I stood still in Pottery Barn the other week, in front of a phone that looked just like the lovely heavy black phone that we had when I was little. You know, the one with the rotary dial that, when you needed to dial 9-1-1, took such a long time for that 9 to rotate. No wonder they didn't stick with the British emergency code of 9-9-9. The emergency would have been over before the dialing was done.
So, still standing there, lost in space and time, I started to think about my low-tech childhood in the '60s and '70s, how I skipped to Kerrisdale elementary school in my skirt and walked through old door marked "Girls", and how my parents decided that it was totally unnecessary to have all the new high-tech things that were in the stores - how we shared a party line, had no answering machine, no voicemail, no calculators, no computers, no videos or DVDs, no recording devices, dishwasher or washer/dryer. We just had one little black and white TV with rabbit ears, a clothes line, and a hand cranked mangle to make life easier. (I laughed when I heard the editor of Canadian House and Home say just last week that her laundry room would not be complete without her most luxurious appliance - the mangle. Well, this one's electric, and it presses sheets, but hey...) It was truly an "Old School" childhood, and time was our ally.
So, I really noticed those multi-coloured cut-out letters stuck on the window at BC Women's Hospital the other day - "I DO IT OLD SCHOOL - ASK ME HOW". I kept thinking about those words as I helped a client through an almost 48-hour unmedicated, uncomplicated birth. After 31 hours at home, we went to the hospital to birth "old school" style. The tools at hand were our hands and eyes and ears and wisdom (other than my client and her husband, "We" also included nurse "Wendy" aka Michelle, and the Family Practice Group 2 docs Ron and Sheena, who all have the guts to go "old school"). Time, on this day, was our ally, for we needed a lot of it to accomplish the goal. The high-tech equipment didn't seem to know how to behave with us. The blood pressure cuff kept pumping itself up even when no one was there, and that brand-fangled-new monitor didn't work as well as the doptone, so it was turned off.
So, things were kept as simple as possible. On and on...dancing in the shower, rockin' an rollin' on the ball, just one contraction at a time, one breath at a time, listening to lovely music. To get rid of a puffy cervix at 9cm, we used the Trendelenburg position on the bed (no epidural necessary) and lots of encouragement. We used hip squeezes, hip shakes, swirling and spiralling hips, visualization, trance-inducing techniques, foot rubs, endorphin sleep and dreams, squatting, kneeling, walking, tears, hands, eyes, and love....liberally. And this amazing labouring woman drew on the strength of all her life, with the aid of a few sherpas, and did what all women have the power to do, climb the highest mountain ever - birthed her baby with arms outstretched to touch his body.
And when that baby came, it was pure joy. No exhaustion, just sparkling laughter and smiles and "I'm as high as a kite!" (love those endorphins) and an eager, wide-awake little boy who came out with his meaty fist stretched to the sky. Ahaa! The culprit - just one little hand had slowed things down. We knew it! But, with time, this little man and his mum had worked it out.
When the pediatrician came later to say "Hi", she actually bowed down before the woman, saying "I am not worthy." And the doctors agreed that, if any drugs had been used, it probably would have been a cesarean. And the nurses outside were in awe, knowing that there's an initiative in the hospital to reduce the intervention and cesarean rates by encouraging low tech/high touch birthing, and wishing that they could have seen how it was done.
I am in awe of the couple at the centre of the whirlwind, this vortex of birth. I thank them for trusting in birth, for trusting in the body, for trusting their baby, for trusting me to calm their spirit and their wild eyes, when I'd say, "It's fine, it's normal, you are safe, you can do it," or "She's safe, she has the strength to do this."
On this day, I think all three crossed the portal, the old school way.
- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula
Jacquie Munro, founder of the "Slow Birth" movement, is an experienced doula and childbirth educator and is well-known for her individualized, intuitive approach to supporting families in the childbearing year and beyond. Since 1987, she has provided support at over one thousand births, at home and in hospital, and taught thousands of expectant parents. At home, Jacquie lives only a bike ride away from four generations of her family. You can usually find her at the park or beach, playing beside her twin grandsons who call her "Deecy".