I didn’t get a good night’s sleep on the night of April 3, 2000. Nine months pregnant with my due date nine days away, I had a hard time getting comfortable enough to fall asleep. I woke up thinking, “I really would not mind if this baby came today.”If only all my dreams could come true so easily!The morning was bright and sunny, and mild for early April (certainly milder than it is at the same time this year!). Patches of snow were melting all around as I drove two-year-old Christopher to Bowring Park, where we met up with my mom. Christopher enjoyed sliding down the slides and doing all the playground things he hadn’t had a chance to do over the winter.
At about 11:30 I felt a twinge of pain and wondered, “Could this be the beginning of labour?” My mom suggested we drive out to the airport so Christopher could see the helicopters (this was big entertainment at that phase in his life). I said that would be cool but I’d rather she drove my car.
By about 12:30 I was at my parents’ house for lunch and quite convinced that I was starting labour. I was scheduled for a check-up with my doctor at about 2:00 that afternoon, and I phoned the doctor’s office to say that I thought I was starting labour and maybe he should meet me at the hospital instead. Only I couldn’t get any answer; I got the machine and left a message. Then I called Jason, who was at work, and asked if he could get a ride to my mom’s place to take me to the hospital.
By the time we arrived at the old Grace Hospital, I was definitely in labour and barely made it up to the fifth floor. My water hadn’t broken and the nurses were not convinced I was really in labour. They made dismissive noises and said I probably had a long time to wait yet. I pointed out that this was my second baby, not my first, so I had an idea what labour felt like. I told them to call my doctor — who had been remarkably laid-back about arriving for my first delivery — and tell him to hurry up. I also asked me if they’d move me to the birthing room, but they were still unconvinced.
By this time it was about 1:30 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Jason called my mom, who was still at her place with Christopher. My dad was coming home from work to take over Christopher; Jason asked my mom to go to our place and pick up my carefully packed hospital bag, our CD player, and my Great Big Sea CDs (which had been indispensible during Christopher’s delivery). She said she’d get there as soon as she could.
At some point a nurse checked to see how far I was dilated (my water still hadn’t broken) and suddenly the nurses were convinced I actually was going to have a baby. They reported that they’d called my doctor and he’d said he was just going to see one more patient and then he’d be there. Bad idea, Dr. Miller. I got moved to the birthing room. A doctor — well, clearly he was a resident or an intern, because he looked about sixteen and I immediately christened him Doogie Howser — popped in to say he’d be around in case my doctor didn’t show up in time. Then he wandered down the hall to get a Coke from the machine. Bad idea, Doogie.
I kept begging for a shot of Nubain like I’d had last time — neither one of my deliveries afforded me the leisure to even consider an epidural — but the nurses wouldn’t give me anything until my water broke. Well, no, they gave me the gas mask, which was completely useless although I guess breathing into it did give me something to focus on. Suddenly my water broke and the nurses began chanting the “Push! Push!” litany.
With Christopher, I’d also had a quick labour (not nearly this quick, though) but then spent two hours pushing, so I thought I knew what to expect. Not Emma — she was in a hurry to get here, and practically shot out of me. Also unlike Christopher, she let out a lusty cry at once and turned bright pink. The time was 3:14 p.m. — less than four hours since I’d felt the first faint twinges of labour pain.
A nurse asked Jason if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord. My husband, one of the squeamishest men I know (like me, he watches the surgeries on House with his eyes half-shut), did as he was told. As he said afterwards, “At that point I’d have cut off my own finger if they told me to!”
Then the nurses (still no sign of any doctor, not even Doogie) handed her to me. I showed her my breast and I could see her immediately think, “This is good! Free food!” She latched on with the skill and vigor of a three-month-old baby and began to nurse…and nurse…and nurse. She showed no signs of ever letting go. I was flooded with the happiest rush of hormones I have ever experienced as my tiny perfect daughter refused to let go of Mommy, Source of All Life.
At this juncture, my own mother walked in. She had arrived on the maternity floor bearing my suitcase, CD player and CDs as requested, and asked how her daughter was doing. The nurse smiled and said, “You can come in and see how your daughter is doing!” and they showed her her brand new granddaughter.
The next person to arrive was my doctor, who seemed pleased that Emma, the nurses and I (with a little help from Jason) had managed the whole show without any intervention from him.
Emma nursed for a solid hour. I was starving (having missed lunch) and they brought me a delicious chicken dinner on a tray which I ate while nursing her, since she refused to detach. It was my first inkling of the bond Emma and I were to share — intensely close, deeply demanding, sometimes a little inconvenient but always and in all ways wonderful.
Happy birthday, lovely Emma Charlotte.
Emma on April 4, 2000
Emma on April 1, 2007