Millie Bee, on the day you were born, Mama set her alarm for 6 am. She let out the chickens, checked on the water for the horses, and surveyed the cows. And then she got to work.
Through the rising fog, I trekked towards the lake. To the rear of the property, I traveled the winding road to fit in my two miles before the 7am hospital appointment, determined in my hasty waddling to bring about some change, as I had done religiously twice daily for the previous eleven days. But this was day 12 post-date, and today was my deadline.
My walking was my saving grace that spring. Something about the smell of the fresh air and the canopy of the fresh green foliage always reassured me. The forest cleansed me of my anxieties about rearing a toddler, of the pressures of keeping up appearances and of the fact that I was, as so many liked to remind me, grossly overdue, especially for baby number two.
But the familiarity of the path, contrasted with its unexpected bursts of bunny sightings, blossoming mayflowers and singing birds, reminded me that change is good, and was a lesson in trusting my body. For me, this was my normal. As I had been overdue with your sister, it was normal for me to be overdue with you. Heck, part of it was even empowering near the end- I was so damn good at being pregnant. As I walked with the rising sun that May 28th morning, the twinges came back as they had existed briefly the night before.
Dad and I headed to the hospital, as instructed, to get hooked up to the monitor to see if things were progressing. Our sweet and generous midwife, Rae, joined us, to see what would come next. I had been prepared by Rae to know that I would either be told to stay for an induction in the hospital if there was no progress at all, or, there was a chance I could talk the OBgyn into allowing us to break my water at home to allow for the desired homebirth if something was happening.
Whether it was the castor oil the day prior, the spicy sauce at the thai restaurant, the twice daily walks to the lake, the pineapple juice, or some of those things combined or better yet, none of those things at all, something had worked- we would indeed get the homebirth we so desired, as my body had started early labour all on its own. I was so, so relieved.
Rae and I discussed a 2pm water break time, and so with that, I came home and got straight to work walking some more. I drank lots of water too, as per our doula, Jen’s recommendation, and our generous neighbours Kate and Al, who had just had their second babe Milo the month before, continued to watch your sister Wren for us so Dad and I could have some time to focus on the day to come. We then called Ammy to make arrangements for your sister, Wren, to be cared for.
It was surreal that after so many long months of waiting for you- through a record-breaking winter of treacherous icy conditions and snowfall, and a soggy, snow covered spring, that we would finally meet you soon.
When Rae arrived that afternoon, the race was on. Breaking my waters put me on the clock: my labour would need to progress efficiently within 12 hours, or I’d land back at the hospital for a more rigorous induction. But I trusted in my midwife, and I put my trust in you. This seemed the gentlest option.
After some discussion the water was broken in our bedroom at about 2:30pm, and Rae gave your dad and I permission to keep doing what I liked best: to walk, with a cell phone in hand in case we needed her. Dad and I passed the blossoming apple trees with the snoozing cattle, we strolled past the babbling stream and took on the big hill that came next. As we made the turn at the end of the trail, the contractions started stopping me in my tracks and my strides became shorter.
Once home, we updated Rae and she gave us some privacy to progress on our own. I phoned Jen, too, to tell her things had started to pick up but that it was manageable, and I paced the house. Ammy decided to take your sister back to the city instead of waiting it out in her trailer down the road, as we figured it would be a long while yet before we’d meet you, and your sister was getting over a cold and hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before.
Dad puttered away at some work things on the computer, and I had him timing the length of contractions, as I leaned over the table, the stove and the bathroom counter as each came and went.
Then around 4pm when the length of the contraction was longer than the time between them, I realized very quickly and with much adamancy that I no longer wanted your dad on facebook and I wanted Rae to come back. I called Jen, panting between a contraction, and asked that she come now, too.
Your dad hovered around me, supplying me with water, but I mostly wanted my space. Kate popped over with some supper and as she turned the corner and came up our steps, she could hear things were really happening. I heard her speak briefly with Justin, and hightail it out.
My moans could only be compared to a bleating sheep in heat. I called out as the peak of each contraction came, and could not control when it started, nor when it stopped. I headed to the toilet to throw up, but could only gag. I had planned to labour on the toilet, or on a birthing stool to give myself some relief and to widen my pelvis, but the pressure was far too intense once the labour had begun.
