This might sound strange, but I never really expected to give birth to any children.
I don’t know why. I didn’t expect to get married either. Didn’t anticipate it. Didn’t plan for it or anything. But I did get married, and I did get pregnant. And the whole time, I felt as if it was happening to someone else. Because I knew nothing about being a mother or having a baby.
An only child who’d been adopted, I had no one in my life to prepare me for motherhood. Sure, I’d done some babysitting. But not because I enjoyed it. I really never was (and I’m still not) the kind of person who runs over to greet the new baby. My policy was more along the lines of, “I’ll take care of you if I have to, but there’s never going to be a relationship between us.”
On the other hand, I loved working with teens. Les and I had even talked about adopting a family with three or four older kids.
Our unexpected journey started on a drive back to Regina from a visit to British Columbia, where my husband’s older brother and his family lived.
We’d eaten at a sea-food restaurant the night before, and I’d had bouillabaisse for the first (and last) time. As we were going through the mountains, I was trying not to throw up every few minutes. I figured I had food-poisoning. I still think about that drive every time I hear that someone is pregnant.
Anyway, a few weeks later, when I was still feeling a bit queasy, my doctor told me it hadn’t been food poisoning.
It felt weird. Almost as if I was watching this happen to someone else.
But I got a couple of books from the library and we started to get a room ready in the three-story older house we’d bought a couple of years before.
When I think about it now, it seems crazy, but Les got some of the wood from the old barn on his parents’ farm, and we put it on the walls of the baby’s room. We got a dresser that had been his dad’s when he was young. I made curtains, covered an old laundry hamper to match, and made a change table from an old table we found at a garage sale. We decorated the walls with some pictures I’d made plus one that had been my grandmother’s, and we made two large animal-shaped bulletin boards. We probably spent about twenty-five dollars total on decorating the room.
With ten days left until my due date, the only thing left to do was to put bright wallpaper in the closet and buy a few more clothing items.
Early in the morning after Good Friday, a contraction woke me up. But that wasn’t all. I yelled for Les to get up. “I don’t think we’re going to get the baby’s room finished today,” I said.
“My water broke.”
So at 5:00 a.m. that Saturday morning, we went to the hospital. Nowadays, they tell you to go home and wait until the baby’s head is almost coming out. But in those days, when your water broke, they were deathly afraid of infection. I was basically told to “Get onto that bed and stay there!” So I got on a narrow bed (a generous word), where I endured contractions (and wasn’t even allowed to get off to go to the bathroom) for the next 35 hours.
That isn’t a misprint. Thirty-five. Long. Hours.
The doctor I’d been seeing was away for the weekend, so her partner, who was Chief of Obstetrics, would look after me. I saw him for a few minutes and he seemed to think everything was fine.
But it wasn’t.
Normally, contractions do something besides hurt. They create an opening for the baby. My contractions, while painful, weren’t quite doing the job. And because it was Easter weekend, the resident didn’t want to bother the doctor too early. So there I was—in pain and helpless.
My husband, who stayed by my side the whole time, was as helpless as I was. It was his first baby, too. We had no mid-wife, no doula, not even a parent or friend to tell us what to do. And while the resident and nurses weren’t unkind, they also weren’t all that helpful. I expect they were short-staffed because it was Easter weekend. Plus, we later found out the resident who was in charge was likely on his first week in obstetrics.
Saturday dragged by.
Any enthusiasm we’d begun with had long ago evaporated. How much longer would this go on? Les talked to someone from our church and they said they were praying for us. I’d started a prayer chain in the small group I led a few years before and we’d had some wonderful answers to prayer.
I was eventually given something for the pain, but it just made me sleepy, which meant I was less able to control my breathing, and the contractions hurt as much, if not more. My back was killing me. I begged to get up and was told I was better not to. Les rubbed my back, but it didn’t do much.
As Saturday night became Sunday morning, I began to worry. I knew women had died in the past because of difficulty in childbirth. Could it still happen? I prayed, but said nothing to my Les. He was as exhausted as me, and I didn’t want to worry him.
We somehow got through the long night, me on the bed, Les on the chair beside me. In the morning when a nurse came in to wash my face, I urged Les to go and get some breakfast and rest for a bit. Around 10:00 a.m., he left the room. The nurse left too.
After a few minutes, I felt so alone.
