Nineteen years ago today, the world shifted to welcome in a beautiful new being. She happens to be my daughter. Her birth heralded many a change in my world. When her life merged with mine and she began to grow inside me, I found my calling to be a birth attendant. When she emerged from my body, a mother and father were newborn too. So was an Oma, two aunties, and a cousin. The world became a little sweeter that day, and continues to reap the blessings of this good, compassionate, strong, fierce young woman. This is the story of Kayleigh.

Kayleigh’s dad and I met 18 months before she was born. The day we met I think we knew we were destined to make a family. I asked him a couple of days after we first laid eyes on each other if he had ever thought of having children. He said that he hadn’t thought about it much…would probably consider adopting…but that come to think of it, he might love to have a little girl named Kayleigh (after the song “Kayleigh” by Marillion). With those words, the world of pre-born souls perked up its ears, and a light began to pulse gently, growing and developing, waiting for the perfect moment to spark into life earthside.

I think our child may have been conceived during a thunderstorm in a tent in the Adirondacks. We decided on a whim to go camping out there on my birthday, after having stayed up all night playing Mario Brothers on Nintendo. We left that morning, grabbing a bus. We had planned to stay camping for a few more days after the rain, but missed our dog too much. After taking a canoe out but having to bring it back in quickly because I got a sudden anxiety over sea monsters (even though we were on a lake), we hitchhiked most the way home. We felt a bit odd walking through the US/Canada border after hitching a ride with a guy who listened to the Cowboy Junkies and had a three legged dog named Tripod, but nobody gave us any trouble. We each had a piece of rock hidden in our pockets as our mode of protection against bears and bad guys, but we felt safe in the world. In the middle of my pregnancy, Mitchell used a bit of that rock to put in a pouch he made for me to wear as a kind of amulet of protection.

I could feel my daughter hovering around before she came in. I knew something was going to happen to me, something huge. Before I even missed a period or consciously thought I might be pregnant I was meandering through the “pregnancy and birth” sections of the book store. Mitchell got into a minor bike accident and had a mild concussion, and my mind started to think things like, “he’d better be more careful, because I don’t want to be left alone with a child.” Hey. Wait a minute! Child? What’s going on here? The thought of perhaps having a child left me feeling nothing but excited and happy. There was never a moment of wavering or doubt that this wasn’t the perfect thing to do, even though I was only 22, a part time student of English Literature and Creative Writing, and a counter girl at Cafe La Tulipe Noir where I had to don a tuxedo shirt, a bow tie, and a pink visor and apron daily to serve snooty customers cheesecake.

I worked with Mitchell’s sister Nancy at La Tulipe. I had a good relationship with her, and trusted her. I mentioned my period might be late. She just gave me a knowing smile. She had had a baby herself at a young age, and her son Jeremy who was then three was an amazing kid we were always trying to steal from her on weekends. We adored Jeremy, and even though Mitchell and I were a pretty new couple, all we wanted to do in our spare time was hang around this little boy. As I washed and folded his sweet little boy clothes one day, I had a strong feeling I would be washing some little clothes for my own kid soon. I bought a pregnancy test. On the same day Murphy Brown found out she was pregnant, the little ball on my pee stick turned blue. Positive.

Naturally, the first person I called immediately was Nancy. “Oh my God, I’m pregnant!” Nancy expressed how great she thought that was, and I was so grateful for such a positive reception of my tender news. Mitchell had no idea. I left the pregnancy test on my desk, and later that evening Mitchell came home, complaining loudly about something that had happened to him during the day. He stopped talking only for a moment to pick up the test and asked, “You’re pregnant?” I nodded. Without missing a beat he continued his rant, sat down on the couch, then went silent, breathing rather heavily. We were having a baby. It was a surprise. And it was good.

