A little background...while it's not illegal, women are very strongly discouraged from giving birth in Dawson City. There is no midwife here, there is no obstetrician, there is no labour and delivery ward in our shiny new health center. Women from Dawson, from all of the communities, must go to Whitehorse, usually around 38 weeks, to wait for their baby to be born at Whitehorse General Hospital. Some women and their families stay with friends or relatives, some are lucky to house sit, but most end up in a hotel room. After Aedan's exciting arrival, we decided to have a midwife assisted "home" birth. We were incredibly fortunate to be able to rent a small house at a beautiful place called Sundog Retreat (with two nights at the Westmark in the middle of our stay) to serve as our home away from home.
Colm's story begins the day before he was born, October 13th. 41 weeks pregnant, and tired of the waiting. We were getting ready to leave the Westmark and move back into our home at Sundog. My dad was set to fly back to London without meeting his new grandbaby, and my mom was staying on another three days, with all of her fingers and toes crossed that this baby would come soon.
My parents checked out of the hotel, taking Aedan with them down to the river to throw rocks. P and I lay in bed together, dozing in the sunshine streaming in through the window, the white hotel sheets seeming to glow, the whole room, really, glowing. It was a beautiful moment that still stands out in my mind. I had stopped worrying about when labour would begin, had given myself over to letting it happen when it would. But all of these moments must end; we could hear the housekeepers in the room next to ours, so we got up and left to meet with my parents and Aedan.
I held back tears saying goodbye to my dad, but Aedan seemed to be taking it well, so I stayed strong as we headed back to Sundog to settle in for another week.
That afternoon, my mom and I took Aedan outside to play, and I chased him around, lifting him high in the air, kissing him and loving him up, enjoying what would be his last afternoon as an only child, my only child. Around dinnertime, I had some bloody show, and shortly after that, contractions started. Just like with Aedan's birth, they were short, not very strong, and spaced far apart. I went to bed early that night, hoping tomorrow would be the day.
Monday, October 14th. We were all up fairly early, my contractions a little stronger. I ate a big breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, and called our midwife, Christina, around 7:30. We'd had an appointment scheduled for later that day, and I excitedly told her I didn't think we'd be able to keep it. She and our doula, Mufida, arrived a couple of hours later. My contractions continued, mild and regular, as we hung out, watching Aedan show off for our guests. I was sitting on a big exercise ball for a lot of this time, rocking and bouncing. I nursed Aedan through several contractions--uncomfortable, but I reminded myself that the oxytocin would strengthen labour. Mom took him out to play, and then I got him down for a nap, I think it must have been noon. This is when Chistina considers active labour to have begun.
We blew up the birth pool and filled it, and soon after I climbed in. Everything was so relaxed...except P. I could tell he really wanted to be doing something. As I was settling into the pool, he was fiddling with the iPad we used to record the birth, and then he jumped up and announced he was going out to the truck to bring in a box of diapers. I ordered him to sit down in a chair beside me, hold my hands, and just be present with me.
The warmth of the water was lovely, and it felt good to labour there. My contractions continued to increase in intensity and frequency; through each one I would turn my focus inward and downward, imagining my body slowly opening for this baby. In between contractions I was chatting with everyone, and stretching my legs out (I was labouring, kneeling, at the edge of the tub). I would tell Christina whenever I felt the baby move, but we never did an internal exam.
At some point, I began to make low sounds through my contractions, and the room was mostly silent. As things became more intense, and I think I went through the trasition phase, I remember thinking "no way out but through" and also thinking that this was really gonna hurt! P leaned over and whispered that he loved me, and that I was amazing. Words a gal really needs to hear at a time like that!
Soon I was pushing just a little bit at the height of each contraction. I think this may have been when Aedan woke up from his nap. He was initially alarmed to see me in a big tub of water, but he got over it and was so awesome through the rest of the birth. I remember him patting my arm and telling me "s'okay"
Pushing seemed fast and very intense. I felt an internal "pop", which we assumed was the water bag breaking. There was no real gush of fluid. Maybe baby's head was in the way? I felt the baby coming down, the contractions were on top of each other. I reached down to feel, trying to apply some counter pressure as the baby crowned, hoping I wouldn't tear this time. It took some time to push him out; I would feel his head emerge and then slip back inside my body. I felt the "ring of fire", something I didn't notice with Aedan's birth. Eventually, I roared his head out, and oh! what sweet relief! I looked up at P and said "fuck that feels good!"
My family all leaned in to see this little baby head, underwater, between my legs. What a trip! Christina guided me to take my time, to let my body stretch and to let baby's body turn. Then, with the next contraction, I pushed him out into the water, into my hands. How amazing a feeling! What relief! I feel like we all exclaimed, P had tears, or maybe it was silent. I don't know. My heart sang, though. It was over! Baby was finally here!
I lifted him out of the water and held him to my chest. He took his sweet time taking a breath, instead just looking confused. Christina blew into his face a couple of times and finally he took his first breath. I peeked between his legs. A boy! I settled back into the tub, and we all marvelled at this new human with us. Afternoon sunshine filled the house. Everything was just as I'd pictured it.
I was still having fairly strong contractions, and it wasn't long before I delivered the placenta. P cut the cord while baby latched on and nursed for the first time. Soon after that, Mufida and Christina helped me out of the tub and into bed, where Christina gave our boy his first exam. He weighed in at 7 lbs 12 ounces, a beautiful, healthy little guy.
P, Aedan, proud Gramma and I were all enthralled. It is so amazing how life changes so completely with the arrival of a new baby!