Yesterday I had the privilege of being with my friend, her husband and her midwives while she give birth to a little girl named Chavah. Watching her descend further and further into the deep place of labor was tremendously powerful. Her strength was amazing. Later in labor, she would lean in to the side of the labor tub, her head bowed onto her arms, and she would shake silently with the increasing pain of each contraction. As they became more and more intense, she would sometimes rock gently on her knees, side to side, and run her hands over her blond hair, again and again, her breath coming in quickening gasps. Finally, as the baby descended lower and lower, she couldn’t steel herself in stillness against the pressure, and she would cringe backward with a look of the closest thing to panic I saw on her face throughout. When the peak of the contraction had passed, her blue eyes would connect for a moment with someone in the room, then they would shift away again. Once when Eliazar had stepped out, she looked at me and mouthed an echo of what she had already said to him: “This is hard.” It said it all. It was hard. But she had taken hold and would see it through.
Their daughter was born at 8:47 that morning, the first day of spring, a day that culminated in snow after a week of warm spring weather that had seemed to insist the past record-setting harsh winter was done. Her head full of dark hair, the midwife lifted her out of the water and handed her to Rene, who settled back in weak, yet happy, relief. The cord was short, but they lay together there for a few moments; and Eliazar (who had earlier insisted he wanted neither to catch the baby nor to sever the umbilical cord), asked if he might cut it. The midwives wrapped little Chavah in a warm red towel and handed her to her daddy, his face alight. While they settled Rene onto the bed and prepared to deliver the placenta, he said, “Almost a new year’s baby!”, explaining that according to the Hebrew calendar, the year was only a few days old.
She weighed in a little under eight pounds, and took at once with relish to the task of filling her little belly. Before I left, she had been cleaned and wrapped in the blanket which Rene had explained was the only one she and Chavah’s big sister Lydia could agree on; held by grandmothers, great grandmother and big sister, and settled in for a long rest with her mother in the darkened and empty bedroom, such a contrast to what it had been an hour before.
As I got in my car and pulled out of the apartment complex, my own exhaustion and numbness were overcome bywaves of powerful and complex emotions, which I spent the whole drive from the north side of Dallas to the south side of the metroplex sorting through and trying to make sense of. In retrospect I felt the profound power of watching my friend labor while I sat there against the wall, unsure of how to support her other than making contact through our eyes when she looked my direction; Rene, leaning on her shaking arms and fighting silently against and with that force driving her labor forward.
I had thought I wanted to be a midwife. Now, I know.