I’m just back from assisting at a first-time mama’s birth – she had worked hard all night and I joined them just after sunrise as she was nearing full dilatation. The room was peaceful, the woman resting on the bed with her husband at her side giving backrubs during contractions. Her mother came and went from the room – she seemed to be finding it hard to watch her daughter in pain, but wanted to help as much as she could as well.
As the labour progressed, the woman found it hard to get comfortable – on and off the birth stool, up and down from the floor, using lunging and rocking to help her baby move into the best position to traverse his way to birth. It seems rare to see intimate moments between husband and wife during labour – but this couple were swaying together in a labour dance of love and support. It was a classic ‘transition time’ – working hard for that last centimetre or so of dilation.
After a time the woman showed signs of being fully dilated, and she began pushing. First-time mums often take a while to zone in on the right pushing muscles, and this mum was no different. It’s hard, physical work needing lots of reassurance and comfort, and we did our best to show her where to push to bring her baby down. In an effort to help her relax a bit I asked her if she planned to have more babies after this one – “2 babies? 3 babies? (pause for comic effect) Ten babies?” They both laughed and sweat dripping from her head mama looked me straight in the eye and said “Just. One. Baby!”. Some humour is universal... ;-)
On the little baby came; after a slow and gentle descent he made a run for home and came out all of a rush – head, shoulders, body all in one fluid motion. He was a little stunned at first, but soon enough filled his lungs with air and the room with sound. Mama looked amazed; she radiated the proud “I did it!” glow that always makes my heart fill with emotion. She tucked into bed with her baby on her chest, we sat opposite her filling out the paperwork.
The highlight of this birth? Not the beautiful baby, the radiant mother or even the resounding “thank you Lord” that we all uttered after the baby made his speedy final rush to the light. Following a birth here the fathers always provide some simple food for their wife – usually it’s instant cup-noodles or perhaps some sweet bread. But this daddy slips away and spends his hard-won peso not only on 2-minute noodles, but also on a simple plastic tray – the kind of bright-coloured shallow container we might keep in the bathroom cupboard. Onto this tray he arranges the pot-noodles, water glass, and plain paper napkin like a five-star meal. And then he presents it to her as if she were a queen holding the heir to the throne, accompanying it with the most beautiful look of love and respect.
A simple meal, a simple gift, for a most extraordinary moment in their lives.