Provincial Parks have always played an important role in my life but I never dreamed I would find myself 40 weeks pregnant and camping at Pancake Bay Provincial Park. There I was, with my massive belly walking endlessly around the campground in the hopes of inducing the labour of my first child. So how did I end up at an Ontario Park in my final days of pregnancy?
Like many children in Ontario I grew up camping and playing in Provincial Parks. Some of my earliest memories are of driving through Algonquin in the spring, with my nose glued to the window trying to spot the first moose. We spent endless hours playing on the smooth rocks of the shoreline of Georgian Bay in Killbear Provincial Park and I remember swimming in the rapids at Arrowhead. Even the times when things did not go perfectly, like when our tent filled with water in the night, the trips and memories we made still seemed perfect to me.
Once in high school and then university, provincial parks served as a nice getaway from the daily grind of my studies. We would all pack into the few cars we had and spend a weekend hiking and singing songs around the campfire. It was in university that we began exploring the interiors of Algonquin and Killarney and discovered a whole new way to camp. The peace and solitude that can be found deep in the forests of Ontario’s protected lands have ignited a life long love of the outdoors in me.
I now live in the small town Wawa, which is about 200km north of Sault Ste. Marie. Due to lack of facilities and professional care, women are sent down to Sault Ste. Marie during the last few weeks of their pregnancy. So, being the good patient I am, I did as the doctor ordered and at 38 weeks pregnant I packed my bag and my two dogs and made the journey down. I never thought I would actually wait there for very long. In my mind I would get to the Sault, finish my last bit of shopping for baby essentials, and then baby would make a timely arrival a few days later. To my disappointment that is not how it went. I waited, and waited, and waited. After nearly two weeks away from my home and husband, the baby was showing no signs of arriving. It was at that last visit to the doctor that I felt very pregnant and very, very far from home.
So what was a pregnant lady to do? I couldn’t just sit around and wait, analyzing every little thing that felt different and reading online about ways to induce labour. So naturally (for me), the answer was to head to the nearby Pancake Bay Provincial Park and camp while I waited. Now for those of you who think I am crazy, Pancake Bay is only a 40-minute drive from Sault Ste. Marie, so there was no worry that I was putting myself or the baby in danger. I called up my husband, told him to pack up the camping gear, and off we went.
We spent the next three days in the quiet relaxing solitude that you can find in northern parks early in the season. It was a great way for my husband and I to spend our last few days before becoming parents. There I was able to relax and stop focusing on my due date. I read on the beach, hiked the Pancake Bay Nature Trail, and relaxed by the campfire. If you have never been Pancake Bay PP is on the shoreline of Lake Superior, and the park has a gorgeous 3km long beach which we walked end to end. As I had on many trips to parks in the past, I felt the stress of my situation fade away and I found myself daydreaming of when I would bring my little one on his/her first camping trip.
My husband walked while I waddled around the near empty campground, stopping to talk to the few campers who were there in early June. I had read online that walking can induce labour, but I must have walked about 30 km in three days. I am happy to report that I did not have the baby at the park.
We are now the proud parents of a little baby girl. Her first trip was to Restoule Provincial Park when she was only 8 weeks old. At 12 weeks we took her to Pancake Bay Provincial Park where we walked the campgrounds and trails as I had when I was waiting for her to arrive. The only difference this time was my husband carried her in the wrap instead of me carrying her in my belly. Provincial Parks in Ontario offer endless opportunities to thousands of people and although visiting a park while 40 weeks pregnant is not for every soon to be mom, for me it offered the peace I needed to make it through those last few days. Thank you Ontario Parks.
By Melissa Baum
An avid outdoorswoman determined to keep putting miles on her shoes while raising her daughter on the trails