On a drizzly, early morning in April, a beautiful mother birthed a beautiful baby boy. After enduring two hours of labor, Claire* pushed her baby into the water under twinkling stars.
On my way to this birth– the first birth I have been invited to– I felt such intense feelings of excitement. I was entering into the unknown. It was an unknown different than that of birthing my own children; my body was not in control this time around.
And yet, driving to the birth center was very routine, like I was driving to yoga practice. Even acknowledging the unpredictability of birth, I knew that at some point, we would be greeting new life. Surprisingly, a sense of calmness swept over me. Mothers birth babies every day.
Raindrops trickled, racing one another down car windows. Windshield wipers pendulated. Street lights glowed, light distorted through wet windows.
Feelings of delight coupled with sadness. As I left my home, I stepped out of my role as the mother of my children and into my role as a mother to my laboring friend. I was fully vested and completely committed to her and her family. I was completely unavailable to my own.
During this transition, I also mourned the end of an era while welcoming in possibility and new prospects. All pregnancies come to an end and with that great change.
The mundane and miraculous danced with one another throughout Claire’s entire labor and birth. Her body orchestrated the most incredible undertaking known to human. And yet, this miracle was so ordinary.
The discomfort she endured, so intense, so profound, all had its place and so, I simply sat quietly with her.
At the onset of one particular contraction, she furrowed her brow anticipating the pain of her contracting uterus, her ever-changing cervix. And then she laughed a deep laugh that seemed to jump out unexpectedly. A certain song, busy with strings, triggered a memory, a humorous thought.
Claire soon entered the birthing tub. Her baby was eager to be born.
“I can’t do it,” she muttered, undulating in the water. But you see, she could. She was doing it.
As her baby continued to descend, Claire’s mouth opened wide, her body still rocking. She let out such a deep, powerful song, I felt the intensity of her energy all surround me. It wrapped me in a blanket of buzzing warmth.
Perhaps at one of her most challenging moments, Claire’s pitch heightened and her baby’s head was born. I admired his pursed lips and round head submerged beneath the water. For several minutes, Claire’s baby experienced life both inside and outside of his mother’s body.
At her next contraction, Claire birthed the remainder of her baby’s body. She turned from all fours and pulled him up between her breasts.
An “exquisite orchestration” of labor hormones produced a natural high so profound and mighty, Claire was, at that moment, invincible. Having her baby was so similar to how babies are often conceived: The same hormones, the same body parts engaged; Similar sounds and movements and the same need to feel safe and private. (Buckley, MD, Sarah J. . “Ecstatic Birth: Nature’s Hormonal Blueprint for Labor .” 2010:) Here laid the fruit of our sexuality.
Once Claire’s placenta was born, she made her way into bed where she tucked her baby close to nurse for the first time.
Her baby, so fragile and so dependent on Claire for survival, was at the same time entirely capable. He used every sense to find and suckle from his mother’s breast.
There they nestled. Mother and baby who knew each other for 40 weeks and three days prior, met for the first time.
These are the paradoxes, the wonderment of birth and breastfeeding.
*Name has been changed.