We had a trial run with this family in the wee hours of the 10th, The dad told me not to rush, that contractions were slow. We had to drive painstakingly slow up a mountain and back down the other side in pea soup thick fog at 20 miles an hour, and then back out again in a snow storm. We proved that inclement weather only really adds 20 minutes on to the drive. It was worth knowing.
This morning, after an amusing mix up with the phones (my cellular provider somehow mixed up calls, and the exact minute the papa was trying to call me to tell me his wife was in labor, another call from someone named Diane in Pennsylvania connected to my phone, but from the clients phone number, which popped up on my caller ID. She was looking for Kevin. At 2 in the morning.) The papa's call went directly to voice mail. He called my apprentice Haylea,who was sleeping at my house since we had gotten in late from a home visit last night, and she and I got it together and got out the door in 8 minutes. This time papa indicated that the mama was REALLY in labor, and since she has a history of precipitous labors, we were counting our blessings that we could see the stars in the sky, and the roads were clear and dry.
This time we learned that if we drive carefully but expeditiously on the mountain road, when there is NO other traffic we can cut 15 minutes off of the drive.
On the night of the trial run, we pulled up in front of the house, and it was dark out. I mean REALLY dark out. Can't see your hand in front of your face dark. I mumbled under my breath that I wish they had turned the porch light on... but before I even got the full sentence out of my mouth I looked at Haylea and said "Oh wait, they CAN'T turn the porch light on". We had a good giggle and Haylea dubbed that as the "quote of the day". This morning I was prepared for the dark, had even counted the number of stairs up to the front door the visit before. This time we carried all of the bags in at once. We did a quick assessment of the mama and baby and left her to do her beautiful labor dance. Having done this 5 times previously, she had it down to a science. She was focused and methodical. She walked, I mean POWER walked circles through her house, with each contraction, squeezing blocks of wood in her hands. When the contraction was over she would sit quietly in the rocking chair with her eyes closed. Not a sound came from her lips. The oil lamps were burning softly, there was a pot of coffee on the wood stove, and we set about making ready for birth.
We arrived at 3 am, were set up by 20 after. We simply sat quietly or chatted with the papa and this amazingly strong woman, this woman who had stacked firewood and washed sheets and blankets by hand and hung them on the line earlier in the day, walked and sat, walked and sat. I read, Haylea crocheted. We noticed as the time moved forward sleekly in the cold and dark night, that her walking and sitting became more frequent. It was too dark in the room to really see my watch, but Haylea noted that her contractions were now 3 crocheted rows apart and lasting about 5 laps. This is midwifery. Not watching the clock, watching the woman. Watching the miracle of birth unfold before our eyes. The couple was very sweet, and at about 6 am, the mama climbed onto her bed and said she wanted me in the room with her. Papa rubbed her lower back vigorously. She quietly began pushing on the bed. I washed up and put on my gloves, and gently, after about 15 good minutes of pushing, a sweet little boy worked his way out and up to his mother. He cried lustily immediately.
And then I realized... this was not just birth, this was life. An authentic life. Not by any clock, not by any rules or expectations of what it is *supposed* to look like. Her contractions went from 10 crocheted rows and 3 laps to baby in just over 3 hours, and it was perfect. I wanted to take pictures, because I love to look back at them and remember all of the sweet little details of every birth, but then I realized that pictures would have marred the perfection. No machines, no medications, not even any electronic note taking. Just a mama, a papa, a baby and patient, waiting, gentle hands.
(PS we did get the traditional baby weighing photo, with papa's permission, before we left. That is tradition.)