As a labor and delivery nurse for the past three years, I’ve seen a lot of women give birth.
Epidural-aided and natural, vaginally and via c-section, side-lying, on all fours or by the ever-popular legs splayed to the side in bed route — I thought I had seen it all.
And I have to confess that I am one of those weird people that happens to think that birth is the single most wondrous thing on earth. It took me months after training before I was able to assist in a delivery without having to embarrassingly wipe my tears away with my latex-gloved hand.
But there is one birth that sticks out in my mind as the one that I will never forget — the birth that stills seem almost unbelievable to me, the birth that moved me to tears I didn’t even try to hide.
They were a couple approaching their 40s, a husband and wife team who had thought they were “done,” with three children already well past the diapers and crying-every-two-hours stage.
It’s a situation that many of us dread — the “surprise” pregnancy, the one that happens when you feel least prepared for it, the one that threatens to upheave everything you feel comfortable with.
I think of them now, as I sit here pregnant with my fourth child, and I am almost embarrassed in the comparison. While I felt apprehensive, ashamed even, to announce that I was expecting my fourth baby (what will people think of me? Four kids — who does that?), this couple was simply filled with joy at the prospect of welcoming another little one into their lives.
As I settled the mom-to-be into her room and hooked up her monitors, I was stunned by the infectious happiness that seemed to burst out of her.
“We thought we were done,” she said, giggling a little as I squirted the cold gel onto her (of course) adorable baby bump. “But we are just so excited! Imagine that — we are so lucky. Another baby! How can a baby be anything but happiness?”
She wasn’t an overly religious woman, she didn’t proclaim her baby as a blessing, and she didn’t, as so many of us are guilty of doing, focus on getting through and getting this birth over with — she genuinely and truly was filled with pure excitement toward the prospect of this baby.
In a ward where birth can be a routine, everyday event, my co-workers and I were a bit mesmerized by her. “Is she for real?” we whispered to one another. “Have you ever seen anyone so happy about having a baby?”
Throughout her labor, I found myself drawn to her and to the happiness that radiated off her. That’s the kind of mother I need to be, I thought to myself. Why do we always focus on the hard stuff? Why can’t we all be this happy about a baby? Wouldn’t that make parenthood a whole lot easier in the first place?
As the day progressed, her smile never faltered and never once did I hear a complaint; her husband never left her side, the very picture of the doting, happy father-to-be.
And when it was time to push, more nurses than necessary crowded into the room. We were all so excited to welcome this little one that was loved, because more times than nurses would like to see, love is not always there.
I positioned myself at her side, holding one of her legs up and back while she pushed, noticing her freshly-painted pink toenails as I encouraged her to meet her baby.
And then it happened.
As the doctor took his place at the foot of the bed, primed and ready in position to do some baby-catching, he cracked a small, meaningless joke that I must have heard a hundred times. But she laughed at it.
And for some reason, she couldn’t stop laughing. I’ll never know if it was the adrenaline rush of those last moments of labor, or a happiness that bubbled out from somewhere deep inside of her, but as this woman pushed, she continued to laugh.
Her merriment filled the room while I looked at her in amazement and then down in wonder, as with one final push, her baby entered the world, where the first sound she heard was the sound of her mother’s laughter.
So, yes, I have seen a lot through the job that permits me the privilege of witnessing births.
But nothing has ever topped the day that I saw a woman laugh her way happily through birth.
Image via gregoryrallen/Flickr