Written by Elsie
I was 22 years old, and didn't really pay attention to my health during the pregnancy, because I was in my 20's and believed I could do/eat whatever I wanted. I was 41 weeks and 1 day, on Salt Spring, when Maggie and Terry were the midwives. At 3am, I got up to get some water and walk around, because I had what felt like terrible gas pain and I couldn't sleep. At 5am, the gas pain finally turned into contractions and I went to bed - at least I could sleep between them! My best friend was staying over, with her 2-yr-old. Sometime in the morning, I was scheduled for an amniotic fluid test (I think they're called non stress tests now?). I had an ultrasound at Lady Minto. As I laid there, the tech was poking at my belly, trying to wake the baby. Had I known the gravity of the situation, I would have sat up and eaten something. But I didn't, and failed the test, because baby was sleeping, which meant they couldn't check movement or muscle tone. At the midwifery clinic, Terry told me because of the test, I had to go to Vic Gen to birth. I was so angry. I felt she must have seen the movements in my belly from where she sat. I also forgot to mention to her that my contractions started that morning. They were maybe 30 minutes apart. So, my mom drove me, my partner Jon, my best friend and her toddler to Victoria.
We got there about 7pm, where I met the on-call midwife, Val. And Dr Dancero, who would be giving me primary care. I handed him my birth plan, he didn't read it, but laughed and tossed it on the floor. He didn't even look at me, and suggested a c-section. I refused. He gave me until midnight to make a decision (probably because that would allow ample time to operate before his shift was over, and he didn't want to leave and have to come back). Over the next few hours, I wasn't allowed to eat, and I was starving. He did an ultrasound, and said the baby was too big, I should have a c-section. I refused. A little while later, a nurse took my blood pressure, and told me it was getting high. Dr Dancero told me that if my blood pressure continued to increase, I might develop pre-eclampsia, which would decrease oxygen to the baby, and they would have a 15-20% chance of developing brain damage, or even dying. I refused. I told him that that was too many ifs and maybes, and that my current blood pressure wasn't actually a concern...he scoffed at me "but it could be!"
Then every 20 minutes, they took a urine sample, but eventually gave up on the blood pressure thing. He did another ultrasound, this time, he suggested c-section because my baby was asleep. I refused. Probably because of stress and no fuel, I was told my labour wasn't progressing, and they suggest inducing. And a c-section. At that point, I was so fed up with the hospital staff, I told everyone to get out, leave me alone, I need to sleep. During this whole thing, every time the Dr came into the room, the midwife would shrink into a corner (this was 17 years ago). I had my best friend sneak out and bring me food, and I went to sleep.
At 4am, I woke up. I had this feeling like "it's time." My contractions picked up, I suspected I was in transition. I kept going to the bathroom because I was feeling a lot of pressure. My water broke! My mom alerted the nurses, who noted the meconium in my waters and ranted about how bad that was. The midwife arrived first and could tell I was pushing and encouraged me to continue. Then Dr Dancero arrived, again, didn't look at me, and said the operating room was waiting for me. I was wheeled into the OR. The midwife held my hand, and whispered to keep pushing. I was turned sideways to administer the medication into my spine. The blue screen went up so fast. I heard Dr Dancero exclaim "oh, I see a head! I'm going to give you one try to push the baby far enough to grab them with forceps, or I'm going to cut you open." Baby was face presenting, which was why it was taking so long. The midwife had her hand on my belly, and nodded to me when it was the right time. I pushed the hardest I have ever pushed in my life! And got hemorrhoids. Then there was a baby suddenly placed on my chest! A girl! Jon was still outside the door, putting scrubs on. Dr Dancero left immediately after stitching up a tear, took my husband aside and said "you gambled, and you won this time."
I was in the hospital for 3 days, which I understand is standard operating procedure with spinal medication. I asked to speak with Dr Dancero, but he wouldn't see me. I saw him passing in the halls and visiting other moms, so I know he was trying to avoid me. I asked multiple times for my baby's APGAR scores, medical records, etc. Every nurse said "of course, I'll go get them" and never came back. It was hard being in a hospital, a first time mom, mostly alone. My baby initially latched on very soon after she was born. But the longer I was there, the more tired I got, the more the nurses intervened.
They would force her into my breast while she was screaming. Or latched her on in a way that was really painful. Or offer giving her sugar water or formula, which I refused. I was determined to make breastfeeding work, and I knew in order to do that, I had to get out of the hospital. They threatened to keep us there until breastfeeding was either well established, or I went home with a box of formula. They gave me a sheet to record breastfeeding. Every hour or two, I would make an entry, and lie about the duration and hearing/seeing swallowing. They were satisfied, and let us return home.
At home, my best friend was learning to be a lactation consultant. Every time I would pick up my baby, she would scream. So my friend wrapped my breast with her shirt, and my baby would latch on. But as soon as that shirt was taken away, she would scream. Whenever she smelled me, she would scream, and I have the nurses at Vic Gen to thank for that. My friend couldn't stay forever, and had to fly back to Prince George. So I was on my own. For 6 weeks, I would pump, syringe feed baby, wash everything, sleep for 30 minutes, and repeat around the clock. Once, I overslept and became so engorged I had to go to Lady Minto to use their fancy "milking machine." I wanted to breastfeed so badly, and refused to use bottles, because I know it can sometimes cause nipple confusion. Especially if they have to work for it at the breast, and not with a bottle. I would try every day.
One day, at around 6 weeks, I had an idea about latching her on when she wasn't ravenously hungry. And she did! I kept her on the breast as long as she was willing, and even switched sides! I was so happy! I threw the syringe away because I never wanted to see it again! She was exclusively breastfed for 8 months, tried solid foods for a week, then went exclusively breastfed again until 10 months before starting to enjoy solids. She was breastfed until she was 2.5 years old, when I got pregnant with my second.