Cassie McDaniel and Mark Staplehurst are former co-worker of mine from ecentricarts. Two talented and creative minds that together are an amazing force in this world.
I’m sitting in Mark and Cassie’s living room and they are in the bedroom. Cassie is having contractions. I would imagine that she is lying on her side wincing in pain and using her contraction iPhone app, and Mark is there beside her rubbing her back. I’ll bet Jimmy the Cat is in there too. Cassie said that for the last few hours before we got there, Jimmy gave her extra attention. Plenty of comfort, licks, and purrs. Jimmy, who is regularly skiddish when strangers like me are around, even mistakenly came to the door of the living room meowing, carrying a stuffed mouse. When she realized that I wasn’t Mark or Cassie, she stared at me, as if to say oh, you’re not who I am looking for, dropped her stuffed mouse right there, and walked away to have a drink of water.
As the contractions continue, Jimmy will do what only cats can do when they sense that something is wrong. She picks up her stuffed mouse, and goes to where Mark and Cassie are to give love and purrs. Even from the living room, I can hear Cassie’s breath get louder each time that she has a contraction.
The sky is overcast and I am losing light. I have just turned on a lamp.What are you doing in this apartment while your friends are having a baby? You ask. It was a brilliant accident.
I have this old bassinet that my sister owned, which was sitting in my Mom’s basement. Since it is still in pretty good condition, I thought I’d give it to Cassie and Mark. It has been sitting in the trunk of my car for the last 4 days. I contacted Mark a couple of times, but he has been busy, so, when I saw Cassie online today on googlechat, I thought that I would IM her to say hello and to let her know that I was thinking about driving the bassinet over to their house. Our IM conversation went like this:
Cassie: Did Mark tell you that I might be going into labour right now??
Amber: No…what???? crazy! Where are you? Work?
Cassie: No. I went in for a bit today, but just to pick up my laptop. I’m home.
Amber: Phew. Well if you’re going to be in labour then it’s better to be at home
But wait, was it phew after all? Where was Mark?
Actually, Mark was having a big day at work, having worked hard to release a beautiful video reel of the company. Long story short, I offered to be Cassie and Mark’s ride. At first, they declined with a thank you, but then, after Mark was stuck at Queen and Spadina on a streetcar going nowhere, they agreed that maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
When Mark gets into the car he is bit sweaty from running down the street. He’s got his heavy winter coat on, so I turn on the air conditioner to cool him off. As we drive through the intersection of King and Tecumseh, I notice that he has a paper on his lap that he’s looking down at, and when I glance at the title, it reads “Birth Plan” in handwritten styled letters.
A birthing Plan? I ask?
Well, it might not even happen today. Still, I have to treat it like it’s going to happen. he says.
Do you actually think it’s going to happen today? I ask.
Well, probably not. She not actually due on Oct 4th, and contractions could last for days.
Still, I have a feeling that this is it tonight. I myself was born two weeks early, and When we pull up to their house on Fern Ave, there is no place to park so I pull into the alleyway beside their building. Mark runs out of the car. They leave the door open for me so that I can let myself in. When I come up the stairs Cassie is in the kitchen standing by the stove.
Hey!!! Cassie hugs me. Do you want some salad? Cassie.
Um, aren’t you kind of, in labour? I ask.
Yes, but it gives me comfort to do this. she says chopping vegetables. It’s just like Cassie and Mark to be awesome hosts even when they’re in labour. Crazy shit. After a few more contractions, Cassie finally comes over to the living room to lay down on the sofa, and Mark takes over the salad.
You know what I don’t want to do? Cassie says, lying on her side. I don’t want to shit in front of the midwives and everybody. I know they are probably used to it, but I really don’t want to…
I think that comes with the territory. I answer, trying to comfort her. Like a massage therapist giving massage to guys that have hard-ons… It just happens.
I think it’s a bit different than that, Cassie says. It’s more like, if someone has a huge oozy pus-filled boil with the massage therapist and it bursts.
Oh, it’s 7:22pm – Mark just told me that it was about time to go to the hospital, so I’m going to continue this post from there.
At the Hospital
Here’s the timeline of events
8:00pm – Arrival to the hospital
8:04pm – Meeting the midwives. Susan, the primary midwife, and Heather, a midwife in training.
8:18pm – In the triage room. Poor Cassie is throwing up. Shortly afterwards, we make our way to Birthing Room 14.