Next was to tell my family, who were not as receptive. My mom’s first reaction was to say, “Oh, NO!” with an exasperated tone that implied I had done something stupid. She didn’t intend it to be mean, but of course as a mom she was thinking, “No money, only been with this guy for 9 months, what is my daughter’s future?” I don’t blame her for that. And she quickly came around. My Nana told me she was glad my Granddad wasn’t alive to know I was having a baby out of wedlock, though she herself was very cool about the whole thing.

I’m not sure why this is, but there was never any doubt in my mind that natural birth was the road I wanted to choose. I had always known that. Probably because I come from an unbroken line of natural birthers, my mother having been born at home in Holland, and my mother having given birth naturally to my sisters (twins) and me. My mom only had positive stories of childbearing and breastfeeding, and I have the utmost gratitude that that attitude and belief in birth as a normal process was passed onto me. I would probably not be who I am and do what I do without such a strong legacy as a foundation in my very cells. Even though my mother had 3 children within one year (yes, you heard me correctly), she never complained that it was overwhelming or impossible. She always talked about motherhood as being fun.

I knew unequivocally I was with the very right man to have this baby with on the day we told his mother the big news. We were having dinner at her house with our nephew Jeremy (her grandson), and Mitchell cleared his throat and announced, “So, Jeremy, it looks like you’re going to have a little cousin.” Mitchell’s mom looked up and said, “Say what? You know formula and diapers are expensive, right?” Mitchell said, “Don’t worry…we’re going to breastfeed and use cloth diapers.” How this 22 year old boy pulled this decision out of his hat I have no idea, because we hadn’t even discussed it before. But we resonated with its feeling of rightness, and our intuitive mutual connection to our fledgling beliefs made us so happy to be having a baby together.

I felt like the only pregnant woman on earth. I felt so special. I wanted my belly to poke out NOW, so everyone would see how pregnant I was. I felt nauseated, but it wasn’t a horrible thing. I felt reassured things were going normally. I had bought a book that was a midwife’s guide to birth, so all of it was about natural birth. I never bought one book that was even remotely like What to Expect. I had a gynecologist I really liked, who I had been seeing since I was about 18. When I asked her not to listen to the baby with a Doppler because I was worried about the ultrasound, she said, “Of course!” She informed me she wouldn’t be able to hear my baby with a fetoscope then, but that everything looked just fine and we would wait until the baby grew big enough for her to listen to it with a fetoscope. In fact, she appreciated the idea of keeping her auscultation skills intact. I consider myself pretty lucky to have had an OB with such a great attitude.

My husband would walk our big dog Jezebel in Jeanne Mance Park daily, and on his walks he met a couple named Jane and John, who had 2 big white huskies named Yukon and Coltrain. Before I got pregnant, they informed him that Jane was pregnant. One day, Mitchell and I were walking along St. Laurent street. I was feeling pretty green with nausea. I looked up and saw a lovely blonde hippie walking down the street with a swollen belly, flanked by two white dogs. Mitchell said, “Hey, Jane! How are you doing? This is my partner Lesley…she’s pregnant too!” Jane looked at me with love and embraced me in the warmest, most present hug I have ever had in my life and said, “That’s WONDERFUL! I have something for you.” She dug around in her bag and pulled out two books: The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed and Spiritual Midiwfery by Ina May Gaskin. I gratefully accepted these books, and Jane and I exchanged some girl talk. I asked her where she was having her baby, and she said, “At home with a midwife.” I han’t know that was possible in Montreal. But I immediately asked how I could find a midwife too, because I intuitively knew that no matter now nice my doctor was, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy the hospital birth experience. I had assumed that’s where all Montrealers went to birth, and was so amazed to know this other option existed, and that I could do it too.

I inhaled the books Jane gave me, and at some point in my careful reading of Spiritual Midwifery, it struck with utter clarity that what I would do with my life was be a birth attendant. Suddenly everything made sense: why I was always so attracted to the birth process, why even as a child I was hungry for birth stories…it was my calling. I have never, not even for one moment, wavered from that belief. I was just so deeply moved to be so overwhelmingly passionate about something that had such meaning to me. How amazing to not only be pregnant, which is pretty great in and of itself, but to discover what I wanted to be when I grew up! Life was fantastic.

