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Susie’s Birth Story – Baby Tomas, born January, 28, 2007
Susie’s story is the ulitimate ‘birth partner’ story… a vivid account of supporting her partner Nathalie in labouring and welcoming baby Tomas. She writes: “now that I have lived through both sides of the birthing experience, my hat goes off to the fathers of the world, because given the choice, I’d take the side that pushes the baby out.”

Yogaspace - Pregnancy Yoga - Birth Stories      It was 1:30 in the morning on January 28th. My birthday. Nathalie’s voice woke me.

     ‘Susie, I’m not sure if I peed in my pants again (this had been happening for the last couple of weeks) or if my water just broke, can you please go have a look in the bathroom.’

     I stumbled through the dark, inspected the bathroom floor and returned, undecided. Nathalie chose to go back to sleep. I decided to turn on the light and finish packing the suitcase. Neither of us got very far. Next thing we knew Nathalie was standing in a puddle of water. No more doubts. This was it! Nathalie immediately turned zen. I turned frantic…this from the woman who, two years earlier, had calmly given birth to our first child. But with the splash of a broken water, our roles had now officially reversed.

     I managed to pack the suitcase, load the car, call the hospital, call the doctor (Nathalie’s cousin), contact the parent-in-laws, snap some final pictures of the belly, kiss our sleeping daughter (about to become a big sister) goodbye, and drive us both across the Mercier Bridge to Anna Laberge Hospital in Chateauguay. Nathalie meanwhile decided to start having contractions every 5 minutes. By the time we made it to our room in the pavillon des naissances, labour was in full swing. Nathalie so far was doing fine and by now, so was I. She even gave me my birthday present, which she had grabbed as we had left the house. It was now 3:30 am.

     Up to this point, I had been unsure of what my role would be or how Nathalie would want me involved. We had previously joked that she’d probably send me out to wait in the hallway, generally preferring to deal with her pain alone. I was nervous about being in the other role and unsure whether my previous experience would help or hinder. I very quickly discovered that one would have nothing to do with the other. I was now simply the birth partner guided by adrenaline, compassion and fatigue.

     By 4 am Nathalie was smiling a little less. Her contractions were close to 2 minutes apart, and she was feeling it in her lower back. She began doing deep yogic breaths and the nurse encouraged her to completely fill her lungs and then completely empty them. I meanwhile grabbed a yoga ball for her from the supply room and then sat on the floor and began massaging her back while she sat rotating on the ball. The nurse showed me how to pull back on one hip bone while putting pressure just above the sacrum during each contraction. We remained like this for the next couple of hours. The floor and I became very friendly as the muscles in my arms became very unfriendly. Nathalie drifted off into the throes of labour.

     Next on the agenda was the hot tub. By now, I had become Nathalie’s interpreter. Her contractions were very strong and gave her little rest. I was amazed at how quickly her face had gone from rested and relaxed to exhausted and sleep deprived. It looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks. A hot tub sounded like the right thing, but as we waited for the nurse to prepare the water, I couldn’t imagine how Nathalie was now going to stand up, walk across the hall and climb into a tub. But the female body is astonishingly resilient, and pretty soon she was in the warm bubbly water, in a softly lit room. The nurse suggested that I could relax in the plush leather armchair that was beckoning me from the corner of the room. Although I could touch the bathtub from there, it seemed too far away. Feeling a bit helpless now that the hot tub had taken over, I did the only thing I could think of. I sat back down on the floor, put my hand in the water, and took hold of hers.

     For the next hour and a half I watched as her body shook with each contraction. They were now coming two at a time, with a minute break followed by another two. Nathalie struggled to steadily keep her deep breathing going. By now I adopted the same breathing rhythm with an emphasis on that extra little bit of inhalation and exhalation at the beginning and end of each breath. With every contraction her hand would begin to tremble, triggering every muscle in my body to tense up, ready to spring into action, should it be necessary. Time slowly passed. It was calm and tumultuous mixed into one. Nathalie was drained, her body was wilting. At 7:30 am her reserves had depleted, and she whispered for me to go ask for an epidural.

     This was the one moment where my own birthing experience drew me back. I was nervous about leaving her alone in the water in that state and so waited for the end of a contraction and then took off. As I ran down the hall desperate to quickly find a nurse, I reassured myself with the thought that Nathalie was about to experience the greatest relief she had ever known. However, I also knew that she would now experience the most intense contractions of her entire labour. Because I clearly remembered that once your body decides it needs medical intervention, waiting for it seems like the end of the world.

