Monday, November 19, 2012

1000 Births

A baby called Wyn was born this week, and in that moment I reached 1000 births.

Wyn is connected to all those 1000 births through his mother, through me. Every birth, every woman, has left me with a lesson, a memory...something that has helped the next woman and baby. One touch of the hand connects us.

It's not a straight chain. It's a wonderful, tangled, messy linking of hands. But birth is wonderful and that's just about right.

Someone asked how I'm sure I've reached 1000 births. I've kept a record of every birth that I've attended, every family, and all their connections, right from the first birth I attended in 1987. At first, my notes were written in a coil binder. Blue cursive writing. Now, I have my complete database on my MacBook. It's organized, but not as much fun to read through as those early binders, stuffed with baby photos and years of Christmas cards showing taller and taller children.

But there's one part of the dry database that I love to study - the connections. Wyn's mother is connected to Evan's mother through me...and Kian's mother through work...on and on...interwoven connections, through three generations. I'm now a grandmother. My first clients' babies are grown up and are starting to have babies. I have attended the births of all the women in some families. I have learned so much from this community of 1000 women.

I love running into them on my rounds..."Hi Beth!" (on Granville Island, as I run to grab a car to head downtown to visit a week old baby and his mum)  "Hi Sarah!" (at Elysian Coffee while I meet someone new). Even after the babies are born, I try to keep those links strong. "Beth - I have another client who's interested in EC." or "Tara...I have a client who would dearly love to hear from you." then "Leigh...someone might be calling you." We are always making more connections.

After 1000 births (there's more than 1000 babies - think twins!), you'd think that the births would blur together. But, nope.  I have lightbulb memories of each and every woman who has given birth. It's never usually the moment of birth.  It's often the memory of a sound "shhhhhhh, ha ha ha, shhhhh"...or the memory of the smell of ylang ylang in the tub...or the glorious snapshot of how she threw a scarf around her neck as she grabbed the keys and ran out into the snow at 7 centimetres.  A thousand connected images stretching back 25 years. Each one, a lesson.

2012 was strange. The most challenging births started to coming one by one as summer (and birth 1000) approached. Everything seemed to slow right down.  I was forced to take notice, be aware. I couldn't write about any of it. I just had to live it. It was like the birth gods knew I could handle new and unusual scenarios now. So they came.

One. at. a. time.

The births were messy and tangled and, in the end, in the end, the drama ended. The stitches have healed. A boy called Finn has a new heart. The preemies are home. The babies have safely left the NICU. They are all at home, in their mum's arms. But the emotions are still swirling.

So, I will leave the story-telling of these births for another time. Right now, I'm weaving one memory from each of these births into the memories of all the other 1000 births. Making connections and giving thanks. And I'm hoping that birth 1001 will be smooth...

- Jacquie Munro, Slow Birth, Vancouver Doula

**With so many thanks to the 1000 mums...and dads and babies and families and friends...who have held my hands and taught me for 25 years.
**In memory of Dr. Kerry Telford Morrissey and Debra Karby, who are woven into our hearts.
** Thanks to Adam and Ever, for the photo of their hands...