A Letter To A Midwife’s Mamas
I actually hope you don’t remember my name. I was your midwife and I’ve always thought that if I did my job well, you would only remember how amazing you were when it was time to birth your baby.
Birth is hard work, and I hate how our culture presents it as a nice, tidy little inconvenience.
But you went against that cultural norm and chose to birth your baby with the help of a midwife, with all of the pain, bodily fluids, doubt and triumph that come with choosing that path.
You were beautiful. I know, I know…you hadn’t showered for two days and you threw up six times. But when you got to 8cm, there was a beautiful glow in your cheeks…and there were beads of sweat on your lip. I put a cool washcloth on your forehead, knowing that you were nearly holding your baby, knowing that there might still be a ton of work to do, and knowing that every moment would be worth it for you.
You frantically looked around and gasped, “I can’t do this anymore.” And I looked you in the eye and said, “You can do this. You are doing this. Don’t be afraid.”
And you believed me, as well you should have, because I was telling you the truth.
I knew the baby would be moving down with these powerful contractions as your cervix melted away. I told you, “You’ll feel a lot of pressure, like you have to poop a bowling ball.” And then, when that happened (the pressure, not the bowling ball), you had a brief moment when the recognition of “Oh! This is what she was talking about!” passed over your face, and the contraction faded away.
I didn’t tell you to push because your body knew damn good and well when it was time to move your baby from your womb to the outside world. And after a few contractions (or maybe a few hours) since you’d started pushing, you said, “I think I’m pushing.”
“I know,” I said. “Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s perfect.” If you were a mama who I did actually tell to push, know that there was a good reason.
You may have been in the water, or you may have been on the toilet. You may have been on your hands and knees, or on the birth stool. Or on your side, or standing up, or flat on your back. If I look in my birth log at the day of your birth, I’ll remember which of these positions you were in and I’ll remember if it was because I asked you to get in that position or because that is where you instinctively went.
It matters to me where you were when your baby was born.
I remember that moment when we could clearly see the head. I love that your baby’s daddy thought that the top of the baby’s head, when we could see about 3 inches of it in diameter, was the whole head—and that as the rest of the head emerged his eyes filled with tears as big as saucers. I remember after your baby’s head was born whether your baby turned to the left or to the right. I remember if your baby didn’t turn and I helped straighten the shoulders. I remember your baby coming fully into the world, and the look on your face.
I remember the moment that you became a mama. Whether it was for the first time or the ninth. Relief and joy and sweat and tears intermingled.
I remember if I missed your birth. I remember if I was there for three minutes or three days. I remember if we went to the hospital. Believe me when I tell you that I remember all of it.
I handed your baby up to you and just stepped back, always keeping an eye on the two of you. I tried to keep my mouth shut and let you discover your new little person on your own. I’m sorry if I chatted too much. I sometimes am just so proud of mamas that I can’t contain myself. But I try hard to honor your space and the sacredness of new life.
I remember what your immediate postpartum was like, too. Really, I do. I talked to you about how babies process things about six times more slowly than we do, and urged you to keep that in mind as you loved on your baby. And after a few hours, I tucked you into bed and went on my way.
You were beautiful and strong and tired. And, I hope, proud.
I got to see you many times over the next six weeks. And after that last appointment, I got in my car and cried. I was so proud of you and so honored to have gotten to be a part of your life that I cried tears of joy, knowing that I might never see you or your precious baby again…but, for those brief months, I hope that I was all that you needed and dreamed of, because you were all that I dreamed.
My prayer for you as I drove away that day was, “Oh Lord, please help her to remember that she can do it, that she is doing it. Please help her to always remember that her midwife said, ‘Don’t be afraid.'”