• Bonnie Jean-Louis

Empowering Home Birth - My Journey Into The Mom Job

Home Water Birth 2017 in Hawkesbury

It all started in 1981, when my mother who had been malnourished and physically beaten as a child, was then strapped lying down on a bed for hours with an EMF monitor, forced to accept an epidural she never asked for, an episiotomy and forceps were used to deliver me, cone head and all, because they thought my heart had stopped while making my way through the birth canal. Little they they know back then, that EMF was a great new tool, but not necessarily accurate, plus, heart rates of babies are naturally lower when making it through a narrow passage. As a big enough baby, having to make my way through a passage that was probably stricken with rickets, it was hard to get by in an environment that was 27% constricted, less wide because of the bed lying, my mother was forced in…

Nonetheless, I was born alive, my mom survived, and my family were grateful for the Dr’s work, even though if left my mom scarred twice. Once down there, and the second scar because of all the confidence she could ever gain had been taken away. What would have happened if she would have been given a different birth environment? Instead, she had been given a clear opportunity for birth trauma, and what we could actually call today, Obstetrical violence… Rather than a wonderful first start of a journey into motherhood.

My mom finally got over most of the fear of being pregnant and giving birth 5 years later, and she was again expecting, my sister, for my 6th birthday. She used that experience as a learning opportunity and I was given the while shebang of sexual education…

Believe me, learning the whole works at such a young age did not make me promiscuous, as some political activist like to instill fear, but actually worked at doing just the opposite! I knew all to well what sex could end up doing, and was never too early at hoping to get pregnant…

My sister was born 4 days prior to my birthday, by c-section because she was breech. My mother always thought it was the way of Life, for not making her go through a bad vaginal birthing experience all over again. She was thankful at first, but then, she got gifted with after c-section complications. She never was explained what happened, and for a few days, they would tell her the after pain was normal, and that her thinking something was wrong, was all in her head… It took the medical team 5 days to realize that what she complained about, was a football size hematoma, that was forming in her abdomen, and she had to be opened again, to drain that excessive blood… She came out of the hospital three weeks later, after my sister, and was in bed rest at home for three months after that.

Maybe this experience was traumatic as the first one, only she knows. She might still be fearful of Doctors today, and I don’t blame her, would you? But still, she believes they saved her life, and birth should happen in a hospital.

To go a bit quicker through the middle part of my story; my mothers experiences and what she shared with me, actually got me passionate about birthing at a young age. For example, in my 7th grade science fair project, I exposed abortions and all the fœtus development in utero.

At 15 years old, I was diagnosed with a severe scoliosis at my lower back and was told I might never be able to bare children on my own. It couldn’t be explained, as I’d never had a bad physical accident. The other cause theorized was the probable interventions that sometimes cause scoliosis, my forcep extraction at birth…

I spent the next few years, sometimes a bit depressed at those news, but also stricken by lower back pains, advancing in my college studies and making my way, as a photographer and international development worker.

In 2001, after working with new moms at a refugee and immigration center in St John’s Newfound Land, or with the wife of a Gits’xan chief in Hazelton B.C., I met the traveling photographer-author-midwife Murielle Bonnet del Valle. With her book : ‘’La naissance, un voyage’’, she inspired me by explaining different ways of birthing across the world, but also introduced me to different theories such as Michel Odent’s, that fear is the biggest inhibitor to natural birthing, and also François Leboyer’s work on introducing water births. I was mesmerized. I certainly was hoping on being able to get pregnant and carry a child one day, but I also knew, I had a lot of work to do mentally, to overcome my own mothers’ fears about childbirth…

I continued on my journey, and ended up working in Sri Lanka for a while, where talking with the women of my life over there, made me realize that 2nd/3rd world nations were not all bad about how they treat women, compared to our feminist driven capitalist 1st world society’s agenda is, where women shall work as ‘hard’ as a man, to be respected, or just to hopefully one day, gain an equal amount of worth, compared to a man, doing an equal job. Their respect of women is shown in how they appreciate a women’s job as a Mom. How having and raising children is one of the most important job and if a mother chooses to work and have a career, the man will then take on that maternal role at home, for example. There is no day care centers, and the extended family is there for support, in doing the most important job out there… Raise the next generations of humans.