     The staff quickly sprang into action and I sprinted back to the hot tub hoping to limit the number of contractions Nathalie would need to endure alone. She was hanging on, but before she could have any pain relief, we needed to get her back to our room, and that meant getting her out of the tub. With only a minute between contractions it didn’t leave much time to manoeuvre. As one ended, she grabbed onto me and managed to step out of the water, just in time for the next one to start. Standing in the middle of the room with nothing else to hold onto, I braced myself and suggested she fall into me. For the next few minutes we stood there, legs apart, knees bent, her wet naked body draped over my shoulders, breathing deeply in unison. I remember thinking how funny we must look and yet knowing that it was just right.

     The nurse came and assisted us back across the hall to our room as she explained all the medical information and procedure about the epidural. As I knew Nathalie was hearing none of it, I tried to pay attention while I secretly prayed that we get out of the hallway and into our room before the next contraction. We made it through the doorway just in time for Nathalie to fall into to me again. We breathed together through another contraction. We were becoming one.

     As medical staff began putting in needles and drips, preparing for the arrival of the anaesthesiologist, we sat face to face on the bed, our shoulders rolled into each other breathing, deeply and long. Words now out of the question, I made a point to suck in the extra breath and then empty it completely. Nathalie followed. The doctor would certainly be here soon, but there were still long hard contractions to get through, and then a needle to be put in her spine while she would need to remain immobile. This I knew, and so together we breathed, in out deeply, fully; in out deeply fully; in, out, deeply, fully. And then we were done. Nathalie lay comfortably on the bed. I lay collapsed beside her. We spend the next two hours watching the contractions on the monitor, calmly awaiting the next leg of the journey.

     It came at 10:30 am. Nathalie was now fully dilated and ready to push. Given the intensity of her labour and the speed of dilation, she was set on pushing this baby out by 11. Her cousin, the doctor, wasn’t as optimistic. Personally, I was aiming for noon. Nature had its own agenda…

Yogaspace - Pregnancy Yoga - Birth Stories      We began to push. Although Nathalie did the real work, all the grunting and groaning came from the non pregnant mother in the room. My job was to push back on Nathalie’s leg, push forward on her shoulders and with the start of each contraction remind her how strong willed and tenacious she was. As the contraction would gain momentum and her efforts would go beyond the reach of words, I supplied the sound effects for the valiant work that was taking place before me. At the end of each contraction, I would snap back from my verbal efforts, feel a little bit silly for being the one making all the noise, and then offer Nathalie a sip of water, a wet wash cloth, a quick encouragement and silence. We both needed it to reenergize before the next contraction.

     As 11 am came and went and then 11:30 and then noon, Nathalie was wearing thin. Being the strong headed woman that she is, each contraction was greeted with incredible physical strength aimed at all those obscure pelvic muscles, but I was beginning to see that she was depleting every last bit of her energy and I was starting to get concerned about how much longer she could keep it up. Half an hour earlier I had had the privilege of reporting that I could see the little fluff of hair on top of our baby’s head, and it had added that burst of energy that she had desperately needed. But things were no longer advancing. At 12:30 her cousin, who had been coming and going from the room, arrived to do a check. As soon as she sat down between Nathalie’s legs, she asked the nurse to take her temperature. Sure enough, Nathalie was running a fever. She asked her to try another couple of pushes and then told her to stop. The room suddenly felt much too quiet.

     Nathalie’s cousin, suddenly became a lot more like a doctor. She informed us that in the last hour, the baby hadn’t made any progress down the canal and that she was concerned about Nathalie’s fever. She explained that Nathalie’s pelvis was too narrow and that she felt it would be too much risk intervening to help pull the baby out. At first I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. After two hours of such intense effort, where was our baby? I couldn’t make sense of the situation. When I realized that she was talking about an emergency C-section, everything went a bit fuzzy. I looked at Nathalie who had worked so hard and was so drained and I saw the disappointment on her face. My heart sunk. But in true Nathalie fashion, where the glass is always half full, she quickly came to terms with the situation and accepted that the baby simply needed to enter the world via the emergency exit. And with that, I changed gears and went into surgery mode…what? Being a birth partner was one thing, but a surgery partner? There was no time to figure it out. I went into emotional autopilot.

     People arrived in the room. Nathalie was transferred to a gurney. Drips were put in. We answered medical questions. And away we went down the hall to the operating room. Meanwhile, our baby, with the fluff on its head, was still waiting to enter the world.

     Once in the OR unit Nathalie was sent off to an operating room and I was sent off to the staff changing room. It was a very quiet Sunday afternoon in the OR, and so when I walked back out, looking a whole lot like a doctor myself (might I add, proudly), the place was deserted. I took a seat and waited. As I sat there all alone, wondering what was coming next and when I was going to get news, I suddenly felt like I had joined generations of nervous soon-to-be fathers. This was not exactly what I had pictured when I had imagined being on the other end of the birthing experience.

