Okay, so I’m home, our guests are gone, and I’m ready to begin writing again.
I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again – those weeks in Michigan were so special. I drove miles and miles and miles, seeing to the well-being of growing families. Most of the families I tended to were families I’d served through prior years, including the baby I caught for another midwife. I believe that’s the tale I’ll tell today. I’ll tell some of the other tales in the days ahead.
I went to bed Monday night, November 30th, with the knowledge that Hannah’s housemate, Sarah, was experiencing signs of early labor. That’s generally the sort of news that helps best to get me on my way to a decent bedtime. I made sure things were as ready as things can be, and I popped myself into bed, enjoying the thrill that passed through me as I imagined the arrival of Sarah’s little Lucy. Hannah and I had attended the births of all Sarah’s babies thus far, and we were looking forward to Lucy’s birth like she were one of our own, but Sarah births so quickly, I was nervous I’d miss it in spite of lodging less than a mile away. Though Sarah’s first baby weighed over nine pounds, she came in a mere five hours, then her second nearly beat me in a race up the stairway, and I only barely beat her third in a dash to the bathroom from the dining room! When the phone rang toward four in the morning, I sprang from slumber, heart thudding but not a bit surprised – that is, not a bit surprised till a most noticeably Amish voice answered my greeting.
The man on the phone – let’s call him Newell – said, “Good morning, Kim,” and went on to explain his wife was in labor, but their midwife was at another birth. “Will you come?” He asked, “Lora’s going pretty strong.”
I said of course I would, asking for his address and name. “Why, Kim! I told you it’s Newell! Newell and Lora!”
“Oh, Newell and Lora?”
“Yes, Kim, Newell and Lora!” And a hearty laugh boomed over the lines, “I really didn’t think you’d heard me say it was me when you answered!”
I’d helped Newell and Lora nearly fourteen years earlier with their first and second babies, just as I was crossing over from apprentice to midwife. The birth of their first child was one of the more unusual births I’ve ever attended, and I tell the full story in my book. The short story is, little Ada was born face first, with a tiny hand pressed against her cheek, and with an afterbirth that sported a three foot cord and a small second placenta tucked neatly into the folds of the water sac. The joy of recognition flooded my soul and I said,”Oh, Newell! Oh my goodness! Yes, yes – I’ll be right there!”
Praying Sarah would wait till I returned to have her baby, off into the chill I went with scribbled directions crumpled into one hand and a cup of day-old coffee sloshing about in the other. Racing along the familiar roadways of my early baby-catching days, so ghostly in the wintry moonlight, I found recollections of those days struggling to surface. With effort, I pressed them back, needing to concentrate on my trip to Lora’s bedside. I didn’t expect her to labor too long – this child would be her seventh!
Newell and Lora had moved since they’d birthed their first two, but I found them easily enough, and was relieved when the gigantic man swung his door open wide to receive me with a broad smile and affirmation that his baby was still within his wife. I entered the lantern-lit living room and deposited my coat and gear in the corner nearest the curtain that separated Newell and Lora’s bedroom from the greater portion of the house. I could hear Lora breathing through a mighty contraction as I fished doppler and blood pressure cuff from Hannah’s bags. Lora was curled on her side beneath the bedclothes when I tip-toed in to kneel beside her, looking fresh and girlish for all the children she’d already born. Even there in the throes of labor, she smiled and nodded the way the Amish are want to do, and then another surge of strength engulfed her. When it passed, we listened to the music of her baby’s pattering heart and measured her blood pressure, then, as quickly and quietly as I could, I made ready to welcome their newest baby.
Nearly the moment I finished, I heard a long, grunty groan escape from the impossibly still form beneath the sheets, and, within only a few minutes more, Lora and Newell’s ten pound, two ounce son slipped into the latticework of candlelight spanning the modest room. His parents welcomed him home in the reserved, but loving way I remembered of them, and the rest of the birth and the aftercare carried on with an almost prim orderliness.
Later, in the kitchen, Newell and I caught up on a decade’s worth of family events – births and deaths and marriages and the like – while he made breakfast for Lora and I filled out the paperwork. He seemed pleased to hear my happy news about Hannah and Paul. He said he thought of them often in the days after meeting them at the funeral home when Brent died. Then, before I left, Newell brought Ada in to meet me! The young woman is lovely like her mother, and as engaging as her father. She began to tell me about her life – how she’d just finished school, and now helped her mother with her siblings and served in the bakery and read a plethora of books and worked to train her puppy. She talked till the duties she described called her away, and I turned to say good-bye to her parents. Lora’s shy smile and the vigorous, Amish-style pump of the hand delivered by Newell followed me as I returned home, driving more slowly this time – taking in the sights and the sounds, and soaking in the memories I have of the times I spent serving the many wonderful families that lined my way home.
Kim Woodard Osterholzer
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Newell and Lora’s names have been changed, and the photograph, while indeed snapped of an Amish farm, isn’t Newell and Lora’s. The parts about Sarah and her family are shared with permission.
Photo taken by Kim Woodard Osterholzer
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Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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