Mothers wonder ...
I wonder what this one will teach me?
As each decision point is reached and the choice is made, this way or that, the course of events is shaped and cannot be undone. As each baby is born, and the cycle of life moves on, the mother learns something about herself, and something new about life. The midwife, in her interwoven world, also learns something about herself, and reinforces or renews her understanding of the wonder of life.
Dear reader, do you know what I am saying?
Do you understand the flow of life, and the decisions that are made - especially in the context of that basic and primal event of giving birth? Do you recognise a decision as a fork in life's journey. You choose one and you consequently reject the other. You can never come back to this decision, this bifurcation in the path.
The mothers who have had larger numbers of children; five, six, or more, are usually the ones who marvel at the uniqueness of each experience. When these mothers come to see me for a prenatal checkup I love to listen to what they have to say. I don't need to teach them about childbirth. We spend an hour or so in my little office, surrounded by my messy shelves of books and folders, and the cork boards filled with wonderful photos, and some artworks that are particularly dear to me, and my wall calendar with the names of the women to whom I am committed. I usually start with the question, "Did you have anything that you wanted to talk with me about today?" Then we pass the time in an easy, unstructured exchange. At some point I do the basic checks - blood pressure, palpation of the womb and auscultation of the baby's heart sounds. The information is noted down.
But the building of a relationship is what takes most of the hour's visit. There is no box in my paperwork to tick about trust. There is no place to note the unique sharing of lives: a woman and her midwife.
One particular day I was feeling very weary. The pressures of my personal life, and professional stuff including all the campaigning for better maternity services had left me feeling emotionally and physically low. Depressed? Yes, I was. I had become unexpectedly teary when some friends started talking about their plans for holidays. I told my sister about my feelings, and that I had not had a holiday for a long time, and she informed me that was not good work practice. Dear reader, I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt me. We love each other, and talk about things that are important to us.
Anyway, on that particular day, the phone rang. A mother told me she thought her labour was starting. She needed to contact her husband so that he would be at home to look after the children. Soon she rang again. Husband was on the way, and she asked me to come.
As I moved quickly from my introspective mood to a more organised, directed persona, I prayed for strength and wisdom. It's late afternoon. I may be out through the night. I need alertness of mind and strength of body. I may need special courage and wisdom as decision points are reached. I pray for God's special protection and blessing on the mother and child in my care.
On that particular day the labour progressed quickly. A baby was born without complication or incident. The mother sat quietly in an arm chair and focused on her little son as he worked his way to her breast and began to take his first feed. She had a couple of contractions, and I reminded her about the birth of the placenta.
Then the mother lifted the towel from her belly, and said "Joy, there's a lump here still. Could this be another baby?"
Yes, it could ... and it was.
As I put on a sterile glove to check how this baby intended to be born, there was one push, a gush of fluid, and the little sister made her entrance - beautifully.
I will never forget the mother's ecstatic face as she said "I've got TWO babies!"
That night as I returned home I reflected on not just the birth - amazing as it was - but also my physical, emotional, and spiritual journey that day. What did this one teach me? Quite a lot.