Kate & Rowan's Story
This is a love story. Not the kind you will see in the movies, or read in a romance novel. It’s a story of true love. A story of fortitude, generosity and, beyond all else, the selflessness of a mother with a vision for her family that propelled her beyond her known limits to the places where true love abounds.
The summer of 2021 was painted with a wide array of emotions, turning it into more of a Jackson Pollock than a Monet. Kate sat in the early morning quiet of their lovely new Port Credit home, longing to eat everything in the fridge but holding back the overwhelming urge to throw up. She was newly pregnant with baby number two. That news came with its own avalanche of complex feelings. A fourth family member was always part of DJ and Kate’s plan. Their dreams were literally coming true. They were beyond grateful for the ability to conceive naturally—acutely aware of the agonizing alternatives endured by so many couples. But the reality of being pregnant while raising a 2-year-old, while facing a pandemic, while returning to work virtually, was trying.
The sound of Desi’s little feet on the stairs broke Kate’s contemplative state and she stood to greet him, as if a film director had called “Action.” The day was launched into motion. Walking past the kitchen island, Kate’s eyes fell on the card she had given DJ a few weeks prior announcing the exciting news: “We’re pregnant!” She had aspirations of a more poetic note, but her morning sickness had extinguished her ability to write full sentences. She grinned remembering DJ’s explosive excitement and the need to shush him to prevent their house guests from finding out (a clearly futile objective in retrospect).
After wrestling with Desi to eat some breakfast and change clothes, Kate got him out the door to day care and assumed her position in front of the computer. Working from home certainly had its benefits, but the monotony of residing within 2,000 square feet added a layer of exhaustion that was unexpected. The lines between Professional-Kate and Mom-Kate were blurred beyond distinction. Life felt like it was moving in slow-motion, fueling Kate’s frustration.
Kate summoned the energy daily to focus on the bright moments, like when Desi would lift her shirt with pure excitement and curiosity to examine her growing belly.This was everything to Kate. After all, the decision to have another child was driven by her desire to give Desi the gift of a sibling. An invaluable gift she had experienced firsthand over the decades with her two sisters, whom she loved dearly.
The months passed by in a haze. Kate rotated between the three respectable outfits that fit her new body. On account of COVID, midwife appointments were limited and DJ never got the opportunity to meet the women who would eventually deliver their child. The lead up to the birth didn’t seem to be accompanied by the same rise in excitement as it did the first time around. The worry and risk of the Pandemic smothered that possibility.
By the time Kate was seven months pregnant restrictions had let up enough for her return to the office. The first day back was disorienting. The last time she was in the building was 2.5 years prior, just before Desi was born. So much had changed in that time, yet her equally pregnant belly seemed to reinforce the illusion that time had stood still. The feeling of a bit of makeup and the sounds of life downtown were comforting; like reliving a savoured memory.
“He’s going to come early,” she heard on repeat. Muffling her instincts, Kate heeded the warnings of those around her and scheduled her maternity leave to begin a month prior to her due date. The last phase of her pregnancy brought her back to the confines of home. To avoid any risk of getting sick, or DJ getting sick and not being allowed at the birth, they took Desi out of day care and locked down their bubble.
The month of January crawled forward to the tunes of Blippi and Paw Patrol. Desi was in heaven. Kate embraced the quality snuggle-time on the couch, but equally longed for the next chapter to begin.
On the morning of January 21, the sun shone brightly in the winter sky. Kate was 39weeks and three days pregnant. Her parents were visiting for the day so she decided to take advantage of the free babysitters and escape for a walk in High Park with a friend. The fresh air was exactly what she needed.
When Kate returned home everyone gathered around the dining table soaked in sunlight fora meal. With nowhere else to be, they sunk into their seats and enjoyed the company. None of them fully anticipated what would unfold over the next 10 hours!
After completing Desi’s bedtime ritual, including a bath and a stack of stories, Kate and DJ melted into the couch longing to be lulled by the nonsense of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The evening couldn’t have been more normal. Until approximately 11 p.m.when Kate heard a subtle but distinct pop.
She stood up to confirm what she already knew: her water had broken. An involuntary stream of tears began to run down Kate’s face as her knowledge of what was about to ensue crystalized in the forefront of her mind. “I don’t want to do this again,” she pleaded with reality. She tried to remind herself labour was a small price to pay for the safe arrival of their son; a price she would lovingly pay tenfold.
