I had a terrible experience at the Toronto Pearson airport the day I landed; alone, eight months pregnant and distraught having lost my handbag containing my debit cards. The airport security staff was mostly unhelpful and unkind too, if you ask me and so I swore not to give birth in a hospital here if I could help it. I immediately concluded to have a baby at a birth centre, surrounded by midwives of colour or at home. I felt that would be a much safer option. In fact, that singular experience almost scarred me and my approach to human relationships here. I immediately disliked the country and missed, once again, living in the UK.
But God had other plans. Not only did I end up birthing at a hospital, I fell in love with the people there. My midwife, white, held my hand and reassured me that the hospital was the place for me and indeed it was. The staff was so kind, so deliberate, so intentional, so involved, all of them. My delivery team cut across races and they all encouraged me to push, despite being sick, in such a gentle, kindly manner. Like a teacher would to a new student. Lots of praise words for little effort. Deep breath in. Count. Out. Great job! Deep breath in. Count. Out. You’re amazing! You’re doing it. Deep breath in. Count. Out. Here we go! We’re almost done. Take one long deep breath. Now count. Out. Again. Fantastic, sweetheart. Let’s go again. Yes. Great job! Your baby is here!
And out of me emerged a glorious piece of heaven placed on my chest. Oh, the tears. At the realisation that I had done something this incredible without a single family member in close sight. That I had done this surrounded by people, strangers, who felt so close to my heart because of their love.
My remaining days at the hospital would become dreamy: me drifting in and out of a high fever, being carried by women who sometimes seemed to me like my mum, served and cleaned after by younger-looking women, nurses, who never forget to smile and remind me that I was brave. Visions of doctors and nurses visiting to snuggle my newborn, asking me to rest while they watch her, reminding me that everyone in the hospital loves her. Star of the day, they called her.
I’d never been admitted in my life and I have an uncanny fear for hospitals but my experience at St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto has left me most nostalgic. I’m glad to have had the opportunity of birthing my first child in such a warm, accommodating and affectionate environment. Now, I can think of Toronto as a much kinder city.