But those ten weeks of autumn weren’t spent with my children and grandchildren alone.
The time began toward the tail-end of a very dry and dusty summertime.
Fairly the moment we crossed the line into Amish country on my first trip down, memories kicked up like the clouds of dust Hannah’s car sent billowing skyward behind us as we crunched along the winding lines of dirt roads, skirting horse-drawn buggies and bicycles and white-tailed deer.
I closed the window I’d cracked and pitied the folks now coated in a layer of fine grime.
But the scent was already in my nostrils and the memories began to awake.
Late summer’s dusty roads were what I first encountered when I started out on my journey as a midwife among these people of the soil twenty-four years before.
The smells of field and farm and farmhouse entryway were next to greet me as we rolled into one drive after another. They greeted me like old friends, a step or two ahead of the old friends themselves. I could feel the heat of tears burning the backs of my eyes as I entered into each kitchen, into each exclamation of surprised welcome, into each hardy, stiff, Amish-style, womanly embrace.
My eyes adjusted to the interiors of those homes and children materialized from the shadows. Sparkling eyes and toothy smiles beamed from beneath tousled bowl cuts and kapps—the faces of children I’d met at birth—shy, but bursting with curiosity.
I could hear snatches of hushed talk.
“Sis di Kim…”
“Kim is doh…”
“Ya, ya—ich ves sis di Kim…”
“Yes, yes—I know it’s Kim…”
Doors banged open, sets of heavy boots stomped across vast expanses of floors, and powerful hands pumped my arm like water was looked for. “Kim! You’ve come to see us! How are ya? Movin’ back yet?”
The weeks passed. I felt bellies and weighed babies. I took a woman to the hospital for a cesarean section, then conducted a mini-class for her and her sisters about how to try to avoid growing unnecessarily enormous babies. I examined the bones of a toddler’s skull, the tongue and lips of another, and the belly button of still another. I visited with a woman who’s struggled mightily with depression through her years of childbearing. I tended a mom through a miscarriage. I spent time teaching another mother how to exercise more effectively.
The weeks passed. The leaves began to turn. A second wave of summer lapped up briefly to roast us, but then chilly rains swept through to set the leaves free of their branches and to transform them into shimmering jewels as they fluttered to the earth like giant, sun-colored snowflakes.
Easing along roads as familiar to me as the rooms of my own home, roads I know as well in the darkness as I do in the light of day, I spent many hours thinking how I love the place and its down-home, practical, guileless folk and feeling grateful for the lifetime I’d been able to spend among them. And their voices echoed in my head as I drove and thought, “We miss you, Kim. You were special. You were like our family. Will you ever come back?”
I returned from each trip down tired, but with a full heart and a vehicle laden with gifts to further remind me of the treasure I’d left behind when I moved out west—sacks of fragrant grapes and tart apples, speckled brown eggs and jars of raw milk, fresh baked loaves of bread, all sorts of cookies, and a bottle of golden honey straight from the hive.
Yes, it all began in dry and dusty summertime, and then the leaves began to turn.
Hundreds of families birthed hundreds of babies, and then I moved away.
I moved away but, here and there, I’m able to return.
And it still feels like home, and the people still feel like family.
With thanks to my agent, Wes Yoder of Ambassador Literary Agency, and the amazing editorial and marketing team at Regnery Faith, A Midwife in Amish Country, Celebrating God’s Gift of Life will be released April 30, 2018!
Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
Most of the photographs were taken by Kim, but the cover picture and picture of the eggs are by istock photo.