I met my midwife Francoise, and loved her right away. I also saw my doctor a couple of more times, who kept her promise and listened to Baby with a fetoscope. I was honest with Dr. B. I told her I was planning to give birth at home. She told me as an OB she had to say she wasn’t entirely supportive of that idea, however, if I had to transfer to the hospital for any reason with an emergency in labour, she would do her best to be there for me and would treat the midwife and me without judgement. This made me feel fantastic to know I was covered on all sides. Francoise and Dr. B. suggested I have an ultrasound, because they noted my belly seemed quite large and wanted to rule out the possibility of twins, which run in my family. I agreed. An when I walked into the hospital, I felt so relieved that I would NOT be giving birth there. I told the technician to keep the baby’s sex a secret, as I would have felt very strange knowing in advance what the sex of my baby was. I felt deep down she was a girl.

A few family members were a bit challenged with the idea of my choosing to give birth at home. “What if something goes wrong?” they wanted to know. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t feel afraid of birthing at home in the least. I felt afraid of being in the hospital. My grandmother put every one’s worries to rest, reminding them that she had had her four babies at home, and that in those days where she came from, it was weird to give birth in the hospital where sick people went.

Aside from a few blood sugar issues, pregnancy evolved beautifully. I remember meeting Francoise’s back up midwife Kirsten, and she said, “Oh, we just LOVE 22 year olds! They give birth so great!”

Mitchell and I moved to a nice apartment on Park Avenue, having given up our studies to work full time to amass some savings. I stopped working at about six months pregnant, and spent the rest of my pregnancy totally enjoying this new kick of being obsessively clean and organized, which is not part of my normal make-up. At all. I would make Mitchell his lunch and walk the dog over to his work to bring it to him, just like a real housewife. And Mitchell was such a good sport when I made him paint the kitchen twice because I didn’t like the colour. I was amazed at how much pleasure I took in smelling clean little baby clothes in their drawers, and the look of clean, white porcelain in the bathroom. I dusted every day. I nested to my heart’s content, and enjoyed spending my time reading, resting, cleaning, and preparing for Baby. I fantasized about birth all the time. I knew it would be the hardest thing I had ever done, but I knew I could do it. Just envisioning the moment of my baby being in my arms for the first time would move me to tears.

A few weeks before the birth I met some neighbour children in a park near our library. The girl, who was about 11 said, “You’ve got a baby in there, don’t you? My mom is kind of like a midwife. She helps out at birthings. She had us at home.” That was how I met my friend Michelle. She offered to help out and Mitchell and I felt really comfortable with her. She was so warm and open with big hugs and generosity. We had dinner a few times with her and her family and they showed us the photos of their births. I just couldn’t believe all the amazing support this baby and I were drawing to us. I felt very guided, and never took for granted that I was walking in a state of grace that was shaping my future in a very important way.

On May 21st, the day before my due date, I woke up to some cramps that felt stronger than the occasional warm up contractions I had been having. At 7am I stood in the shower and and moaned a little, saying, “hmmmm, this is different….I think I’m in labour.” Mitchell asked if he should stay home from work. I figured not, because I didn’t want to make a big deal of it yet. I knew it could go on for a long time. So off he went. My friend/doula Michelle drove me to my midwife’s appointment, as she wanted to meet Francoise. As we waited in Francoise’s office, I had a few more waves of sensation, and found I just liked walking and paying attention to them. I had had way worse periods. But they did seem to ask for attention, so I’d stop talking and wander off, walking and breathing gently.

Francoise checked me and said, “Well, you’re still 3cm (I had been for 3 weeks), but there is some bloody show and things are softer…maybe I’ll see you tonight or tomorrow night.”

