Cowichan mom has surprise baby

Emily Ratcliffe with 17-day-old Mariah and two-and-a-half year old Gracie at their home in Crofton, where Mariah was born Oct. 1. - Ashley Degraaf
Emily Ratcliffe with 17-day-old Mariah and two-and-a-half year old Gracie at their home in Crofton, where Mariah was born Oct. 1.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

“I always said three’s a crowd, so why not add one more?”

That’s the happy-go-lucky, optimistic view of Crofton’s Emily Ratcliffe.

The 25-year-old gave birth to her fourth child, a seven-pound girl, Oct. 1 from her new pad in Crofton.

Ratcliffe’s easy-going nature is almost beyond belief considering the circumstances.

The local nurse didn’t know she was pregnant.

“We were moving that day and I was moving the last mattress before I just dropped it,” Ratcliffe, who was full-term in her pregnancy at that time, explained. “I just thought ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”

Ratcliffe’s back was “killing” her so she decided to take a break on the couch.

“The pain kept getting more and more severe and finally I started thinking ‘This feels kind of like labour pain.’”

Ratcliffe called her husband Tonnis Martindale, 26, who’d been down at the local pub grabbing some grub for dinner.

“I said ‘finish your dinner, you need to get home.’”

After that call is when Ratcliffe’s water broke.

“It’s all kind of a blur,” she explains. “It really all happened so fast after that.”

There are many key characters in Ratcliffe’s story.

One of them is friend Pam Kothlow, who’d lived at the house Ratcliffe and Martindale were moving into. She happened to be at the house gathering the last of her things that day.

She also happens to be a nurse

“She took over the phone call with 911 (placed by Tonnis who was back at home) and she pretty much walked through it all with them over the phone,” Ratcliffe explained.

Soon after, Crofton’s fire squad came to lend a hand.

Crew member Jeff Funk says assisting with a delivery was a first for most members of the local department.

“It was kind of unusual for us,” Funk said. “We never usually get a call like that.

“We showed up, and one of my first responders helped unwrap the umbilical cord and the baby was pretty much born seconds before we got there.”

The ambulance rolled up a couple minutes later and cut and clamped the cord.

“Everything was going good with the baby and the baby was crying and the whole neighbourhood was waiting and as soon as we came out of the house, they cheered and clapped for us,” Funk recalled. “It was pretty dramatic, just like in the movies really.”

Those same curious neighbours have been saviours for Ratcliffe and Martindale.

“Everyone has been really generous, dropping off food and diapers. The local pastor brought us a gift card too,” Ratcliffe said.

Looking back to the months after Ratcliffe conceived, the busy mother and nurse blames stress as the reason she didn’t realize she was carrying a child.

“We had a lot going on around that time,” she explained, noting her two-and-a-half year old daughter Gracie’s battle with neuroblastoma in her abdomen.

“We had a lot of appointments. We had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapist appointments, and doctors and visits to the B.C. Children’s Hospital too.”

Also, add being a mom to two more children, six-year-old son Mason and nine-year-old daughter Ryan.

Ratcliffe never noticed pregnancy symptoms, including typical morning sickness, nor her stomach changing shape.

For many women, the list of changes to their bodies while being pregnant goes on and on, but for Ratcliffe, the past nine months was just like any other time in her life, “just much more busier.”

“I just thought the pain in my lower back was because of my type of work. I’m always lifting heavy things,” she explained, noting she must have carried the baby more in her lower back.

“My weight has always been up and down too. And I always have had a lot of food sensitiveness,” she added, explaining why she may not have noticed the baby’s kicks, which can often be described as feeling like having a gassy, upset stomach.

Ratcliffe also admitted she’s watched TLC’s I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant shows and, “I always laughed at the girls. How could they not know,” she said.

She and Martindale weren’t planning on having a fourth child but are making due and counting their blessings.

They’re extremely thankful to everyone who came to their aid Oct. 1 and to those who are continuing to help them financially.

The couple named their new daughter Mariah Emily Martindale.

“She’s been doing very well and so far she’s a very good sleeper and not too fussy,” Ratcliffe said.

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