Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Father's Birth Story

Usually it's the mothers who tell the birth stories.  This is one of mine.


Ninteen years ago today was a sunny, snowy, cold January day.  Ellen and I were awaiting the Next Big Event in our life: the birth of our next child.  It was, especially for our culture, a "late pregnancy" - Ellen was just a month shy of her 42nd birthday.  Ellen had been experiencing - something - from the evening before, but it never settled into a pattern that resembled her earlier labors, so we didn't call the midwife.  However, as the day progressed, it became clear that things were indeed happening, so we called our friends who were to assist at the birth, and I prepped the requisite materials, as I'd done for our three prior home births.

We called the midwife twice - once earlier in the day just to give her warning that something was probably imminent, and again in the early afternoon.  Ellen's contractions weren't settling down into a pattern, so she didn't want to sound a false alarm.  But after talking to Ellen the second time, the midwife told us she was on her way.  But by then it was midafternoon, and the midwife was driving from a neighboring county over country roads thick with schoolbuses, so her trip took longer than she expected.

As it turned out, it was too long - at least for Kelson's purposes.  Perhaps the knowledge that the midwife was coming gave Ellen "permission" to get on with labor - we'll never know - but shortly after hearing that she was on her way, Ellen's labor progressed rapidly.  She went through a very quick and mild transition, and before we knew it was struggling against the urge to push.  The midwife hadn't yet arrived, and our friends were rather alarmed, but Ellen and I had both been through three home births and knew that if the baby was coming quickly, the odds were that it was a problem-free delivery (most delivery problems are related to overly long, not overly swift, labors.)  So when, after panting through one serious contraction, Ellen gasped, "baby's coming!", I was much less alarmed than the assistants.  I gave them orders about what they should have ready while I got Ellen into position for delivery.  Suddenly a little head was not just crowning, but emerging.  I'd seen it before, but this one looked different.  I realized that I was seeing that very rare occurrence: a baby born under a caul.  Because this birth had been too swift for interventions of any kind, even rupturing the amniotic sac, Kelson came out wrapped in his.  There was no problem - it was the work of a moment to sweep it aside and welcome him out.  He opened his eyes and started breathing without any trouble.  As with all of our births, there was no howling or crying.  Our friends swept in to wipe him clean and wrap  him in a warm blanket, then Ellen took him in her arms.

About 15 minutes later the midwife arrived.  She gave mama and baby a look-over and affirmed what we knew: everyone was all right.  We had the siblings in to see their new brother, and Ellen at last got her wish: having a "party" after the birth.  Not a real party, of course, but welcoming visitors and celebrating the new arrival.  All our prior births had been in the night or early morning, and everyone had assumed Ellen wanted to go right to sleep after the rigors of labor, but she insisted that she was so "up" from the experience that her real desire was to have lots of friends around to celebrate. (She slept a lot in the weeks that followed.)

Now, nineteen years later, that hasty baby who couldn't wait to show up is getting ready to embark on the next major phase of his life.  He's done well and made us proud in so many ways, and he's making us even prouder - not just because he's going into the service, but because he's continuing to take responsibility for his own life, make his own decisions, and accept the burden of maturity with grace and dignity.  In this he's following the superb example of his elder siblings, but it's not just out of imitation of them.  Sure he's building on their example, but he's also doing things his way in a manner that honors God, respects his family, and is true to his own vocation as a man.  We're proud of all our children, but on this, his birthday, I wanted to specially honor him.

God bless you, Kelson Reuel Thomas.  May His grace follow you every step of your life.

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