It was one of those days when I was feeling disillusioned with birth in the "system"-it happens, and as a midwife I deal with it more than I want to. So, yes, it was one of those days when I met her. Sitting across the table from one another, just having met, and an instant connection. The Universe showing me, bringing me that which I would need to grow, that which I needed to go forth as a true servant to birth. Not a paid professional.
Just weeks from being due, we decided to work together. This mama, new to town and without much. Exuding a confidence and earthiness about birth that I wish I saw more often. Feeling instantly good about this connection and this birth, I looked forward to getting to know her.
There was no prenatal care, per se. Not in the 2 1/2 weeks from when we met to birth. A few meetings, where we'd talk about birth and babies, how she envisioned this birth and a lesson here and there about the "technical things"-listening to the baby's heartbeat and talking about baby's position. The getting together of supplies and was expected of me. Not as "midwife" but guide. No records, no charts, no tests. Lots of talking and information, but nothing that would confine either of us to boundaries of the "system". A true blessing to have this opportunity, for she and I. Birth as it used to be. One woman helping another, but leaving the decisions and responsibility 100% up to her.
Unexpected development 3 weeks prior to the "due date". A releasing of the waters, a true gush. No contractions. One of the tests of courage, of trust and faith. On both of our parts, and of the baby as well. One day...turned into 2....than 3...when finally some contractions on the 4th day. Explicit instructions on preventing infection, and a downright refusal in both of our minds to even think about any kind of internal exam. We talked about the risks, looked at the studies we could both find, and kept going. This mama, so strong and intuitive, realized the situation she was in. After facing her fear, she even said to me, "So, if I go into the hospital to be induced, I'm just trading these risks in for a different set, right?" She could not have said it better, and I completely supported her decision to wait it out or go in for antibiotics and/or an induction. However, never was it as clear to me how strong a baby's presence can be before birth. Realizing that this baby did not want to be forced out just because of some rule, but rules aside--the mama's choice remained to wait, watch and see. She taught me so much, and in her I found the strength and common sense to remain fearless. Not that birth is perfect; we must realize that death is on the other side. But that risk of death is only made more real to us when we are presented with these kinds of situations....sure, she COULD get an infection, but with careful attention to hygiene and signs and symptoms, she likely would not. It made me see, once again, how clearly infused with fear that the medical world is. Even as midwives, we must serve women among this fear; and sometimes it is debilitating.
So, by the fourth night there were contractions. Nothing serious, and nothing terribly new as she had been having contractions on and off the last few weeks. At 4:30 am the next morning, she texted me to say things were intensifying. When asked to come over an hour later, I did so to find her laboring beautifully in bed. The 3 hours that followed were beautiful and magical; we greeted the desert sun together outside, sitting in the sand. I helped her to the shower, or threw down a blue pad when she changed positions. She never asked me to listen to the baby, and it all felt right. I could see the baby moving between contractions, and her communication with this babe throughout was a great testament to paying attention to that versus any heart rate monitor.
I busied myself with getting her supplies in order, and tried to linger longer outside her bedroom to give her what I think is much needed space while in labor. When asked, I'd make a suggestion and basically just kept encouraging her. That it probably wouldn't be much longer, and that she was doing an amazing job.
As the labor came to it's last bit, I sat outside in the bright sunlight, right outside her room. A close friend had come, and I thought that their time alone might finish off this labor business! I practiced the art of listening, rather than watching a woman labor. I heard the familiar sounds, even the words she said, and felt the timing of re-entering the space. Sure, enough, as I walked in, she told me the baby was coming. Throwing down another towel near her, I kneeled down to her baby's head beginning to emerge.
Looking spaced-out, yet focused and completely calm, I asked her to reach down and feel her baby's head. I asked her to let the head emerge gently and to then wait for the baby to turn and get her shoulders out before bringing her up. At the same time, I reached for the camera and got some pretty amazing shots of the baby's head out, with a bright blue, pulsing cord. After about a minute of rest, the rest of the baby was born. Instead of lifting her right up, she placed the baby down in front of her. It only took a couple of seconds before she picked her up.."my baby, my baby". Pink and perfect and wonderful, sweet one. Born peacefully at home with only her mama to thank. The way birth should be. Not necessarily perfect (well, in clinical terms, anyway!) but absolutely perfect, really.
Anyone that doesn't think that babies PICK their birth date and time, well, I don't know what to say about that! It takes these perfect little souls to remind me, time and time again, that the timing and way of birth is always perfect.
And so this mama moves on...turns out she was only passing through, on her way to somewhere else, only stopping in our tiny town to birth her daughter. I will miss this mama and baby; though only a short time elapsed, the effect this has had on my heart is long lasting.