Whole lotta birthin' goin' on
Whistler could top 100 births this year
By Chris Woodall
The stork may end up having booked more than 100 flights to expecting Whistler mothers by the end of this year.
Although spring time is the typical time to talk about births, the most significant birth on the Christian calendar is about to be celebrated, so let's talk babies now.
There were 85 births to Whistler mothers up to Oct. 31 of this year, say statistics from Coast Garibaldi Community Health Services Society.
Last year a record 95 Whistler girls and boys were born.
Pundits could look back nine months to see what the chances are that the 8.5 babies-per-month average will be maintained through November and December by remembering what the weather was like back in February and March: was it stuff to encourage "indoor" activities? Was love in the air then?
Whistler's Myrtle Philip Elementary School certainly takes note of such things.
A letter from principal Bob Daly to school board superintendent Mike Fitzpatrick notes the need for "at least two additional teaching spaces for next year, three if we wish to move the classroom from the community side," to accommodate the 1998-99 kindergarten entrants, based on the 83 births to Whistler parents 'way back in 1993.
Whistler births had numbered in the 50-65 range annually for several years, until 1991.
But after a jump to 83 in 1992, the figures are rising like a slow tide.
Although only 78 bundles of joy joined Whistler's population in 1994, activity moved back to 84 in ’95, and jumped to 95 last year.
"Births are definitely rising every year," says Marilyn McIvor, community health nurse.
On the other hand, Pemberton mothers have been "producing" babies in waves, going from 28 births in 1987 to 46 in 1988, and then from 42 births in 1992 down to 26 births in 1993.
Even in Pemberton, however, new-borns have been entering the world in larger numbers in recent years, with 47 charted last year (including D'Arcy) and the same number noted to Oct. 31 this year.
One quirk of the Whistler profile is that more women over 35 (20 per cent) are having babies than in the typical community, McIvor says. "I think that's high. Some mothers think they are the only 'old mother', but there's a lot out there."
The opposite is true for young mothers in Whistler. "Less than 10 per cent are under 25 years, which is quite low," McIvor says.
One thing that's a little misleading in all this is that a Whistler baby may not really be a Whistler baby.
Lions Gate Hospital gets the lion’s share of local birthing mothers, at 72 per cent, followed by 13 per cent at B.C. Women’s (the former Grace) Hospital, and 10 per cent at Squamish General Hospital.
"We're not sure why Whistler women aren't using Squamish more, except that it isn't equipped to do caesarean sections or handle high-risk births," McIvor says.
"If it's a normal birth she can get great care at Squamish: it's nice, new and small."
But because most Whistler births (66 per cent) are first-timers, mothers probably sleep easier knowing all the bases will be covered at Lions Gate.
"Fifty-six per cent of first births are discharged within 48 hours," says McIvor, to emphasize the safety of the life-giving procedure.
Rookie mothers should know that just giving birth isn't the end of the story as far as Whistler is concerned.
"When they come back into the community, 91 per cent are contacted within 24 hours by the public health nurse at their home to answer any questions, offer counselling and to make sure breast feeding is going well, McIvor says.
The importance of breast feeding cannot be underestimated, McIvor says. There is a breast feeding support group to make the providing mother feel more comfortable.
"All Whistler women breast feed, (but) our goal is to get them to breast feed longer: as long as nine to 12 months," McIvor says. "We have to encourage women to do it anytime, anywhere."
The community has to come to terms with breast feeding, too.
"Kids and adults need to realize breasts are for feeding babies, not just for selling cars," McIvor says.
There is a breast feeding drop-in held the second Wednesday of each month, at 7:30 p.m. at the health care centre, to help mothers keep offering themselves to their new-borns.
The body goes through a lot of shapes on the way to giving birth, but post natal physiotherapy can put the new mother through a series of stretches and tightening exercises to bring that body back into top form, McIvor says.
"A lot of Whistler women are real fit and want to get back into it," McIvor says.
But a lot can happen after a birth, not all of it fun.
Post natal depression or mania can affect 30 per cent of women, McIvor says. "It's very hard to diagnose, but we always try to assess for it."
Some clues can be a sense of losing touch with reality, crying a lot, or a feeling of being overwhelmed.
In the case of mania, a mother can be overly hyper, for example going on an unstoppable spending binge.
"We have to lower our expectations," McIvor advises new mothers. "We can't have a new baby and expect to do all the regular life things."
To ease into the post natal period, exercise and get lots of sleep.
Whistler is a community with a very shallow pool of relatives to help look after newborns.
"There are very few grandparents or extended families in this community," McIvor says. "Often a grandparent will come here for a week or two, but then they have to go home. That's why in this community we rely on capable young adults who belong to the Elizabeth Manso Visiting Volunteers to help out."
The group is under the Whistler Community Services Society umbrella and offers to help mothers with new babies at home, as well as people who might be too ill to help themselves, McIvor says.
One way to get a head start on this great adventure, however, is to attend the series of pre-natal classes held over seven weeks.
Women should start attending as soon as they find they are pregnant, McIvor says. Organized by the Sea to Sky Health Care Society, classes are held in Whistler, but you have to call Pemberton (894-6101) to register.
"What we are finding is that 61 per cent of first-timers attend, but we'd like to see that rise to 90 per cent," McIvor says.
The classes talk about infant development, nutrition, and pre-natal exercises, among other topics.
There's also a book — Baby's Best Chance — available at Whistler's Pharmasave outlets. Subsidized by the pharmacy company, it is $6.95 for most of us, free if you're pregnant.
Having a baby can be the biggest thing a woman ever does, and it can be a frightening experience if you are a single mom. The pressure can be made less so by "Nobody's Perfect" a drop-in single parent support group.
It is one of several drop-in programs for parents at different stages of their baby’s first years, McIvor says.
Call the Whistler Community Services Society (932-0113), or talk to McIvor (932-3202) about any of these programs.
New parents must realize how much assistance is available to get through a personally traumatic time, McIvor says.
"It takes a whole community to raise a healthy child," McIvor says. "Call if you have any questions or concerns, or you just want to talk to another adult about typical baby care."