     A nurse finally came to get me. As I entered the operating room I stepped into a whole new birthing world. Forget soft music, yoga balls and vocal toning. Nathalie was now strapped down to an operating table, looking a whole lot like Jesus…arms out like a cross. She was tied up to all kinds of machines, had on a big oxygen mask, and to my surprise was already cut open (which was blocked from view by a big blue sheet). I quickly tried to take it all in as I attempted to figure out my new role, including where exactly I should stand. It didn’t take long for me to realise that my role was still the same. And so I took hold of Nathalie’s hand. And together we waited.

     At 1:29 pm, Nathalie’s cousin called for me to come to the other side. As I peered around the edge of the blue sheet, she pulled our baby out of Nathalie’s womb. I saw a head, a belly, and a penis. Wow, I thought to myself. I peered back at Nathalie, her tired eyes searching mine. It’s a boy, I announced to my beautiful partner!

     Before our emotions had time to catch up, the room suddenly became nervous. I heard our cousin say that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. And then I realized that our son hadn’t yet cried. And that he was now on a crash table and that the anaesthesiologist was giving him oxygen through a tiny oxygen mask. And that now three staff were trying to stimulate him to breath and giving him more oxygen. And his heart rate was dropping, and he was bluish. And Nathalie, who had yet to see our baby, was nervously watching me for answers. Her eyes were on mine, my eyes were on our baby, and on the doctors and on the oxygen and on the heart monitor. And then my eyes were nowhere because they no longer knew where to be. I held tightly to Nathalie’s hand and I became very strong, knowing that this was all I could offer. I starred at the floor, unable to watch, as I listened to the doctors doing their job. And I braced myself for the worst. And then he cried. And the world melted and life began. It was January 28th, my birthday, his birthday.

Yogaspace - Pregnancy Yoga - Birth StoriesEpilogue
     Nathalie only got to meet our son for a few seconds before I had to run off with him to the nursery for tests. It was difficult having to leave my partner on the operating table completely void of energy with a fever resulting from infection. Yet I am grateful for having had the honour of accompanying Tomas through the first hour of his life. I held his tiny hand while they took blood tests and I talked to him while they made sure that everything was fine. I then had the pleasure of helping him to experience a calmer arrival into the world by immersing him in a big sink of warm water from which he was placed into a swaddled blanket and into my arms. Nathalie’s cousin then brought him into the recovery room so that Nathalie could finally spend time with the baby she had just put into the world. When we were finally all back together in our room, I had the pleasure of guiding Nathalie and Tomas through their first breastfeeding. We had all made it, safe and sound.

     The entire experience was emotional, invigorating and exciting. I am thrilled to have been a part of it. But now that I have lived through both sides of the birthing experience, my hat goes off to the fathers of the world, because given the choice, I’d take the side that pushes the baby out.

Read Nathalie’s story of Tomas’ birth.
Read Susie’s story of their first baby’s arrival.

The stories around birth extend beyond the parents' stories. The whole family is welcoming little one! Susie's sister shares her thoughts that she noted on the way to the hospital to welcome Tomas:

A new life is being born as I type this.

My sister called at 5 this morning to let me know that her partner has gone into labor and that they are at the hospital awaiting the arrival of their second child. I'm on stand-by, waiting for the next call, letting me know it's time to go and meet my new niece or nephew. I could try to go back to sleep for a bit, since it's likely to be hours from now. But I can't get this smile off my face, and I'd much rather stay awake and enjoy this feeling...

It's pretty amazing, the arrival of a brand new life. There's this incredible sense of peace and calm about it. Well, that's what I'm feeling, anyway. Not sure that's what my sister or her partner are feeling at this moment!!!! It's as if everything feels right in the universe. As if, underneath it all, this is what it's all really about, fundamentally. As if all the things we fret about, and dwell over, and consume ourselves with, and worry about, and mull over, all of it seems... fairly unimportant, really. It doesn't always feel that way, and often for good reason, but right now, for this brief moment, it does. All that matters right now, for those of us involved with this baby, is for this new little person to "just be ok!". That's all. The rest, will come in time -- the hopes, dreams, fears, wishes, anxieties, scrapes, bruises, heartache, yearning, glory, defeat, etc.- But right now, it's just on the simplest, purest, plainest level. 'Ok' is all we're hoping for. 'Ok' might not be what we tend to aspire to in life, but right now, regarding this kid, it's absolutely everything.

And sometimes ok, just plain ok, is plenty more than good enough.

And it just puts life back into perspective. Even if only temporarily.

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