When Rae arrived, I was very relieved. She listened in on one contraction and asked your dad how long I’d been contracting in this way. I announced that I needed to lay down, as I wasn’t sure I could support myself by standing any longer. She quickly ushered me down the hall, meanwhile forewarning me this could make the contractions a bit more intense at first to lay.
I was sure as hell that that wasn’t possible.
At that point, a flurry of activity started to happen. The house became chaotic around me, as Justin tried to erect the birthing pool in the kitchen as I had asked him to do, and Rae tried to get out her things and call for her second attendant. They spoke to each other, they called to me, but I heard none of it. And then I screamed.
“Rae, I’m pushing!”
It was an unbelievable energy that took over my body. Painful, trembling and undeniably strong. Again, my brain had no control. Although I knew this would happen, I was in shock about the speed in which it was going.
Your dad had just finished blowing up the tub and had let the first splash of water hit, as Rae informed him there wouldn’t be time. They instructed me to let them help me to get off my side and to let him support me, by sitting behind me, in the bed. Doing this meant two things: that my cherished skin-tight maternity pants had to be slithered down my rock hard belly, then my sweaty butt and thighs, and that they had to be gladiators to lift my foreign body as I screamed that they let me be.
There was then a slight moment of focus. Rae told me she thought we’d be meeting this baby soon, and I realized that this would not be the expected daylong delivery I predicted- that at 3 hours past the water breaking induction, I was really pushing you out.
The second midwife, Maren, arrived, as it is law that two be in attendance to perform a legal homebirth in the province, and I gave her a sweaty smile, as my body continued to work you down. Amid the hum of the neighbour’s tractor next door, I screamed out another push. And then another, and with that second one, I could feel myself bringing you closer.
I squeezed the life out of your dad’s calloused, white knuckled hands, and heard his encouragement in my ear. Jen rushed in amidst the total chaos of your head crowning, which was to everyone’s delight, except mine. All I could do was thank whoever is to be thanked for my set of lungs that screamed so loudly I was sure I’d scared all the cars off Cornwall Road, if not for the din of that damn blue Ford tractor next door.
At five to 6 your body slipped out as the sun was shining bright through our bedroom window. Your wet body was placed on my belly, as the cord was somewhat short, and I looked down to greet your wide black eyes with delight, as mine filled with brimming tears.
That day, we met our second daughter, as your dad was happily surprised to announce, in the bed that he had built me with his own two hands that challenging but loved pregnancy ago, on the property we had bought spring before and were so proud to call our home.
I had friggin done it. Never in my life could I have predicted that after months of planning that it would have gone this way, but it did, and it was perfect.
There was a round of congratulations expressed from the trio of the most supportive women in the world, midwives Rae and Maren and doula Jen, and your father and I stared into your eyes and let out a long exhale, amidst some giggles and laughter about the wildest afternoon our hilltop mobile home had yet to experience.
After all was well, the midwives set to doing some paperwork in the kitchen, and Jen, dad and I conversed about names. We really and truly had expected a boy, because my pregnancy had been so eventful and felt different compared to your sister’s before you, but here you were, with your smaller little 8.4 pound self and a body covered in vernix, and a head of thick black hair resting above a set of impressive, plump cheeks. From the beginning, you were your own unique little personality, and I breathed in every inch of your petite body as we pondered over names we had to see what suited you best.
We asked that Jen announce your arrival to Kate and Al next door, and made up a fake alias name of Beatrice Gertrude as a joke, until we could decide. Jen graciously accepted the task, and Kate and Al took the bait.
Our company stayed for about four hours until we felt totally comfortable to share in an unexpectedly quiet evening, just you, dad and I. Wren slept peacefully at Amy’s as we made some quick calls to those who were patiently waiting, and Millie Bee, your presence was greeted with nothing but joy.
Kate and Al set off surprise fireworks right outside of our window and I nursed your chubby little cheeks and pet your silky feet. That night, I couldn’t sleep after the rush of emotions and instead stared at you perfect little face, resting peacefully at my breast.
When Wren arrived early the next morning, she was shy but delighted to hear you had arrived, and that you’d made her a big sister. As she had predicted, she got a little sister, and she asked to hold you.
Millie, your arrival gifted me with the ability to trust in my own body’s strength and power, and gave me the gift of seeing Wren take on the loving role of big sister with true passion. Your dad committed further to his smitten self, amidst his mob of girls, and the hilltops of Middle Cornwall will never be the same again.