50 Births and Counting
I witnessed my first human birth in 1997...my friend Kate, knowing my dream of someday working in the birth world, invited me to be there when her second baby was born just a few months after I got married. I grew up a farm kid, and had seen the births of many a kitten and even a couple calves, but NOTHING came close to what I saw on that July day. Kate waited as long as she could to head to the hospital, and as I walked in the room, five minutes after her arrival, the baby was crowning. His head was born before I was fully in the door, and I swear his eyes met mine as he rotated his way into the world. I was hooked.
Kate had hired a doula for that birth, and I immediately loved her. She welcomed me warmly and invited me into the birth space. She showed me how to help my friend with uterine massage. She helped get the baby adjusted for feeding, and talked me through what she was doing. We worked together to get Kate comfortable in a hospital gown, finally...she had given birth in her dress because things had unfolded so quickly! She fed me chocolate and kept everyone at ease with her gentle laughter. Her name was Christine, and I am so grateful that she was my first introduction to my future career.
Fast forward to July 4, 2016. I am supporting my first birth as a doula. I am at PeaceHealth St. Joe's in Bellingham with my friend Kelly and her husband Brian as they welcome their second baby. Kelly is absolutely incredible...strong, present, in the moment. Brian supports her with quiet strength and such tenderness. I feel so lucky to get to be a part of this team and this birth. It is a beautiful beginning to this journey.
Last week, present at my 50th birth as a doula, I witnessed such love and sacrifice. I watched a father fasting for Ramadan feed his wife as she labored. He sang the call to prayer to his newborn child, and she watched him with wide eyes, calm as water on a windless day.
There have been literal gallons of blood, sweat and tears in these 50 welcomes. These babies have been born into rooms full of family and friends, and into rooms full of medical staff. Some have arrived so quickly that the midwife is only wearing one glove, and some after many arduous hours. They have been born into water and into air. Into rooms warmed by fireplaces and cold operating theaters. No matter how babies arrive, this miracle never loses its magic.
UPDATE: This blog post was first published in May of 2018. Since that time, I have helped 150 MORE families welcome their babies. I have held older siblings, whose births I supported, as a new family member entered the world. I have grieved with families have who lost their long anticipated babies at so many stages along the way. I am about to work with one special family for the third time in my career. I do a lot of things I love – I teach and mentor and work in the lactation clinic – and nothing will ever rival the magic of being in the birth space. Eternal thanks to Kate and Christine for inviting me in and making me feel so at home.