Then, I got to work in Chad, Africa, where educated women would try to raise awareness against excision to young girls, in the hopes of getting them confident enough to request not to have it done to them, once that time comes…

Ok, so not all moms and women out there, have it easy…

Finally, my time came, 2007, I was pregnant with my son. Midwife called and scheduled, I wanted time and education about birth on my side. My midwife was great, and I chose a hospital birth at Montford, because she didn’t have privileges in Hawkesbury General. So once the day came, we had to drive 1h30 in morning traffic, with the stress of delivering on the side of the road. I got there, and contrary to those fears, the road trip had kicked back my labour into slow mode.

After 12 hours of labour, with an anterior lip of the cervix at 10 cm for a few hours, I birthed my 9lbs 1ounce son squatting. I teared a lot, but the hard work came to an end.

In a way, its what I wanted! My midwife had to advocate for me with the ward doctors, as they thought they should intervene. But as long as my life, and my baby’s life were safe, I didn’t want to be proposed any interventions.

But, throughout the pregnancy, I prepared so much for birth, that I never thought on preparing myself for after the birth. Plus, since I was giving birth in a hospital, even though labouring in the water was what worked best for me, to deal with the back pain, as soon as my water broke, my midwife emptied the bath, and all went downhill after that. But I’ll come back to this later!!!

So, back home, I went with my newborn and breastfeeding was the next challenge. I knew I was going to do it. But what a hard job it was! It took 3 weeks of no sleep, pumping around the clock, without ever being able to sit straight, as my tear needed healing. Falling asleep in the tub while pumping, while my sister or partner were finger feeding my son, until he finally decided to latch, 3 weeks after his birth.

YEAH! Finally, but the challenges were not at their end!

The epiglottis wasn’t closed properly. So my son would throw up on me, like a water hose, at every feeding, until he got to 8 months old… I couldn’t really go out of my house, as I’d always have to carry 2-3 bags of clothes changes, just to try to keep myself decent throughout my outings.

Depression set in, as isolation became the norm. My son being hyper sensitive, and every judgmental comments made towards my long term breastfeeding didn’t help… I often say it took me close to 5 years to catch up on the energy lost, of those first few months and years after my first born. You would ask me if I wanted another child? There was no hesitation; hell no!

But remember my 7th grade project? Abortion would always be out of the question…

So, a surprise 2nd pregnancy came about, in 2016. Finally, I had just settled in a great job I had always wanted!

After having survived, and seen my sister try for a home birth in the countryside with an emergency transfer for a much needed c-section, I decided I was capable of trying it.

Ten years later from my 1st pregnancy, I had wished things would have changed. Back then, my Midwife was working hard to gain privileges locally but seemed that her effort still didn’t end with positive results. Therefore, it was hard to find a Midwife that was willing to serve me all the way in Hawkesbury. It took me 32 weeks of patience, after persevering and calling every Midwife Office and Center, asking to be put on waiting lists everywhere, to finally get the call, offering me the care I was highly hoping for.

I read many books once again, and opted at all costs for a water birth… Made my partner work hard at preparing for this experience too. Came the eventful day, my partners birthday of all days, my contractions kicked in around 6 am. At 9:30, we were having coffee on the front porch with friends that were visiting from Quebec city. When my Doula friends arrived, my water broke. It took another hour of calming fun in the sun, to go from irregular contractions of 8-15 minutes to drop to a regular 2 minutes interval.

I called the back-up Midwife to ask what I should be doing. Since my appointed Midwife was off that day, she had warned me of having to go up to the Birth Center. But all of a sudden, at a regular 2 minutes in between contractions, there was no way I was going to get in my car and drive a 1h30 on highway 417, to get into the city. I really didn’t want to give birth on the way there either.

So she recommended I get into my birthing pool a bit, to see if things would calm down or speed up. Once in the tub, I knew there was no way I’d get out of there!!!

As the pains were getting tougher, in between 2 rushes I summoned the energy to express to my main Doula that I would accept whatever happens, but there’s no way I was heading up to Ottawa. Even if it meant delivering my baby with the local paramedics instead of a Midwife.

Half an hour later, the on-call Midwife gave us a call back to check. Since I was still pretty stable at 2 minutes, and there was no way I’d get out of there, she was on her way down from the city. An hour later, she was added to my labouring team on site, my partner said goodbye to the visiting crew, and jumped in the pool with me.

As soon as I explained to my newly met Midwife that I had a severe scoliosis, she showed my birthing partners how to do good back pelvic pushes... What a savior!!!