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Midwife Catching Her Own Baby.

Much of the end of pregnancy is spent wondering when and how labour will start, just waiting for that first contraction. When my blood pressure started to go up at the end of pregnancy, we decided to naturally induce the labour before my blood pressure got too high (which would exclude me from a homebirth). Despite planning a natural induction and knowing exactly what day I was starting my labour, the labour process and birth still ended up surprising me. It just goes to show that labour and birth is never what you expect!

Here is the birth story of Norah Dawn:


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On November 14th, I went to acupuncture for cervical ripening/labour induction (and my acupuncturist said I would have the baby that weekend!) and I also had a membrane sweep to see if those mild interventions would get things started. My cervix was 1 – 2 cm dilated, less than 1 cm long, and soft, getting more favourable for labour. We decided that if the sweep and acupuncture didn’t put me into labour that night, I would do the castor oil cocktail early the next morning and hope it got things going.


The morning of November 15th, I woke up at 0430h and took the cocktail – it didn’t taste bad, but it certainly sat in my stomach like a lump of lead. It was all I could do to not throw up. I managed to sleep again around 0600h, despite feeling a little nauseated. I didn’t have any contractions, other than the normal Braxton hicks I’d been having since 16 weeks. I woke up in the morning and took the 2nd dose of the cocktail at 0930h. Unfortunately, I threw up after the first few sips, but after a little break, I managed to get the rest down.

At 1030h, my husband Brian and I went for a walk, it was a cold but sunny day, and we stopped by the Strathcona Community Center to vote in our civic elections – every vote counts! There still were no real contractions at that point. I went to acupuncture at 1245h while Brian went to buy new jeans – Lucky Brand of course! During acupuncture I had my first real contraction. Just one. But wow, was it intense – I briefly wondered what lay ahead for me, though I still didn’t believe I would go into labour that day.

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We got home at 1330h or so, and I had to go sit on the toilet for the next 30 minutes. The castor oil seemed to be working in one way or another. Brian was just about to run to the corner coffee shop to get cinnamon buns (a labour request from me), when I felt a pop, and then I felt a little like I was peeing, except of course, I wasn’t. My water had broken – it was 1400h. It took a minute for me to figure it out, but once I did, I told Brian and texted my doula and my photographer.

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Brian wondered if he should still go for cinnamon buns. Yes! was my answer. But 2 minutes later, I got a contraction. It was already pretty uncomfortable, I had to breathe through it right away. Then I got another, and another. Each one stronger than the next, about 3-5 minutes apart. I called my midwife to let her know that my water had broken and that contractions seemed to be starting, but that we were planning to watch a movie.

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By 1430h, the contractions were super intense and consistently 3 minutes apart. I was standing, leaning on the armrest of our couch, with Brian holding a hot pack to my back and I was no longer lightly breathing through them anymore. Brian calls this part of my labour ‘Amazonian howling’. There was lots of toning, Ahhhs and Oooos. I was loud. And very surprised at what was happening. One part of me was thinking I had another 23 hours to go, and gee, was I ever a wimp! Another part of me was wondering if things were actually just happening quickly – which was really hard for my midwife-self to believe!

Finally at 1507h, I called my doula, Jessica, and asked her to come and hang my birth flags – I couldn’t actually ask her to come support me after just over an hour of contractions! Luckily for me, she overheard a contraction while we were on the phone and hopped in a cab because she realized things were progressing quickly. A few minutes later, I called Yarra – she was helping out another midwife at a birth – and I wanted her to ‘just be available’, not that I could admit I needed her yet of course. Again, lucky for us she heard me moaning so she arranged coverage and headed over.


Around 1530h, I decided I couldn’t wait for anyone to get here to fill up the birth pool, so I marched upstairs and ran a bath instead. I got into it while it was filling, in hands and knees. At some point after getting in the bath, I remembered to call Morag as well, thank goodness!


