Two nights ago I stayed up all night - for a total of 39 hours awake - to be a doula at a birth, along with a friend of mine.
This particular couple had researched, studied, and learned a lot and were prepared to give everything they had to a natural, unmedicated birth experience. It was 17 hours of active labor, but they did it - and they have a beautiful baby boy. In the end, it was lucky they had two doulas, because I think we were better able to keep up the energy for hip squeezes, back rubs, creative thinking, etc! 17 hours is an extraordinary amount of time to labor and I am awed by what this couple did. And I say couple because the father was absolutely unwavering in his support, and unlike many fathers he was present both physically and mentally. It was beautiful to watch.
I am still recovering from the lack of sleep (hence the feeling old) but I just feel so blessed to have had the privilege to be present at this birth. It's one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring events in a person's life and I was there.
Even more notable - this was the first birth I have been at as a doula since Natalee died.
For reasons both emotional and practical, the opportunity just hasn't presented itself. I was with Tammy when Emmalee was born last August but I wasn't necessarily there to "doula" at that birth like I had her first two. Not in the same way, anyway. The truth is that with small children and no childcare, it's just hard to commit to someone for their entire labor. And I'm sure that emotionally and subconsciously, I just didn't want to do it.
And then this couple came along. And the request was very appealing. A mother due in the summer (when I have easy access to baby-sitting) and I was just to be the back-up for the one week my friend would be on vacation. Easy enough. Still, I went to meet the couple with my friend very begrudgingly, for reasons I'm still not really sure of. Instantly upon meeting them, those feelings disappeared. I felt a connection immediately and really enjoyed getting to know them. By the end of the evening, I was asking if I could come to their birth even if my friend was available. I just felt like I wanted to be there so badly.
As it turned out, my friend returned from her trip Saturday afternoon and this woman went into labor Saturday night. I can't explain the excitement and adrenaline I felt as I got ready to go to her house.
I just knew this was going to be a beautiful, amazing birth. I just knew this woman was going to be amazed by her own strength. I knew she and her husband would be even more bonded than before. And I just knew the labor was going to go fast.
I was right about all except the last. LOL!
In my bag, I packed a guardian angel pin and my bracelet that says "Natalee" with her birthstones. I just felt like I needed them with me to get through the experience. Several times during the labor, things happened that reminded me of Natalee. Some of them had to do with the actual labor itself, others were just little reminders. The couple had an iPod with a birthing music playlist, and at one point I noticed the Lord's Prayer was playing. The same prayer I had repeated so desperately as they worked to save Natalee. And yet, I felt no fear - ever - that this baby would be lost to us. There was one time when I stood above the mother and father as they sat together in the labor tub. I looked down and noticed the light coming in from the window next to them was projecting a small rainbow on the floor of the tub, right next to their legs. Beautiful, and I was reminded of God's love - felt so tenderly in the room.
The mother is a pastor and her faith shines through in all she does. For reasons I am still trying to process, is just seems so right to me that she was the one in my path at this time.
A couple of months ago, our new kitten crawled into a tree and pulled a baby robin out of its nest, newly-hatched. I watched it happen and stood by, horrified, as this kitten I loved did something so brutal - snatching this helpless little being away from its safe haven and its mother. I tried everything I could to distract the kitten, to convince him not to do it - but he did it anyway, and ran off away from me with the robin.
A few moments later, my kids told me the kitten had deposited the robin on the ground by their playset. I walked over, and saw that it was hurt, but still alive. Every few seconds its little beak moved, looking around for food. I felt it was looking for help, and I couldn't bear to watch this little baby die.
I made some frantic phone calls but the day was almost over and I couldn't reach anyone for help. I turned to the internet and based on what I read, placed the baby robin into a shoebox with a blanket and tried to feed it some mushy cat food. It continued to hold on, and I continued to think that maybe - just maybe - I could save it. I kept it in the car as we ran errands, and I finally got the phone number of a wildlife rehabilitator in our area who said she would help. I took my daughter inside to her dance lesson and when I came back out, the baby bird had died.
We buried the bird beneath the tree that had provided its shelter, and said a little prayer to God. I thanked him for letting us know this little bird, and helping us try to save it. And I thanked God for reminding us that no life - no matter how small or how short - goes unnoticed. That all life is important. And I cried as I said the words, not for the bird - but for Natalee. At the time, I thought that was the end of my real life parable.
But now I realize there is more.
Our kitten didn't meant to hurt the robin, and he didn't mean to hurt us when he took it from the nest. And I still love the kitten, even if I can't fully understand the instinct or reasons why he did it. I want to believe that baby robin was meant to be with its mother, but that just wasn't its destiny. And if it had been safe in the nest, I wouldn't have had the chance to know it and try to save it. And I can't explain how many times my children and I have talked about that robin and the cycle of life.
Today, I had to take my children to the pediatrician for their annual physicals. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I looked up and noticed a nest on top of a bush, just a few feet from the car. In the nest was a robin, and then I saw a baby robin stick its scrawny little head and beak up out of the nest. It looked newly-hatched too, exactly like the robin we tried to save.
It was comforting to me to see this mother robin and her nest, undisturbed and living life exactly as they expected to. I couldn't save the robin in our backyard, but I still feel such peace and hope when I see another baby robin in this world, being taken care of by its mother. I'll never look at robins eggs and newly-hatched birds the same way.
Such a beautiful lesson in life.