II was receiving cheques from the government. They had started to come again after my work at the emergency clinic, but they were about to run out. I had been applying to jobs and despite Bob’s insistence that I work; he was actively interfering with this process.
One company called to set up an interview. The job would have been in sales. Bob told the person that called that I was pregnant but that it would work out really well because I could take the baby with me to the sales calls. He explained to me afterwards that he had told the guy this. I was never interviewed for this position.
One job that I did get interviewed for was with the federal government. Not an ideal job but government jobs have a lot of benefits and security. On Thanksgiving weekend that year I got a call saying that I could start on the Tuesday. There were twelve weeks of training set up and if I could start right away, I could attend the training. If I could not start away I would not be able to start until they ran the training course again and that might be a year or so.
It was 12 weeks until the baby was due, so if all went well, I could work the twelve weeks and then the baby would be born. A woman that I had met through the playgroup said that she would take my youngest daughter for the twelve weeks. I explained that I would only need day care until the baby came. My daughter and her son were the same age and had gotten to know each other pretty well.
So, I took the job. When animals are being used for food, they are brought to slaughter plants. These places are more or less disassembly plants. The animal comes in one door and it is processed until all of the edible parts have been removed and all of the inedible parts have been disposed of.
Unfortunately, one of the known drawbacks to working in slaughter is that you become exposed to all of the bacteria that naturally occur on the animals. All of the caution about cooking your food before you eat it does not apply when you are not actually eating the animals. There is no way to protect yourself from exposure to these bacteria. They are in the air. You can inhale them on a water droplet.
All this to say that near the end of my pregnancy, I got a type of food poisoning from my initial exposure to these bacteria. When the smooth muscles of your digestive tract contract to aid in the removal of these pathogens from your body, it stimulates the contractions of your uterus. Some of the things that pregnant women are told to help bring on birth are based on this understanding. Eating spicy foods, for instance, can cause your digestive tract to become upset and have extra movement. This movement stimulates the uterus as well.
I can’t describe how awful it was not knowing which end to put closest to the toilet and having a contraction, each time my body tried to expel the toxins. I managed to call Bob at work and told him about the situation. He assured me that there was nothing that he could do about it and he was quite upset that I would not be able to pick my daughter up from day care. I guess I was not doing my part. There was no question that I was completely alone in the world.
As a veterinarian, we are in the slaughter plants representing the public and the farmer. We do not work for the company that owns the slaughter plant. Our job is to decide what can and cannot be eaten. So for instance, if an animal has some sort of illness or injury, it is our job to decide if the animal, or part of the animal, is safe to eat.
This is a factory setting with overhead machinery and loud noises. The carcasses go by on tracks that hang from the ceiling. I was on the vet stand, which was a raised part of the floor. It was composed of metal mesh that had ridges on it so that it would not be slippery. I had hearing protection on, a hardhat on and steel-toed rubber boots.
I was the only woman on the floor. These places are rough by their very nature. Most of the men carry large knives that they take pride in keeping very sharp. There is a code of conduct that can be felt in the air. Lots of teasing, lots of insults, lots of profanity.
It felt like an extreme contrast to standing there feeling a contraction wash over my abdomen knowing that I was going to give birth. The endorphins kicked in right away and it felt incongruous. Here I was in this dark, loud, aggressive place feeling all blissed-out and knowing that my third baby was coming. This was Friday, the last day of my training and the government had done me a favour by moving me to a plant within walking distance of where I lived.
My older two daughters were present for the birth. This is one of the many advantages of having babies at home. We had practised making the “power noises” that can aid in bringing the baby out and they were full participants. Hearing a five year old and a two year old grunting and making deep throaty guttural sounds while you are pushing a baby out is quite comical and really makes it more of a family event.
Keep Reading: Back to Work