Brian was so great during the labour – he stayed with me the whole time, except when I (smartly) told him to go downstairs and make sure the door was unlocked so that everyone could just walk in when they got here. At one point when we were alone upstairs, he pointed out that he could hear our neighbors speaking in their normal voices outside our bathroom window. Meanwhile, I was very loudly toning with each contraction – maybe not the most helpful comment he could have made, but it’s pretty funny after the fact!

Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings

At about 1540h, I started to feel a bit pushy, and said ‘Where is everyone!!?’ I felt the baby move low with the next contraction and told Brian that I thought the baby was coming. I did a quick self check and estimated myself to be about 7 cm. Despite that, with the next contraction, my body started to push involuntarily. Jessica walked in just after that, around 1545h, and I told her that I was pushing, but that it wasn’t time yet. Yarra got there shortly after, at 1550h, and I gave her the update in between pushes. Morag walked in a few minutes after that, and Rachel, the second midwife, came just after 1600h. I was definitely pushing by then, and could feel the baby getting lower and lower.

Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings

I was updating everyone with each push and as she started to crown. I wish I could say that I was super composed and welcomed each contraction that would bring my baby closer – but I wasn’t. I did not like the contractions, and I certainly didn’t like pushing. Each time I could feel a contraction starting, I would complain about how I didn’t want it to come. I had such amazing support though, and I knew I would be ok. So I just went with it. Not quietly though!

Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag HastingsVancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings

As soon as the baby’s head was born, I was so much calmer. I commented on all the parts I could feel – ears, nose, lips. It was amazing. This was my favorite part, probably because I’ve caught so many babies, it was the most familiar and felt safe. With the next contraction, her shoulders started to come and my hands gently guided her out. Looking down I saw a baby coming out of me (!), eyes open underwater, and a cord around the neck. Brian and I brought the baby out of the water together, I unwrapped the cord, and the baby let out a lovely little cry as I brought him/her to my chest. It was 1619h, November 15th.

Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings
Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings

A few minutes later, we checked to see what we had –

Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings

A GIRL!!! Brian was right, I was wrong, I was so sure she was a boy the whole time!

Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings
Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings
Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings

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A few minutes after she was born, I started to get some pretty bad cramps, and I could tell my placenta was trying to be born as well. It didn’t come in the tub and I was super uncomfortable, so I got out and moved to the bed.

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Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings
Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings
Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings

Despite strong cramps, the placenta was still not coming after about 30 min, so I decided to check and see where it was. I could feel the placenta sitting just inside the vagina (detached from the uterus), so I gave a good strong push and pulled on the cord at the same time, and it was born. Such relief – but only for a few minutes. The cramps continued even after the placenta had delivered. There was some bleeding and clots inside the uterus, but despite two shots of oxytocin, the bleeding hadn’t completely settled and my blood pressure was a bit low, so we decided to transfer to the hospital. Some IV fluids and some extra medication solved the bleeding before the ambulance arrived, but we decided to go to the hospital for a few hours of observation.


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Waiting for the ambulance we made sure we got the weight done on the midwife scale. Norah was a perfect 6 lbs 6 oz (2892g)

Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings
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Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings
Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings
Vancouver Doula Apple Blossom Families- Vancouver Birth Photographer Morag Hastings

During all of this, Norah was able to stay with me, skin to skin and learned to nurse. She even nursed in the ambulance! I was stable on arrival to the hospital, so we hung out and rested for four hours to ensure I remained stable. We left the hospital and were home before midnight with our new little girl, snug in our bed, a family of three!

A few days later we used the unused birth pool for Norah’s first bath.


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Dawn Henderson is one of my favourite midwives in Vancouver, BC. I was so lucky to have worked with her in my first year of business because she instantly became a big supporter of my birth photography and doula services. You may recognize Dawn, as she is often in my pictures as a midwife, supporting families on their journey to becoming parents. Thank you Dawn for inviting me to your birth. It was wonderful to witness you becoming a mama after watching your support so many others during their births.


Want to see more? Here is Dawn as a midwife 7 months pregnant. She is also featured many times in my year end slideshow here.


Images by Morag Hastings with Apple Blossom Families.

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