Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Elsie Cressman, 1923-2012

Elsie Cressman turned our lives around.  Literally. 

When we were expecting our Apprentice, and had decided that Dr. Friendly wasn't working out for us, we turned to a group of midwives in our area.  Midwifery, at that time, wasn't regulated in Ontario.  It wasn't against the law; it just wasn't within the law.  You paid for it privately (now it's covered by provincial health insurance), and midwives didn't have hospital admitting privileges.

Elsie, a former missionary and somewhat legendary midwife, was on the verge of retirement.  But she was still working with a group of other midwives, including her niece, who was our "primary" caregiver for the Apprentice's birth.  Elsie was our backup, so she did some of the examinations and gave lots of advice. ("Eat more eggs" was a favourite.)

A few weeks before the Apprentice's due date, both of our midwives were puzzled by her orientation.  The baby definitely wasn't in a good head-down position.  She seemed to be somewhat breech, or even sideways.  They had hoped that Baby would get herself into the right position naturally (babies often do), but she still didn't seem to be getting the message.  Elsie recommended "turning" the baby (external cephalic version, ECV).  ECV can be a bit controversial, but we knew that Elsie had had a lot of experience, and so we agreed, and she went to work and gently moved the baby around.  At least she was pretty sure that the turning had "taken."  Sometimes it doesn't.

A few days later, for a couple of different reasons, I had an appointment with an obstetrician.  It's complicated to explain why, but it was mainly because our first doctor didn't deliver babies, and in case I ended up at the hospital, it was a good idea to have seen an obstetrician at least once.  Also my legs were a bit swollen and the midwives were concerned about that. Anyway, this doctor couldn't get a positive take on where the baby's head was either.  "Well," he said cheerfully, "you'll either have a perfectly normal birth or you'll end up at the hospital with an emergency C-section."

Okay.  Good to know.  (?)

The Apprentice's birth went fine, at least as fine as first births usually go, which isn't to say that it was a piece of cake, but there were none of the predicted emergencies or other complications.  We gave Elsie's "turning" a large part of the credit for that.

And shortly after that, midwifery gained legal status in Ontario, largely due to Elsie's efforts.

This post is a thanks to all the midwives who have cared for our family and brought our Squirrelings into the world--and it is specially in memory of Elsie, for her wonderful care and hard, hard work.
 


Full video documentary available here.

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