It was the best of births… It was the worst of birth…
It was a midsummer’s night, the day had been hot, and the welcome evening breeze caressed the land as the moon rose and began its course through the night sky. The ambient noise of the cicadas filled the evening air as the aroma of freshly mown lawns wafted along on the breeze. Here and there dots of light shone out as fireflies danced in the air.A small, but stately cottage nestled among the oaks, with a welcoming porch light completes the landscape.Nestled deep within this cottage lies the most precious of all sounds, that of life’s first cry. Gazing within the home, the happy mother, dressed in a flowing white nightgown greets her newborn for the first time with uncontainable joy.After the first few cries, the newborn settles down into a peaceful sleep with perfectly rounded rosy cheeks, looking like the Gerber Baby, wrapped in an heirloom blanket from generations past. The pristine room is filled with warm light and flowers as father and grandmother softly look on with the gleam of love filling their eyes. And in the hidden corner of the room, stands the midwife. Looking like a supermodel with every hair in place, she is completely rested and well-fed. She smiles as she packs away the few supplies and leaves the family to enjoy their first night with their newborn, who will soundly sleep until the gentle dawning of the new day… and the pigs fly overhead.
It was the dog-days of summer. Triple degree heat had baked the landscape to dry brown grass and the evening ‘breeze’ made you feel like you were in a dryer. The noise of the cicadas was hardly noticeable because the combination of the air conditioner and traffic created enough noise to drown out a thunderstorm. The aroma of the freshly mown lawns would be rather obscured by the smell of the opossum that met his tragic end crossing the road earlier this week (I wouldn’t even venture to guess why the opossum crossed the road). The apartment complex at the interchange of two major highways boasts all of one oak tree that’s nowhere close to ‘nestling’ anything as it fighting for enough water to survive.And high in that apartment complex lies a truly remarkable sound, occurring at about 3 am, Life’s first cry. Gazing within the home, the mother, exhausted and spent with a long labor, swollen from the heat, the pregnancy, and the pushing, greets her newborn for the first time with uncontainable joy. The child squalls and is quickly dried and wrapped but continues to squall. Red faced, wrinkled, with a hat covering his molded head, and looking a little the worse for wear, the newborn looks for food. Birth supplies, towels, and paraphernalia scatter the floor and surrounding area as father and grandmother lovingly look on the newest member of the family. And in the corner, the midwife sits. Looking like something the cat dragged in, clothing disheveled and hair plastered to her head, she fills out pages and pages of paperwork as she smiles at the new family.
Each of us has a unique perspective on life.Two people can attend the same event and come back with very different stories of what occurred. Two midwives, let alone the mother or family members, can attend the same birth, hear the other’s perspective and say “Were we at the same birth?” (Just as a side note, you should hear the midwives telling birth stories, it’s like fish stories. “I once caught a baby that was the size of Rhode Island” “Oh really? I once had surprise twins and they were both Harvard Graduates by the time they were 2.”)
Women love to share the stories of their births, and many mothers gain comfort and wisdom from hearing the stories of those who have gone before. It is a wonderful thing to listen as mothers encourage other moms with their experiences. But strangely enough in all the passing of stories, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight that every story is different. That what happens to one mom (or midwife), will not necessarily happen to all moms and doesn’t make one mom better than another. That one story may be told remembering certain aspects of the birth while not going into the reality of what all went on before (or after) the moment of birth. This is certainly not wrong, but good for new moms to remember as they prepare for birth. Birth is as individual as the baby that is born, and each mom must go through her own birth, whether it goes as planned or takes a dramatically altered course. So I encourage moms to listen to the stories but remember that her birth and her story will be her own. At the end of the story, there will be the love of a mother for her child and regardless of the story she can say “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done”