Recounting the direction of the midwives, Kate acquiesced and slowly made her way up the stairs to try to get some rest. There was no need to call them until contractions began to progress. She instructed DJ to call her parents. They should start driving back, but there was no rush.
Kate changed into her pajamas and rolled into bed. Sleep was an impossibility on account of her racing mind and the pressure growing in her abdomen. Despite this being Kate’s second baby, labour was unknown to her since she was induced with Desmond. Is this normal? Is this labour?Should I be going to a hospital now? Her questions were endless.
Kate abandoned her attempt to sleep and moved into the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet seemed to be the most comfortable position she could find. She picked up her phone and dialed the midwife. Much to her frustration, Kate’s questions were only met with more questions.
“Are you in pain?” the midwife asked calmly.
“Just really uncomfortable,” retorted Kate.
“Well we have three options: you could come to the clinic, you could get into the bath,or you could go to the hospital. But if we go to the hospital you’ll be admitted, do you want that?” It was clear from the midwife’s tone that Kate wasn’t supposed to want that.
Over the course of the 20-minute conversation Kate’s pain got progressively worse. The advice of an acquaintance seemed to echo on repeat in the back of her mind. Listen to your body.
Kate was torn between her discomfort with confrontation and her physical discomfort. She wanted someone to make the decision for her. She wanted the midwife to take charge and tell her exactly what to do. But the leader of this show had to be Kate. And as this realization switched on in her mind, she stepped up to the plate like a boss.
“We need to go to the hospital now,” instructed Kate. She hung up the phone and shifted her attention to DJ. “Call my parents back. Tell them to get here now!”
A mere hour had passed since the drama of The Real Housewives had been the most exciting thing in the house. Kate and DJ stood at the front door with the stuffed hospital bags at the ready. DJ had embraced the little he could do to prepare by identifying every snack and accoutrement that might come in handy, his efforts fully informed by expert consultations. Desi was fast asleep upstairs,blissfully unaware of the chaos below. In the brief minutes between the agony of contractions, Kate and DJ found levity imagining Desi’s surprise awaking to the news of his new brother.
Kate’s parents rushed through the front door, eager to be of service. Kate collapsed into her mother’s arms, simultaneously enduring another contraction. DJ lovingly guided Kate towards the car, reviewing their test-drive to the hospital in his mind. On this particular winter night, the unlikely combination of construction and a slow city bus tested their tolerance for the unpredictable. Kate remained doubled over in the passenger seat, consumed by pain.
At 12:30 a.m. DJ pulled up to the doors of the hospital. COVID protocols required him to wait outside until Kate had been formally processed and admitted, so she shuffled into the blinding lights of the building alone.
“The answer to all the questions is no,” Kate moaned to the COVID screener, hoping to expedite the process. The little old lady seemed to be unphased by Kate’s tears or the clear signs she was in active labour.
“I still need to ask you the questions,” the screener responded dutifully. Kate blinked her eyes slowly, muting her inner voice.
A set of elevators were visible nearby. After passing the screening, Kate turned down the offer for a wheelchair and followed the old lady down the hall. They bypassed the elevators and continued on what felt like a needlessly circuitous route to the labour and maternity ward. Kate stopped periodically to lean against the wall, bracing for each contraction.
Arriving at the triage window, the busy nurse reported that Kate’s midwife was not yet there. Another nurse took one look at her and stated the obvious, “We need to get her a room!”
While ushering Kate into the delivery room the nurse asked, “Were you hoping for an epidural?”
Kate’s patience was nonexistent by this point and the pain of the contractions had dissolved her inner filter. She snapped back with a thick coat of sarcasm and incredulity, “Do I have time?” She punctuated her question with a choice adjective.
“You probably don’t. Let’s get you undressed,” the nurse responded, half recognizing the insensitivity of her reflexive question. “You might want to call your husband now,” she suggested helpfully.
DJ was still out in the parking lot, biding time by watching the basketball game, anxiously waiting for the coach to call him into the game. When the phone rang he jumped into action and was by Kate’s side in minutes. The midwife entered the room moments later.
Kate was lying on the bed in the small room with her eyes shut. The baby was coming fast. The playlist, the hypno-birthing app, and the prepared snacks would all be chalked up to ‘best laid plans.’ Kate focused on the advice of a fellow mom and envisioned herself climbing closer to the top of a mountain with each breath. Her son was waiting for her.
