Beginning and End

I had the privilege over the course of the last two weeks to be present at two of the great moments of life conducted as they ought to be.

Less than two weeks ago, on November 5, our second daughter was born. Samantha Rose weighed 8lbs 4oz and was 20 inches long. She has a tuft of dark black hair, which shocked me after fair, bald baby we had met with in our first daughter. In any circumstances, she was our small miracle.

But for us, the circumstances of Samantha’s birth were a miracle in themselves. Our first daughter, Lucy, had decided to stay in a breech position, and I was forced into the Caeseran section I had spent months practicing and preparing for childbirth in order to avoid. V-BACs had fallen out of favor in the medical community, so finding a doctor who would even let me try to avoid a second C-section was a challenge. We found a good doctor who did a number of V-BACs each year, and were in the process of trying to make a “high-risk” hospital birth as peaceful and natural as possible. I was never comfortable with the situation, and was starting to lose sleep at the thought of going through the hospital birthing experience again.

At this point, when I was already five months pregnant, we heard about a midwife who was working across state lines where legal restrictions on birthing were not so stringent. We met her, and decided to have our baby in a borrowed home in another state in hopes of avoiding the spiraling interventions that might ruin another birth experience for me, and which I feared would damage the health of myself or my baby.

Our day came and we made the hour-long drive to the birth center. My husband’s parents met us there to watch Lucy, our two-year-old daughter. After sixteen hours of labor, our daughter was born in the water with her sister and grandmother watching. I gave birth supported very literally (he was holding me up in a squat) by the arms of my husband. Samantha went, in a matter of seconds, from my womb straight into my arms. Surrounded by family, she was welcomed into the world by warm water, skin, soft blankets, and quiet voices and laughter.

Just over a week later, our newly enlarged family piled in the car to go visit friends who were in town to stay with an ill grandmother. We were welcomed into our friend’s aunt’s home, where Granny was lying well-bundled in the living room. We greeted her and she asked how big the baby had been at birth and how we were doing. She took joy in the sight of this new life. The family treated us as one of them, and we joined in the vigil near the end of Granny’s long, love-filled life. When she passes, she will be surrounded by the caring faces and quiet prayers of her beloved children and grandchildren.

While I sat there in the midst of this family slowly grieving its matriarch, it dawned on me how blessed I was to be present at these two parallel events. A new little life entered the world, greeted by the joy of her own family, and a woman of long life and great love prepared for her next journey with the constant companionship of those she loved most in this world. Both were free from the harsh impersonality of the hospital scene. Both enjoyed the peace that comes with being surrounded by loved ones. Two of what can be and often are the most traumatic experiences of life were softened and sanctified by the comforts of family and home. These rites of passage were, before my eyes, made holy by the power of God manifested in His most basic institution: the domestic church.

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