I really did enjoy the chance given me to work among the Amish communities I used to serve while I was in Michigan last autumn, though the first half of my time there was brutal for the hours I kept. I think I also was in a bit of shock through that first part. Neither Hannah nor I had by any stretch imagined she’d birth Evangeline at thirty-eight weeks! But the weeks passed, the shock wore away, the pace eased, and I was able to relax into it all.
The third birth I attended while there marked the margins of the shift in pace. Through the months prior to my visit, Hannah kept me abreast of the clients filling her calendar, and my anticipation grew with the roster of well-loved names. Some of the families would be bouncing new babies on their knees when I arrived, while others wouldn’t be due to birth till midwinter, but I was still delighted at the prospect of seeing familiar faces. I was especially delighted when we learned Hannah and Jesse’s home-mates were pregnant and due during my visit, then my delightedness swelled nearly to bursting when one bright afternoon Hannah called to tell me yet another former client was with child and poised to birth during my time in Michigan! Gifts showered from heaven!
I’d attended Kerman and Armanda through every single one of their five pregnancies and births. I’d also attended the births of eight of Kerman’s nieces and nephews, fifteen of Armanda’s nieces and nephews, and even one of Armanda’s siblings, way back when I was pregnant with Paul. We’d walked through a number of difficult times together through the years. Kerman’s mother passed away two months before Brent. She’d attended the births of all her grandchildren up till her death, and had become a cherished friend. We discovered she had cancer soon after we lost Brent’s mom to cancer, soon after we discovered Brent had cancer. We supported one another through two years of treatments, hopes, set backs, and struggles, and we leaned, one upon the other, as we grieved. And then I walked with Kerman and Armanda as they discovered their fourth child has and is permanently damaged by a rare genetic disorder, and that their fifth child also is affected.
I remember the first day I met Armanda. She was newly married, newly pregnant, slightly nervous, and infectiously excited with a cheerful outlook and ready laugh that captivated me right from the start. I myself was bubbling with excitement. Though I’d completed my apprenticeship eighteen months previous, I was only just beginning to take a more independent role, and this visit with Armanda was one of the very first times I’d conducted an initial prenatal visit with a first-time mom all by myself. Her son was born the winter after that sunny summer day with the cord wrapped four times around his neck. Three brothers followed in his wake, then a little sister half a year before I moved away.
So, as I said, I was absolutely delighted to find myself positioned to serve this family once again. Hannah and I expected to attend the birth of this, their sixth child together, but Hannah had Evangeline virtually on Armanda’s due date, and, for the first time in Armanda’s childbearing history, Armanda carried on through till the next week.
Friday evening of November 13th, Kerman called. I was happy to hear his voice on the line, but the note of tension in it gave me pause. When he told me Armanda had risen from the dinner table and sent a cupful at least of blood flowing into her shoes, my heart tripped over itself, then began thundering in my ears. Reaching for my jacket, I directed Kerman to take Armanda straight to the nearest hospital, telling them I’d meet them there as soon as I possibly could. I was with Hannah and Sarah when the call came. Sarah printed directions to the hospital and Hannah called her apprentice, Heather, while I scrambled for my belongings and headed for the door, snatching the directions from Sarah’s hand as I went. As I flew through the dark I went over the particulars of Armanda’s state in my mind. I’d seen her two weeks in a row since my arrival, and agreed with Hannah that, though by dates, Armanda was 41 weeks, she actually appeared closer to 38. The baby was high – very high – but head down, and the placenta seemed to be in front, and in the upper left section of her uterus.
I arrived at the hospital to find Armanda and Kerman settling into a room. Heather was there too, with Armanda’s chart in hand, having stopped by Armanda’s home to fetch it on her way. I was glad to see Armanda looking and feeling well, glad to know the baby was kicking about as usual, and that the bleeding had slowed. I shared what I’d determined via fingertips and ears with the nurse-midwife in attendance, and was gratified to have my findings confirmed by the ultrasound technician, but the source of Armanda’s bleeding went undetected. I imagined it was a partial abruption of the placenta. The course of action settled upon was a twenty-four hour monitoring session there in the hospital, then, as long as the baby fared well and the bleeding ceased, Armanda would be discharged. Armanda and Kerman decided to switch the lights off for a bit of sleep, Heather headed home, and I retreated to the nearest waiting room to curl up on a set of chairs.
After a quiet day filled with the reassuring thrum of a healthy baby’s heart and the absence of substance on Armanda’s underthings, Armanda was released. I dropped them home, and headed home myself, hopeful to be soon called back for a nice birthing, but alert to the myriad possibilities embedded within the unusual circumstances.
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To be continued on Wednesday… Read Part Two
As before, the names of these precious folk have been changed, and the farmhouse belongs to another family entirely.
Photo taken by Kim Woodard Osterholzer
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Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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