I went to bed February 23, 1981 expecting to have a restful sleep. The night got cold and the fire burned so low the house chilled to 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit), about the temperature inside a refrigerator. When I awoke, Walter was snoring, his head buried under the heavy covers. I reluctantly pushed myself out of bed into the otherwise quietness of the night.
Wrapping a nearby sweater around me I made my way to the wood stove: only a few dying embers remained. Coaxing the flame, I added some wood, and then straightened to get more when a sharp pain pierced my abdomen. Once it eased off I gave it little thought. I put another couple of pieces of wood into the stove and planned to go back to bed when a second more forceful pain made it clear I was in labour.
I shook Walter awake, but just as he was putting on his pants I realized we wouldn’t be making it to the hospital. Still in a sleepy daze, one leg in and one leg out, he started to panic. When a third contraction started the baby down the birth canal, I kept one of my legs on the floor and the knee of the other on the bed. Walter hopped about wanted to know what to do: boil water, start the car, what???
The next contraction pushed the baby’s head out. That got Walter’s attention! He grasped the small head wanting to pull. I ordered him to let go. He fretted and fussed about how to get me to the hospital with this head sticking out. I told him to calm down and make sure the baby didn’t fall onto the floor! On the next contraction the baby slipped out without harm. Walter, pale and limp, sagged onto the end of the bed in a heap.
I gathered up the baby, patted it gently until it cried, and then with the cord still attached wrapped it in a blanket. By this time, Walter had recovered enough to get his pants on, and to ask about the sex of the baby. Neither of us had paid any attention during the birth. Unwrapping the blanket, I was overjoyed to finally have a daughter.
My next thought was: a daughter – what did I know about raising a girl? Lord, help me! Holding His miraculous gift, I prayed to be worthy of her, to know how to love her and that she would grow to know she was abundantly cherished.
I had a custom of giving older siblings a present from a new addition, so Walter got the boys up to greet their new sister. They crowded around oohing and ahhing as I pulled a chocolate bar for each of them from beneath her blanket. It was the first time she impressed them, but not the last.
After getting everyone dressed, we drove to the hospital. The nurses checked the baby and deemed her a healthy girl: 9 pounds, 6 ounces. Some days, times and events stick in your memory like a hot brand searing your brain, like a meteoric impact crashing into your heart: the birth of our daughter that cold winter’s morning, February 24th, 1981, did that to me, and for me, and I’ve never been the same.