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.
Joanna, you so skillfully put words to this most holy process and invited me to stand beside you. Indeed, it is breathtaking. Thank you. Christine.
Thank you so much Christine for being willing to respond to the invite. It is holy work in deed to be willing to stand and see. Thanks for your feedback
Approaching birth and death with awe and wonder, with trust that both are holy gr
ound–thank you for sharing.
With awe and wonder and trust. Yes. Headed into a birthday today holding those words of years.
Goodness, this is beautiful. This in particular struck me: “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.” I had never thought of what you, as a midwife, witness if you have but eyes to see. Thank you for Inviting me into the holy ground of a home birth–a place I’ve never been–with your words.
I ask that I may always have eyes to see the story both known and unknown. Thank you for responding, Susan.
This is lovely beyond words…I had goose bumps the whole time. Thank you for the beauty of your story and the sacred voice in which you write💜MJ
Thank you Mary Jane. I value those words coming from you in particular.
Stunning, dear Joanna. You had me breathless with the wonder of it all. What a gift you give us.
Thank you Melanye. You have walked this road with me.
I was with you in the audacity to be asked to stay awake all night. I was with you in the car, hearing the birds. I was with you in the birth and smells. Beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for awakening my senses and helping my eyes to look beyond the normal and practical today. It has enlivened me:)
Grateful you feel enlivened. And so precious to stand and some of the spaces with you. You are very gifted Doula.
What a beautiful glimpse to the holiness you experience in your calling. I love that you take off your shoes and know the glory that you behold. Thank you for your window into your life and new life and women beholding their beauty and strength.
Thank you Becky. These are good words to soak in. Waiting for s baby tonight. My shoes are off!
Joanna, this was such a stunning post! I loved the imagery, and I love how your heart and life have grown into something more messy and present. Thank you for sharing.
PS- that last comment was from me ;). Sending love!
“Other times I am the keeper of her-story, as the wounded girl relives childhood trauma yet unnamed” How amazingly Holy. The power of quiet presence…and expectation…and trust. Beautiful. Yes: Holy Ground. Thank you.
Such holy ground to took us to here. Thank you friend, for what you do and more deeply for who you are…life welcoming and life giving in so many ways.