With thanks

September 25, 2005

A little boy was born in the wee hours of the morning. I was there, as was my business partner. We’ve done births together before. Many, in fact. It’s always fun working together. Almost always after, we meet for dinner and talk about those moments we’ll always remember – the funny thing that Mom said right after that whopper contraction, finding the stash of chocolate, the amazing sight of a baby looking around underwater while waiting for the rest of his or her little body to slide out into the birthing tub. In our line of work, talking about details of a birth with folks who weren’t there is a no-no. Sure, we might tell friends, family, and other doulas about this or that, but it’s always with a tight lip. Never is a name mentioned, never an identifying detail. We adhere to a strict code of confidentiality in order to protect the family’s privacy and the sactity of birth. Birth is passionate. Birth is intimate. Birth is personal. Birth is sacred. It’s also sometimes funny, jubilant, intense, annoying, exhausting, trying, challenging, mysterious. It’s always emotional. Having a partner with whom to discuss and debrief, for lack of a better term, is a blessing and I’m grateful that I’ve been gifted with such an amazing one.

Sometimes, having a partner means the difference between hanging up the birth bag for good and slipping on those funky purple Birki’s and dashing out the door at 2 in the morning to help greet the next new person in town.

I’ve always written about the beauty of my job and sometimes the complaints of my job. Really, the beauty goes without saying. I mean, c’mon, I get to see people come out of people. I get to hear a child’s first sounds. I get to be present for that magical moment when parents lay eyes on this new person for the first time, and I get to see the realization between long lovers that, “wow, we did it! We made that little human from our love.”

The complaints? Well, the hours suck. No question about it. Sometimes I get a nice and easy butter birth and get home in enough time to kiss the kids good night, or at least fall into bed myself early enough to make saying good (very early) morning to my kids less excruciating. Most of the time, however, I go 24 hours or more without sleep after getting called out to a birth about 3 minutes before I finally drift off to sleep after a long, haggard assed day of being Mom. As I get older, it takes longer and longer to recover from a birth and the “hangover” that comes the next day seems to last longer than it used to. Most of the newbie doula birth obsession has long since faded into a pragmatic approach. I don’t jump out of bed in the middle of the night with quite so much excitement and fervor as I once did. I’m noticing that I’m becoming less tolerant of labor arresting whining and much more apt to take the, “Yes you can so do this – you’re a mother and mothers can do ANYTHING, so get on up and have this baby” point of view.

Some folks may say that I’ve become jaded. I disagree. I think I’m seasoned – and getting more and more so with each rapidly successive birth. I’m certainly still learning from each one, but when you stop learning from them, you should just stop doing them all together.

This morning, I saw a little boy decide to stay in this world. I saw him come out looking like there was no hope, but feeling and knowing in my heart that he wasn’t done here. As the doctor and my business partner worked to bring this beautiful boy into his own awareness with stimulation, oxygen, and the breaths from their own lungs, I helped out by reminding the parents that their son needed to hear them, so talk to him now. RIGHT NOW. I warmed towels, grabbed the oxygen tank, spoke to this old soul in a new body, gathered hats and blankets and faith. As I put hat after hat onto this soft new head, I prayed to every higher power I’ve ever known, believed in, or even heard of. Please, Elvis, please help him. Help us. Baby, breathe. Please breathe. Come on baby, breathe for us again.

And he did.

As he got his first ride out into the world (in an ambulance – what boy wouldn’t be thrilled with that?) he got pink and started to cry. And now, nearly 20 hours after his birth, I’m matching his cries with my own. As it turns out, this little boy is fine and beautiful and, most likely, enjoying a long comforting meal at his mother’s breast right this minute. There’s some controversy about whether or not he will remember this, whether infants remember their births. I have my own opinions about that and other folks have theirs. What’s irrefutable, however, is that I will remember this one forever, as will the other folks who were there. It has had a profound effect on me. This little guy left his mark on my heart.

My partner and I didn’t meet tonight for our usual dine and decompress session. We’ve spoken on the phone several times, but I think we both know that what we experienced together today doesn’t need to be voiced- at the moment, there just aren’t words. Well, not words that we need to say to each other, anyhow. This is also the advantage of having a partner – sometimes a look or a pause or a breath says it all. DDFF, I know. Oh, I know. For the rest of you, if you know my partner and you know her blog, be sure to read today’s entry. It’s beautiful. A tribute. A benediction, of sorts. An “I know” moment of her own.

Thanks for taking the leap, little boy. I’m glad you are sticking around. And, in appreciation for what you’ve given me, I’ll tell you where to find the good chocolate – it’s stashed in the pantry.

One comment

  1. what a powerful post.
    it made me weep.
    so glad the little guy is doing alright.

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