8:43pm – One of the midwives have tried to start an IV so that they can give Cassie some Penicillin for GBS. Owwwww Cassie yelps as the IV goes into the left hand. She is then told that she has “really valvy veins that kink in strange angles” so they will have to do the IV one more time on the other arm.
8:58pm – Cassie sits on a Gymnastik Ball to try to give her some comfort. She is seated on a towl, facing the bed, so that she can use it for support.
9:01pm – The IV is reattempted, this time on the right hand. It is successful this time.
9:15pm -Heather, the junior midwife is leaving. She says that she will be back for the birth and tells Cassie that she is doing great.
9:19pm – Poor Cassie is throwing up again into a white bag that reads “Personal Belongings”
9:23 – 9:27 – Cassie is intermittently walking around to speed up the. With each contraction she buckles and leans into the wall and Mark runs over to support her. Mark has taken his shoes off. He has red socks on.
10:14pm – Cassie and Mark go on to the birthing room. I take the opportunity to grab my laptop so that I can continue this entry.
It is 10:26pm. I am in birthing room number 14, and Cassie and Mark are in another room where Cassie is soaking in a tub to help her contractions along. I can’t help but to remember that St. Joseph’s Health Centre is where my father passed away more than twenty years ago. I am taken back to being a girl again, sitting in a vinyl chair much like the one that I am sitting in. A small rush of grief washes over my chest. My thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Susan, the midwife, and I let the sadness dissipate and remember that this is a much happier occasion. I am happy that I can associate this hospital with a new joyous occasion.
Susan Lorenz, Cassie’s midwife, has white rubber gloves on and she is getting her tools all ready for delivery. I ask her about her job. Assigned 8-10 patients each, Susan actually has another patient having labour-like stuff going on. The other patient is someone who wants a home birth, so Susan is keeping her fingers crossed that this other woman doesn’t need her yet.
10:30pm now. It’s my intent to stay at he hospital until Baby Amelia is born – well, that, or I will stay until 1:30am. Truth be told, I’m only a good friend until I need sleep. Mark and Cassie say that I don’t need to stay, and I know that I am off the hook if I want to go home. Wouldn’t it be nice though, if Amelia came before 12:01am? At 12:01 I have to move my car from Sunnyside Ave into the paid hospital parking lot. It costs $17.50 for 3.5 hours which is crazy!!! Expensive parking makes me rethink my internal 1:30am commitment, but then again, for the miracle of childbirth, perhaps I will likely stay later than that. I’m going to see how I feel.
Here’s what has happened in the last few hours… a heck of a lot of contractions, getting faster and more painful all of the time. Every once in awhile the midwife uses a rounded disk to check the baby’s heartbeat. At times when she has done this I’ve looked the the monitor that prints up the heart beat. It has gone up to 140, and at other times it’s at around 128. The heartbeat is fast. It sounds like what I imagine a rabbit’s heartbeat might sound like.
Cassie is a tough girl. To hear her whimper and to see her wince is a bit difficult, and each time, I try to send her strength. Mark is right beside her at every turn to rub her back and to give her reassurance. I have been intermittently taking photos with Mark’s Canon 5D Mark II. I am sure it’s annoying, but I think they will really want to have some documentation of this experience for themselves.
10:54pm – Cassie and Mark come back from the bathing room and go into the bathroom. This time Cassie contraction is way louder than a whimper. It is a deep hurting sound, like a wounded animal. Primal I think. I get out of the vinyl chair and decide that I want to go to the hallway to give them a bit of space.
I come back just to peek in. Susan the midwife is checking the baby’s heartrate with the round listener on Cassie’s baby bump. Cassie looks at me and say You can go if you want to. Says Cassie, sweaty and worn. I look to Mark and he winks at me and puts on a brave smile.
I give Cassie a little hug. I don’t want to go yet. I say. And I don’t.
10:56pm – I am in the hallway with its fluorescent lights, finishing this post.
10:58pm – Mark texts me these messages “Think things might be starting to get hairy” and “They want to push has just arrived“.
It’s interesting that my original Friday night plans were to try to go to a Comedy Festival, but I found that the tickets were too pricey. Then, I was supposed to hang out with Katie, but as it turns out, Katie was going to an art show as plus one. Scrambling for other plans, I asked my sister to go to a movie. She agreed, but then I cancelled with her because again, I probably shouldn’t be spending money. A few things were supposed to come together and fell apart. With a city as busy as Toronto, I was feeling rather lonely on a Friday night. The city gets so busy out there and there are so many options that can make one feel like they aren’t a part of any of it… In retrospect, I see that it’s completely meant to be that I am here. As anyone, I am a good hospital friend. Hospitals don’t freak me out unless I am the patient. I am glad that Cass and Mark are good with me staying. You’re in the Comfort Poop Squad – Cassie told me. The Comfort Poop Squad are the people in her life that she is okay with seeing her poop. I am strangely honoured, and reflect internally on how many of those people that I have in my own life.
