Helping to Birth a Baby (not my typical Monday morning)

I attended a birth yesterday morning. It was beautiful, miraculous, and surreal. My friend texted me in the night, but I didn’t get it until the morning. When I called to see how labour was progressing, the midwife told me, “She’s already pushing.” Fortunately, Jason was at home, so I left him with the kids, hopped on my bike, and raced across town, fueled by adrenaline and the anticipation of what awaited me. My heart was pounding so loudly with excitement that I worried it would disrupt the calm birthing environment!

She was surrounded by women when I walked in — midwives, three of them, young and capable, soothing and helpful. Her husband massaged her lower back. Someone handed me a chair and a cup of lemonade with a straw: “Keep her hydrated.” I was thankful to have a set task because there’s nothing like a birthing woman to make one feel rather useless. But then it’s all about the moral support, the wave of whispered encouragement that rises with every contraction and excruciating push. It’s so easy to get demoralized from the burning pain, the exhaustion, the endlessness of it. That’s why I wish every birthing woman could have a team of women supporters, cheering them on and reassuring that it will be over soon.

She sat on the birthing stool, beautiful, naked, wholly and gloriously female. Her belly moved with contractions and the occasional kick from that baby boy within her, so close to her arms. We were now catching glimpses of his wet dark hair, disappearing between pushes. “Keep bearing down. Keep pushing through that pain because that’s the magic spot that’s going to get him out. You’re doing great. You can do this. He’s almost here.”

And then, even though I’ve been through it twice before, I was overwhelmed by disbelief and emotion as I watched the head, followed by slippery, bloody shoulders and a tiny wet body, slither right into the midwife’s hands. Instantly he was on my friend’s chest, covered by a warmed blanket, as she gasped in relief and joy. Amid little mewls of indignation from the baby, whose peaceful life in uterine had been so violently disturbed, the umbilical cord was cut, the placenta delivered, and the new mama and baby were laid back on the mattress in the middle of the living room.

The man of the hour

I blinked back tears as I fumbled with the camera, trying to catch those first few shots – the new daddy peering over mama’s shoulder, the wrinkled red face with dark eyes, one not quite open, the other staring around, wet hair sticking out beneath a blood-stained hat, a miniature curled-up fist, the incredible midwives quietly going about their business in the background, filling out paperwork, explaining the placental exam, doing a final sweep. They’re smiling, say everything looks great: “You’re young, healthy, and active. Everything went quickly, perfectly. You were amazing.”

Less than two hours later, she’s walked to the bathroom and had a quick shower while I hold this exquisite newborn whose entrance into this world I’ve had the privilege of witnessing. He falls asleep against my chest, collapsing into a little ball instead the darkness of the blanket, probably perhaps trying to recreate the womb after so many disturbances. By the time I leave, two hours after birth, he’s about to be examined. I love that the midwives don’t rush the baby exam. After doing a quick set of vitals as soon as he’s out, the baby is left to cuddle with his mother, smeared with blood, vernix, and poop. But none of that matters because there’s nowhere else he should be than against his mother’s bare chest.

I danced on the way home. Jason picked me up partway to take me to A.’s nursery school graduation. There I sat in my blood-spotted tank top, exhausted and exhilarated, watching my own little boy who’s about to embark on a new stage of life. He was my first homebirth, almost four whole years ago. How does time pass that quickly?

If only every woman could have a birth like this one, surrounded by the glorious power of female energy, knowledge, and compassion – and, of course, one awesomely dedicated husband. I’ll never forget this day.

Congratulations and welcome to this world, baby Rowan. It’s a pretty awesome place.

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