Michelle wanted to take me to lunch, but I didn’t feel like eating much at all. I wanted to be home. So I went and did my routine house tidy. I lay down and took a nap. At about noon Michelle called and told me to eat, so I ate a bit of soup and toast. I just wasn’t very hungry. Mitchell came home at about 1pm, and we went to do some groceries. I think we even went to see a movie at the old Rialto Theatre as we lived right across the street from it. Later in the afternoon I began to feel very cranky. The contractions weren’t changing much, and I kept thinking all of this might just stop, and if it did I’d be disappointed, because I just really wanted to get the show on the road to meet my baby. I was SO ready for her. My back was feeling tense and sore, and it made me grumpy. Jane came by for a visit, and I sent her and Mitchell off to walk Jezebel because I didn’t want to expose them to my bad mood. Mitchell came back, and I was still annoyed because things hadn’t really changed. Michelle called to check in, and before she hung up she said, “I just love you SO much!” BOOM, I had a really nice big contraction! After that, they came harder and stronger, and I was happy because finally we were getting somewhere. The sensations were sharper, and I thought these contractions must be “dilators”. I called my mom to tell her I was in labour, and I had to put down the phone every time I had a contraction to walk and breath through it, but between I felt normal.

The news was on and I remember feeling interested in watching it between contractions, but that during them, Mitchell and I would laugh and dance. I couldn’t just sit still and ignore them, because they were strong. I even crawled around on the floor a bit, cracking up every time Mitchell asked me if I was having another “contractionne”. He was going by the book and writing down the time and frequency of the contractions, and they were about every five minutes for a minute or so. That was the last part of the labour we bothered paying too much attention to the time. I felt like I was doing great. The contractions hurt, and I felt like I was working pretty hard to keep on top of them, but that I was happy to be doing it. I felt like I was doing a great job with this labour business…not too badly at all.

I went into the bath after awhile and did some nipple stimulation, because I really didn’t want things to slow down. Now the contractions were coming nice and strong, and instead of running around, I breathed slow and long, right down into my belly, and followed my breath out, releasing all the tension into the water. I felt SO good. I had lit candles in the dark bathroom and felt very cozy and peaceful in there. I felt like I could stay there all night. I think Michelle had come over at this point and had sent Mitchell off to bring the dog to his friend’s for the night. At some point Michelle noticed that I was a lot less communicative between the contractions, and I started feeling like I wanted Francoise to come over. I got out of the bath, Michelle called her, and she said she was on her way. I noticed a pretty intense pain in my back that seemed to be there regardless of the contractions, and it made me feel tense. I leaned over on my bed during the contractions. Michelle gave me a stupendous massage. Truly, this woman has magic hands. After her massage, the back pain was completely gone.

Mitchell came back home, and Francoise arrived with her assistant Marie Suzanne at about 11:30pm. I was glad to see them because this whole labour thing was getting pretty hard. It didn’t seem so fun anymore. I was tired, and wanted to know I was close to having the baby. Francoise checked me and told me I was 4cm. I wanted to throw her out the window. I had been working way over 12 hours for what in my mind amounted to 1 measly, stinking centimetre. At the time, I didn’t really understand the irrelevance of numbers in a normally functioning labour, and all I could think was that if I were only 4cm and had to get to 10cm, I was in for a heck of a lot more pain for a much longer time. Waaahhh. I understood in that moment why women chose epidurals, and I was pretty glad I wasn’t at a hospital, otherwise I might feel tempted to also. I remember ruing the day I lost my virginity a couple of times, thinking sex was a pretty stupid thing to do. I had hit a wall. When one judges labour in terms of numbers and has an expectation of how things are supposed to progress, the disappointment can be huge. It was a shock to hear Francoise say matter-of-factly, “Yes, 4cm….that’s what latent labour is like. I’m going to go unroll my sleeping bag in the baby’s room to get some sleep. Marie Suzanne will stay with you.” I couldn’t believe all this work had just been early labour. Not even enough to warrant my midwife staying awake for! What was I going to do?

