Frédérique Gagnon had every expectation of giving a normal birth to her first child.
Her son, who was named after the Norse trickster god, Loki, had other ideas.
The mischievous infant decided to make his way into the world when his mother was in his grandparents’ driveway.
After being woken up by a burst of pain on Monday (Aug 3) morning, a pregnant Gagnon realized her contractions had started, and called the hospital to see what she should do.
“They told me I could come to get medication if I wanted to, and they would check me to make sure I was actually in labour, and not false labour,” she said.
Her partner, Nicholas Van Den Beld, drove her to Royal Columbian Hospital, where she was checked and given morphine and Gravol.
“My contractions were two minutes apart, but they didn’t think that was enough, so they sent me back home,” Gagnon said, noting she was told it would probably take another four-to-five hours for her baby to be born.
Not wanting to drive all the way back to Pitt Meadows, the couple opted to go to Van Den Beld’s parents’ house in Port Coquitlam, so they’d be closer to the hospital.
Gagnon said she took a bath and her partner drove home to pick up their pet.
“Maybe 20 minutes after he left, I felt like the pain was way too much and then I felt as if something was coming out, so I started freaking out,” Gagnon said.
Her mother-in-law, and Van Den Beld’s sisters – who Gagnon said have each had at least three babies – thought she might be over-reacting but after a quick look, they realized the baby was ready to be born.
They called 911, and a dispatcher was able to give them some advice until paramedics showed up.
“At that point I was having a contraction every minute that would go for 30 seconds,” Gagnon said, “But the paramedic thought we could make it to the hospital.”
The paramedic broke Gagnon’s water – as she was in a lot of pain – and then helped her get down three flights of stairs on the way to the ambulance.
“As we got in the driveway, there was this stretcher laid out and as soon as I sat on it, I knew the baby was coming,” Gagnon said.
“I just pushed once, and his head came out – but the cord was around his neck, so that was bit stressful – but the paramedic said we’re good, and fixed it, and then I pushed a second time, and he just came out.”
Gagnon said she didn’t pay much notice to the audience surrounding her wild moment, but found out later, there were over a dozen neighbours gathered around.
During the ordeal, Gagnon said the onlookers were amazed at how relaxed she was.
“I was kind of calm because of the morphine,” she said, “I think without it I would have been freaking out a lot more.”
She also noted, having people with a soothing energy around her helped.
“My partner seemed really calm but he said he didn’t know if he wanted to throw up, or cry, or freak out, but he seemed really calm, so that’s what mattered.
A knowledgeable paramedic was crucial too.
“It was this paramedic’s 11th time delivering a baby,” she said, “He was super good, and calm, and that made things way better.”
Sarah Morris, a media relations officer for B.C. Emergency Health Services, said pre-hospital births -unplanned/early, ambulance and side-of-the-road deliveries - are quite common in B.C.
“B.C. Emergency Health Services responds to an average of 1,450 pregnancy and childbirth-related calls each year,” she noted.
“Our call takers, dispatchers and paramedics are medical professionals, trained to provide childbirth directions and assistance, whether by phone or once paramedics arrive on scene.
“Through the feedback BCEHS receives from individuals/families and through our Thank a Paramedic/Dispatcher program we often hear how grateful new parents are for the calm nature and professionalism our staff display during what is often a emotional, stressful life moment.
“Their reassuring words of encouragement and clear, concise direction are often cited as key to assisting in the patient(s) remaining calm and having a safe delivery.”
Morris said staff are awarded special “stork pins” after delivering a baby.
“These pins are coveted, revered and a true point of pride amongst our staff.”
For young Loki, the story of his birth will not soon be forgotten.
“He’ll definitely hear about it a lot,” Gagnon said.