The “Where-To-Birth” Drama

For my last birth, I toured the birthing facilities at the painstakingly-chosen hospital before my bump had even taken shape. This time, it took until I was 36 weeks along for the decisions to be finally made regarding the birth—the where, the how, the who, etc.

Why so late? Let me chronicle this drama:

You see, we were hoping to co-purchase property with Guo Jian’s parents this summer in Toronto. It is for the future plan to move back to Canada, but in the interim will serve as a place for us to be when we return, along with an income suite that will help us cover the mortgage.

Because of these well-laid intentions, I engaged a Toronto midwife in the region in which we were seeking homes. A change in the financing rules for non-citizens, however, put a snag (read: delay) in our plans.

“Never fear,” the midwife told me, “There will be a birthing centre opening up in Toronto—the first in Ontario—right in the middle of our practicing region. You can birth there!”  Perfect.  I thought our problems were solved.

“But where will we be before you go into labour?” Guo Jian, asked warily. He’s the nervous type. He doesn’t want to be behind the wheel for two hours (the distance my parents live away from the city) while his wife is writhing in the front seat and a confused toddler is in her car seat worried about mommy.

“Where else would we be except at my parent’s house?” I answered, annoyed. He wanted other options. I thought he needed to “suck it up, buttercup” and just drive. After all, he doesn’t have to do the actual birthing. What’s a little driving?

Nevertheless, we threw around the idea of finding a place in downtown Toronto to house-sit during the holidays, or even renting a hotel room. Since my due date is Christmas Day, I really didn’t want to bother anyone with accommodating us, but I also didn’t want the unnecessary expense of a hotel room when due dates are impossible to guarantee. Also, birthing is so intimate that I don’t want to be in someone else’s space when I go into labour. Being up at my family’s house will give me the intimate and private setting that I crave—the complete opposite to what I had during the first pregnancy with my in-laws hovering on the home front followed by a medical team curious about the foreign woman and constantly entering our hospital room.

I stuck to my plan. Since I know my last labour lasted 43 hours, I assured Guo Jian that we could leave cottage country at the earliest signs of contractions and that two hours would make little difference to the process. There is very little risk of me birthing in the car, I stressed, and I know I can protect Echo from being traumatized by the situation. “But what about me?” he asked. His face told me that he was already imagining his own personal trauma.

Then, when I came back to Canada and had my early November reunion with my midwife, I was told that the birthing centre had not yet opened. Construction delays.


The options were as follows:

A) A hospital birth at Toronto East General (either after driving the two hours or pre-stationing ourselves slightly nearer to (or directly in) Toronto a few days before our due date)
B) A birth at someone else’s home in Toronto
C) An attempt to transfer my care to another midwife clinic up north and have a home birth at my parent’s place

I really didn’t want another hospital birth. I know it was two years ago now, but with the constant monitoring and the five-day stay in the hospital following Echo’s birth in Beijing, I cringed at the idea of entering another clinical environment. I am craving an experience that involves just my midwives, my partner, and me. No facemasks. No people around whose names I don’t know. No beds or tables with wheels. No antiseptic smell.

Several people have offered us their homes to come to, both for Christmas and/or for the birth, but I knew it wouldn’t work. Not only for my own comfort’s sake, but also for the sake of privacy. I have amazing friends and family, absolutely—such generosity—but I would simply be too shy to birth a child in their homes, especially on Christmas Day.

Throughout this mental debate, Guo Jian continued to complain bitterly about the idea of driving to the city when I go into labour. He just couldn’t accept his role as the driver, much to my hair-pulling-out exhaustion. We fought about it.

“You will have only one job in this and that’s to help me get to the hospital and then be by my side throughout the birth. You don’t have to push a child out of your loins! Get over it!”

I yelled these words in Mandarin at him over Skype mid-November. It was a proud moment for a very pregnant woman at the end of her rope. (Sarcasm) At that moment, I was two weeks into my Canada stay where I’m very pregnant and single parenting while he is still in Beijing, sleeping in and enjoying a lot of quiet time for study and songwriting in the apartment. I am jealous and impatient.

My cousin who lives in Newmarket, just slightly north of the city, offered to host us for Christmas dinner and encouraged us to come there since it is a shorter distance to the hospital from her place. She was even willing to drive us into Toronto and then take care of Echo during the birth. After her offer, I re-considered the hospital option for several days. My Toronto midwife told me the facilities were very nice with Jacuzzi tubs, etc. Maybe it wouldn’t be the sterile experience of a Chinese hospital? I certainly wouldn’t be a novelty there. Maybe I could handle it?

Then I started thinking about the drive back up north after the baby is born—he will only be a day or two old—and winter driving with a brand new baby doesn’t appeal to me. Not to mention sitting for a long period in a car after having gone through childbirth. I could think of nothing more uncomfortable. (Eek—it makes my tailbone ache just thinking about it.)

What’s more, along came the recurring issue about going into labour in an environment that isn’t a place I associate with “home,” not to mention the fact that my cousin has also invited some of her partner’s family members—people I’ve never met. Do I want to have my first labour pains in front of strangers? I think you all know the answer to that.

So, we were then down to option number three:

The Toronto midwife contacted a northern midwifery centre to see if they’d take on my case. I waited patiently. It’s Christmas time, so I didn’t expect a miracle, but I found myself filling up with hope that I might be able to accomplish a home birth after all—at my parent’s place, which is my “home” in Canada.

Now, an interesting component of this story is that my parent’s are snowbirds. They’ve already gone to Florida for the winter and so we will be perfectly alone up in cottage country, where they live. You can’t get more ideal than that. Besides, I didn’t relish the idea of my father’s worry and my mother’s hovering so I was glad they didn’t delay their yearly migration for the arrival of their fourth grandchild. Otherwise, I would just be swapping one set of parent figures for another, just on the other side of the planet!

Turns out that the Lindsay, Ontario midwifery clinic was willing, even this late in the pregnancy. Hurray! They will also service my parent’s address and we won’t have to drive anywhere—in labour OR after the birth!

I danced in the kitchen when I heard the news.

So, as I enjoy the beauty of this northern environment with the river behind my parent’s house, the light dusting of sparkling white snow, the brilliant afternoon sunshine glinting off the water and the ice, I am smiling… wide. I will get to have a home birth in the middle of a winter wonderland. I can’t wait.

While we won’t have a family Christmas on December 25th, at least not in the traditional sense, that day holds the possibility of expanded family. So I guess that means it will be a family Christmas after all!

I’ve got some holiday decorating to do!

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