This I Believe
Midwife means “with woman”. I am a midwife. The first babies I birthed are now 26 years old; they now return to me with their own gravid bellies so that I may in turn assist their children into this world. But my clinic serves the low income and disadvantaged, and many of the mothers are still girls, the fathers-to-be yet boys of 16 or 17 years. I have watched these children struggle together to make a family, and often he is gone when she returns in a few years for another baby.
When I was a new, young midwife, I loved the births when there wasn’t enough time to get your gloves on. We did not yet know of AIDS; Hepatitis B was just emerging. The sensation of intense heat and aliveness in that newborn human would brand my hands. Hours later, my hands would warm with the remembrance, as I delivered that baby over and over again in my mind. As I gained experience, I learned to respect birth, but to also trust it. Birth is one of life’s profound experiences. As we wait together through the hours of contractions, women will share their birth stories, remembering details of events 50 years in the past. I love the young mothers, surrounded by their moms and grandmas and aunties. The young fathers though often sit outside of this circle, not sure of their place in this business of women; newcomers to this extended family. The mother’s of these girls watch them, world weary and protective, knowing that these boys could easily slip away from this scene, leaving them to care for another beloved grandchild and its young mother.
I witness the power of birth; the crowning head extends to the pale, blue face; I free the anterior shoulder and the other follows, the baby rotating around to face us all. The eyes are open and watching, so powerfully human and present, the lips grasping at breathing or sucking or crying. The arms reach upward, inviting hands to reach down and pull them to safety. It is in this safe moment, this instant where one is added, that I ask the father to give me his hands. He instinctually grasps his child under its arms and brings it out. And then he begins to cry; because there is such perfection, and promise, and hope. He holds that baby, dangling in the air, and everyone is asking “what is it?” but he cannot answer because he looking in that face for himself, and the tears are blinding him and the snot is pouring down his face. And I cry, because I believe that if he can midwife his own family, that just maybe, he will stay with them to protect and support them. I believe that his child will be forever branded on his hands, and that his hands will always remember the heat, and intensity, and aliveness of his child; and that the wonder of that moment can be seared into the brain of a father.
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