December 25, 2001
Volume 3, Issue 52
Midwifery Today E-News
“Happy Holidays!”
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The staff at Midwifery Today wishes all of you a happy, healing and blessed holiday season. May the most generous gift you give and the most rewarding gift you receive be peace.

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Happy holidays and happy birthing!

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In This Week's Issue:

1) Quote of the Week
2) The Art of Midwifery
3) Our Holiday Gift to You!
4) Holly for Christmas

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1) Quote of the Week

"Being a midwife means having the courage to delve into the mystery of life and death, movement and rhythm--taking the dance of the soul and allowing it to flow through the incarnation of this new being."

- Marialicia Gonzalez

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2) The Art of Midwifery

Because the laboring woman is so sensitive and in such an altered state, the first physical contact between mother and midwife is very important. If the midwife is too abrupt, forceful or hasty, the mother will recoil, withdraw or push away the helping hand. The first touch should be light, gentle, firm, with loving, positive thoughts. I was taught to begin massages by first touching one of the body's poles such as the feet or the head. -Anon.

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3) Our Holiday Gift to You!

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4) Holly for Christmas, by Brian Taylor

My daughter Melanie and her husband Andy were about to have their fourth child as I flew from London to Dublin at Christmastime. Andy was due in London for a week's work, and they had asked me to take over a supervisory role in the birth. It all sounded straightforward enough. There need be no major crisis of rushing to a hospital or hoping that sufficient transport was available as the birth was to be at home. The midwife lived a short distance away and was at the end of a mobile phone, and help was at hand with a 14-year-old granddaughter on leave from school ready to fetch and carry. Of course there was the obvious question about whether I might be completely out of my depth. A 74-year-old grandfather, I had parented my own three children when there was almost a total ban on fathers taking any part in the ritual of delivery.

Yet times change, as well they should. By accident or design, during the 60's, more and more fathers were allowed to watch the proceedings as long as they kept perfectly clear of doctors and their staff in the hospitals where most births were becoming an established routine. On the occasion of my son's birth in 1962 I even participated, albeit almost accidentally.

I had arrived at the nursing home in late evening with my wife, whose contractions were frequent enough for the matron to think it was a good idea if they kept her in. She was ushered in the "waiting" bed, told to undress, examined, and informed that it would be five or six hours before anything happened. While the staff disappeared to other duties, my thoughts went back to my wife's two previous confinements. On each occasion, the hospital staff urged me to return home because nothing would conceivably happen until the next day. The first time scarcely saw me through the front door of our home before the nursing sister telephoned to say that my wife had just delivered a daughter. Much to my annoyance, that repeated itself with the second daughter. For the third birth I was determined to sit things out despite a lack of enthusiasm from the delivery team.

Left alone for less than half an hour, everything happened at once. My wife pushed back the bed sheets, sat up, and told me to ring the nurse immediately. Suddenly, out popped a perfectly formed, tiny child. Grabbing hold of a nearby towel, I automatically wrapped it around the glistening body and tried to cope with the unwinding, snake-like cord. As I did so, in rushed two agitated and flustered nurses who pushed me aside and seized the package I held.

"The doctor's on his way," they chorused. Without more ado, they shoved me out of sight. "A moment, a moment," they said. "We've got to take her to the delivery room. It would never do for anyone to find your wife here."

However, that was about the limit of their concern. When the doctor sleepily appeared an hour later he witnessed a tidy room and a mother and child fit and well. But the unasked question went unanswered for years. If the dad wants to be present, why on earth not let him help?

My daughter's midwife in Dublin suffered from none of these inhibitions. If this is new thinking, I reasoned, I want to be part of it. The morning after I arrived, my son-in-law left on his travels to produce a number of Christmas concerts for children's charities. Later that day I was introduced to Bridget, the midwife. With the least of fuss she launched into a description of the duties with which she thought I might need to familiarize myself. Boiling water, of course. But also, what to look for and expect at any second of the actual birth. She made this sound so straightforward that tension and stress disappeared. Our acceptance of nature's way would result in witnessing a most precious event crowned by a happy and positive entry for the one person who it was all about--the baby.

