Dorothy & Millie

Sometimes in life, we feel like we are standing firmly on our own two feet and can clearly see where the path forwards leads. This was Dorothy MacLeod in May 2019, nine months pregnant with her second child. Her first child, Fraser, was scheduled to turn 2 on May 12, just before her due date. Dorothy was confident about how the future was going to unfold. Her second son (she had a deep intuitive sense it would be a boy) would trump Fraser and arrive a few days early, just to snub his brother and ensure his birthday overshadowed his brother’s for the rest of his life. As a mother of two boys, Dorothy would get used to seeing the boys entwined in a never-ending wrestling match. The relationship between mothers and sons is precious. Life was good. So when May 11 came and went without so much as an inkling of even a Braxton Hicks contraction, Dorothy was a bit puzzled. So too Fraser’s birthday and her due date breezed by without the sweet cry of her new baby boy. The firm ground on which she had been standing was starting to feel a bit more like an unsalted sidewalk mid-winter.

Now expectation management is undeniably Dorothy’s forte. So when she realized the sequence of birth events would not even remotely align with what she had anticipated, she did what any smart, accomplished, powerful woman in the 21st century would do. She grabbed her power washer and started knocking off items on that God-forsaken household to-do list.

Dorothy’s long-time doctor was just as surprised by the delay. The baby was on track to be a replica of her first, who was born one day early. Her monthly measurements had echoed her first pregnancy precisely. After being patient for more than a week, the doctor scheduled Dorothy for an induction following the May long weekend. The time had come.     

The call came early, around 7:45 a.m. “We’re ready for you to come in for your induction, Mrs. MacLeod,” the caller said. Despite a career in the public healthcare system, this seemed uncivilized to Dorothy. “Surely they can wait until I shower and blow-dry my hair for possibly the last time in a LONG time,” she thought.

The hospital was very familiar to Dorothy. She had not only delivered Fraser there, but also worked there for 9years. It felt like a second home. The doctor met Dorothy and wasted no time getting down to business. “We can do this two ways,” he said. “We either take this slow, or we get this show on the road.” Dorothy chose the latter. Or so she thought.

The meds were flowing, her water was broken, and yet hours passed without the faintest sign of labour. Her cervix may have actually contracted a centimetre. For a new mom, this situation would have been anxiety provoking, but for the mother of a toddler, this quiet alone time with her husband was bliss. Laughter filled the room; a sound that was incredibly out of place given the location.

Dorothy eventually felt the onset of some light contractions. The nurses were keen to get the epidural in place, in case the labour escalated quickly. The anesthesiologist arrived and John was asked to leave the room (it’s not just in the movies that fathers often pass out at the sight of the needle). Moments later, the anesthesiologist got up to leave, and Dorothy inquired if he had forgotten something. Then Dr. McDreamy swiveled around, looked deep into Dorothy’s eyes and said, “All done, love.”

Things couldn’t have been better. Dorothy was feeling no pain, everyone was relaxed, and the television was all set for game four of the Eastern Conference Finals, Raptors versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Only one problem: there was no sign of the baby.

The nurse came in to check on Dorothy’s progress hourly until 7 p.m. when the shift ended. The next nurse was a no-nonsense, results-oriented woman. It became her personal mission to get Dorothy’s cervix fully dilated. She had Dorothy up and moving, contorted in all sorts of unorthodox positions. Shortly thereafter, Dorothy felt the uncontrollable urge to go to the bathroom. She pleaded with the nurse to let her go. “Perfect!” the nurse responded. “This is definitely a sign things are progressing.” The nurse examined Dorothy and revealed she was finally fully dilated.

They called for the doctor to return and watched him sprint across the street from the family medicine building. The epidural was turned off to ensure Dorothy could feel the contractions and push accordingly. This may sound like a very straightforward,albeit painful, requirement. But Dorothy’s first experience with childbirth had demonstrated the complexity of synchronizing the voluntary and involuntary contractions of her muscles. Dorothy was determined to not dance a beat behind the music this time. 

The drama in the birthing suite seemed to escalate with the drama in the Raptors’ game. For better or worse, the light in the room hit the ceiling tiles at just the right angle to allow Dorothy a front row view between her legs.  “GET. IT. OUT!” she wailed. The pain was next-level. The minutes that followed seemed to take hours. Eventually, the baby emerged. The relief was immediate.

“Oh, that is a big baby,” the nurse said.

“Probably 8 pounds,” responded the doctor. “Just like her last baby.”

“Oh no,” said the nurse, “this baby is bigger than 8 pounds.”

With all the conjecture about the size of the baby, Dorothy had forgotten to confirm her intuition about the gender. “Is it a boy?” Dorothy asked.

“Well Dad, what is it?” prompted the nurse.

John took a moment to analyze the body parts covered in blood and mucus. “I think it’s a girl!”

Dorothy looked at John with total surprise. After the umbilical cord was cut, John picked up Millie Ruth and immediately began telling the two girls in his life how much he loved them. Her middle name was a nod to the several strong women who had played important roles in both John and Dorothy’s lives.   

John cuddled his new daughter and stared into her dark eyes, mesmerized in a euphoric state. Dorothy, on the other hand, became the fabric of the doctor’s newest needlepoint masterpiece. She grew more impatient with every passing second. “It doesn’t need to be a Rembrandt!” she eventually shouted.

Moments later, Dorothy finally got to hold her daughter. With the instinctive force of nature, Millie immediately found her mother’s breast and latched on. The puzzle pieces seemed to fit perfectly.  

The next morning was filled with a flutter of activity as the nurses danced around the newest MacLeod, making sure there were no causes for concern. Dorothy’s mom came to the hospital to greet Millie for the first time and help complete all the paperwork that accompanied her. It wasn’t until later in the evening that the medical team was ready to discharge Millie, so Dorothy and John decided to extend their stay one more night and delay their return to reality. They also decided to wait until they were home to introduce Fraser to his new sister in-person.  

Dorothy spent most of the second night in the hospital feeding her 9.2-pound baby—definitely a sign of Millie’s future love of food! Thankfully, around 3 a.m., the night-shift nurses took a turn cuddling Millie, which allowed Dorothy to get a few hours of sleep. By the morning, Dorothy was exhausted, but anxious to get home. This was the longest she had been separated from Fraser since he was born, and she knew he would be excited to meet “his” baby.  

Dorothy and John walked through the front door of their home with Millie in her car seat. They unbundled her, lay her down on the deep leather coach seat and called for Fraser. Fraser approached the side of the couch, curious to inspect this long-anticipated arrival. He immediately pulled his body up onto the couch next to Millie, his face inches from hers. With great approval he recited two word son a continuous loop: hi baby!   

As Dorothy watched Fraser and Millie from across the room, the future seemed to immediately reorganize itself in her mind. Both Dorothy and John had come from families with one boy and one girl. This was a familiar place. The joy washed over her.