So I did what I could. I put one foot in front of the other. I made a mental shift. I figured it was just going to be bigger than I was, but that if so many women had done it, I could too. I walked, and I breathed, I breathed and I walked. As I did so, the room began to fade away. I knew there were people in my living room…Michelle, Marie-Suzanne, Michelle’s 11 year old daughter Ovi and our photographer friend Alexandra….but I didn’t see them. I was far off in labour land. Between contractions I would find myself in my bedroom in front of the aquarium, the soft bubbling sound very soothing. I saw Mitchell sitting peacefully on the bed, calm and relaxed, enjoying the labour. “Hi, Puppy,” he’d say.

At some point I lay down next to Mitchell, Marie-Suzanne sitting next to the bed. I was working hard, and could feel a lot of tension in my body. I would contract and tense up with a ragged breath, and it wasn’t feeling great. Then I had a really sharp contraction which made me sit up with surprise at the pain. I literally heard a POP, and my waters broke. There was some blood running down my legs too, but Marie-Suzanne said it was okay. I thought I was going to barf immediately, so I ran to the bathroom, trembling and nauseated. Mitchell followed me in and I could feel a surge swelling and was terrified it was going to engulf me and sweep me away forever. He asked, “Are you okay?” I told him I didn’t know what to do. I’ll never know what made him, a boy with no experience with labour whatsoever think of this, but he said”why don’t you make some noise?” And as that surge peaked I agreed, “ooooookkkkaaaaAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYY”. After it was done I said, “Wow! That felt great!” I had suddenly found my way to release tension. I knew my spontaneous vocalizing was very loud, and I was happy I had warned my neighbours not to call the cops if they heard some strange noises in the night. I had read about the animal noises some women made in Ina May’s book, but nothing had prepared me for the raw, uncontrollable, MASSIVE power expressing its visiting presence in my body through the vehicle of my voice. I jumped into the shower, as under running water in a quiet, dark space is where I feel safest when challenged physically and emotionally. The Tsunami waves would swell and I would yell, the sound increasing as it peaked, decreasing at it decrescendoed, and I could feel myself rising above pain. Yes, there was pain, but it was not horrible. It was unbearably horrible if I didn’t yell. Had I had someone in my face trying to control the way I was expressing myself, I would have begged to be knocked out. Vocalization was my personal deliverance from undo-able to the all powerful. What was more present than pain when I was yelling was the sheer intensity of sensation. Mitchell, in support, vocalized with me, but quietly. Why he was not freaked out by this craziness I have no idea, but he looked perfectly calm, comfortable, and loving, vocalizing with me to keep me company.

When I started feeling a little faint in the hot shower, I got back onto the bed. Mitchell lay behind me and held me really tightly, which felt so good because I truly felt I was either going to explode with sensation or levitate with the energy moving through my body. I wasn’t thinking at all about a baby. I wasn’t really thinking anything. I was just in the moment fully. There was no other way to be. Nature is brilliant, if only we let her be, and knows just what hormones to release at the right times to put us in the right headspace to cope. Part of me was sort of observing, saying, “Lesley, you’re being SO dramatic,” and another part knew I was doing just fine. I felt no fear. There was no room for anything but surge and rest, surge and rest. My life was not punctuated by a series of contractions anymore…instead of just riding the waves, I became the whole ocean.

Francoise came into the room and asked me if I felt like pushing. She knew by my sounds the baby was coming soon. “NnnnoooooOOOOOOOOGRRRRRRRRR” I said, as I suddenly felt a strong pressure in my pelvic floor. It was not the overwhelming poo feeling I had heard described, but pressure nonetheless. She said she would check me, and I don’t remember the exam at all, but she said, “Yes, you’re fully dilated.” I was shocked. “That’s it?” I thought? Not that I was unhappy…not at all…those were sweet words indeed. But I thought it had to get worse somehow. I thought it was going to get bad. But it wasn’t bad. Insane, yes, and stronger than anything I had imagined. But I was not miserable. Francoise told me I could start pushing if I wanted. I had gone from 4cm to 10cm in about 2 hours.

