The other morning I got to thinking about a family I served a number of times through the years. I thought about their births, their children, their passions, their creativity, their unique lives, as well as the precious friendship that formed among us. And then I remembered something that happened at one of their births, and it occurred to me to write a little something about it.
It was the birth of a great, thick baby boy – a great, thick boy who happened to be just a mite thick for his travailing mother. As I generally do within these sorts of moments, I had his mom stand up from her seat on the birthing stool, place one of her feet upon the stool’s seat, then crouch a bit. Usually this works beautifully to release a set of snug shoulders – actually, usually just the motion of standing up does the trick. This guy was a little extra stuck, however, so we shifted to the next thing I like to do, and that was have her get down on her hands and knees. She did so, but he was still wedged in there. I had her plant one foot on the floor then, and eased my hands inside her to fish one of his chubby arms out.
Thankfully, the rest of him slid free after his arm, but he was stunned by his experience and begged a reminder it was time to breathe. Like my sister midwives, I’m certified in Neonatal Resuscitation. I went through the training initially in 2000, and have re-certified seven times since. I have oxygen and nasal cannulas and an ambu bag, all of which I’ve used many times, but I did for this child what I almost always do first. I just laid him on the chux pads between his mother and dad, covered his lips and nose with my lips, laid a hand lightly over his chest, and shared a couple breaths with him.
Then, with his mom and daddy calling his name and stroking his soft arms and legs while I puffed, I felt the subtle magic happen – I felt the tingle and spark of his spirit’s response to our summons – and that spark was followed by a grimace, by a gasp, by a squeak – and then by a chorus of ever strengthening wails!
Some hours later, after the child had been scooped up and marveled over and suckled to his heart’s content, he and his mama let me know they were ready for his head-to-toe exam. Again, I spread him out between his mother and dad, and knelt beside him. His dad, seemingly unable to get his fill of this, his seventh treasured child, knelt beside him too. I listened to his rapidly pattering heart and the clean, brisk sounds of his healthy lungs. I assessed his temperature, felt his bones, palpated his parts, examined his openings, and elicited his reflexes. I measured him and weighed him and printed his feet, and, all the while, his daddy looked at him in wonderment, tracing the furrows of his downy brows.
As I bundled the baby into his father’s arms, the man stood to his feet and smiled. “Well, son, you’re not a day old yet, but you’ve already had your first kiss.”
As I remembered that the other day, it plucked a little twinging ping on my heartstrings. I thought about him and our kiss, and tears sprang into my eyes. Then the tears seeped into the crinkles of my smile, as I remembered some of the other first kisses I’ve managed to swipe and reflected over this truly incredible thing I’ve been called to, where I get to witness magic and miracles, and where I get sometimes to exchange breaths and kisses with life.
Photo provided by the family
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Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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