So, here’s the story of Rose and Ned’s first homebirth.
Rose and Ned are the mother and dad of Absalom, the baby I wrote about last week.
Eleven years ago, Rose gave birth to her first son, Davin, through the wee hours of early March.
I met Rose five months before in her sister-in-law’s back bedroom. I’d like to say we talked together awhile, but Rose was so shy, we hardly talked at all. Of all the moms I’ve served as midwife, really, I think Rose was the shyest creature I’d met in life yet, then or now. Many newly married, newly pregnant Amish women are shy, and so shy that visits throughout first pregnancies are generally fairly quiet affairs, but Rose wasn’t only newly married and newly pregnant, she also had a serious speech impediment.
On the day I met Rose, the women of Rose’s family were gathered at Rose’s brother’s house to help his wife prepare for church. I pulled into the circular drive of the home in which I’d eventually catch four babies belonging to two families, made my way past the long, narrow church bench trailer propped in the side yard, and was ushered into the house by a gaggle of women and babies I knew and loved. Rose’s sisters, Armanda and Liona were there with their two little boys. Liona was already swelling with her newest baby. Rose’s mother, Clarice, was there with ten-year old Bea. Bea arrived earth-side in my first year attending births, and I helped catch her while I was overflowing with Paul. Their story is told in my book. I hadn’t yet met Ann, the woman of the house. She was filling then with her first baby, but we weren’t caring for her. I learned later that Ann had called Linda, hoping to hire us, but had been turned away due to Linda’s overfull calendar. Ann wound up birthing her first baby, a son, in the hospital, but I was able to help her with the four little people who came like clockwork through the years after. Hannah will be helping Ann with her newest child this spring.
But when Rose called, Linda sent her to me. Actually, it was Rose’s mom who called per the speech impediment, and arranged for me to meet her at Ann’s house. In spite of the bewilderment of the entire excited group’s attempt to introduce us, Rose and I managed to meet, and we retreated to Ann’s bedroom as soon as was seemly. Clicking the door closed, I turned to Rose and we both burst into to laughter while Rose’s pink cheeks grew pinker still.
We sat upon the bed together, Rose’s crippling impediment revealed itself, and we began to craft what would become our way of communicating. We calculated her due date and assessed her vitals and, last, but best of all, we listened in spellbound wonder to the music of little Davin’s life as the rapid tapping of his heart filled our ears.
And Rose honored me by inviting me to be her midwife.
Rose memorized the questions I asked her that day, and greeted me at our next visit with her answers printed neatly upon a strip of paper, along with questions of her own. Our times together were on the quiet side for awhile, and we both enjoyed them, but it was a thing of beauty to watch Rose relax and emerge a little more with every visit. Ever and increasingly, she’d fling her impediment bound reservations aside and just blurt out what she wanted to say, or ask what she wanted to ask, with the effort making her blue eyes sparkle and her rosy cheeks flush rosier beneath the fringe of blond curls peeking from the edges of her cap. The childbirth education class was hilarious fun, though Ned actually appeared frightened near-to-death, and Rose and I both found ourselves growing more and more visibly excited about Davin’s arrival as it steadily approached.
One cold and rainy evening, the day before Rose was due, my telephone rang. I’d thought it might be Rose, but it was Linda, calling to tell me our lady thirty minutes eastward was in a sudden and hard labor. I ran for my van and took off without my gear. Linda would have her things for Teagan and Titus’ birth, so I saw no need to waste time hauling mine along. We arrived with scarcely time enough to don our gloves and slip a chux pad beneath Teagan before sweet Cynthia sprang from her mama’s depths and set the air ringing with her wails.
Cynthia was Teagan and Titus’ second daughter, and I’d go on to help them welcome four additional daughters into their family before moving to Colorado – a troupe bright beauties who could often be spotted traipsing about their busy farm in work boots and frilly dresses with kittens and puppies and chickens and piglets tucked under their arms and bulging out of baskets. Teagan and Titus birthed their first son last fall with Hannah in attendance, and within ten minutes of his arrival, I received a photograph on my phone proving he really was a he!
Linda and I tended our tasks while basking in the afterglow of the gorgeous birthing. If I’d known my telephone had turned itself off after I hung up with Linda earlier, and that Ned had called to say Rose was in labor, I’d have truncated the basking a bit.