A birthing stool was set up for me by my bed, and Mitchell sat on the bed to support me from behind. I started pushing. In hindsight, my doula mind tells me it was too early to push, as I never had a super strong urge at all. But I was doing what was encouraged. Nobody counted or directed much, but when I started pushing I just yelled and yelled. I was guided to push the energy downwards. I started pushing really hard. Someone held a mirror underneath me. The baby’s head was slightly visible already. And stayed that way, coming down, and going up…for about 3 hours. Francoise checked the baby’s heartrate frequently, and all was well. I was strong. She said my muscles were unusually tight. I explained I had been a gymnast, in whom crazy strong pelvic floors and abs are the norm. I couldn’t believe how much energy I had to put out to move the baby down, and I was getting frustrated that it seemed she wasn’t moving much at all.

I looked over at my bed and all I could think of was eating food and sleeping. I was truly in an innocent state of Beginner’s Mind, which was a good thing. I have seen enough births to know this kind of second stage in a hospital often leads to surgical or instrumental delivery with possible episiotomy. I didn’t know this then…I had no idea there was any need for concern. After about 2.5 hours of pushing, Francoise warned me that if the baby wasn’t born in a half hour, we would need to transport to the hospital. That lit a fire under my butt. I pushed harder than I could ever imagine possible, easily maintaining that squatting position on the stool. Michelle wanted me to eat a little honey, but I really just wanted to focus. She handfed Mitchell a banana, as he was stuck where he was.

Francoise told me, “Get up and belly dance.” So I did. I got up, shook my hips around, then went to sit on the toilet for awhile. I think this is what did it. Soon after more squatting, the baby finally started coming down past my pubic bone. Francoise asked me to get onto the bed, and I did with Mitchell again sitting behind me. A very long crowning process went on. I don’t remember a lot of pain, but finally that huge urge to push came upon me where it hadn’t been present before. Francoise informed me that the baby’s heartrate had gone down under 100 with the last contraction, and that if I didn’t give birth in the next contraction or two, she would have to cut me. I couldn’t fathom an episiotomy after all that, so I met her challenge and pushed that kid out. Just before her whole head was born Francoise asked me if I wanted to touch her and I reached down and did so, but the strangest sensation filled my body…it was if I was feeling the ache in her head in me, and it felt wrong to touch her squishy little cranium just then. As her head emerged, she began yelling immediately. The rest of her slipped out easily, and all of a sudden I had a warm, wet, wriggly little baby on me. “Oh my God, oh my God!” I cried. What a holy moment. I can’t describe it any other way. The sun was just rising, at 5:27 am on the most beautiful day of the year so far. The cats had given some sympathy yowls at the moment of birth. I was a mother.

I couldn’t get over that I had a baby. A Baby! I was almost a little afraid of what I could feel to be a powerful soul in her, though I loved her overwhelmingly already. Francoise gave her some homeopathic Arnica because she had the most bruised head I have to this day ever seen on a newborn. The top of her right ear was folded over tightly, and she had a very swollen double cephalic hematoma. Francoise told me had I given birth in the hospital I had planned, she had no doubt it would have ended in a C-section, even though Baby had been just fine throughout. Her APGARS were 9 and 10, and we later found out she weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces. Francoise told me she had been born facing upwards, and that she had suspected as much. It was only the 2nd Occiput Posterior baby she had seen born at home to a first time mother. I felt pretty beat up, but was blessed with an intact perineum. The birth was challenging, but it was never what I would call harrowing. There was no sense of danger and I trusted it a problem truly arose, my caregivers would direct me to do whatever was necessary for safety’s sake.

