[Warning! Jumbo post alert!]
For all the phenomenal work of the birth mum, it really does take a heap of loving people to help a baby into the world. In our case, Team Baby has consisted of equal parts midwife, doula, loving family, and friends. And since we are still circling the proverbial airport, I have some time to show my gratitude by trumpeting their fabulousness below.
Meet the midwife.
Based on our felicitous experience, everyone needs a midwife. I’d almost say everyone needs our midwife, but I get the feeling she’d probably not relish a national / international workload. Too bad, though. Because if, during active labor, she told my beloved to get on all fours and bark like a dog, not only would my beloved do it, but so would I. So would anyone who overheard the directive as they passed by the birthing room.
It’s not because she’s a pro domme (none of my business if she is!); it’s just that she knows her midwifery, and that know-how radiates from her, becalming everything within a block’s radius, including rabid dogs and parking meter-readers. She’s like a wizzened ship captain who’s been around the horn more times than the sailors on the boat have been around their favorite bordello. (Where the heck did that come from?! Well, it can’t be helped. I’m in a pre-birth tizzy fit that is unlikely to abate ’til Junior makes his appearance).
Lindy began her practice over twenty years ago as a home birth midwife, aka a Direct Entry Midwife, or DEM (a term I gleaned from Pregnancy Today’s glossary, a useful reference for the arcane birth-related vocab one encounters along this journey). Then she was among a small group who pioneered midwife-assisted hospital births at our local hospital, making her a Certified Professional Midwife, or CPM. Berkeley midwife Peggy Vincent wrote about this milestone of midwifery in her memoir Baby Catcher, a must read for anyone planning to pop one out. Spiritual Midwifery is a favorite of many, too; either book provides rich descriptions of scores of births, some easy, some hard, all captivating. Lindy stopped counting the number of babies she’d caught at a thousand, and reckons by now the total is in the range of about 1,200. Yow.
We met with Lindy monthly at the outset of the pregnancy, and then weekly as of the eighth month. As a result, when we go into the Big Event, we all know each other, and most important, my beloved trusts her. The strongest belief Lindy has is that the female body knows what it’s doing. So, in yet another demonstration of the grace and omnipresence of paradox in the world, her trust in my beloved is nearly as important as my beloved’s trust in her.
Meet the doula.
For the first birth, in addition to working with the most awe-inspiring midwife in the Pacific Standard Timezone, we were fortunate enough to have received the support an incredible doula, who has since become a friend. My beloved’s brother and his wife paid for her services as a gift to us, and I highly recommend this as the number one most indispensable shower gift anyone can bestow upon first-time birthing folks — well worth coordinating the multiple sponsoring parties it ordinarily would take, since they are a tad costlier than a pastel-colored onsie. Basically invite forty people to the shower, focus them all on this one gift, and all will be well. [Here’s something on doula.com about the range their fees can run, and what they do.]
Candace came to our house, explained to us all about the kinds of things to expect from childbirth, physically, emotionally, even procedurally at the hopsital. She asked us what kinds of experiences we wanted to have, and advocated for them each step of the way. She was on the other end of a phone in the days leading up to the Big Day, helping us distinguish between productive but not active labor contractions. When the time came, she was at our house and kept not just the laboring mum, but more importantly me from hypervenhilating and fainting, before driving us to the hospital and our midwife.
While my beloved wanted to go it sans doula this time, we did have her come by and give me a pep-talk, and she’s willing to be called for any last-minute phone-based advice (me: “Heeeeeeeeeelp!”, her: “Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!”)
Meet the family.
This time around, Team Baby includes the beloved’s mum, the storied lesbian feminist she-wolf I lovingly refer to as my mother out-law (owing to the fact that her relationship to me at this point is not legally visible, and in the course of her lifetime she has probably broken as many laws as she’s observed). Support staff on the night shift of Team Baby are our downstairs neighbors the Know-It-All-Brother-In-Law, aka the KIABIL, and his wife. He drives their van; she stays home with their kids + our baby monitor and/or our kid. En route, I attend the birthing mum; mother out-law attends us both. My sister, visiting from Norway, is crowding close behind as back-up on kiddle care.
We are lousy with family on this, and we know it. And why not? It’s just too wonderful an event for them not to crowd around and help out on. The more the word gets out on all this fun, the quicker familial homophobia has got to wither. Really. I have to believe that this chapter of the LGBT civil rights battle will be characterized by a new motto, “An army of loving grandmothers (and uncles and aunts & etc.) cannot fail.”
But I digress.
My beloved and I had elected that our first birth be between just us, our midwife, our doula, and attendant sprites from the sweet hereafter. But the mother out-law wanted to be there so bad I was sure she was there anyhow. My memory of the periphery around the birthing bed was hazy, but I could swear there was a suspicious looking orderly mopping up the corner of the room when our daughter was crowning. Had I been less riveted on the miracle of bloody, vernix-slathered life coming out of my beloved, I would have been tipped off by the surgical mask hiked up to here, and the wool socked-, Birkenstock-shod feet peeping out from below the baggy green scrubs. Some nice chap was probably thrashing around in a broom closet somewhere, duck tape over his mouth, in his skivvies. Poor schmuck. Another hapless male victim of second wave radical feminists.
This time she’s along for the ride the whole way. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, she has pledged to step back and do tonglen whenever the going gets dicey. Otherwise it’s hot towels and shaved ice and back massages. Plus whatever the birth mum might need, too.
Meet the friends.
Friends and well-wishers from afar, both old and new, both corporeal and virtual, have shared this process with us. In so doing they — and this includes you, gentle reader — have made the “us” a far richer “us” than the tiny one described by our (not so) nuclear family. I might have guessed this before, but now I know: writing about extended family and love and community online actually does ricochet back in the form of an online community of extended family love. Wow. And thank you.
After we return home from the Big Event, we will be showered with chow for nearly two weeks by members of our extended family of local friends. Loving attention will be vital to our daughter during the immediate wake of her brother’s arrival, and when the beloved or I have to spend what we have on him, these people will be heaven-sent.
It should not go without being said, finally, that it was a friend’s generous contribution of that loving cup o’ sugar, as it were, that got each of our kids jump-started in the first place. For this (and this sumptuously beautiful account of it) we are blessed beyond belief. A good seven years before we conceived our first child, my beloved and I knew our ideal included her birthing one, maybe two kids, using a known donor. Ideally a friend. Ideally one who was already a father and therefore contented with an avuncular, rather than paternal, connection to our bairns. The only thing sweeter would be if such a person came to us via my friendship network (thereby making my role a vital one). Oh, wait: sweeter still would be if such a person came to us as a volunteer. Which, via one of my oldest and dearest friends, he did.
What a tidal wave of love carrying us. What an ocean of love. This is what everyone who pursues this kind of birth journey deserves. We who are blessed with it savor every droplet, and wish like droplets to rain upon whosomever is thirsting for ’em.