While seated in the hallway, there is a man walking while holding a small manual breast pump. Is this the postnatal area? he asks. I shrugged and tell him that I didn’t know. I can hear nurses at the nurses station speak to one another. Someone says something funny and they erupt in laughter. There is a nurse name Evan that has walked by in his scrubs. I know his name is Evan because he is a handsome, and I can’t help notice that one of the other nurses called him to come into one of the triage rooms to check on a patient.
Another father-type of guy is walking down the hallway looking a bit lost as well. It looks like he is looking for a garbage can for an empty mini juice container. He comes back empty handed, and later, I see the same juice container sitting on the garbage container, balanced on top of it in between recycling and garbage holes. I think the same thing as he probably did. Can you recycle that container?
11:15pm – The second midwife, Heather, as returned. I see her walking towards birthing room 14 very quickly.
Once when I was in Taiwan, my Uncle Peter told me that he was the one that drove my mother to the hospital when I was born. My mom was living at her in-law’s house at the time and my father was in Taiwan trying to make a living. Uncle Peter announced this to me this with great pride in his voice. I answered. “I thought that it was Aunt Grace that took my mom to the hospital, I think you took my mom to the hospital for my older sister.”
Now that I am here and a part of this, I understand that it was unthinking to correct him. Callous even. I regret that one. Being someone that drives someone else to the hospital for a birth is a good thing. Here I am waiting for baby Amelia, and I will never forget it.
I want Amelia to be born at 12:01 on Sept 21st. I have an awesome friend who was born on that day, and I remember her birthday because of the Earth, Wind, and Fire song that goes “Do you remember, the twenty-first night of September…” and where the chorus goes “Baaa dee aahhh, Say do you remember! Baaa de ahhh, Dancing in September…” That would be awesome.
11:26pm – I hear a baby crying. Is this baby Amelia? I am going to investigate….
11:28PM – That was some other baby that I heard. At room 14, the door is open but the curtain is pulled across so that I can’t see. I can hear Cassie breathe hard and forcefully, and the midwife’s voice saying “That’s it. You’re doing good.”
I am looking forward to meeting Amelia, because I’m not a bad auntie to have. Last year I was weighing the pros and cons of having my own kid. At a regular checkup, my doctor told me when you’re ready I can give you a referral to the sperm bank, which contributed to my mini freakoutandquitandmovetoHawaii thing. In the end though, I decided, nope, not in the cards for me and I’m cool with that. It did take some soul searching though, because I love kids, and kids love me. Having your own is a whole different thing. To have something in this world that needs me that much. I don’t know if that’s for me. Everyone wants someone to need them, but talk about ultimate Poop Squad. No. I think the world needs great Aunties. Good examples of people who aren’t their parents.
11:43pm – another baby crying. Going to investigate again. SHE IS HERE! BORN AT 11:39PM, MISS AMELIA MAE ENID STAPLEHURST. 8lbs 5 oz. I come up close and she is red and tiny. She has a little white beany on her head. Cassie’s trying to nurse her. Congrats Mark I say. She has lips like Mark, a curve on her ears like Cassie, and her toes are Staplehurst long.
1:35am – The baby, being 20 grams heavier than she should be is being tested just in case she has a hypoglycemic incident. The midwives prick her little heel and test her blood sugar.
1:55am – Amelia gets the ALL CLEAR to go home! Susan will go check on Cassie and Amelia the next day to make sure that she is feeding properly.
2:05am – Cassie gets wheeled out of the hospital by Susan and Heather. That was such an awesome birth! If only they could all be like that! There are hugs all around. We came as 3 people in a car, and leave as 4 people.
2:20am – I drop Cassie, Mark, and the baby at home. It must be so weird to leave home and to walk back in the house with a baby.
2:40am – As I make my way home, the bars along Queen street have closed and there are clubbers everywhere waiting for a taxi.
2:40am — I lasted an extra hour, good friend and Aunty that I am, I want to finish writing this all down. Now at 3:16 am. I am going to bed.