Okay Janet

“Okay Janet, let’s start breathing like you learned in Lamaze class.” Said the lovely red-headed nurse at the Faro Nursing Station attending to me.

“Uh yeah, about that. I kinda never went to the classes. Can you give me the Cole’s notes version?”

A little shocked she agreed and patiently explained how to breathe making hee hee, who, who noises (it works, trust me). She asked why I didn’t take the classes –  I really didn’t want to watch the videos. And besides, women have been having babies for longer than I could imagine without Lamaze classes so I figured I could wing it.

So there I was in the Faro nursing station, middle of nowhere, 4 hours from a hospital having my first baby. All definitely frowned upon by the nurses. Go to Whitehorse they all would say, stay in a hotel for a month and wait. It sounded like a prison sentence, and uncomfortable.

My doctor and I had it all worked out, all looked good and I would stay. If anyone asked, I was leaving that week. We were very fortunate as in that remote northern town we had a doctor and several nurses (all incredible). The doctor was there thanks to the lead zinc mine who paid well to have a permanent, full-time doctor in the community, a perk of having a producing mine and a perk that ensured most of the population consisted of families. And the nurses were all there with spouses who either worked at the mine or with the RCMP. The mine was the drawing card, and the mine did all it could to draw families as their work force.

I get annoyed when I hear stories about a lack of health services in remote communities. It doesn’t have to be that way unless you depend on government for everything, which is not efficient or sustainable. My solution? Permit that mine. Mines (and private industry) improve community services, it’s how we built communities and infrastructure historically and it’s how we should do it again. Name any town; it probably started as an industry town.

Back to baby land… all was going according to my brilliant plan to avoid having to endure going to the hospital. Then the head nurse saw me about 3 days before my daughter was born, caught me leaving the grocery store and the lecture began. She told me I must leave right away, get in the car and drive; a new moon was coming in 3 days, and I was going to have that baby on the new moon, guaranteed.  

Baby girl #1 (thereafter known as Jane) at the Faro indoor swimming pool. Another mine perk.

So, 3 days later I am in the nursing station as they are calling the doctor on a satellite phone – he is kayaking some river and needs to return. I have to admit at that point in time I started to second guess my brilliant decision not to have my baby in, or even near, a hospital. But God takes care of idiots, and nurses are incredible. They all took care of me and baby girl #1 that night. Mom and daughter were both fine and by 1 AM all left me alone to get some sleep and bask in the glory of being a mom, having people take care of us for the next few days like they do in hospitals, right?

About 3 AM I woke up to some noise outside my door. The nursing station was small with a couple of exam rooms, a couple of beds and an emergency operating room (which doubled as a delivery room). I wandered out of bed and opened my door to find a full-blown mine emergency situation in front of me. The nurse was behind the reception desk as the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) and doctor (busy guy) were administering CPR, I could see the nurse was torn about what to do, so I walked over and said “Want me to take the baby?”

She rolled that little baby trolley over to me as fast as she could and flew over the counter and into the exam room. I took the baby trolley, complete with baby girl #1 to my room for the rest of the night.

In the morning all was quiet again and whatever the situation in the exam room, all was fine. I was told I was to go home, no need to stay and I offered to walk home (I could see my house). They laughed and told me to sit down and wait for my ride.

Nurses, paramedics, fire fighters and doctors in these small rural communities are incredible, multi-talented people who help deliver life and save lives over and over. There should be an incentive (like paying back student loans) for those hard-working souls who spend time in rural communities to hone these incredible skills and help make rural communities great places to live, work and raise families.

My son was born in that nursing station two years later (another story another day) on the day the mine shut down. Both kids turned out pretty darn good and I have encouraged them to seriously consider having babies in hospitals…for now.


About the Author

Janet Sheriff

An innovative entrepreneur, Janet brings her extensive experience in all aspects of strategic planning, management, indigenous affairs and communications to start ups, new ventures and the mining & exploration sectors. Janet focuses her entrepreneurial spirit, leadership skills and vision to create new opportunities, award-winning innovative programs and new ways of conducting business. Her strong commitment to community engagement, sustainability and inclusion provides her the proven ability to work effectively and respectfully in cross-cultural environments.