It’s time for another Midwife Highlight, and I thought it would suit to share the story belonging to Jill Roper – the woman who’s the reason I’m this moment serving at MamaBaby Haiti. Jill and I met on-line last year, and, though we’ve still only ever talked on the telephone and by email, we immediately connected and a sweet sisterhood was birthed.
It’s my pleasure and honor to introduce her to you today!
The memory is so vivid to me now, as if it was yesterday. My little three-year-old daughter and I were walking hand in hand while pushing the stroller filled with our newest little bundle of joy. Like all little girls at that age, she could talk up a storm. One of her questions struck me hard.
“Mommy, why are you the only Mama around here who’s home? Where are all the other Mommies?”
I told her all the other Mommies were at work.
The next obvious question was, “Why don’t you work Mommy?”
That day I told her indeed I did work, but my work was right at home with her and her baby brother. That question would be asked of me multiple times over the next few years. My heart’s desire was to be there, in the midst of the messy and the hard – just being there. I told my children not to worry, that someday when they were all grown and gone, I’d become a brain surgeon. We would all laugh then – Mommy – a brain surgeon!
I’d not anticipated then that it would take me over thirty years to send the last one out the door into adulthood.
But send I did, and what to do now? I was fascinated with all things medical. Being a brain surgeon was a fascinating occupation to me, yet, alas, I’d be collecting Social Security before I could complete a residency!
Then I remembered the time one of our foster daughters came to us very pregnant. She’d needed a labor coach and a mentor, and I was it. Walking out of the delivery room, I was on cloud nine. What an oxytocin rush that was! I never forgot the feeling of helping a woman through labor. About that time, a dear friend of ours had a daughter and family living with her. Her daughter was pregnant and, at the last minute, decided to have her baby right at her parent’s home!
What a concept, having babies at home! My girlfriend and I had been discussing my options, and she said, “Jill, you should become a midwife and deliver babies at home!”
The memory of our foster daughter’s birth came flooding back, and I was sold. I contacted the midwife that delivered my friend’s grandbaby, and very soon after that, I became her apprentice. Three and a half years later, I finally am a baby catcher. One of the first things I learned was that midwives don’t deliver babies – mamas deliver their own babies! I just usually get the privilege of catching that miracle we call a baby.
I’ll never forget my very first “catch.” Later, my preceptor told me she’d actually hired me just for that birth. I’d only been apprenticing a couple of months when I met Rebecca. I attended her home visit at 36 weeks. She told us she really wanted to birth in the living room in front of the big picture window with the Christmas tree lit up and the fireplace crackling on the side. When I left that home visit I said to myself, “You’re going to deliver that baby.” Then I promptly told myself to stop being a drama queen, and get on with life.
Over the next month, I dreamed almost every night about this mama’s birth. Just four days before the actual birth, I took a course in neonatal resuscitation. Every day before the birth, I’d go over in my mind each step I’d need to take if I found myself alone at there.
At that point in my apprenticeship, I’d only been to three births. The morning of the birth, I’d driven to the YMCA to meet a friend and do water aerobics. I’d just put my purse in my locker when my preceptor Wendy called. She told me to hurry to the Rebecca’s home; delivery was going to be quick.
I threw my coat back on and jumped in my car and sped down the road. I was less than ten minutes away. In the car, I prayed like a crazy woman, begging the Lord to be with me, to help me remember everything I needed to do if I found myself alone. My heart was beating a million miles a minute. I turned off the car, took a deep breath, and walked inside knowing all would be well. My preceptor was on the phone with me when I walked in. She offered to stay on the line with me while she was speeding towards us. I said I thought I’d be fine, and we said goodbye.
I didn’t know it then, but Rebecca was fewer than twenty minutes from delivery.
Gary, Rebecca’s husband, was busy setting up the pool and filling it. Grandma was in the kitchen washing dishes. Both were grateful that someone was there who knew what they were doing. It wasn’t until well after the birth that I let on that it had been my very first solo “catch.”
Rebecca was so uncomfortable. I rubbed her back and did hip squeezes as the baby moved lower and lower into the birth canal. I calmly asked for the supplies I’d need while helping mama get through each contraction. The pool was quickly filled up, and Gary helped me get her into the pool. The instant she was in, she calmed and looked around the room. I said, “Look, Rebecca, the fireplace is crackling, the Christmas tree is sparkling, and you’re right where you wanted to be.”
Within minutes, she felt the urge to push. I got on my sterile gloves and, sure enough, the baby was crowning. With the next push, out came the head. I checked for a cord around the neck and felt none. I quickly thanked the Lord. With the next push out came the baby. I slowly brought the baby up to the surface and placed the baby right on Rebecca’s chest. We’d all been holding our breath, so I asked everyone to just pause and take a breath! The baby was safe and sound in her mama’s arms! After a minute or two, I asked permission to pray over the precious little baby. We all bowed our heads, and I thanked the Lord for his generous mercy. I prayed that the little girl would someday grow to know her Savior and walk with him.
About ten minutes later, Wendy arrived to a room filled with happy people. It was then time for Mama to get out of the pool and deliver the placenta. I remember asking permission to do the placenta and Wendy said, “If you can catch a baby, then you can catch a placenta.”
So, with her instructions, I caught my first placenta. I was elated. When we left their home three hours later, I was convinced I was exactly where God had called me to be, serving women during such a sacred time of life. That was over 300 births ago. I’ve continued the practice of praying over each and every baby some out loud and some quietly, all with the same purpose, for this precious little one to be blessed on this journey called life.
I’m now practicing out on my own, serving women in a wide area, including Marlette and Brown City that I affectionately call “Amish Country.” I serve from the Flushing area all the way to the Rochester Hills area. I also have a passion for serving women in third world countries where they don’t get the kind of care they deserve. I serve at a free birth center called MamaBaby Haiti, and absolutely love it there. I’m in charge of all of the volunteers and supplies, and I’ve been privileged to catch lots of babies there in Haiti. If you know someone in the area I serve who’s looking for a midwife, please have them check out my website at www.compassionatehandsbirthservices.com.
The names of the birthing family in this story have been changed.
by Jill Roper, Michigan Midwife
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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