Ariane Audet

Camille, Montréal QC (Canada)

Ariane Audet
Camille, Montréal QC (Canada)

We were really lucky because it was easy to get pregnant. We decided on a homebirth after educating ourselves a lot. I have generalized anxiety disorder and I wanted to be where I could be the most comfortable to give birth. I labored for 24 hours at home. I was really focused while dealing with the contractions, but when it was time to push, the baby kept rotating on its side. We tried everything – it was pretty acrobatic! – but nothing worked. I had been pushing for seven hours when we decided to go to the hospital. People worry a lot about the transfer between a homebirth and the hospital, but it went fine. The OB was wonderful. She checked me out and she told me that there was about 5% chance we get this baby out vaginally. She gave me options, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen. So, they rolled me into the OR for a C-section and did a spinal tap. They also gave me a painkiller. Everything arrived quickly: I heard someone say "Baby’s coming out!" The cord was clamped and Blair was on me and latched in seconds. You can also feel them ‘wash’ you from the inside. It’s a strange feeling. I love medical stuff and everything about birth, and although this isn’t what I’d planned for, I wasn’t sad or upset, I was just like: "Cool! Science! Let’s appreciate the thing." Blair went with my partner to another room to do to skin to skin. They rolled me into recovery and I was shaking because of the opioids. I didn’t want any other drugs so they just put warm blankets on me and I fell asleep. I woke up almost three hours later and I was like, "Oh my god, I’ve got to see my baby!" That’s one of the few regrets I have: they could have shown me five white babies and I couldn’t have said which one was mine. When I got into my room, five hours after the birth, my partner was like "You’re here!" It was a big relief that the hospital didn’t give formula unless there was an emergency. Blair latched super well. Again, despite all the unplanned events, I felt really lucky because it could have been traumatic but it didn’t. Overall, it’s stressful and a major surgery, but I had this new baby to take care of. So that’s what I did.

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The hospital was old and I was put in a room with three other people. One had family abroad and were speaking on Facetime the whole time. I get it, you just had a baby and you’re celebrating, but you’re separated by bedsheets! At the same time, I had an infant in my arms, nursing, my partner was passed out on a couch so I thought, "Let’s just deal with it." We were doing well so we only stayed two nights. When we got home our dogs were so happy to see us! The thing is, we had to move in my partner’s parents’ basement for a week right away because there had been flooding in our kitchen a couple of weeks before, and they could only do the renovations at that moment. Again, not at all what was planned, but we felt privileged to have people supporting us. We came back home a week before Christmas and I was excited. And then on December 22nd, Blair got sick. At first, I thought it was just a cold, but it ended up being RSV. three visits in 24 hours to two different hospitals to be taken seriously. Blair is a funny baby: smiling all the time, so every time we showed up at the ER, they treated us like over-worried parents and sent us back home. Blair was finally admitted on the 25th, but to normal care because the NICU was full. Then Blair got really bad and it was the worst night of my life. The kind of night where doctors are like, "We’ve done everything we could, it’s a virus so it has to run its course." I’m still recovering from my C-section incision and I’m like, "What the fuck is going on? Why is this happening?" I kept telling myself that people have it way worst. But I was just hoping my baby was not going to die. They had to do constant suctioning and, as last resort, gave Blair Ventolin, which can help or do nothing. I even overheard the respiratory therapist talk about trach surgery. My dad died of cancer and he had a trach, and all I could think of is, "If we’re going through that route, postpartum depression is going to drop on my head." I’m an atheist, but spiritual in a sense, and I said to my dad: "If this angel shit is real, if you’re out there somewhere, do something." Half an hour after, Blair was fine.

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Maybe it was coincidence, but it felt like a miracle. We left on December 29th. Afterwards, I joked that this year, Christmas had gotten cancelled by my baby Grinch! Going back home felt really weird. We had been through so much and were still on a high. We monitored Blair. After three days, my partner also got sick… with labyrinthitis. Just going to the bathroom was perilous. I had two sick children! And when he got better, his parental leave ended. Our first three months as a family were very intense. I’m surprised I didn’t snap from anxiety. I know about postpartum anxiety and I went through burnout before, but I’d say that I’m more anxious today as I was during that period, probably because I was on survival mode. My dad passed when I was 19 during this time of the year and when you become a parent, every milestone is hard. But I try to stay on top of my mental health. I had a really big panic attack not so long ago so I decided to go see my doctor. He wasn’t great, but I came prepared – thankfully. I told him that I had a baby to take care of and asked for Ativan because I knew they worked for me. I’m really lucky to know what I need because he didn’t know how to deal with a young parent. I hope I won’t need all the pills, but I have them. I think I’m more fragile now than I used to be, but I’m trying to take it easy. I had my first panic attack at seven, so I know how to handle my stress and I know I’m not dying. I don’t have insurance so I cannot afford a private therapist, but I don’t feel out of control. I have support. I have friends who went through this too and my partner is really supportive. It’s not perfect, but it works.

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We’re fortunate because – knock on wood! – except for the sickness, it’s been really easy: Blair sleeps well and eats well, maybe compensating for the first few months! Overall, becoming a parent, especially as a non-binary person, has been a challenge. It’s never really been an issue before because I could just fly under the radar, but I came out as non-binary when I got pregnant. For most people, you are a woman if you can get pregnant, but that’s not the only option and that’s not what I identify as: I was a pregnant person. I think I pass as a cis person; I don’t get harassed, I don’t get bullied, and I’m not depressed because of my gender expression and identity. It’s still the same after giving birth. I was afraid breastfeeding would be a trigger because I don’t like my boobs, but at least it gives them a purpose. I don’t use a neutral pronoun for myself, and we do use the gendered pronouns associated with Blair’s sexual organs, but mostly out of practicality in French. I guess when Blair’s older and understands more, the questions will happen. Otherwise, we try to be as neutral as we can with our child. Science now tells us that babies don’t have a gender identity. In a world where there would be no pressure, kids would start to express their gender identity at around 3 or 5. Based on that evidence, gender-neutral parenting became really important to us, and it’s not as difficult as one might think: it took us a week to shift our language to focus on using Blair’s name and avoid pronouns or gendered terms. We don’t say "baby boy" and "baby girl." We're mindful. And as soon as Blair gives us cues, whether it’s about gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation, we’re going to follow them. Despite the outside world, we’re hoping that because we’ve set those bases, Blair will know that, whatever the outcome is, we’ll be there.