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This child came on a national holiday – the most glorious day, sun and breeze and no traffic, the hospital quiet. Anna’s room had sun pouring in the open windows, which looked out to Lake Ontario dotted with sailboats. They started the pitocin to induce labour at 9 a.m.; she was 4 cms. dilated. The morning was surreal – we could have been in her kitchen chatting, drinking coffee, friends dropping in, except that she was in bed strapped to various monitors. I noted that in her bathroom was a notice -“Are you being hurt by your husband or boyfriend?” – advice on what to do in English, Somali, Polish, Spanish and Tamil. Our new Toronto.

At one point, Anna was discussing some financial issue with her gay best friend Cory, who said, “Don’t you worry about that. Just put all your energy into your cervix.” Shani, Anna’s best friend from senior kindergarten, appeared; her son, it’s hard to believe, is now 11. Many other of Anna’s bff’s appeared, and so did the baby’s father Thomas.

At one point, I took a break in the Tranquillity Garden – two benches and a bower covered with wisteria – and on my way, passed a couple with a very sick baby. Just to look at them made me want to howl. Nothing could be worse.

By noon, her pain was at 4 out of 10; we could hear that wonderful quick heartbeat and watch the numbers on the monitor – heartbeat 156, pressure 15, 20, 25. She decided by 1.15 that she wanted an epidural asap – but the anaesthetist was busy elsewhere, and she had to wait. An hour later, she was in such pain, I went to the office, asking them to call in another anaesthetist and I’d pay his salary myself. A bit of melodrama, but anyway, he appeared half an hour later, and the wondrous drug kicked in almost immediately. How amazing – within ten minutes she was fine and could even text again – she texted almost throughout. Meanwhile, various dramas were going on in the rooms all around us, women wailing, nurses running, and then that incredible unearthly sound, the first cry of a newborn.

I assumed at this point that we’d be there all night and probably into the next morning, the bulge was so big and high. Dr. Caloia and I talked about a caesarian, and we all knew that was a distinct possibility because of the baby’s size. But by 5, against all odds, she was 8 cms. dilated. The head was still high, though, not descending, and there were worries about his irregular heartbeat, including several times of real terrifying panic. But shifting her position helped bring it back to normal. The midwives were there full time by then, and wonderful it was to have them, Anita from B.C. and her assistant Mooshka from Iran, capable, wise women. Heartbeat 163. Pressure 45. Pressure 65. Pressure 90. Poor Anna has the same stomach she had in childhood – she was a vomiter then and she still is. They told us later, all that vomiting perhaps helped to propel her boy out.

At 7.15, unbelievably, she was fully dilated and the head was “right there,” they said. “Great,” said Dr. Dave, who has a sense of humour, “three women fully dilated at the same time and only me here.” So Anna was put into holding pattern until he dealt with the two others, me patrolling the hall, waiting to hear the cries – there’s one, there’s another. Two down, one to go.

Dr. Caloia appeared, the midwives, the nurses – time to push. For a while, Anita held one leg, I held the other, and she pushed against us. Such incredible effort, her face purple. Until the end, apparently, the doctor thought she might need a caesarian and had surgery ready to go, and the paediatrician too. But there was the top of the head, so close. He got the vacuum pump, and with the next two pushes, suctioned that baby right out of her body. He slipped out at 8.27 p.m., a bundle of arms and legs, a big head, solid, beautiful, they whisked him away to clean and warm and suction his lungs. And the Victoria Day fireworks erupted.

The next hour a blur – there was worry about his breathing, his mother was only allowed to hold him briefly, the paediatrician gave him oxygen and made sure all was well. While Dr. Dave finished taking care of Anna, her eyes were on her boy. I rushed into the waiting lounge, where a big group of Anna’s friends had been waiting all day, shouting, “We have a baby!”and everyone cheered. Photographs were taken. Phone calls were made. Uncle Sam appeared. Fireworks continued.

So finally, things wound down. Dr. C. ended up in the nursing station with the nurses, eating a celebratory Victoria Day cake. Anna was moved in a wheelchair – she still could barely feel her legs – to her room, though we wheeled her first to see her babe in Neonatal Intensive Care, a site guarded by a gorgonesque Polish nurse. By 11, Mama was ready to sleep, and I took a cab home.

Wayson called at 7.15 this morning, and the emails have been flooding in. John just appeared with a batch of freshly baked muffins from his wife. How the world celebrates new life. What joy for us all.

It’s only today that I feel my own body and remember that I was pushing too, so hard, pushing with my daughter – my arms and back ache. I can only imagine how she feels, except that she’s not thinking of that, only of holding her boy. She has spent a lot of time looking at him this morning; he’s fine – they’ve x-rayed his lungs and all is well and soon she will hold him as much as she wants. They will make sure the nursing is all right, and by late afternoon, the plan is that the new mother will go home. With her son.

And the new grandmother, whose name shall be Glamma, will be there with them and a bottle of champagne.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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