A free story from “Midwife: A Journey” by Peggy Vincent
A woman’s freedom to craft the birth of her dreams is greatly increased when she chooses a midwife to attend her birth. And that freedom soars even higher when she decides to give birth in her own home. Limited only by the bounds of safety, really, anything goes.
But not everyone invites the mailman to come in for the occasion.
Belinda lived in a modest two-bedroom house in Berkeley’s flatlands, and by the time her second baby was about to be born, the house was jammed with friends, neighbors, and family members. The little home sat in a cluster of six identical houses arranged symmetrically on a single piece of property along both sides of a wide walkway that ran perpendicular to the street…a bit like summer cottages might be positioned close together with a common area between them where children and dogs could safely play. Almost of necessity, the families in those six houses had grown close over the years. They babysat for each other’s children, shared working in the gardens, had regular potlucks and barbecues…and now they had all been told they were welcome to come along for Belinda’s Birth Ride.
And they all came. At least, it seemed that way to me. There were a lot of them. A whole lot.
They brought children, casseroles, pies, cameras, and wine. Sausages and ribs sizzled on a large grill across the walkway. They brought gifts for the newborn and gifts for Danny, who would soon be a big brother. They brought smiles, laughter, jokes, and quiet conversation.
There were so many bodies that the bedroom overflowed, and people in the hallway couldn’t see. Children wiggled between the legs of adults and crowded around the bed. One little fellow climbed onto the bed and began jumping, but adult arms caught him mid-air and lifted him out of the way.
As she looked around at the crowd, Belinda realized we’d definitely outgrown the bedroom. She looked at me and said, “How much time do I still have?”
“Can’t say exactly, of course, but probably less than half an hour.”
“So, we’ve got time to move, right?”
I didn’t catch her drift.
“Move?” I asked, thinking she meant she wanted to go to the hospital. But that didn’t make sense: she was doing great, not complaining, barely making any noise above a low humming sound at the peak of some of the stronger contractions. “Move where? Do you mean the hospital?”
“No, no. God, no, not the hospital. No. I’m thinking we should move this show into the living room so everyone has a little room to breathe. Do we have time?”
“Sure,” I said, but it was quite a process. There were people everywhere, and getting all my gear gathered up while maintaining some semblance of sterility for a few of the important bits and pieces, plus the oxygen tank, the IV box, the emergency supplies…it wasn’t going to be easy.
Belinda’s husband solved the problem. “Okay, dudes! Hey! Everybody leave and go wait in the courtyard. Then we can move into the living room, get ourselves organized, and y’all can come back inside.”
In an organized little parade, everyone filed out. They stood outside in the sunshine, sipping wine, nibbling cheese, and holding babies on their hips while inside, I rearranged the principal players in the far more spacious living room.
And the room filled up again.
Once resettled, Belinda started to act like the baby was ready to come. A thick rope of bloody mucus clung to her thigh. The bag of water broke with a gush, and she was ready.
Then someone knocked on the open door, and we all turned to see who it could be. Surely everyone who planned on being there was already present.
It was the mailman.
He saw only a crowd of people and probably assumed there was a party going on. Well, there was a party going on, of course, but no doubt not the kind he was thinking of.
“Got a package that needs to be signed for,” he said.
“Uh, can you come back later?” said the woman with a baby on her hip. “We’re having a baby right now, and…”
“A baby? What, here? Now?” the guy said. “Really?”
“Yeah, like in a couple more minutes.”
“Wow…yeah, I’ll come back tomorrow,” and he started to turn away.
“Who’s at the door?” hollered Belinda.
“Just the mailman with something that needs to be signed for. He said he’ll come back tomorrow.”
Quickly, as another contraction was about to begin, Belinda said, “No! Wait, I know what it is, and I want it. I need it now.”
The woman at the door called the mailman back. He returned, confused, and stuck his head inside. “What? I’m happy to come back tomorrow, you know.”
Belinda pushed, and the baby’s head began to show. The mailman’s eyes bugged out as he stared, and Belinda’s husband said, “It’s the baby blanket that my wife’s mother wrapped her in when she first came home from the hospital. We want it…but I’m busy…I can’t sign now.”
Finished pushing, Belinda glanced up and said, “Jeez, you’re practically inside already. You wanna come in and watch? Then we’ll sign, and you can be on your way.”
“Me? Watch somebody have a baby? Oh, hell yes!” He put down his bag, his pad of receipts, and the package for Belinda, and he joined the crowd.
He actually missed about half an hour of work. The baby was born one or two contractions after he stepped all the way inside, but then he got the required signature and accepted a half glass of white wine and a hunk of barbecued ribs. He watched as the package was opened and the hand-knit blanket was admired and then put into the oven to warm.
Finally, he congratulated Belinda, shook hands all around, grinned from ear to ear, and gathered up his bag and receipt pad. Shaking his head, he munched on a brownie as he walked away, laughing.
Belinda looked up from her nursing baby and asked me, “Have you ever had the mailman drop in for a birth before?
That was an easy question to answer. I didn’t even have to think about it.