I mentioned that on April 8 I had a conversation with my sister – she’s a grounding force who always laughs at my inhibitions. That afternoon she laughed away my Stuck Places again and I went home with the gung-ho intention of writing “a post about the post I didn’t post” (her words).
But I have kids, you know? Six of them? So I arrived home at dinner time and scrambled something together. We did bedtime, worship, second bedtime, third bedtime, never-ending bedtime, and finally sat by the fire, David and I, to rehash our day. We went to bed. I read Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H. and tossed and turned with its ideas in my head: the realization that “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all” was written about the death of a friend and not about the loss of a lover – yeah, that idea rolled around and around in my brain as I tried to fall asleep.
A half hour into my fitful tossing my phone began buzzing on my nightstand, incessantly. I had been waiting every night for two weeks to get the call that my sister was in labor, and here the one night I left my phone on silent I was still semi-awake and able to catch the persistent buzz. “Harmony,” my brother-in-law said, “She’s in labor. Uh, like, uh, we have to get to the birth center now. She wants you to come.”
All I could think as I stumbled around trying to throw on clothes and find all the things I hadn’t thought to gather together (camera? hello, Harmony) was about my Midwife BFF. “Oh my gosh. Is this what she does at night? Ok. Wake up, brain. Think. Clothes. Belt. ACK. C’mon, Mandy (here I’m channeling the Midwife BFF way back in Nebraska) help me out here. What do I need to bring? Hazelnuts? Coffee? Where’s my birthing necklace? WAKE UP, Harmony.”
I arrived at the Birth Center to find Austin (brother-in-law) grinning like an about-to-be-daddy in the black gravel parking lot, and my sister rocking and swaying at the back seat of her car. The night was balmy, fragrant with dogwoods and lilacs and douglas fir. Heather’s head pressed into a pillow and her heels ground into gravel as she leaned through the door. Two moans in and I thought, “she’s going to have this baby in 3 hours.” And then I thought, “ORRRRR she’s going to have it in this parking lot. C’mon midwives, get here quick!”
Three hours it was. Three hours later I had the unbelievable privilege of saying to Austin as he panicked for the briefest second (Baby Ezra was dangling half-birthed from the birth canal, just chillin’ in the tub water through a few contractions and the midwives and I were acting like a half-birthed baby hanging out under water is no biggie…) – I had the unbelievable privilege of being able to answer his “what do I do?!” with “It’s okay. Everything’s okay. The baby’s okay, Heather’s okay. She’s going to hold the baby just like this for only a little bit, and then the baby will slide right out into your arms.” His whole body relaxed and I felt – I don’t know how to explain what I felt. I didn’t feel anything in that moment because Heather immediately began the final push, and I stepped to her front and held her arm while she held mine, and pressed my forehead to hers when she pressed it to mine, and I watched her eyes as she felt the baby emerge and witnessed the miracle as she immediately flipped from the intensity of pushing to utter, uncontainable laughter and joy.
My sister. My baby sister, for whom I begged God the night before her own birth (“please, God, let it be a girl!”); whom I “trained” in little sissy-sissy sessions when she was a toddler and I was the ripe old age of eleven; whom I corrected on behavior and applauded in her tiny victories. She was my buddy when I became a teenager, buckled into the backseat of my first and second cars as I traipsed around Oregon with my friends. She was the helper I called on nearly every time I had a baby, the one who would come a month or two after birth and give me encouragement and rest. “Mama,” I said when I called our mother later that day (my mama had been in Portland for a week of chemo), “Mama, she was magnificent.” She was.
My sister doesn’t actually remember pressing her forehead against mine for that briefest second at birth; in fact, she doesn’t actually have a conscious memory of me being at the birth at all, though she knows I was. Her midwife says, “that’s when we’ve done our job, when you don’t even know we’re here.”
But I know I was there.
Being able to speak to Austin, out of the deep wisdom that has been burned into my psyche from six births of my own, was an unspeakable privilege. Being able to witness the birth (or transition) of my sister from woman and wife into mother – well, what can I say? It deposited something sacred and permanent in my soul, something sacred like a stone placed in a setting on Aaron’s breastplate – a testament, a reminder, a memory of God.
I am reminded as I write this of a post I did in December for a new blogging friend; life had gone a bit crazy and I don’t think I ever even linked to it from here! Here it is: Looking Back at ChildBirth. Take a look and leave some love to let Amanda know you visited her blog! 🙂