It was 5:45am and I should have been sleeping. Instead, I was sitting on a bedroom floor with a large container of coffee that was having a hard time keeping up with my level of fatigue. It was still dark outside, but light was creeping out to the east and I knew that dawn was approaching – I knew the light would wake me up even more than the coffee would be able to do.
The room was humid, damp from the birthing pool the laboring mother was resting in. This labor was not her first, but it was surprising all of us by being one of her more challenging births so far as she rolled from contraction to contraction long after she expected to be done. It broke my heart more than it usually would to see her having to work so hard for this baby because this wasn’t the first journey she and I have been on together.
Our journey started even before she and I had actually met. Several years ago a woman, S, who was pregnant with her second child came into my office to interview me as her potential midwife. I was lucky – the interview went well and she hired me….and this was how I was introduced to her entire family – three sisters and one sister-in-law.
S introduced me to her sister-in-law M who was also pregnant. M was present when S birthed her baby….and a few months later, S was present with her little baby in arms when M birthed her baby – her first homebirth!
Before long I got a call from M’s sister, pregnant with her first baby…followed quickly by a third sister who was also pregnant with her first baby. The deep love I felt for M and S quickly spilled over to these two first time mothers as they grew their babies together. Each of those sisters, facing their own unique journeys and challenges, had beautiful homebirths of their first babies earlier this very same year! That made 3 sisters and 1 sister-in-law that I had seen through their birthing time!
Before the two first-time mommies had their babies, it was announced that M was expecting AGAIN…and I was asked to again be her midwife. The honor of being chosen to be someone’s midwife is something I have a hard time putting into words – but to be asked back MULTIPLIES the joy, the prayers, the honor. And finally it was S’s turn to announce she was expecting another baby – again trusting me to be her midwife.
Having already experienced FOUR of these ladies births, I had grown close to their mother (the grandmother) and she and I have developed a very special bond.
So here I sit, in this bedroom I’d been in years prior, watching her work with contractions once more. My eyes closed in prayer, I open them to see that the room is lightening up with the dawn. I glanced around the room at who was in there – the grandma sitting on a chair in the corner, the matriarch of this family; the laboring mother’s 3 sisters (one of whom is already showing the cutest little baby belly once again) sat around the pool supporting her; her doula, whom I have seen through two babies and carried the latest baby in a wrap snuggly holding him to her chest; my student/assistant who took time off last year when she gave birth to her own baby with me assisting as her midwife; the laboring mother in her birthing pool holding hands with her husband who watched with mixed expression of incredible excitement mixed with a very real pain of seeing her struggle this time.
My eyes went from woman…to woman….to woman….and I realized that if I included myself, this room contained 7 homebirth mothers – and I had been present for every single one of their births at least once! Without counting myself, I had seen 7 babies come from these women – another would arrive in a couple of hours, and still another in a few months.
My breath got stuck in my chest and wet tears filled my eyes – that was their gift to me. To have such an important role in an entire family like that, to be trusted to not just provide medical safety, but to take good CARE of them and their babies with respect and love…
I am humbled. I don’t feel worthy…it’s an enormous blessing they gave to me. I feel it, I appreciate it, and in that warm room filling with golden light I realized that this was a moment I would likely not be able to experience in quite the same way ever again in my lifetime.
A baby boy was born into the water and was lifted up by his daddy’s waiting hands and handed to his mother’s waiting arms. The room was joyous – and tears flowed down my cheeks faster than I could wipe them away. How do I tell them how much they mean to me? How can I make them understand how they’ve made me feel?
I accept that I can’t – and I don’t have to. Their journeys weren’t about me and I understand that. But even though it’s their experience, I was invited along to experience it with them – a ride that is exhilarating and challenging and triumphant and AMAZING! Thank you seems absurdly inadequate, but it’s all I can offer them.