I've been visiting the distant planet of my Drafts folder, and recovered this from 2009. I'm posting it today in honor of this baby's fifth birthday. We love you, Helvi!
My thoughts and emotions surrounding the birth of Bubbie's baby last week (a week! already a week! only a week!) are still swirling around in the back of my consciousness, and while it is not my story to tell, I thought I would write a bit around the experience of witnessing the beginning of a family.
Our days leading up to the birth - the days after hitting the Week 40 mark, when people start to greet a pregnant woman with "What? You're still pregnant??" - were so relaxed and time was so elastic that it was somewhat easy to forget why I was there. Bubbie was not uncomfortable in the way some women get - she is by nature serene, and even more so in her beautiful big-bellied state. When I did remember, I cooked a bunch of food, stuck it in the freezer, looked around for something to clean (there wasn't anything, which won't surprise anyone who knows her). We spent much of our time together driving around Seattle, seeing things I had been missing since our move, eating Cougar Mountain cookies and cranking the tunes (heh heh - we listened to so much Hedwig and the Angry Inch that we joked about her naming the baby Hedwig, boy or girl).
Two days into my stay, she had a conversation with her doula (and the doula from Eliza's birth, my Birthing From Within mentor and all-around incredible woman), who had just finished a four-day birth. Carrie jokingly asked her to please not go into labor until Monday at the earliest - she was just so beat, and needed sleep and good food. Bubbie is very accomodating, and, knowing that I was leaving on Tuesday, she waited until exactly 1:10 in the morning on Monday for the contractions to begin. Amazing. By 11:00 a.m. Helvi had been born. What happened in-between is a bit of a blur, but here are a few of the highlights...early labor was practically non-existent and took place during a power outage. Minutes before hearing Bubbie up and walking around I had experienced what felt like a mini earthquake, which is not unusual out there, and I was lying awake trying to quell the uneasiness that that feeling gives you. I am still not certain whether or not I was dreaming, but the sensation was enough to wake me fully, and that is the way the day began for me! Bubbie and Nils were thoughtfully waiting until closer to daylight to call Carrie, wanting her to get as much sleep as possible, and when they did call she listened to B talk for a while, through contractions, and then asked Nils and myself for the final piece of the equation, to determine whether or not it was time to go to the birthing center. She asked, "Is she still present and lucid? Or has she gone to Laborland?" It was this piece of the puzzle that almost had us waiting too long to get to the car. This woman does not do anything but lucid. She was lucid enough to keep asking me, "Can this really be early labor???" She was lucid enough to help me help her find her clothing and get dressed. Our only challenge in the transfer was actually getting to the car, and it would have seemed comical if the birth didn't seem suddenly so imminent. Every time she'd finish a contraction we'd start a dart towards the door - Nils was already in the car - and another contraction would start and she'd beeline back to the bed! She was lucid enough to remind us, in the car, deep into active labor, which rooms we should head to in the birth center, lucid enough to bark at the labor and delivery nurse who reminded us that the current visitor limit is 2, due to the H1N1 virus, "We're breaking the rules. She's staying." (Being the diplomat she is, she later apologized...)
There are a few moments that really stand out for me from that day. The strongest one is having my friend come out of her inward, eyes-closed rocking to turn her big brown eyes to me to say simply, and unbelievingly, "Debbie."
I knew what she was saying, what she was asking - Why didn't you tell me it would be like this? How is this ever going to happen? I felt utterly helpless. Bubbie was at the birth of both of my babies, much more prepared for birth in that sense than I was, so she had seen how it goes, how hard you work, how much goes into birthing that baby, but it feels like that one word was her moment of transition.
The other moment was when Nils was on one side of her, I was on the other and he was channeling his inner coach. "ADD IT ON! ADD IT ON! YOU CAN DO IT!"
And before we knew it, Bubbie had a baby in her arms. Helvi looked as though she had found the place she was supposed to be. I can't imagine a birth story that doesn't have a good dose of corn, but as I heard a young person wisely comment just the other day, we call it corn, but really, it just seems to be the tender truth. I looked at my friend's hands, holding her baby, and they were transformed. Those small hands with the long graceful fingers were meant to hold that baby. It was profound, watching the pieces of what I knew about this person fall gently into place around this new person, as if this is exactly what her hands were for.