As tomorrow, 10/13/2015, marks what would’ve been my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with Brent Woodard, my first husband and the father of my two children, I thought it would be appropriate (and fun!)(Brent was so much fun!) to honor his memory by telling a bit about him and our two homebirths.
Brent and I had a really special thing going. We met young – I was still only seventeen – and we were still virgins when we married two years later. Brent was actually my first boyfriend! We met, and were instantly smitten.
So, I was a bit of a spitfire, filled with plans and opinions, many of them counter-culture. As smitten as I was with Brent, my plans and opinions mattered to me, and I’d made the decision long before I met that hot hunk of red-headed stud that I’d only ever hitch my wagon to a man with like plans and opinions. Among my plans was a determination to birth my babies at home. I wasted no time bringing the subjects of midwifery and homebirth up in conversation, and, once we clarified that a midwife was NOT a surrogate mother (that took some doing as he was positive it was, explaining the word “midwife” said it all – mid: middle, in between, and wife: as in, wife and her husband – in other words, a gal who gets in between a wife and her husband)(see what he did there?)… Okay, where was I? Oh, yes. So, once we established the definition of midwife, he indicated he thought birthing at home with one sounded pretty cool. It wasn’t till after I agreed to marry him and was filling with our first child that I learned he meant birthing at home with a midwife sounded pretty cool for other people. But we got that little snarl worked out (described more fully in my book), and, before I knew it, I was on my way to my long-awaited homebirth!
We’d selected Jean Balm as our midwife, and Karen Sitts (then, Karen Scherf) as our doula/childbirth educator. Karen was actually the woman who’d introduced me to homebirth and midwifery when I was still a teenager, and I’d always said I wanted her to come be with me when I birthed my babies. Brent liked Karen very much, but one evening after class he said, “Hey, do we have to have a doula?” And he went on to say that, though he was aware he hadn’t a clue as to how to support me through labor, he really wanted to try. “But if Karen comes to our birth, I know I’ll back off and let her do the helping since she knows what she’s doing.”
I was surprised, but, young as I was, I understood the rare and precious thing Brent was offering to me. I called Karen the next day and uninvited her to our birthing.
When one snowy, December evening we at last found ourselves in the throes of labor, in spite of the fact he truly was clueless exactly how to help me (he’d read three pages of Dr. Bradley’s Husband Coached Childbirth, and told my mom who called to check on my progress he didn’t think I was actually in labor), and that he expected the birth to be a total bloodbath (evidenced by the layer of plastic he spread over literally everything in the room), he wound up being perfect.
I can’t remember the details of anything he said or did that long night, but his giant, warm heart and the soothing rumble of his voice were continuously with me, and it turned out that was all I really needed. And when our moment came – the moment I pressed our tiny bundle of squirming, squalling Hannah into Brent’s massive hands, something happened to us. I know it sounds cliché to say our lives changed forever, but they did. We looked at that purplish, gooey thing sprawled across my deflated belly, then looked up at each other, and this soldering of our souls occurred. We fell more deeply in love than we’d ever been before as we fell in love with our baby girl.
Two and a half years later, when I was filled to the bursting point with our son, I told Brent I thought I wanted to catch him myself. Brent was quiet a minute, then he said, “Gosh, Kim, you get to have him. Can’t I at least catch him?” And he had me again. On the blazingest hottest day of that summer, I pushed our next wiggly, wet mass of life into my lover’s embrace and, though we’d not have ever thought it possible, our love for one another grew even deeper, even wider, and ever so full.
The incredible life, the incredible love that was born among the four of us through the births of two of us went on to grow and grow and grow through the twelve to fifteen years we would share as one of the most unique family units I’ve ever encountered (though maybe I just think that because it was mine). Brent was a supremely engaged husband and father. He admonished me to run helter-skelter across our corner of Michigan to learn midwifery, leaving him and the kids fairly often without groceries, clean clothes, or any idea of my return – meanwhile, taking full responsibility for the rearing of our children. Hannah and Paul were like extensions of his long, freckled arms – one, the other, or both with him every possible moment.
I really always suspected the love we shared was as bright and shining as it was because of the life-altering way it began – at those births of our children – as our children, the embodiment of our love and commitment, sprang into the light from me to him. The image Jean managed to snap, capturing Paul’s passage – Paul, slipping into Brent’s arms as my hands reached down to receive him – says it all.
And that life filled love we shared, born in those irreplaceable moments, served to carry us through Brent’s illness, through Brent’s death, and on through the time of our healing after his death, too.
It exists still this very day.
Happy Anniversary, Brent Patrick Woodard.
Thanks for the amazing memories ♥Photographs by Eric Tworek, Jean Balm, Kim, and a watercolor painted by Kim.
Thank you so much for the gift of your time!
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Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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