Friday, October 5, 2012

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

It's a phrase people use for hard work.  For settling a land.  For cutting a trail.  For starting a new work.

When I see that phrase, I think of birthing.  Blood, sweat, and tears.  Physical.  Bodies in close spaces.  Normal set aside.  Indecency a thing of yesterday.  Personal space something we left at the door.

I've been through five of my own births.  Each one its own story.  Every mom has her stories of her births - remembered, treasured, stored, told and re-told. 

I've been privileged to attend the births of about 20 others.  A few were just as an onlooker and occasional support in nursing school.  A few were friends.  I'm training officially as a doula now.  Getting a certification for what I have been doing for years - helping with birthing, helping with breast-feeding, infant care, sharing and supporting mothers.

(I work with old people and they dying too.  At times I joke that I can bring them in and take them out!  Birth and death are similar.... both intensely personal, intimate, and emotional.)

This last week, I labored with a woman.  A friend.  In a culture where men do not attend births, I convinced her husband to come.  He was nervous, as others have been.  But he agreed.  I knew what he would do - he loves his wife dearly, and he would step in.  He did.  How sweet to see this big man kneeling on the bathroom floor, arms around his wife holding her and telling her she was doing well.  She did not see his eyes behind her back flitting to mine nervous and seeking affirmation that all was well.  She only felt his arms.  The mom, the dad, and I working together, bodies tangled and sweaty, holding her weight when she collapsed on us, murmuring assurances, breathing in each other's faces, breaking every cultural norm there was.  We believe that as believers we are creating a new culture.  In this culture, men care for their wives.... and what a joy it has been to see it worked out in practical ways like this - a man with his arm around his wife supporting her through a contraction.

And then to see and step back when this new life came into the world, and for the first time be put on the mom's chest.  To see their faces as a couple as they welcomed their child.  The tears of joy, the tears of being together.  It is a privilege to be there, but every good doula knows when to step back and let it be a new threesome - mom, dad, and baby.  I'll be called in after a time - to help with latching on, to console and comfort for the stitching, to listen and tell her she did well.  To laugh at the apologies for the yelling during transition, to tell her that she was no where as loud as I was!  But this is their time, a couple welcoming their baby.

Blood, sweat, and tears - it's the stuff life is made of.

Oh, and sore muscles.  My whole side is sore today.  Four hours of contractions meant four hours of holding her up, letting my arm be squeezed, of bending around into odd shapes to push on her back to relieve pain.  As I helped her shower yesterday, she looked over my arms for bruises.  There are a few, but no one cares.

The baby is adorable.  Snuffly and sweet, puckering up her face to eat or loudly protest my attempts to dress her in pink.  No hospital whites for this baby!

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