Some of you knew, and others of you maybe guessed, that I had come to visit Kate this month so that I’d be present for the birth of a grandchild. He has arrived, a little brother for Raj, and has expanded our family and our hearts. I have never been more blessed to share in this kind of history-making.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s when my friends and I were in our childbearing years, many of us decided that we wanted to give birth at home, where we could enjoy the miracle event in a warm and quiet environment surrounded by our dearest people. In hospitals in those days, various inappropriate medical protocols were routinely applied to women and newborns, as they still are in some “modernizing” places in the world.
Most of my likeminded peers found doctors and lay midwives to attend births; a few did it without any outside help. One doctor in our county attended my first child’s birth in a hospital, and three at home. Kate was my last baby, born at home with a certified nurse-midwife in attendance. We usually liked to have two or more other women at hand to help with household or birth-related tasks as well. Maybe to watch older children, bake a birth day cake, fetch things for the midwife or make up the bed with clean sheets afterward.
I was one of these friends who was happy to be called, often as a sort of lay doula whose only training had been on-the-job, and from my own experience. The cultural setting of a certain time and place gave me special opportunities, and Providence enabled me to take advantage of them.
These blessings have continued as my own daughters have asked me to be with them in the hospital when they give birth. I’m aware that not every grandmother gets this kind of invitation; so often we are the ones who take care of older children when a younger sibling is coming into the family. Even in cases where we might fit into the birth plan more directly, it doesn’t always work out. Joy asked both her mother and mother-in-law, and it was impossible for either of us, four times.
I am supremely grateful for these experiences. To accompany a woman on her birth journey, to wait together as women have done since the beginning of time, feels like a sacred trust. Waiting on God and waiting for the process to unfold, from the first signs of labor until the child is placed in her arms… it is such a privilege. And it never gets old, seeing a child emerge from the womb.
For a long time now, the births I have waited for and witnessed have all been in hospitals. These days most of them are peaceful and geared to the needs of the families more than to hospital efficiency, and sometimes I even have a rocking chair to rock in while we wait and pray, or chat quietly. Or sleep, as Kate and both of us fellow-waiters did for a while before this child decided to get on with it.
And when he did push out and take his first breath, the momentous moment passed without a nod at its passing. The next moment was full of jubilance and awe. We laughed, and wept. Everyone admired the little round head. Soon he was snuggled up to Kate, looking all around, and suckling. A human’s skin is never so soft as when he is fresh from the womb; then begins the lifelong drying-up process. But not to worry — there is plenty of softness at the totally out-of-this world level for a couple of months, and we are smooching him as though by our kisses we drink from the fountain of youth.
I’ve nicknamed the tiny guy “Amerigo,” or “Rigo” for short, for purposes of my blog, after the cartographer and explorer Amerigo Vespucci whose (latinized) name was given to the New World.
Welcome, little Rigo! God bless you as you begin your explorations!