Welcome, Hannah Grace!

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The contemporary era of out-of-town birthing and confidentiality rules complicate the tradition of publicizing the town’s ‘New Year’s Baby.’


But given Hannah Grace Stephenson’s Saturday, January 4, 2014 arrival, and the fact parents Emma and Tim chose a home birth, it’s reasonable to suggest the beautiful young lady is the first baby born within Tillsonburg this year, a supposition which is merely icing on the cake for her proud parents.

“It’s just nice,” said Emma Wednesday afternoon inside their Barker Street residence.

Hannah arrived at 4:57 a.m., weighing in at eight pounds, two ounces, a little sister for two-and-a-half-year-old brother Jake, who also welcomed 2014 with something of a bang as a winner in the Tillsonburg clock tower ball drop.

“We’re just cleaning up on this New Year’s thing,” Tim laughed.

Jake’s quick-paced and comparatively smooth arrival at St. Joe’s hospital in Toronto set the stage for Hannah’s midwife-assisted home birth here in town. Emma and Jake completed labour through an all-natural delivery in under 12 hours, capped by almost a ‘drive-through’ finale after arriving at the hospital already dilated 10 centimetres.

“In and out in four hours,” said Tim, recalling frustration at the proportional amount of time required to fill out forms, rather than being at his wife’s side.

“I just used the bed,” said Emma.

“We were like, why go through all the hassle?” Tim added.

Jake’s uncomplicated arrival, coupled with the fact Emma’s second pregnancy was assessed as low-risk for delivery, were major factors in their decision to proceed with a midwife-assisted home birth.

“I was a really good candidate for home-birthing,” said Emma, a 36-year-old woman in good physical condition.

Also contributing was the fact a number of their friends had successfully done so.

“They said it was a really nice experience,” said Emma. “I decided to give it a shot.”

The Stephensons moved forward with the assistance of trained midwives. The presence of one through labour and a second at delivery (one focussing on the mother, the other on the baby) are both covered under OHIP, says Emma.

A decision to birth at home includes a back-up plan in case of complications. The couple had a room booked at Victoria Hospital in London, and part of midwifery training is recognizing potential issues early and moving rapidly to Plan B if required.

“I had no doubt they would tell me well in advance if we had to go to the hospital,” said Emma. “They don’t hesitate to make that call.”

Emma’s water broke around 5:30 p.m. Friday, January 3.

“Contractions started a half-hour after that,” said Tim. “Not quite the normal way of doing things.”

Midwife Brittany Jewell arrived from London and was with Emma, interacting, coaching, encouraging and assisting for the duration, save a two-hour nap from midnight to 2 a.m. Midwife number two (Esther Baah-Frimpong) arrived for the home stretch, and together they also cleaned up post-birth. The level of personal attention and personal support is part of the attraction, says Emma, noting few mothers have that much interaction with medical staff at a hospital.

“If you’re low risk, they are fantastic,” she said. “I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Hospitals are fine too, Emma added.

“But again, I just kind of used the bed, I didn’t even talk to a nurse.”

Emma’s second delivery also closed in on 12 hours, with Hannah appearing in the wee hours Saturday morning.

“It was a long night,” said Tim, pausing with the realization his statement just might be viewed in less than a 100% positive light by every single woman who has ever given birth – and most of those who haven’t. “I’m going to shut up now,” he laughed, backtracking.

“It’ll make for some good chatter,” Emma smiled.

She did find delivery number two physically tougher than her first. Jake was five ounces larger than his sister, but the final peak portion of labour was spread across six hours, compared less than half that with Hannah.

“With her, it was like two-and-a-half hours, a lot more intense with her.”

And in the same way Emma has nothing against hospitals, she also has nothing against epidurals.

“I wanted one with her at the end. It would have been nice, it was pretty painful.”

Five days into her young life, Hannah is wearing her unofficial Tillsonburg ‘New Year’s Baby’ crown well.

“She’s doing great,” said Emma. “Eating and sleeping… kind of sleeping - sleeping during the day.”

“And making cute little noises,” added Tim.

The fact Hannah will have Tillsonburg on her birth certificate is special for her dad, who returned to his home community with his family in June. Tim, the son of (Councillor) Brian and Carole Stephenson, is an engineer with Pioneer Cabinetry while Emma (whose parents Margaret and John are from Ottawa) is on maternity leave from her position as Interactive Producer (website specialist), ‘on the TV side’ with Chorus Entertainment.

“I wanted at least one of our kids to have the same if we’re going to live here,” said Tim. “Not too many people have Tillsonburg any more, it’s kind of unique.”

In retrospect, Emma particularly enjoyed the anticipated relaxing nature of her familiar, home setting, which was also appreciated by Tim, who felt it added to an already poignant experience, shared at painless arm’s length, but intimately nonetheless by many fathers.

“I was amazed with her and in awe and just speechless at the end, watching Emma do what she did.”

But also in retrospect, home versus hospital birth will be up for discussion should a new arrival be on the horizon.

“It was good, really good, something I’ll never forget,” Emma concluded of the overall home birthing experience. “Of course, that being said, if I was to have a third, I might want to get an epidural – love the home birth, but…”

And to his credit, Tim deferred to his bride on ultimate choice of location, should another ‘long night’ be required.

“Smile and nod,” he concluded, suiting action to word.



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