This article is from my book, Nourish & Thrive: Happy, Healthy Childbearing.
I love witnessing the little ones emerge and unfurl into the light as their fathomless eyes wink and peek beneath their downy brows.
But I really think what I love best of all is when all of this transpires under and into the strong, yet gentle hands of fathers.
Through the inimitable process of natural and unmedicated childbirth, oxytocin, the “fall-in-love” hormone, and endorphins, the hormones of pain alleviation, flood and gush through the veins of mother and baby, transporting both into altered states of consciousness. Incredibly, while a man, the lover of that woman and the father of that baby, intimately experiences the exquisite pain and poignancy of birth, equal measures of “fall-in-love” hormone suffuse his own veins with every pulsating thrum of his heart.
When this man, with every morsel of his being awash and alive in that brew of tender devotion, spreads his sturdy hands and receives his tiny child, that burgeoning life, that fruit of his ardor and passion from the secrecy of his woman, he, every time, without fail, pauses… one heartbeat… two heartbeats… three… suspended in the holiness of the moment… until he draws in a great shuddering breath and exhales, “Oh! Ooooohh!! Oooooooohhh!!!”
Then, hovering there over those two souls, more precious to him than life itself, he bursts into tears.
And I sit just off to the side, assessing mom and baby with my eyes and ears, with my knowledge and experience and my common sense, discreetly hemming in the mess, and reveling in the enchantment as I watch and wait to be needed. The woman lies in quietness a moment before gathering herself to greet her child. The child lies in the grip of his father’s hands, little arms and legs spread wide, spluttering and dribbling as he fills the world with his cries. The man, still exulting and exclaiming, praising his lover in sob-clotted gushes, tears streaming from his cheeks and trickling from the tip of his nose, gingerly places the wailing baby upon his wife’s sweaty breast while those tears splash all over them as though watering them, baptizing them.
Not every daddy is able to catch his own baby. Sometimes a mama hops into an unexpected position that puts him out of the way, or her sinewy arms will be wrapped so snug around his neck that to loose himself would be to disturb her. Sometimes a baby needs a little help in his effort to slide earth-side, enough help, such help, as the midwife winds up with him in her own hands. And some dads would just really rather not do the actual catching.
All of this is fine! All of this is good!
Yet, still, my absolute favorite part of attending births is when a father receives his baby. In those extraordinary moments, when I find myself overcome with the sense that the tears splattering and splashing upon and over the new family are washing them, watering them, baptizing them. I find myself washed, watered, and baptized, too, and all feels just so right with the world.
Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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