The Ritson-Bennetts are from Innisfail, Alberta, but they spent six nights at Ronald McDonald House in Red Deer when their son was born. Here’s how Andrew and Kristen remember the birth of their son.
Kristen: When I was 36 weeks pregnant, Andrew and I attended a pre-natal crash course. We were definitely cutting it close, but we had no idea how close! During the course, while practicing labour techniques, I experienced some odd contractions. We joked about me going into labour. Little did we know! Perhaps it was a sign we should have taken more seriously.
Andrew: Later that night, around 3 am, Kristen’s water broke. Up until that point, she hadn’t been having any real contractions (aside from the ones at the course) so we weren’t sure what to think. Funny enough, water breaking prior to contractions was never discussed in the course we completed only 10 hours prior.
I sleepily diagnosed my wife with urinary incontinence and fell back asleep. Obviously she was more alarmed than me and turned to Dr. Google while I slept. Again Kristen woke me. After a few minutes debate, it was decided that we would best go to the Red Deer Hospital instead of the Innisfail Hospital. Not expecting that Kristen was about to have a baby, we dressed for the cold weather almost as if we were going to do chores. We didn’t pack clothing, toiletries or anything.
Kristen: At the hospital, I was told that I must have a C-section. My last ultrasound 2 weeks prior showed a low lying placenta. If this was still the case, a natural birth would put me at risk of hemorrhage. So, when I began to have infrequent minor contractions, I was sent for an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed that my placenta had migrated enough to enable me to proceed with a natural birth. It was decided that I would be given until the next day – until Monday morning – before they would start inducing me. We spent the day trying to bring on contractions, walking stairs. We did enough stairs that our legs were aching the next day. But it was to no avail.
Andrew: Sunday night, a nurse suggested that if I needed a place to sleep, they could call over to the Ronald McDonald House for me and set me up with a room. At this stage I truly did not feel as though I deserved to be there and thought it would be best to be near my wife. Having spent many hours sleeping in libraries – not to mention classes! – throughout my university years, I thought I could tough it out and sleep in the family visiting area for the night. The visiting area room had uncomfortable couches, fluorescent lighting and very loud doors. I did manage to get the kind of sleep where you put your hat over your eyes to block out the light.
Kristen: I woke Andrew around 5AM for another round of stairs and then proceeded back to my room to begin the dreaded induction at around 7AM. At 2 pm, our son was born! 6 lbs 10oz. He was whisked away to NICU.
Andrew: He would be in NICU for several nights, so I went across the street to get that room at Ronald McDonald House.
It was with great joy that, upon checking in, I came upon the part of the registration that requested my child’s name.
Kristen: During pregnancy, we never found out the sex of the baby. And we hadn’t been expecting him for another month. We hadn’t decided on a name!
Andrew: For some time, we disagreed on the name if our child was a boy. I really liked the name “Clancy” which I had first heard from the poem “Clancy of the Overflow” based on a real Australian Drover. Kristen wanted “Liam” after a farmer she worked with while living in Ireland after graduating from Agriculture College in Saskatoon.
Kristen: While I was pregnant, Andrew always referred to our unborn child as ‘little Clancy’. He persistently read the poem aloud to anyone who would listen.
Andrew: We still hadn’t come to a decision when I went to check in at Ronald McDonald House So, while filling out the registration form, I made an executive decision…
Kristen: That night he sent me a photo of the House registration papers where he had declared to the world that the child’s name was indeed… Clancy.
Andrew: The three Ronald McDonald House volunteers thought it was a wonderful name! I was ecstatic!
Kristen: We eventually agreed on ‘Liam Clancy.’ After all that, it just seemed right to keep ‘Clancy’ in the mix.
Andrew: During our stay, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time hanging out at the House. We wanted to be with Liam in the NICU as much as possible. Most of our time spent was in the dining room getting a bite to eat.
We are just one of hundreds of families that utilize the Red Deer facility annually. We witnessed families experiencing great suffering while seeing their beloved children fighting for survival. While in the NICU and adjoining pediatrics, we saw how important a facility like Ronald McDonald House is for siblings, parents and the children requiring medical care.
Kristen: Ronald McDonald House allows families to be together when they most need to be.
Andrew: I had never thought of Ronald McDonald House as being a place where smelly soon-to-be fathers could receive a home-cooked meal, a hot shower and a nice bed in a clean private room. I was so grateful to be close to Kristen and Liam!
Editor’s Note: We excerpted Kristen and Andrew’s account for its “New Dad” moments, but there’s a whole lot more to the story on our website!