This is one of my favourite memories as a student midwife.
As part of your student ‘year’ you had to catch fifty babies, including the placenta before you could become ‘certified’. No jokes now people. I already know that I am certifiable but that was how you were labelled at the end of your time. Actually, that title speaks volumes, really.
Now we are recognised as registered midwives.
Anyway, onto my tale…
It was the very end of my student year and I had only one birth left to attend. I was working at a hospital that encompassed a large area and therefore we also had clientelle from all walks of life.
This particular shift had me looking after a multi ( a lady who has had more than one baby). In fact, she was known as a grand multi, which is just as it sounds. A lady who has had a large number of children. In this day and age, anything over four is considered ‘grand’.
I took the phone call before she presented to the birthing suite. I was still very new at all of this but she had spoken calmly and was able to breathe through her contractions…
“Hello, darlin’, it’s Mrs Blogs here. Just wantin’ to let yus all know I’m comin’ in. Is jus’ about that time”.
I took some details and said that I would be expecting her shortly. Even though I thought that she was not really sounding like she was in active labour, as a grand multi, the policy of the hospital labelled her high risk and she would need to be watched closely for any problems.
Besides that, she was a multiparous woman, so if she said she was in labour, who was I to argue with her? This would be her seventh baby.
It was early evening when she arrived. She was from a demographic lovingly known as the ‘Coastal Hillbillies’. They came from the mountain areas and had little to no antenatal care.
She presented relaxed, with her six other kids in tow.
They all had the most beautiful flaming red hair, as did she. Her front teeth were missing. Her eyes were a bright green. Her face lined with years of hard living but at the same time, those wrinkles included smile and laugh lines too.
She was so laid back and laughing with her children. Her partner was nowhere to be found, although I was absolutely certain that, like all the other children, he was the father to this little one too.
I introduced myself and the midwife who was mentoring me (remember, I’m still a student).
“Hello, darlin’”, she smiled.
I directed her to her room. As we were wandering up, a contraction started. She didn’t stop to breathe through it. Instead she laughed and all her children embraced her mood with more laughter.
” Yup, yup, yup. It’s jus’ ’bout time”, she confirmed, chuckling, as the tightening came and went.
I looked towards the other midwife skeptically. There was no way this woman was ready to birth. She was too, well, happy and too… relaxed. Not a sign of impending birth about her.
The kids all came into the room and settled themselves down. Some had brought cards and others were in the corner just watching, keeping vigil.
I explained our admitting procedure, which she calmly listened to. Her contractions were palpable and coming every three to five minutes. I didn’t consider them strong and she laughed the whole time her uterus was balled up. Everything else was fine. She was insistent that the babe would be here within minutes.
I asked her if she would mind if I did an internal examination, to see where she was.
Of course, she was absolutely fine with that and I’m almost certain that she would have been comfortable with anything I asked of her. She was just that relaxed.
As I found her cervix, I understood why she believed the baby would be here soon.
She was fully dilated!
Fully dilated and laughing!
Fully dilated, with six kids by her bedside, calmly waiting the arrival of their next brother or sister.
Was I amazed?
You bet your bottom dollar I was.
The membranes were still intact and I told her this. She mentioned that they had broken them with every other baby. I explained (in my infinate wisdom) that we didn’t routinely break the waters.
She smiled at me (in all her infinate wisdom – oh I had SO much to learn)…
“Yup’, she replied, ” You can do that but they have had to break me water every other time”.
An hour crawled by and she was still conversing with her children, laughing and relaxed. Not once did she become impatient with me or demand I rupture the membranes. Her contractions did not become closer or stronger. In fact, things remained… eerily normal.
Finally, I asked her if I could check her internally again. She agreed. Her only request was that I have ‘one of them crochet hooks ready’.
Just as before, her cervix was fully dilated and just as before the membranes were intact and bulging. The baby’s head was still high up in the pelvis though, so I was reluctant to break the membranes. A quick talk with the senior midwife and it was decided that we would go ahead.
Even though I was told by my lovely lady to ” ‘git (my) catchin’ mit on”, I thought I would have some time until the baby’s head crowned.
Young and stupid and naive that I was.
As I punctured the wall of the (very thick) membrane and started to withdraw my hand, my mountain lady gave one almighty push and the new and beautiful red haired little girl followed quickly behind!
There was no crowning.
Just a brilliant explosion of baby into the world!
I caught her, of course.
I cried because she was my last under the student umbrella and because it had been so powerful and amazing.
The woman was still smiling as I lay the cherub onto her belly, her children enveloping her in love and warmth. I was so very caught up in the moment that I didn’t realise that the mum had quietly expelled the placenta as well.
Usually, we gave the syntocinon injection into the thigh and applied what is known as controlled cord traction to ‘help’ the placenta to come away from the uterine wall. This was always deemed very important in grand multis as they are at an increased risk of haemorraging.
Of course, I didn’t have the chance to do any of this.
I didn’t really care that I couldn’t include it as a catch.
That birth, was so much more than that.
Postscript; she was intact – no tears or stiches needed. As she had been with every one of her babies!