The first birth I ever attended was magical. It called me into a world and a realm that felt like home, even though I had never been there before. It was the birth of my cousin’s second child, and for who-knows-what-reason she invited me to be with her for this life altering event. I was enraptured by the process, the physiology, the motions and emotions of getting a baby out. When he was born, I remember being awestruck by the realization, “all of a sudden there’s another person in this room!”
Since his birth I have attended many births. Some as a photographer, some as a doula, and most as a labor & delivery nurse. I never thought this could happen, and I never wanted it to happen, but it has happened: birth is routine to me. It’s everyday. It’s ordinary. It’s my job.
It is still a process that is magical, and still a concept that is philosophically mind-blowing to me, that you can make a person and get it out into the world. The Sarah McLachlan song “Ordinary Miracle” pretty much sums it up. It’s a “miracle,” as trite and cliche as that word is, but it’s something I do many times a week. It’s my bread & butter. I see it all the time. Sometimes three times in one day.
Then, just when it all feels comfy and run-of-the-mill, there is a birth that reminds you of the magic, the power, the reason that I’m staying up in the middle of the night and missing holidays with my family.
I knew Kelsey & Nate before they were married. I knew them before they were pregnant. They are dear friends of mine who go back to a time in our social lives when babies were just a plan, someday, out there, in the future. I knew them before they were parents.
Early into their journey towards expanding their family, they called me in for resources, ideas, input. It was a delight to put my RN hat on when we would have dinner together, blending the boundaries between my professional and personal life.
I knew baby Camille before she was even cooked up, when she was just a twinkle. During a big potluck party one night, I gave the whole “no pressure, you don’t have to have me be at your birth, but if you want me to, I will, but no pressure, I’d understand if you don’t want me there…no pressure.” Kelsey cocked her head at me and frowned with a furrowed brow, “well of COURSE we want you there that’s not even in question! Have we not officially told you that yet?”
From then on, we developed goals and plans for the birth as every doula & expectant mother does. They read the books, we practiced the comfort measures. Again, this was a role I know how to play – prenatal doula visits are old hat, just another day at work.
Camille was born underneath the most perfect birth cloud imaginable. Kelsey wouldn’t stop working until she was born. And I have never seen a father or partner more in love with their birthing wife than Nate; he looked at her with puppy love eyes of a teenager into the wee hours of the morning as she pushed that baby out. And her midwives, both friends and colleagues of mine, allowed birth to play its natural course, without intervening. I was their doula, I suppose, and partially their birth photographer. But mostly I was their friend, Camille’s Auntie Em, and an observer who felt re-inspired by birth all over again. Just like the first time. It was out of the ordinary.