Labour Day weekend is different this year. There is no late summer fair at the Canadian National Exhibition. For the first time in 149 years, there will be no Labour Day parade in Toronto. Other signs of the season are upon us. Although flowers still bloom in the gardens, the sky is dark by 8 p.m.
There are Labour Days and there are labour days.
Looking to find a photo, I find the story of my birth written in my mother’s handwriting and posted in my grandmother’s scrapbook instead. There is no phone in the hospital room, so my mother decides to send the note. I slip into the world weeks early after a labour so short that the doctor does not make it to the hospital in time. I am delivered by experienced nurses. The umbilical cord is wrapped around my neck and I am at risk. My cries are heard immediately, and my mother knows I will be okay.
I become a mother a day after a Labour Day. Initially I am told that I am not pregnant when a blood test comes back negative. I fear there has been a mistake. Two weeks later, a second test shows that I am 10 weeks along already. Later with the birth overdue by two weeks and suffering from pre-eclampsia, I am admitted to hospital. When I go into labour, the nurses do not listen. They say I am not due to go to the delivery floor until 9:30 p.m. They are wrong. My daughter arrives 40 minutes later at 8:50 p.m. After a flurry of activity and suction, I hear cries. Baby is okay. They do not tell she is a girl right away. They are distracted by their mistakes.
I will have two more children in the coming years. I use home pregnancy kits and switch doctors. My new doctor listens. She trusts I know my myself. My babies arrive safely after short labours at a different hospital.
Yesterday, on the eve of a Labour Day weekend, my daughter’s best friend gives birth. The plan is for induction, but the umbilical cord is in the way. Natural birth gives way to a Caesarian and Ethan arrives safely in an uncertain world. Mother and child are seen, heard and loved.
There are labour days and there are Labour Days.
This Labour Day is like no other. As more workplaces and schools prepare to reopen, there are no parades and no fairs. Many experience risk. Some feel safe and cared for. Others feel silenced and unheard. Although flowers still bloom in the gardens, the sky is dark by 8 p.m. I wonder what it will be like by Thanksgiving.