I was used to doing things. Seeing the big picture. Taking action. But I was totally lost in this world, with no idea what to do. And no one here seemed to care, or to be worried that this had gone on so long, or to even ask if I had any questions. Would my baby survive? Would I?
Suddenly, I felt another presence in the room. A warmth came into my body. The pain remained, but I felt as if God was holding me in his hands. And in my mind, I heard him say that he understood. That he knew what it was like to lose a child.
It hit me that this was Easter Sunday—the day Christ rose from the dead.
And I suddenly knew that if God loved me enough to send his son to die for me, I could trust him now. I’d known God loved me since I was three or four years old, and I knew I could trust him no matter what happened. I felt peace flow through me. The pain was still there, but my fears were gone. I wasn’t in the resident’s hands, or the doctor’s, but God’s.
Not long after, my husband came in to tell me the doctor was on his way. Apparently, Les had told the reluctant resident that unless he called the doctor immediately, Les was going to call him. That finally made him act.
Once the doctor arrived, things happened.
But first, he actually yelled at Les for not insisting they call him sooner. I can’t imagine what he said to the resident!.
After checking me and discovering that the contractions weren’t getting me dilated fast enough, the doctor gave me something to make the contractions more effective. Within a few hours, I was deemed ready to go to the delivery room.
Ready? I was desperate to push that baby out!
But as we headed for the delivery room, the doctor warned me I might need a Cesarean section and, just in case, I shouldn’t push.
You’ve got to be kidding, right? I desperately tried to keep from pushing, afraid that I would hurt the baby, but it was so hard. All I could do was ask God to look after us both.
We stopped at the X-ray room, and I had to stand up so they could take an X-ray. As I recall, they had to hold me, and that was probably the worst moment of the whole thing. And before he even saw the X-ray, the doctor decided a Cesarean was needed. The only problem was, there wasn’t an anesthesiologist in the area and he had to call one from another part of the hospital. He got testy again, and said, “If you people hadn’t voted for this NDP government, we wouldn’t have a shortage of anaesthesiologists!”
To which Les responded, “Well, I didn’t vote for them!”
A few minutes later, the doctor sent my weary husband out of the room.
The last thing I remember was a gentle male voice near my head (the anesthesiologist who had just arrived) saying, “I think you’ve had enough.”
I said, “Me, too.”
I woke up hours later, alone in a private room. I had apparently survived.
After a while, a nurse came in with something for me to eat. She didn’t mention the baby and I was too afraid to ask.
Half an hour later, another nurse came in. “Would you like to see your baby?” she asked.
I nodded, afraid to speak.
She brought me an adorable little bright-eyed boy with a bump on his head where he’d apparently been trying to get through an opening that wasn’t quite big enough.
I think I asked if Les was there, but the nurse didn’t know.
I later found out that when the doctor sent him out of the delivery room, Les had no idea how long it would be. Exhausted, and with no one to ask what he should do, he went home and immediately fell asleep on the couch. He found out he had a son when one of our friends, who had first called the hospital, phoned to congratulate him and woke him up.
When I told Les that I had felt God holding me in his arms, he told me that when he drove home, groggy from a day and a half without sleep, he nearly had an accident that definitely would have been his fault. Strangely, after the accident had been avoided, he felt peace. Then he realized that if he was in God’s hands in that traffic incident, he could trust God with me and our baby. At home, he slept deeply and was able to be back at the hospital, feeling refreshed, not long after I got out of recovery.
My parents arrived shortly after that, but I didn’t see them until Monday morning. They’d been extremely worried because it was taking so long and had decided not to wait any longer to drive the four hours from Brandon to Regina.
Les’s parents came on Monday and his mom finished up the wallpaper in the closet.
My doctor told me that unless my next baby was the size of a peanut, I’d be having another C-section if I got pregnant again. (I did – three more times!)
I also learned that my original doctor had noted that I might need a C-section. It might have been nice if she’d mentioned it to someone. Me, for example. No, I didn’t go back to her. I stayed with the one I trusted and the next births were a breeze.
I also discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that having my own baby was a lot different from looking after someone else’s. And I think I became a pretty good mother. (My oldest son is not only a terrific person but the father of six wonderful kids himself!)
And every Easter since that one, I’ve celebrated, not only the birth of my first son, but also the continuation of my trust that the God who gave his Son for us on a long-ago Easter weekend, and who held my son’s and my lives in his hands on another Easter, still holds me and my family in his hands each day.