In January 1972, I had just arrived back in Canada with 19 month old Peter, after a few months with my family in England. I was 3 months pregnant with our second child and Paul had moved into our new home, in the village of Tottenham, in November.
The village was pretty and had an old mill at the entrance to the conservation area, which had a large pond, that to us looked more like a lake. There was an old unused school house, with a bell tower, at the end of our street, and a small ice rink in the field that must have once been a playground. The sun seemed so dazzlingly bright after the gentle light of England; a different kind of beauty, that I was starting to love. Many days I would go out into the crisp coldness with Peter and we would slide and totter on the ice, as ungainly as newborn foals; laughing at our clumsiness; cheeks rosy and eyes bright with fun.
Paul had just started a new job at Pine Ridge, an all male institution for the developmentally disabled in Aurora. From the start, he seemed to have found a vocation that he loved. He had apprenticed in England for a skilled trade that didn't exist in Canada and had worked since our arrival at the only job he could find, in a factory. He hated working with machinery and longed to work with people, so this job was a wonderful blessing and answer to prayer.
Before long he had applied and was accepted, to take the Mental Retardation Certificate course; a combination of academic and practical training, with field placements, over two years. That too, seemed like a gift from God as he was paid to work while taking the course.
As he studied, discussed his courses with me, and as I proofread and typed up his assignments, both of us were learning. I had no idea at the time that God's agenda for my own life was quietly moving ahead.
Paul does nothing by half measures and his work at Pine Ridge was no exception to the rule. In April his family moved out of our home and into a bungalow across the road, and Paul soon began to bring various residents home with him to visit, or to stay overnight. He wanted them to taste life outside the walls of the institution.
I was stunned to see how a simple thing such as coloured bedsheets was exciting to someone who lived in a world with no colour. Such small things to us, but sources of wonder to the people who came to visit.
He brought home a man named Rodney who had been clinically diagnosed unable to speak, but Paul had an instinct that he had withdrawn and made a choice not to speak because he was lost in the crowd of people in the institution.
Patiently, by using successive approximations (rewarding even a small sound and then building upon that,) and with the use of flash cards, Rodney began to speak! He went from a few words to over a hundred in a short time. It was amazing and exciting to see the difference that attention and caring could make and Paul's passion grew. When he was reassessed, it was confirmed that his had been by choice. He had simply shut down.
Winter became spring and suddenly it was June. Our baby wasn't due until mid June, but towards the end of the first week of June I had the urge to deep clean the house and then felt very tired and unwell. As the weekend approached, Paul told me that he was bringing Philip, one of the residents of Pine Ridge, home for the weekend, starting with Thursday evening, as he was off on Friday. I inwardly groaned, but didn't want to disappoint him or Philip, so I determined to get through it somehow.
On Thursday the 8th, Paul went next door with Peter to visit our neighbours. The stairs to the basement in both of our houses had been built with only a handrail on the side facing the floor. Paul's dad had boarded ours up because he was frightened of Peter falling through onto the concrete. That Thursday he fell through the next door neighbour's stairway instead, landing on his head on the concrete.
We were grateful that he seemed none the worse for the bang, but the doctor told us to wake him up every hour during the night, just to make sure he was okay.
Philip arrived as planned, and finally, at about 1.00 a.m. having settled both Peter and Philip for the night, after all the drama and stress of the day, Paul and I were relieved to go to bed. Straight away I felt a warm wetness flooding the bed. My waters had broken.
"Don't worry," I said to Paul,"I'm sure nothing is going will happen until morning. I'll get up and pack for the hospital when I get up."
"Okay love," said Paul, and after we threw on some dry sheets, we turned out the light.
A minute later I flicked the light back on and said, "Paul! I think I'd better pack. Now!"
We must have resembled an old silent movie as we flung the bedsheets back and ran around the house gathering things together for the hospital and then dashing across the street to wake up Paul's mum to come over and stay with Peter and Philip while we drove to the hospital in Newmarket, 30 minutes away.
There was no mistaking it, the labour was intense and frequent. This was before the days of ultra-sounds so we didn't know if this was a boy or a girl, but I asked Paul as we drove to the hospital, "If this baby is a girl, can we name her Brenda, after your mum?" We had named Peter after my mum, Pieternella, and I wanted Paul's mum's name to be carried on in one of our children, too. He agreed, although ever after he complained that he really wanted her to be called Caroline. Brenda has always given us a hard time about both choices!
In record quick time, we got to the hospital and the doctor was called in. The baby arrived at 3.00 a.m. after just 2 hours of labour.
As the nurse lifted up the baby, to lay it by my side, she said, "It's a girl."
There are no words to describe the overwhelming joy of that moment. I would have been thrilled with either a boy or a girl, but the moment that I knew that this little one was a girl, my mind projected down the corridors of time, into the future. And of all things, I thought of--shopping!
Our family was now complete. We had what is called a millionaire's family and we felt like millionaires.
We were 22 and 25 respectively, we had two wonderful children, our own home, no money to speak of but a whole lot of love and faith--and we were on the adventure of our lives!