Mothers of Mothers

Giving birth is an act of of self-definition. It is also a redefinition of the relationship of a mother with her mother. Sometimes mothers of mothers attend their daughters giving birth. This can make for some interesting moments. Last friday night Natalie gave birth. It was her fourth baby, fourth home birth, and it was the fourth birth that I would midwife for her..... fun! And this time, after 3 girls, a boy.... extra fun! Natalie is Canadian. All her family of origin live thousands of miles away. This was the first birth that her mother would be able to be present. With a vasectomy planned, this is the last baby and how great that her mom, with whom she has always been close, could be present.

Natalie's first had been that typical long and challenging first birth. The second, half as long, was a smooth slide into the water, followed by a number three so quick that I didn't make it. That made us wary of an early alert for number four. When I arrived Natalie was trying to get the girls to bed, but kept losing focus as another wave arrived. David took over the girls while Natalie's mom busied herself in the kitchen being mother-of-the-mother-ish.

It was relaxing hanging out in the same little apartment that had gotten fuller of people and of things over the years. Natalie likes show tunes, old fashioned, different. We drank tea. Mother of the mother still busy busy in the little kitchen. Actually this was all a little too laid back...... What was going on? When Natalie disappeared into the bathroom for a while, some good birth noises wafted out. When she emerged and moaned a good moan, her mother winced and things got relaxed again! This went on throughout the night. This time the tub didn't work for her and she couldn't really find her place. Natalie not only wanted her mother present but it was important to her that David catch the baby (he had always been in the wrong position and this was his last chance) and the kids had to be woken to witness the births. A lot of staging for this show! Well, of course the sweet baby slid out.... into his Dad's hands (not until the next morning), and all was well and happy. But Natalie knew that staging her birth show hadn't helped her.

On my way back from Natalie I went to see Laura. Laura had an induction and epidural the first time around and was trying to gauge if what she was feeling was really labor. She and the family were chatting over breakfast when I arrived. Did not look like labor! So I went home to sleep. Dangerous move. Rested for precisely 40 minutes and received a panicked call from Laura's husband Jack "It's gotten really strong. She can't take it. She wants to go to the hospital NOW!!" Goodness me, what a change in 40 minutes...... No sleep for the midwife.

I arrive at Laura's place to find her screeching with the high pitched screech of fear "Nooooooo" ......"It huuuuuuuurts" "I caaaaaaan't" She is clutching her mother's hand, while her mother's face is contorted into the pain of parental distress and impotence. A simple dose of send the mother to heat up a rice sock, and some focused confidence was all the magic that Laura needed and she didn't look back after that...... birthed her posterior baby a few hours later in the birth pool.

Not too long after that I was on my way to my son's wedding. ..... doing my own learning to let go and to have confidence that my son knows how to live his life. I watch the mothers of the mothers and hope to learn from them myself.