Oh my goodness, yes! Last week was wild! I flew to Michigan, celebrated Christmas with my family, attended a birth, fell ill, recovered, attended another birth, observed the tenth anniversary of my first husband’s death, fell ill again, flew home to Colorado, celebrated three years of marriage to my second husband, and learned that after sixteen months of dedicated work, I’d secured an agent to represent my memoir! Wes Yoder of Ambassador has taken me under his wing! And Wes is already hard at work, searching for a publisher!
I worked on “Midwife Life, Part Ten” through that unbelievable week, scribbling away in all the little nooks and crannies of time I was able to carve out, but the schedule we kept was prohibitive, to say the least.
And then, about the time I realized I’d never have it finished in time to publish today, I thought you might like to hear a little about the births we attended – especially the second birth, as it took me on a spin through twenty-three years of memories.
I spent most of the week with my daughter, her husband, and their daughter – Hannah, Jesse, and Evangeline. You may remember, Hannah is also a midwife. Through the weeks prior to the trip, Hannah had told me she had three moms who could give birth during my stay – a former client, a childhood friend of Hannah’s, and a new client.
The former client, Nan and Dell of my story, “Loss and Life Anew,” gave birth a few days before I arrived. I was sorry to miss their birth, but I rejoiced over Hannah’s account of the third spellbinding experience the woman and her remarkably attentive husband had enjoyed together since the loss of their first little one.
On my second day in Michigan, Sunday, Hannah’s childhood friend birthed her baby, swift and sweetly, very much as she had two years previous, nearly to the day. The woman’s mom, a treasured friend, was at her daughter’s birth, and in every way possible, it was a special day. We reveled in the gorgeous birth, basked in the glow of a transformed family, snapped hundreds of photographs, and caught up on all our news.
Then the entire Simmons household, including me, fell ill. Hannah wasn’t too worried that her final client would birth while we were sick because she wasn’t due until the next week, and so we relaxed and slogged through Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, caring for one another the best we could.
Wednesday wound down with the four of us definitely on the mend. We said our goodnights and turned in, determined to make Thursday, my last full day in Michigan, a fun one.
And then I woke Thursday morning to find Hannah standing over my bed with a tousle-headed Evangeline in her arms.
“Mom, do you remember me telling you about Jane at all?”
I sat up and rubbed my eyes. Evangeline grinned at me in the half light as I searched the recesses of my mind for a Jane. “Is Jane one of your clients? I think I remember that she exists.”
“Yes, one of my clients. Her water just broke, and she’s having contractions. She’s going to time them and call back in a half hour.”
“But when’s she due?”
“She’s thirty-seven weeks. But, she’s a first-time mom, so, I don’t know. It could really be happening, or we might have to find you another ride to the airport tomorrow.”
“Oh, gosh. Oh, wow. Okay.”
I flung the covers from my legs, and we began to get around for departure.
The woman called back to report that her contractions were three minutes apart and lasting from sixty to ninety seconds.
Hannah hung up, and looked at me with shock registering on her face. “I think she’s in transition!”
We shifted gears to hurry, and had the bags, Evangeline, and ourselves loaded into Hannah’s van in a matter of minutes.
On the way southward, Hannah told me Jane was a newly-married Amish woman living in the Centreville area. When I asked if I knew her at all, Hannah told me she thought we’d met a time or two, but couldn’t remember the details about her family.
Something Hannah said made me think of a set of sisters I’d served through my first year attending births – the year I was filling with my own second child, Paul. I shared about the sisters as Hannah drove, attempting to describe who they were and how they were – in the befuddlingly intricate way of the Amish – entwined with families Hannah knew.
One of the sisters had birthed a baby girl who, once grown, hired me to catch her own first baby. Another of the sisters birthed a son mere weeks before Paul himself was born. I went on to serve a vast number of siblings from every branch of each family through the twenty years that followed that first incredible year.
As we passed into the territory of those memories – even began passing the homes that housed them – the decades began to fall away, and a sense of timelessness rose to envelop my heart and mind.
A phone call snapped me to.
“Okay!” Hannah said. “We’re almost there! Five minutes! Get her on her side and just have her breathe through those sensations!”
And we flew the rest of the way.
We set up a monitoring system for Evangeline, who’d drifted back to sleep – don’t judge – as we pulled into the drive, and we left her in the van. Hannah sprang from her side of the van and sprinted into the house while I sprang from my side, gathered up the gear, and dashed in behind her.
The smidgen of baby boy slipped earthside a mere nine minutes from our arrival. The placenta came shortly after, as did a postpartum hemorrhage, which we resolved with rapidity.
At Hannah’s request, I parked myself at Jane’s bedside, kneading her recalcitrant uterus to firmness – and keeping it firm – as Jane and her husband explored their tiny son and introduced him to the goodness of her bosom.
Time passed and things settled down. Hannah’s assistants arrived, one just before the baby and one just after. Someone fetched Evangeline from the car, and she was soon crawling from room to room, looking for toys. The baby was nursing like he’d been nursing for one hundred years, and Jane’s husband was in the kitchen fixing her a bite to eat.
I propped my knee onto the edge of the bed to spare my complaining back, took another peek beneath the covers at the chux pads, and, still gently rubbing her uterus, turned to Jane.
“Okay, now, I’m sure I’ve met you. Who are your people?”
She flashed me a glorious smile. “Oh, yes, we’ve met before. You helped Jean Balm with my mom and her sisters.”
And, wouldn’t you know it? The women she spoke of were the very women of my reminiscence.
The names of the clients in this story have been changed, and some of the details of their lives have been altered or combined or exchanged with the details of other clients’ lives in order to adequately protect their identity.
by Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife
Photographs by istock photo and by Kim
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Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
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