Headlights pierced the pale light and mist in the early morning before sunrise. Their jeep effortlessly plowed its way through the eighteen inches of snow on our steep driveway like a Sherman tank—bringing my friend, her husband and their older daughter to our home where their baby was to be born.
A roaring fire in the big stone fireplace, and the soft candlelight welcomed them into the house. Flames flickered and danced through the big hole in the middle of a special log that had been placed on the hearth for the occasion. Coats and hats came off, revealing red cheeks and sparkling eyes. Snow crusted, soaked boots were left dripping by the door. Wet scarves and gloves were hung on hooks in the entryway.
Her water had broken in the middle of the night, but labor had not yet commenced. They had driven here early to nest and settle in. Their excitement lent itself to a flurry of activity. The birthing bed was made up. Supplies were checked. Baby clothes set out.
With the morning light the household came alive. A hearty breakfast soon appeared from the farm kitchen. Kids were up and dressed, fed and ushered out the door to school. “Please, please, let us stay home,” they begged. “No, no. Now hurry or you’ll miss the bus. Everyone will be here when you get home, maybe even a baby!”
When it finally quieted down she stretched out on the couch in front of the fire. Contractions came randomly, but were not serious, like a car that is trying to turn over on a cold winter day. The engine whirred with halfhearted efforts occasionally, but nothing was really happening.
“I’m just futzing here. I’m entirely too comfortable. I need to get my butt off this couch. Come on, honey,” she said to her husband, “Let’s go for a walk.” On went the coat, hat, gloves, and boots—and they staggered out the door.
As I washed up the dishes, my husband brought more wood into the house. We had been anticipating this moment, and as I glanced around the room, I was content. Everything was cozy and in place for the birth.
An hour later I heard the stomp of boots out on the porch, signaling their return. “So…how goes it?” I asked, as they swept in the door. “I’m just fooling around here. I have such a habit of puttering. It’s my style to take forever to get anything done. I’m going into the bedroom, and I’m going to get this going!”
With the next contraction her eyes closed and she whispered, slowly enunciating every syllable. “I am a hollow bamboo.” Supporting herself by hanging onto a counter, her body slowly went into a deep squat, back straight and pelvis spread wide open. Her jaw dropped loosely open and out of her mouth came a long, low Ommmmmmmm—one breath—impossibly held through an entire contraction. When it was over she stood back up and slowly and sensuously moved her hips gently in circles. Then… again…she dropped into a squat…Ommmmmmmmm.
Within an hour and a half she could feel the baby beginning to push its way out of her womb. She curled up in the bed and grabbed her feet, hips wide, pulling her legs up till her toes touched her nose. Her husband was beside her, supporting her shoulders. As she pushed, her daughter stood behind me at the foot of the bed, one hand squeezing my shoulder hard to steady herself.
A little girl slowly emerged. She immediately locked her big round eyes on her father. He stared intently at her. I thought for a moment that he was going to pass out, as he didn’t seem to be breathing. “I think I have known her for many lifetimes,” he managed to say when he could reclaim his breath.
As we were cleaning up after the birth, the two men went out onto the porch in their shirtsleeves. They decided the occasion called for a cigarette. I watched as the tendrils of smoke pierced the frigid air—listened to them laugh, and wondered what guys say to each other in moments like this.
A time to celebrate the joys in life. I wrote this story some years ago, and now this baby has grown up into a beautiful young woman and is getting married tomorrow.