After moving to the Ottawa Valley with our first child, my obstetrician was brilliant and a strong feminist. Although she did have tropical fish and a parrot, she did not have any children of her own; I was an enigma to her as she was to me. In her office, successful professional women waited for gynecological care and women in their late thirties or early forties, pregnant their first child came to this doctor. Then, I walked through her door for my first visit, pregnant with one toddler on my hip and by my last visit with three or four other children clustered around me, it seemed that I was curiosity. Enshrined on my doctor’s desk and encased in glass were birth control devices that glared at me every time I sat across from her.
After one visit, my obstetrician said, in what I hope was a teasing tone, “Would you quit bringing your beautiful children to my office. Someone always wants a reversal (from tubal ligation) after you leave.
Pregnant with my fourth child, I came for a scheduled appointment even though labour had begun. I preferred to see her right away and not wait for her at the hospital because I wanted to go home after visiting her office and put everything in order and arrange childcare.
I was not expecting my doctor’s reaction, “This baby is coming soon. You do not have time to travel all the way home. Use the phone in the office, get a hold of your husband and get someone to meet him with the kids in the hospital parking lot. You go straight to admitting ahead of him.”
I walked into the waiting room, called my brother-in-law and explained the situation, laughing at my self as I apologised to him. As a contraction hit, I breathed through the pain and then gathered all the kids together and left her office for the hospital.
An hour later she bustled into the delivery room and announced, “Well you sure impressed my entire waiting room! Everyone thinks you are super woman.”
Two hours later, standing with help and enduring long contractions that were turning my baby completely around, I was anything but super woman.
I wailed , “I thought you said this delivery was going to be fast!”
It didn’t help that seven or eight student nurses, obstetrical residents and medical students stood in a half circle around me, watching a woman deliver without drugs or an epidural, to her fourth child. (I was not trying to be super mom, natural birth was better for delivery because I could work with my body and therefore prevent tearing and stitches. I could sit cross-legged on the bed right after, feel wonderful and much lighter.)
The last baby this doctor delivered of mine was my fifth. ( I could not face her the next pregnant.) This birth was a dramatic production. All through my pregnancy I had asked God, “Please, not on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.”
He had his own ideas, of course. On Christmas Eve we gave the kids baths in the afternoon, a tourtiere was baking in the oven almost ready for an early dinner and I had just laid out dresses, white tights, ribbons for the girls and outfits for the boys to wear to church when the contractions started coming hard and fast. In fact I barely could get my boots on. Michael drove very quicklyto the hospital. When I stepped into admitting, the lights were dim, Christmas carols played softly in the background Christmas lights were shining on the tree and strung along the walls and two relaxed nurses were leaning against the counter.
“So “, one of the nurses calmly asked, “Is this your first?”
” No”, I gasped, “My fifth.”
“Your fifth?”, her head jerked up and her eyes popped open. “Sandra, get the elevator now and then grab a wheelchair. I’ll phone obstetrics so they can get ready for her!!!”
Michael followed the parade carrying David who refused to stay with our baffled neighbour; Dad assumed he had time to take him back home.
The obstetrical nurse told him, You aren’t going anywhere if you want to see this baby’s birth. Give him to the desk clerk and tell her to give him crackers.” By the way, David thoroughly enjoyed his adoring fans out at the nurses’ station. My dress was literally yanked over my head, my tights whipped off, the doctor ran in to the delivery room and Emily was born 45 minutes later.
I took possession of a large,vacant, four-bed ward room and it was peaceful and quiet. Christmas morning ,Michael trooped in with all the kids dressed in their holiday outfits and huge grins on their faces. He had pulled off Christmas set-up but he sheepishly handed me the hairbrush, elastic and ribbons admitting,
“Well it was difficult but they were all thrilled with everything this morning. I just couldn’t handle the girl’s hair.”
He pulled off their hats and their hair was still a tangled disaster. I laughed and laughed, the kids started giggling and then we started to introduce them to our family’s newest member.