The midwife stood at the bottom of the bed, preparing for the baby’s arrival. “Do you feel like you need to push?” she asked. Kate’s body felt like it was breaking, the sensations imprinting deeply into her psyche. Kate ignored the midwife’s questions and listened to the clear signals of Mother Nature.
After a few pushes, at 1:16 a.m., Rowan McKenna Bennett entered the world.
The midwife confirmed Rowan’s perfection and placed his 7-pound, 5-ounce body on Kate’s chest. He blinked his eyes open and quietly gazed at his parents. Kate and DJ absorbed the brief moment of tranquility and let the emotion of pure joy wash over them.
Within three hours, Kate and Rowan were discharged. The midwife pushed them in a wheelchair as DJ carried the assortment of bags. Both parents were in a state of shock.
Kate’s parents rushed to the front steps when they heard the front door open at 4:30 a.m.Kate and DJ filed in to escape the cold, unable to find the words to convey what had just happened. Kate handed the carrier with the newest family member to her dad. Her shock eclipsed every other emotion. “I’m never doing that again,”she told them. Her mother consoled her and guided her upstairs to the bedroom.The cramps were intense as her uterus began contracting back to its normal size.
Kate crawled into bed, reminiscent of her teenage years after a long, grueling soccer tournament. Rowan lay in a basinet nearby, quiet as a mouse. Kate’s exhaustion silenced the thoughts of disbelief bouncing in her mind. In minutes she was unconscious and DJ was forced to contain his excitement as the house returned to silence.
Two hours later, just past 7 a.m., Desmond woke up and was greeted by his nana. The news of the baby’s arrival sounded dubious. Desi wrapped his arms around her neck as she lifted him from the crib. This required some immediate investigation.
Together they opened the door to his parents’ bedroom and peered towards the bed with wide eyes. Kate propped herself up with Rowan cradled close to her side on the bed. The mountains of blankets concealed his presence. Desi moved closer, eager to meet his long-awaited companion.
“Come and meet your new baby brother, Desi,” Kate said, motioning for Desmond to crawl upon to the bed. Desi followed his mother’s instructions, furrowing his brow as he tried to make sense of the little face swaddled tightly. He patted his brother,somewhat hoping to elicit a reaction. Rowan remained calm and silent. This wasn’t the playmate he was expecting, so after a few moments and photos, Desi turned his attention to the toys waiting for him downstairs. Kate, DJ and Rowan followed after him, lured by the scent of Nana’s freshly made pancakes.
The day continued and Kate and DJ put one foot in front of the other. It was the beginning of a new season. The forecast felt unsettlingly unpredictable at times. The days were laden with paradoxes. Small moments of overwhelming delight (like when Desmond’s performance first elicited a genuine laugh from his dearest Rowee) were nestled amongst flashes of paralyzing fear and uncertainty.Kate was grateful for how easily Desmond stepped into the nurturing and protective role of big brother. But she was caught off guard by how tough it was to juggle the schedules and needs of a toddler and newborn simultaneously. And how deeply buried she felt. This part of the journey seemed to be missing from the tales of motherhood.
So Kate did the only thing she knew how to do: she kept moving forward. Never denying the truth of how hard things felt. But also never letting the darkness consume all the light. She leaned into her talents and was lifted by the joy of writing and creating. She connected with fellow moms and shared her experiences openly.
Late one night, in early spring, Kate sat in the stillness of the living room with Rowan asleep on her chest. She easily ignored the threat of bad sleeping habits in favour of this cherished time with her son. She tipped him backwards onto her lap to take in the sight of his precious face. His serenity seemed to trigger a deep exhale from her body. Rowan unexpectedly blinked his eyes open and began staring deeply into Kate’s. It was his nature to be calm, but Kate also sensed a profound knowing. A deep empathy. She continued peering into his little face,deep in a conversation with no words.
Week by week, month by month, he grew a little more into himself and Kate grew a little more into herself, too—a mom of two, the leader of four—someone uncovering who she wants to be.
This is a love story. Not the kind you will see in the movies, or read in a romance novel. It’s a story of true love. A story of a son, unknowingly sending his mother on a journey to find herself; a journey she may not have otherwise taken.