this beautiful day in August. How else could I create a sense of safety, close to the hospital, yet far away? High up on the hill, with lovely green grass all around, trees to lean on, a hill to climb, a place to labour without being watched.

I arrived, and there they were, looking just like a couple on the hill having their lunch. Lovely cheese, crackers, fruit, sparkling juice... A soft blanket and a lap to lean on... Contractions every five minutes. She'd rest on her side for a while, then walk for a while... We'd talk about what to expect...how second babies take their time at first, then fly out. We were in the perfect place, ready to dash inside whenever the labour became stronger.

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Autonomy

Well, the newly renovated Holly LDRP (labour delivery recovery and postpartum) rooms have opened at BC Women’s. Fresh, clean, great glass tiles, most with windows...(ok - avoid Room 18 if you want to sleep - the lovely sunshine streaming through the skylights can be a bit startling in labour.) Now there are close to 30 birthing rooms at this hospital.

However, on any given day, there is still the possibility of being diverted to another hospital. There is either an unexpected baby boom in Vancouver, or every labouring woman is trying to get into the BC Women’s birthing suite. Soon there will be a campaign to alert Lower Mainland women to the joys (and quietude) of other hospitals. Admittance to the hospital will be like the old days when you had to prove that you lived within Vancouver city limits. So, if you live in Burnaby or New Westminster, consider the option of local hospitals, which are closer, and much less crowded.

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“You say you want a revolution/Well, you know/We all want to change the world"

“Crisp and non-preachy” is how John Lennon’s Revolution was described on the radio today. After almost 40 years the form of the message is still unmatched. What would John Lennon have said about the social and political climate in 2005?

I think I’m pretty clear on what he might have said about George Bush and Iraq. But what would he have thought about the “Britney Spears School” of birth? Would he have commented on the “Too Posh to Push” scene? Would he have questioned why women seem to be so scared of their bodies?

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“In and out like a fiddler’s elbow”

I laughed when I heard this expression on CBC radio this morning. It’s supposed to mean that you’re really busy. Well - that was me this week. It had started out quietly...

And then...

Three births in two days. But the crazy thing is that I didn’t get more than four hours sleep in 64 hours. People said I looked alert and I felt fine the entire time.

I know that if I’d been at only one birth I would have fallen apart. But attending three births, each with their own special atmosphere, flavour, challenge and fun, seems to be what made the difference.

Challenging and fun it was!

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An Education in Care

If you want to get the inside scoop on birthing practices in BC, stand outside a kindergarten classroom just before the end of the school day. You’ll find a group of young mothers, with babes in arms, waiting to pick up their 5 year olds. They’ve been through the system - probably a few times - and are only too happy to share their hard won stories. Ask about their first birth experience, and you may hear stories of disillusionment, loss of dignity, overcrowding, or lack of continuity. They’ll tell you they wish they’d been better informed, and had known enough to find great caregivers.

Then there will probably be one woman in the group who shares her second birth experience, and shyly admits to feeling joy. “What a difference my second birth was!” she’ll say. “It was like night and day!” You might hear her talk about empowerment and laughter. What was the difference from her first birth, you ask? “Oh, I changed caregivers...and I hired a doula.”

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Effects of the full moon, waning sun, or NHL strike?

It’s been a wild month at hospitals in Canada. At BC Women’s Hospital alone, there were 1000 expected births, with 500 being the norm. You could attribute the increase to the effects of the moon or the sun, or you could put it down to the NHL strike. Who knows! But on Wednesday of this week, all hospitals west of Saskatoon were on diversion - that means NO BEDS ANYWHERE!

There I was, early Wednesday evening, at a client’s house. She was getting deep into her labour, so I had called her doctor just to give her a “heads-up.” She told me something I didn't want to hear.

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...the way some collect spoons

After the Birth

in her mind
she goes over and over the details,
how, close to the end,
she could no longer stand
the sound of her husband's breathing,
the pain
and the need to keep pushing
long after the baby was out
and the midwife gone

months later,
she still wants her husband
in bed late at night
to tell her once again what happened
but he is tired of broken sleep
and the crying babe
so she turns to other women
and collects birthing stories
the way some collect spoons

I'm home from a birth that spanned the night. Driving through the dark, I saw the husband turn left on yellow, wheels spinning ahead of me. She walked through the shushing doors and slowly lowered her body to the floor. - Are you feeling pressure? She nods. Husband with tears in eyes. Woman low moaning, rocking , swaying, hand tracing circles in the air. Ready to push so soon. In her own room now, windows open to the dark night. Birds singing at 2am. Such power. Then blocked by the power. Moving sitting, kneeling, no use, can't push, squatting, no good, standing, pushing in the chest. I shake her hips and she surrenders to the deep power and slides the baby down, body opening, and out into her arms. Dad streaming tears. Mum laughing laughing laughing... "Sophia!"