—Why do we always choose the hottest day of August to make these things? asks Anne, cramming another pickling cuke* into a quart jar.

—   What are you complaining about? asks Fee, grinning. I’m the one pouring the boiling water. How many more to go?

Anne eyes the pile of washed cukes in the sink.

—   I’d say about five more jars.

—   That’s not so bad. It goes faster every year, doncha think?

—   We’re quite the team! Can you pass me that dill, Fee?

Fiona passes it over just as the phone rings. She gets it on the second ring.

—   Hi. What? Hang on Trish, Anne’s here. I’m putting you on speaker.

Fiona whispers to Anne: she thinks she’s going into labour. It’s nearly a month early.

—   Trish? It’s Anne here. What’s going on?

—   I’m having contractions. Real ones, not those Braxton whatchacallits. Every 10 minutes now — I timed them — and Craig’s out.

There’s panic in her voice.

—   Have you called him on his cell? asks Fiona.

—   He’s not picking up. I left a message, told him to call on my cell. It’s a month early, Anne. Will the baby be okay? Oh, gosh here’s another one.

—   Anne, should we go over there? whispers Fee.

—   Let me talk to her, she replies.

They both pause for a half minute or so, listening as Trish breathes heavily.

—   Frig! says Trish. No one told me it hurt that much! And I know it’s gonna get worse.

—   How long have the contractions been regular? asks Anne.

—   About twenty minutes maybe, says Trish.

—   And are they getting closer.

—   Slowly. Like ten seconds closer each time. And I’ve lost my mucous plug, but my water hasn’t broken.

—   Good, good. Labour usually lasts about five and a half hours, so you’re probably okay, but I don’t like that you’re alone.

—   Oh, my cell’s ringing. Craig? Yes. Yes, it’s time to go. When? Ten?

—   Anne, is that okay, ten minutes?

—   Yes, but we’ll keep talking to you so you won’t be alone.

—   See you in bit, Craig. Bye love.

—   What were you doing when the contractions started, asks Anne, more to divert Trish than anything else.

—   It’s so textbook, says Trish, I was washing the baby change table my cousin gave me. She’s loaded, so it’s top of the line, oak. It’s been sitting around for weeks and all of a sudden, I had to clean it. Just as well, I suppose.

—   Now that’s nesting, says Anne.

—   I’m so scared, says Trish. Of the pain….

Anne nudges Fiona, nods at the phone.

—   I know it hurts, honey, says Fiona, you already know that. But the thing about labour is that you know the pain will end and when it does you’ll have this lovely wee baby. Usually when you’re in pain, you don’t know when or how it will end…it’s all so out of control. But with labour, it’s all for something wonderful, something positive. It feels indescribably good at the end of the day.

—   Mom says you forget about the pain later on.

—   I don’t know about that, says Fiona, laughing. I’ll never forget the seven-and-a-half hours it took to deliver Gavin. But then I had Gavin, an amazing human being and we made him.

—   He’s a great kid, agrees Trish.

—   You’ve taken your Lamaze classes? asks Anne.

—   Most of them. Craig too, of course.

—   How are things with you two? asks Fee. Last time we talked….

—   We have a therapy appointment with Dr. Foster for Friday.

—   Might have to delay that, says Anne.

—   Reschedule, says Fee. I’m sure you can bring the baby with you. She’s good that way. Accommodating.

—   Yeah, well Craig and I had a good talk too, says Trish. It’s like you said, Fee, he’s really anxious about being a father. I’ve been so fixated on my body and my feelings and everything, but he’s got a lot of concerns. Mostly financial. As soon as I’m able, I’m going to give him a hand at his business.

—   Chocolate?

—   Yeah, I know, it’s a far cry from writing the great Canadian novel, but I’ll always have to have some sort of paying job, and it might as well be in the family business. I’ll just help out wherever he needs me. I’m good at talking….

—   I’ll say, says Fee, laughing.

—   Ha ha, says Trish. Anyway I might be good at sales. Not right away obviously. I need to look after the baby full time until Christmas at least. But Craig’s really happy with that solution because he needs help. And this way we’re both working toward the same goal.

And what about school? thinks Fiona. What about your degree? But she knows this isn’t the time to broach that topic.

—   Speaking of goals, says Anne, how are you feeling now?

—   Good, but Anne, I’m nearly a month early. Will the baby be okay?

—   You’re due the nineteenth, right? So really it’s only three weeks. That’s hardly early at all, they come when they need to come. Don’t worry about it. Best to get through labour first. When you get to five minutes apart, that’s when you should go to hospital.

—   What do I do now?

—   Something relaxing and distracting, watch a video, talk to Craig.

—   Oh, I think I hear his car. Hang on.

Anne plunks a few more dills in her jar.

—   Yeah, it’s him, says Trish.

—   Good luck, Trish, says Anne.

—   I hope you have a fabulous birth, says Fee. Next time I see you, you’ll have a little baby. Remember, it’s probably the most creative thing you’ll ever do. Bye love.

*Kinburn dill pickles

Makes about 12 quarts

5 quarts of pickling cukes, well washed
Bunch of fresh dill, rinsed
Alum (adds the crunch)

Per quart:

½ cup vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon coarse salt (not iodized)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon pickling spices

  1. Sterilize clean jars: remove lids, place jars upside down in 225 °F oven for 20 minutes.
  2. Sterilize lids and sealers by pouring boiling water over them.
  3. Per quart: Pour vinegar in bottom of hot jar, add salt, sugar and spices. Swirl to mix. Add garlic and one sprig of dill, then pack in cukes. Top off with another sprig of dill. Fill to overflowing with boiling water. Use sterilized tongs to place sealer lid on top, then screw on lid.
  4. When cool, screw lid on tight.
  5. Leave minimum of 3 weeks, then enjoy!

Thank you to Phoebe Hunter for this recipe.