There is a magical hour, when darkness lingers and daylight is yet an illusion. It is in this hour of endless night when babies like to be born.
I remember years ago being asked to pick up some night shifts at the birth center. “You couldn’t pay me enough money to stay up all night”, was my flippant nurse reply. I knew a lot then, loads of knowledge and only the barest beginnings of instinct. It was in those years that I was invited to a home birth; as a friend, not a nurse. I declined, although not politely. “I consider your choice to be dangerous, and irresponsible, and I can have no part in it.”
So many words.
I was driving home from a home birth recently, windows down to hear the morning birdsong. My heart was full of wonder. I was holding the images of the faces in my mind. As a midwife now, I often take off my shoes at a birth. A simple act, perhaps, to say…this is holy ground. Holy ground. The place where the veil shimmers between what is seen and what is not seen.
There is so much fear of birth, in our culture. I carried it too, deep within my cells.
I think the line between life and death is thin, and that scares us.
The process is often full of so many conflicting feelings. And sometimes, unexpected things happen.
But I carry something else, now; a deep trust. Trust in the beauty of this wild process God has created. Respect for how delicately balanced it is, on purpose. Wisdom and tools if things unfold differently. And a strong resolve to hold space for the physiologic process to flow, undisturbed.
When a mama is able to let go and deeply trust her instincts, the magic begins. There is a dance, intricate in its footwork, as she arches and sways. She is following the path of the baby yet unseen.
I keep the candles lit, and room quiet, to help her to go back into her ancient knowing. It is intense and breathtaking to feel the raw power that moves through her. Sometimes I see a lioness, shaking her head and pacing. Other times I am the keeper of her-story, as the wounded girl relives childhood trauma yet unnamed.
And then, when it seems that the pain is for naught and hope is nearly gone, a curl of hair sways, perhaps just inside the sac. “Feel your baby, reach down and touch your baby’s head!” Strength surges, and I watch, as if for the first time, as the baby rounds into the warrior mama’s cupped hands. The waves come strong now, bringing this little one earth side.
Now, instinct leads the way. The baby comes into the warm water of the birth tub, and the mama brings her up against her breast. We wait, as keepers of the space, in awe. The moments pass as salty tears mingle with the musky smell of the baby. The baby’s face turnstoward the familiar voice, and then their eyes lock as time stands still.
“Well look at you!”
And all creation bows.
I am a midwife. And this is my holy ground.
Joanna Wilder is a midwife, a mama, and a keeper of her-story. She has a passion for community development, and walking with women. She is learning how much she doesn’t know. Read more of her writing here.