The placenta was born, the cord cut, the baby covered with a blanket. “Ahem,” said Michelle, “but would you like to tell us what flavour baby you’ve got?” It hadn’t occurred to me at all to check the sex of our child! I peeked under the blanket and saw the cut cord. “It’s a BOY!” I yelled happily. “Um, look lower, Honey,” said Michelle. “Oohhh! It’s a GIRL!” I yelled. “Hi Kayleigh!” we, her mother and father, said. A family was born, and a day was never more perfect. We called our nephew Jeremy right away because we had promised he’d be the first to know. He was happy to have a new baby cousin. Then we called my mom, who was now an Oma. She came over with my sisters Auntie Karen and Auntie Jen, and they bore flowers, gifts, and chocolate. We nicknamed our baby Meeper because of the strange little sounds she made. The midwives brought me yogurt and fruit, and Michelle presented us with the beautiful chocolate birthday cake she had baked while I was in labour, decorated with flowers. I felt like a queen. I never realized how deeply special I’d feel, as if I had just gone through something extraordinary, yet such a normal, everyday part of many a woman’s life, happening in places all over the world at the same time.

Kayleigh took to the breast immediately, and suckled like a pro to the crooning of Michelle, who in her South Carolina Southern accent coaxed, “Come on, now, Baby, want a little sugar? Take some of your Mama’s pretty ninny.” In my very long breastfeeding career, from that day forward nursing was always referred to as “having ninny”.

Soon the midwives left, and just before they did I asked, “Wait! How often do I change the diaper? And how often do I feed?” They giggled, and gave me a few practical tips. I really was pretty green. The next day Mitchell had to go back to work and I was alone with my baby, and a pile of cloth diapers full of meconium. I think we did just fine. I remember feeling like this was going to be my life now, and very easily slipping into an acceptance of that. While I felt emotional, I just felt full of love and joy, not blue or sad or overwhelmed. I don’t think I had ever had enough time in my young life to be enculturated to believe it would all be so hard and exhausting. We were tired, yes, but Kayleigh just slept with us and everything was easier that way. I didn’t read parenting books or anything. I just did what came naturally, which turned out to be everything the attachment parenting experts promote. Not bad for a young, green mom.

That was the beginning. And now today that precious baby girl is a grown-up. She is still very much my child. I look at her sometimes when she doesn’t realize it, and am just stunned at how quickly that baby grew…through endless colicky days and nights, tandem nursing, homeschooling in the early years, endless lazy days reading Lucy Maude Montgomery, making peirogis, playgroups, friends, Highland Dance and Circus classes, guitar lessons, makeup, boyfriends, highschool, plays, flute concerts, and now Theatre School. I don’t know whether it’s because of me or in spite of me…perhaps it’s a little bit of both…but Kayleigh is a solid person in the world. She is an amazing friend. She has phenomenal social awareness. She is intelligent, and so talented. I don’t know what I did to deserve this very daughter for whom tears of love and pride well up frequently in my eyes, though they’re not seen, as I’m not a public cryer. My heart is sometimes too tender to express myself, as I feel the tears may never stop. She has patiently been my “experiment kid”, living through the inconsistencies, intentions, trials, and errors of having a mom and dad doing this all for the first time the whole way through. I hope she can forgive me the pain I may have caused her through my unawareness but always be able, in moments of sadness and lonliness we humans sometimes have to endure during dark nights, to draw upon the fact that rarely is a human being as loved as deeply and passionately as her mother and father love her.

As I grew and developed into a mother, I also did as a doula. Had it not been for all the synchronicity Kayleigh brought with her on this side of her existence, I probably would not be here telling this story.

I know you get presents today to celebrate your birthday, but I want to thank YOU, my sweet KK, for the gifts of Motherhood and a life path. These are the best gifts I have ever or ever will receive. Thank you for coming to me and helping me to find my voice in the world. While our time as my being your main authority figure is finished, I embrace our relationship as grown up mother and daughter. When I take you into my arms, you are always my baby, my fancy dress loving toddler, my social butterfly school child, my passionate actress daughter, all rolled up into a magnificent young woman. I am so very proud of you.

Happy Birthday!