The well known rock song Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane may be an appropriate song for newborn baby Pieter Boyes to sing on his future birthdays since he was born on Highway 2.
Baby Pieter was born May 28 at 2:40 a.m. with a healthy weight of 8 pounds 1 ounce and 20 inches long. But what is perhaps more remarkable is Pieter was born on Highway 2 at a truck pullout just south of Leduc.
Parents Christina Struik and Graham Boyes had a moment’s notice once they realized labour had begun.
Struik had some abdominal pains the days leading up to the birth. “I just thought I’m in a lot of pain, I can’t sleep again.”
“The whole thing was two and a half hours from start to finish,” says Boyes.
About 1 a.m. Struik woke up because of contractions; she woke Boyes up at 2 a.m. so they could drive to Edmonton where their midwife, Tamar Quist, lives.
“I was just in pain. I said, ‘Graham, I think we need to go,’” explained Struik.
Active labour began as soon as she got out of bed. Contractions were three minutes apart. A quiet, yet organized urgency filled the house while they grabbed a few belongings but Boyes had already planned for the possibility they would need to leave in a rush.
“We left quickly,” stated Struik.
Northbound on Highway 2, contractions ramped up.
“All of a sudden her contractions went from three minutes apart to zero minutes apart,” explained Boyes.
There was no need for Struik to time the contractions, the pain was enough of an indication that the baby was ready to be born. “He (Boyes) could tell because I was yelling every time there was a contraction.”
At this point Boyes was looking for a safe place to pull over and he picked the truck pullout.
Midwife Quist knew they were on their way and over the cellphone had to give Boyes a crash course in delivering a baby. He had read some material on delivering a baby so was not entirely unprepared but “reading a PDF on the Internet does not really make one a professional.”
Pulling over was a relief to Struik whose main concern was the safety and health of her baby. “At that point I really wanted to push the baby out.”
Everything was thrown out of the van to accommodate Struik and she held on to the back of the seats while giving birth. Boyes believes the baby was born in 10 minutes once they pulled over. “It was extremely fast.”
He was instructed to rub the baby’s back and tickle his feet to help get him breathing and there was nothing else to do but continue on to Edmonton.
Once they arrived in Edmonton Quist jumped in the van to ensure Pieter’s vitals were healthy and then clamped the umbilical cord.
The best part for Struik was the drive to the hotel room they had booked for the birth.
“It was totally dark, you just have this little baby cooing sound. And it was a clear night so you could see the moon and the stars. It was very peaceful,” explained Struik.
Stress of giving birth on the highway was lessened by the knowledge baby Pieter was healthy.
An ultrasound a few weeks earlier showed the baby was growing healthy and there were no issues but the experience still gave Boyes a rush of energy. “There was a lot of adrenaline in this. I’ve been bungee jumping, this was more of an adrenaline rush.”
Despite the screaming no truck drivers woke up.
The family opted to use a midwife but had a challenge finding one who was close and who did not already have a full schedule.
Boyes feels practicing as a midwife in British Columbia or Ontario is easier than in Alberta because of the courses of care offered. Provincial healthcare coverage is more readily available for midwives in those provinces. “What we’re seeing is a lot of really skilled, really qualified midwives are moving to other provinces because it’s easier for them to find work there.”
Applications were sent to eight midwife practices, three were full, four did not reply and Quist was the only one who contacted the family.
“I was really close to resorting to bribery,” joked Boyes.
He hopes issues can be improved because he sees some benefit to taxpayers as well. Having a birth at home costs nothing to the taxpayer and he believes midwives are able to direct all their focus on the mother and baby.
“It’s safer than the do-it-yourself route, which is what we did but were not planning to do,” added Boyes.
Pieter would have been a breach baby but Quist gave them certain exercises to get the baby to be in an optimal birth position. “We might not have known that.”
The other benefit of a midwife is the amount of time they spend with patients. Parents spent more time with Quist than they ever have with doctors for their first baby.
“We were very well taken care of,” added Boyes.