Wispy curtains waved their delicate white arms as a cool breeze teased them through the open window. It was summertime, but the heat wave had broken, at least for a day, and the sunshine was warm and inviting. Inside, a young woman lay on her side in her bed, sleeping cap firmly tied on, her bearded husband beside her, holding her hand and watching her face for signs that she needed him. Her belly, firmly rounded with the coming new life, would sometimes move as the babe inside wiggled around trying to find the best position in which to be born.
There were two midwives there that day, one rich in years and experience, the other more than half her age, with the energy of youth and the wisdom of one who has seen and known sometimes wondrous, sometimes heartbreaking things. The two were well suited, having worked side-by-side in many such scenes, both learning the give and take necessary for such a good relationship to be possible. They teased and laughed and were serious by turns, while the older midwife told all the little stories and tales that she was well known for, giving a bit of distraction to the solemn couple so intent on their journey.
As the little mother would begin another contraction, the air was filled with soothing murmers, the fragrance of herbal massage oil being rubbed on her aching back, and the sounds of her own involuntary birth song. Seeing her flushed face and how she tried to uncover her warm legs, the younger midwife moved to stand behind her, magazine in hand. One hand gently lifted her gown to let the air circulate, while the other softly stirred the air with the book, giving relief. Suddenly, she was transported to another bedside in her memory, to a completely different setting and circumstance…
Five years before….
In a dimly-lit hospital room in the heart of the city, an old man lay dying, his once strong body weakened by the stroke that was soon to take his life. His young friend, the midwife, stood by his bed, patiently fanning his hot body with a piece of paper and his own hospital gown. Occasionally she would speak to him of her garden, of the tomatoes she had picked, or how the ramps had done that year. She told him of the sunshine, how perfectly beautiful the weather was, and how there were fish in the streams for him to catch. She told him of the babies she had caught lately, and how big or small they were – it was their own private joke about the “one that got away.” He never responded as he was almost past the point of being able to speak. The family talked in hushed tones outside the door, giving the midwife and the old man time together, for they knew how much she loved him. She stood there for over an hour, thankful to have one last chance to give to him, and hopefully provide a little comfort. Right before she walked out of the room and out of his life for the last time, she leaned over and whispered into his ear, “I love you, Hayward.” The old man cracked an eye, and whispered back, “I love you, too.”
And she cried…
The midwife came back to the present with a start, tears in her eyes, thinking about that dear man, and how much she still missed him. She looked down at the young mother, working hard to bring their firstborn into the world, many thoughts tumbling in her head. It humbled her to think of the sacred charge she carries in her hand, joining the ranks of the other guardians of life, unbroken since ancient times. Midwives comfort the old and feeble, they succor the young and laboring, they lift up the newest ones, full of their first breath, into their mother’s arms. Being a midwife knows no bounds of age or sex. They are servants, with a God-given heart to nurture and love all who they come in contact with.
A few hours later, a handsome baby boy was laid, wide-eyed, into his mother’s reaching arms, while the beaming father looked on with joy and wonder in his eyes. The midwife observed the new family, seeing the circle of life begin all over again.
And I cried…