The thrill of birth and the changes in birthing

We’ve been participating in and celebrating the birth of our fourth grandchild

The past few days have been full of joy, tears, exhaustion and wonder for us. We’ve been participating in and celebrating the birth of our fourth grandchild, a precious little boy.

It began with a phone call from our son in Maple Ridge at 2:30 a.m., telling us that our daughter-in-law was in labour and on the way to St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver. We had been prepared for weeks so we were on the road before 4:00 a.m., fortified with large hot coffees.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were directed to the third floor and to a spacious birthing room occupied by two nurses, June, Arron and best of all, four year old sister-to-be Callista. People were talking normally and laughing together. At first I figured we had been directed to the wrong floor. Dad-to-be was calm, unlike when his daughter was being born. I could understand everything he said! Mom-to-be was surveying her domain, anchored to her bed with color coordinated IV tubes and big sister was smiling and playing quietly with someone’s iPhone.

What a change from the days when my son was born, not even half a century ago. Dads were eyed suspiciously, and were only allowed into the delivery rooms on probation. If they fainted, they were unceremoniously moved out of the way and then forever branded a weakling, never to return.

For the Moms, prenatal classes were still an unproven experience, often due to practical concerns. The fear factor loomed over most first time moms and of course, our mothers’ horror stories didn’t help. I suspect some were exaggerated, possibly for rather primitive birth control methods, but that may be the cynical view.

Very soon after the birth, babies were removed to the nursery and then delivered every four hours during the day to the confused new mom for bottle feeding, as if newborns could be put on a military schedule. Ha! Breastfeeding was discouraged for the sake of hospital efficiency.

As for the children, I can’t recall any siblings being allowed in the hospital when my babies were being born. Yet clearly, this young family of ours was doing very well with the relaxed atmosphere created in this birthing room. We were told that it was set up for all aspects of the event except for surgery. There was a reclining chair for the fathers and if there were siblings, they could snooze comfortably with him in the same chair.

As it turned out, our daughter-in-law decided she was uncomfortable with Callista in the room when things began to heat up so she and Grandpa and I retired to the lounge to watch movies and read, expecting a long wait. To our amazement, our son came to get us within the hour. He was wearing the biggest goofiest grin! He announced that little Ansten Paul was just being cleaned up for company and we were invited to the party.

I don’t believe I will ever get over the thrill of seeing a newborn. Everyone in the birthing room glowed with pleasure. Big sister was enthralled, marveling at the tiny perfect person. Mom smiled knowingly and the grandparents couldn’t stop grinning. Dad, well what can I say about him? He was proud, exhausted, and delighted! And he didn’t faint or falter.

How much better can it get?

Welcome to the world little Ansten and God bless you and keep you safe!