With this confidence surrounding the family we made light of the last few days before delivery. Younger children prepared to leave for school with friends and not see mum for a few hours. Nappies, towels, containers, and buckets received an allotted place around the crib and bed. My daughter and I went out to shop for last-minute supplies, which gave us a chance, also, to see the Christmas decorations and trappings of the festive season.

>From then on events turned swiftly wild. We returned home, breathing a sigh of relief when Bridget appeared just thirty minutes after we phoned. My granddaughter's headmistress dispatched her home well before lessons ended so that she could help. Quickly, we all found an appointed task to keep our minds occupied as the bedroom took on a clinical aspect with its waterproof sheets, shielded lighting, and air of anticipation. Dusk began to fall. Preparations had already included burning aromatic oils, musky and soothing. Both Melanie and Bridget had prepared a secondary supply of candles for a low level of illumination to ease the evening away. We sat back to wait for the story to evolve.

The mother was bearing up well. She wanted cheerful music in the bedroom so we played a selection of Vivaldi while we watched and drank cups of hot honey tea. Outside the evening lights appeared, the Christmas trees in windows and a starry night above. When we discovered we were short of ice for a cooling drink, we dispatched granddaughter Chelsea to the neighbours for a top-up supply. Her reappearance brought messages of good luck from the local families. I moved to the kitchen to prepare an evening meal. Husband Andy telephoned from London. The start of his concert was imminent, running almost in parallel with our timetable in Dublin. Yet it was hard for him to disguise a feeling of both happiness and sadness: happiness that all was going according to plan at each location, but sadness that he couldn't be there with us.

Bridget sensed a tension around the mother-to-be and promptly prepared a relaxing bath with perfumed oils in the small bathroom beside the bedroom. She filled it with candlelight and sweet scents. In no time the entire mood changed. As the star performer relaxed away her fears in the warm water, the rest of us each grabbed a plateful of fish and vegetables from my cooking pot. However, just as we started to eat, Bridget heard her charge calling and rushed away. Within minutes, we all dashed about to start our duties.

Suddenly we recognised the good fortune we had stumbled upon by being in the bathroom. It was turning into an extraordinary venue. The clinical preparations in the bedroom remained unattended, unwanted. Now everything centred in the next room at the side of a bath. Maybe it was the aroma from the oils or the mystic quality of the row of flickering candles, but certainly the warmth in the air added to our complete absorption in the continuing drama as it unfolded in the next three-quarters of an hour. It was as if we all radiated a great beam of sympathetic love from the very depths of our being, willing the appearance of a newborn child. Bridget's slightest request instantly received a positive response from the two helpers, and we marveled to hear the heartbeat of the small creature as she made her way downward through the womb. Breathtakingly, that journey signaled itself clearly at each point. Being able to hear these sounds through a small loudspeaker brought an amusing reminder that only a very few years ago this was the exclusive preserve of the midwife or doctor with their sole access to the old-fashioned ear trumpet. As Chelsea stroked her mother's back, I wiped away the sweat from her brow. Out emerged a petite head with an open mouth that was already announcing her own arrival. Holly Rose was here, blinking and stretching as Bridget gently placed her in her mother's arms. Tears glistened on our cheeks.

Our excitement was intense. It was as if the chorus of Andy's choir of schoolchildren had begum to sing in harmony with the words "for unto us a child is born." United in a cloud of joy, it was no wonder that we clasped each other tightly together, honoured to be in that tiny room in the house, our stable with its manger. If psychic thought had anything to do with the surge of peacefulness that descended upon us, it must have contributed to the impulse that made my wife telephone from London within seconds of the birth. Shortly afterward came a call from the husband himself, sitting in his prompt corner on stage surrounded by the music of Christmas.

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Holly for Christmas was first published in The Birthkit, Midwifery Today's between-issues newsletter. To order a subscription, go to:
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