Friday, October 14, 2011

Emergency Preparedness

My hubby thinks I'm crazy, but I'm currently planning our Emergency Preparedness kit to store in our basement. It will include things like water, first aid kits and canned food. It's something I've been meaning to do for ages, but the task always seems to get pushed to the end of the To Do List.

And although I may be laughed at, the truth is, you just never know. Yes, we live in Ottawa, Canada, and I think we're pretty safe from things like war and famine. But global warming could soon result in severe weather patterns (as it has in the past, with the 1999 Ice Storm), and infectious outbreaks scare the living daylights out of me. So, like a good Girl Guide, I like to be prepared for a period of time when we may be stuck in our home.

This has me reflecting on a recent birth, where I was called upon to handle an emergency situation. Being a doula in Ottawa, I had taken for granted the fact that we are near many amazing hospitals. And yet, none of these hospitals will be able to serve you if you can't get to them on time (and you aren't blessed with a midwife to catch your baby at home).

I seem to have forgotten one important lesson:

Birth is unpredictable

Oh sure, birth is normal (unless proven otherwise), but it's certainly not predictable. You can't tell how a woman's labour will progress, no matter how much of an expert you think you are. And so sometimes things will go faster than you think - faster than a speeding bullet!

So I thought it may be helpful for other doulas out there (and partners/Dads too!) to outline a few of the things I learned from my experience:

1) A precipitous labour is one that is under 3 hours in length. The woman essentially has no early labour signs/symptoms and will begin active labour immediately.

2) A lot of blood and mucous, with contractions quickly becoming 1-2 minutes apart can indicate that a woman has dilated very fast (blood/mucous is normal in every labour, but may be a sign of impending birth if progress has been quick)

3) If the water breaks and the woman immediately feels the urge to push, you can be quite sure that she is close to delivery (especially with the other signs mentioned above)

4) It's always best to call 911 from your home, even if you're close to the hospital. At least at home you have access to clean/warm towels, and don't have to deal with a cramped backseat. DOULAS: don't be worried about calling a false alarm. Paramedics are trained to assess the situation, and if your instincts are wrong (which they probably aren't), at least you will know that you played it safe.

5) If you do get stuck in the car, because you assumed you had more time, always pull over to the side of the road and call 911. The operator will guide you through the delivery

And the most important thing I have learned:

6) Doulas should do everything they can to avoid catching the baby. Even if dad is driving, he should be instructed to come around to the back and catch the little one. This is something that has been drilled home to me, because if anything were to happen to the mother or baby, the doula would be out of a job (and possibly involved in a lawsuit).

As a newer doula, I realize that lessons are learned at every birth - and that I will continue to learn for many years to come. This situation was a pretty intense lesson, and I am thankful for the fact that it was a good outcome. I don't even want to think about the "IFs."

So as a lesson to all you doulas-in-training out there - read the Emergency measures in your pregnancy/childbirth texts. 'Cause you just never know!


  1. Well yes, I agree it was an unusual and pretty intense experience. Nevertheless Alan and I are very thankful to have had you with us and we appreciated your help in catching our daughter. We will always be thankful that you were there to help us - even if it was different then intended. Lots of things could have gone wrong indeed but I trusted my body and knew that everything will go well even after realising that she did not wanted to be born in a hospital ;-) So in our case we were thankful for your help and your presence and the way it went but I understand that this extreme situation is not one you want to be exposed to if it can be avoided. So learning lessons and being prepared for an emergency like this is surely a good thing.

  2. Hey Pam - sent you an email :) I was so honoured to be there and catch her. This is in response to some criticism I've received about what I did. The truth is, no one knows how they will react in a pressure situation, and I think the three of us did really well (especially you, the one doing the birthing!) This was mainly to help other doulas-in-training avoid a potential backlash situation (ie. liability issues) if they were to ever face a similar situation.
    I don't know if you will agree, but despite being in the back of a car, I thought your birth was very beautiful and magical. It will always hold a special place in my heart!

  3. Regarding your kit - I like it and think it is smart. People always say we would do great in an emergency because we have every kind of food imaginable growing within 100 metres. But I once saw this terrible, old movie called Food where there was no longer any food and people would go out to the farms in the country and raid them. Farmers were helpless and powerless and the first to have to give up the goods to the rich. Nobody should ever watch bad 70s movies.

  4. @FFM - lol! That movie sounds TERRIBLE. You can be rest assured that I would never come to raid your farm :) But maybe you would share a couple of things with me? ;)


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