We were finished and on our way home a little after midnight, just about the time the rain shifted to sleet. The sleet transformed the thirty minute drive to one better than fifty, and, by the time I’d made it south of Battle Creek, I was fighting to stay awake. By the time l was rolling along our long and twisting driveway, all I could think of was my pillow.
But as I pulled toward the house, I was confused to see the garage door begin to rise before I’d even reached for the button. I was startled and very confused, then, to find my husband, dressed only in boxer shorts, black dress socks, and my bags of gear – silhouetted in the entryway. Before I could even shift the van into park, he’d opened the side door to stuff my bags inside. “Kim! Your phone’s off!” he said. “Your client’s husband, Ned – Ned and Rose – he’s been trying to reach you for two hours! You gotta go! Turn your phone on and get out of here!” He slammed the door shut, and my confusion was washed away in a tidal wave of adrenaline. I tore off toward the road as fast as I could go with it so slick, powering up my phone to listen to my messages.
10:12pm: “Kim! Well, yep, okay now, this is Ned! Ned and Rose! Okay! Rose’s been having pains pretty regular since forenoon! Yep, pretty regular! And, well, yep, she thinks she’s just about ready to have you out! Okay! Yep! Okay, well, I guess we’ll be seeing ya!”
11:58pm: “Hello, Kim? Ah, shucks. Well. Okay, yep, this here is Ned again! Well, okay now, we sure hope you’re on your way! Rose’s pains are gettin’ pretty strong! Yep, pretty strong! Okay, okay. Yep!”
1:04am: “Okay, Kim? Oh boy. Okay. Yep, well, okay! Ned here again! Okay! I don’t know what’s keeping you, but, well, oh boy, yep! Okay! Well, I’m thinking we’ll just go on to the hospital then! Yep! We’ll be at the hospital if you come lookin’ for us! Okay! Okay! See ya later!”
I glanced at the clock. 1:13am. I felt sick over all those missed calls! Sick to think I’d missed the last call by mere minutes! Sick to think I’d failed sweet Rose! Sick to think Ned and Rose were on their way to a hospital! I raced along those slick roadways – my mind spinning, my heart pounding, my stomach roiling – I had thirty-five miles to drive, and no way to let Ned know I was on my way! Ned had pedaled his bike three-quarters of a mile to make each one of those calls, then had to pedal back – and in the awful weather, too! Oh, yes! I felt so sick.
I reached the corner of Fulton Road and M66/M60, and hardly even slowed down as I whipped around the corner. And before I’d even straightened the wheel, a set of red and blue lights were flashing in my rearview mirror. I skidded to a halt along the icy gravel shoulder, and rolled down my window. An unbelievably young police officer blinded me with the beam of his maglight, “Ma’am? License and registration.”
He blinked. “License and regis-”
“OFFICER!” I said, “You don’t understand! I’m a midwife! I’ve got a woman ready to push out her baby all the way in Centreville! I’ve got to get to her THIS VERY MINUTE!”
Again, he blinked. Then he blinked once more. He passed a stream of flashlight over the bags in my backseat. “Um, hmm. Alright. Alright then, you can go. Just slow it down.”
I started off at a respectable rate, praying he wouldn’t follow me, and the moment I saw him swing his cruiser around and head the other way, I hit the gas.
I pulled into Ned and Rose’s driveway at almost exactly two o’clock. Clarice, Rose’s mom, met me at the door, and I was beyond relieved to find Rose still home, and still laboring. Linda arrived some thirty minutes after me, and little Davin dilly-dallied a bit, then appeared upon the scene toward four.
In the cozy after glow of this unreal experience, I asked what had happened to Ned’s plans to cart Rose off to the hospital. With a glorious smile spread across her glowing face, she said, “Well, I just said, ‘NO!'”
And we laughed and laughed, and her halting words were like music.
The police photo is from istock.
All other photos were taken by Kim Woodard Osterholzer.
Thank you so much for the gift of your time!
If you enjoyed this article, let’s stay connected! I welcome you to subscribe to my blog, and to join in the conversation by commenting below! And be sure to poke around here a bit, as there are lots more stories awaiting you.
Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
Books by Kim: