Emily & Ivy
Tommy wheeled Emily slowly past the nursing station in a daze. Their first born son was swaddled in his car seat on Emily’s lap. The nurses began to snicker. No congratulations, or reassuring words to help dissipate the shock of Archer’s quick arrival. They just stuck to the cold, harsh, medical facts. “Ooooo, for your second one you better call us after your first contraction, lady!”
They were spot on.
In October of 2018, Emily was nearly nine months pregnant with their second child. They had just moved out of her parents’ place and back into their home after completing a major renovation. The backdrop of their future memories was starting to take shape and Emily could easily imagine Archer bonding with his new little sister. But how on earth would she manage to divide her love amongst two little people? This felt like an impossibility.
Emily stopped working two weeks before her November 5 due date. Last time around, she worked until the day Archer was born, and there was no way she would make the same mistake twice.
On Sunday, October 28, Emily’s entire family gathered at her parents’ house to celebrate her birthday. This year’s festivities seemed extra special with both Emily and her sister being pregnant. After a lavish meal, Emily lay back on the couch, in an attempt to relieve her aching body. Her brother-in-law marveled at her full belly, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if she was born tonight?” No one—including Emily—gave it a second thought.
When they got home from dinner, Emily decided to have a bath, forgetting that their tub paled in comparison to the deep soaker she had gotten used to at her parents’ place during the reno. Despite filling it, certain body parts emerged from the water like uninhabited islands. She shivered and quickly abandoned her attempt at relaxation. She slipped into some pajamas and headed to bed.
Around midnight Emily woke up and heard the sound of the TV on downstairs. Tommy had certainly fallen asleep on the sofa. As the fog of slumber lifted she realized the bed was wet. I must have peed the bed. The fact that there was no other logical explanation in her nine-month-pregnant mind is testament to how unready she felt for Ivy’s arrival.
Shortly after waking she felt her first contraction. Her inner emotion surfaced to her lips, “I’m not ready for this!” But like a good second-time mother, half on auto-pilot, she quickly downloaded an app and started timing her contractions. An hour after monitoring the situation, she knew it was real. She decided it was time to text Tommy awake.
Emily: I think I peed the bed.
Tommy: Did you?
Emily: No. (shocked faced emoji)
Tommy made his way upstairs. This deserved face-to-face communication. The two of them made eye contact, silently processing the situation. “I’m going to call your mom,” Tommy finally verbalized. Emily was reluctant; a symptom of her denial. “Don’t you remember what happened last time?!” Tommy pushed back, recounting the advice of the nurses. Emily acquiesced.
Emily’s dutiful mother, Liz, left the house without waking her husband and arrived at Emily’s soon thereafter. “Oh hello, darling. I didn’t expect this to be happening tonight,” she greeted her daughter joyously. Her beautiful English accent seemed to make the ungodly hour far more pleasant. Emily was calmed having her near.
As the contractions reached 10 minutes apart they paged the midwife. “Okay, why don’t you wait at the house a little longer,” proposed the midwife. Emily was certain this was not a good idea. “No, I need you to meet me at the hospital,” Emily’s instincts insisted.
Emily knew what was about to transpire. As her contractions grew stronger she remembered the pain vividly, like a memory that is awakened by a familiar scent. She was not mentally prepared.
The car ride to the hospital was torturous. Contractions were coming every five minutes. Each time, Emily’s body reflexively stretched out as much as possible, attempting to counter the pain. The 20-minute car ride felt endless, despite Tommy’s best efforts.
Tommy eventually pulled into the Mount Sinai parking lot. Emily cocked her head towards him, looking a little like a possessed Sigourney Weaver in Ghost Busters. “Dude, why didn’t you drop me off at the door?!” The parking lot was only across the street from the hospital, but if ever there was a valid reason for pulling right up to the doors, Emily thought this was it.
They cut across the deserted street and made their way up to the 15th floor around 2:30 a.m. The triage nurse seemed pleasant and began asking the usual list of questions. Emily quickly cut through the red tape and insisted that she was in labour. The midwife arrived soon after and took over the talking.
The labour and delivery ward was oddly quiet. They walked down the hallway and into their assigned room. The lights were shockingly bright. Emily quickly surveyed the space, taking note of the strange absence of pillows. Luckily, they had taken the midwife’s advice and brought their own.
The next 30 minutes felt like a continuous drop down the world’s largest rollercoaster. Contractions intensified, each one stronger than the last. Emily sank deeper and deeper into a focused tunnel. You can do this, you are strong and capable, you can do this, she repeated in her mind with each wave of contractions. The outside world faded into blurred colours and sounds. Tommy stood by Emily’s side with his silent strength, ready to be there for her however she needed.
Things moved so quickly there was no time for an epidural or even a bath, like Emily had wanted. Any attempt to make her more comfortable proved futile. Even locating a hair elastic while Emily went pee proved challenging.
Tommy took over massaging Emily’s lower back from the midwife so she could tend to the necessary paperwork. His hands, unfortunately, lacked the experience needed to relieve the pressure. “Stop touching my back wrong!” ordered Emily, unable to filter any of her emotions. Emily turned around and leaned into Tommy’s chest desperate for some relief. That’s when she felt things change.
“I need to push,” Emily announced.
“I don’t think you’re there yet,” responded the midwife.
“I need to push,” repeated Emily, “either standing or laying down, but I need to push.” Emily noticed the midwife’s eyes glance back at the door, willing the second midwife to arrive. She turned back towards Emily and guided her up onto the bed. Bending at the waist was excruciating.
“Wait for my cue on the contraction to push,” said the midwife as if she was reading from a script.
“Oh no, I’m not controlling this,” Emily clarified.
Two contractions later, just after 3 a.m., Ivy entered the world. Emily immediately looked up at Tommy’s face for confirmation that everything was okay. He was transfixed in a moment of pure joy. His face flushed pink, eyes brimming with tears, and a smile reaching further than Emily had ever seen.
The midwife placed Ivy on Emily’s chest, just as the second midwife walked into the room. “Oh, I guess I’ve missed a few things,” the midwife exclaimed. Her warm, motherly presence seemed to calm the shockwave that was reverberating in the room. “Congratulations, Mom and Dad, you’ve done splendidly!”
The midwives whisked Ivy away to take measurements and initiate the full newborn assessment. Emily looked up at Tommy in complete disbelief. “Do we have another baby?” she asked half seriously. “We’re coming home...with another one...today?” Tommy was too stunned to answer with words.
The blinding lights were finally dimmed and Tommy was able to catch up to reality while he held Ivy for the first time. Her little pink body felt a slight as a feather. They pulled out the baby bonnet they had purchased for her in Copenhagen months prior. It was five sizes too big, and made Ivy look like she was ready to join the cast of Road to Avonlea. But it kept her warm and Ivy already had the confidence to pull off the look.
The midwives tended to Emily and ordered her RhoGAM shot. While they waited, Emily and Tommy took a photo with their newest family member and texted it out to the rest of the clan. Shock was the unanimous response, which seemed appropriate given the fact that most of them were still digesting the birthday meal they had shared less than 10 hours prior. Emily’s father hadn’t even noticed his wife had left the house!
An hour and a half later, Emily had been given her shot and the midwife had confirmed that her bleeding was under control. “Okay guys, you are free to go home,” she announced, notching Emily and Tommy’s sense of astonishment up to an unprecedented level. Tommy pulled open the blinds revealing the pitch black sky. How on earth could it be time to go home already?! The sun hasn’t even come up! Despite their inner confusion, Emily and Tommy began to pack up their belongings and bundle Ivy into her car seat. Tommy pushed his girls down the long corridor. The same women who had greeted them were still sitting in the nurses’ station.
The car was cold and immediately too small for their family of four. Emily wedged herself between Ivy and Archer’s car seats. The car ride home was quiet. When they walked through the door, Liz bolted up from the sofa in disbelief. Emily began recounting the events of the last three hours for her mother.
The adrenaline in her body made sleeping an impossibility, so Emily settled for a long shower. As the hot water poured down her long hair and over her post-partum body, it seemed to wash away the remaining shock, and bring a sense of clarity and calm. She felt thankful that her daughter’s birth was uncomplicated. And she began to think about all the pain mothers willingly bear for their children. She thought about her own mother and how hard she worked raising three children in a country far from home while her father worked long hours. She felt a sense of empathy and gratitude deeper than ever before.
At 7 a.m. Emily and Tommy decided it was time to wake up Archer and introduce him to his new sister. Tommy gently rustled the blankets and leaned in close to Archer’s angelic face. “Good morning, Archer,” he said sweetly. “Do you want to meet your baby sister?”
“What? I don’t understand, Daddy,” Archer responded honestly, half asleep.
Tommy and Archer walked down the stairs slowly, Archer still rubbing his eyes. The sight of his grandmother, and Emily holding Ivy only perplexed him more. He climbed up on the couch and inspected his new playmate. He held Ivy for the first time with great care. And then in fine toddler form, announced he was done and passed Ivy back to Emily.
Later that evening Emily sat down to a celebratory plate of her family’s favourite lasagna. As she savoured every bite of the comforting carbohydrates, she relived the events of that morning in her mind. She remembered laying in the hospital bed with her daughter, staring at her squishy little face feeling a strong sense of completeness and accomplishment. She thought about how her second child had changed her, enhanced her, enlightened her. It was like the feeling when someone reveals the answer to an impossible riddle. When you understand something that your mind previously could not comprehend. How would she be able to love another human as much as her firstborn? That day Emily discovered a Higher Love. The kind Whitney Houston sang about. The kind that is limitless and all-powerful. She loved each of her children differently and infinitely. Everything felt as it was meant to be.