Joanne’s Birth Story

Excerpted from the book, Spiritual Midwifery

The birth of Ida Louise 

Ida’s birthing was healing for us.  She was my fourth baby and William and I were looking forward to doing this together.  We were living with Michael and Cara in an Army tent on Huckleberry Rd, so I didn’t have far to go for a midwife.  I had been having irregular rushes for five days, so when I woke have stronger contractions, I still wasn’t sure I was really in labor.  Cara told me to farm my kids out anyway.  She thought if they were taken care of, I’d go ahead and have the baby.  I went, “Oh, right!”   William was working out in the fields and Cara went off to do laundry.  After they left, I started feeling like the baby was coming today.  We kept getting calls on Cara’s phone about Marna, who had also started her labor.

Cara and William both came home for lunch.  She checked me and said I was about 4 centimeters open.  It was getting pretty exciting, because Ina May was in Nashville seeing Stephen, and Cara was the only experienced midwife on the Farm that day with two women in labor.  They asked if I would mind going to the Adobe, where Marna was to have her baby, so we’d be close.  I thought that would be fun.  They took us down there in the Farm ambulance.  I was grateful for the smooth ride.  They put William and me in the bedroom under Richard and Marna’s loft.  The couples couldn’t see each other, but we could talk together.  There was a whole scene at the Adobe.  Several families and older relatives lived there, but our birthing room made it seem private.

William and I hung out together and smooched and rubbed and rushed.  I kept thinking how easy it felt, how Holy.  Richard and Marna were coming along upstairs.  The midwives came in to check our dilation often.  It was like a horse race, and we were neck and neck.  She was 6 centimeters and I’d be 6 centimeters.  We were coming along about the same rate.  It got dark.  The old folks were settling in for the night except Uncle Bill.  He was in his eighties, and had moved into the Adobe after living in a nursing home for several months.  He hadn’t liked it so his niece moved him to the Farm.  He was so excited about the babies coming.  He stayed up—“How can I sleep?” he said.  “I wish all nights were like tonight!”

Then it started getting heavy like it does every time.  Marna was having her first kid, and I was having my fourth, but it was just as intense as ever.  I kept having cold flashes, and it was strong.  Cara said she’d get everything ready.  Mary Louise, who was in training at that time, set up to deliver Marna upstairs with Cara’s help.  Marna started pushing, but I wasn’t quite ready yet.  William was asked to hold the flashlight and baby oil for the midwives.  He liked having the job, but his body was telepathic with my cold chills, and he kept shaking and wiggling the flashlight.  Then I got real hot.  I could hear Marna pushing hard in the loft.  I started pushing too.

The light got golden, and Cara, Barbara, who was helping, and William, looked like angels, not like anyone I recognized.  I pushed with all my might.  Barbara asked how much my other children had weighted.  These were numbers I usually knew like their birthdays.  I tried to compute, but I couldn’t think.  All my smarts were in my bottom, birthing.  So Cara said, 6-14, 6-14 1/2, and 7-14.  I sighed, “Thank-you.”

I kept opening and stretching and the head pushed through.  Cara was anxious to get the baby out, but I didn’t have a contraction yet.  As soon as a rush came, the baby slipped out.  William was leaning on one arm watching, just mind-blown, going, “Wow”, and Cara said, “It’s a girl.”  We were glad because we were hoping for one.  She had dark hair and spread her arms wide when Cara handed her to me, like she wanted to hang on to me forever.  She looked just like another one of my kids, and right away started nursing like mad.  Cara cleaned me up, said I didn’t need stitches, and ran up the ladder to help with Marna.  A summer thunder storm erupted, lighting the sky.  I could hear Marna pushing and heaving.  It was like an instant replay.  It was so heavy.  The baby came out, but was a slow starter, and Cara helped Mary Louise get her going.  We were all holding our breath praying.  Marna kept saying, “Come on baby, I love you.  Breath baby.”  Then she started up good and loud, and it felt so good.

William told Uncle Bill we had named our daughter, Ida Louise.  Uncle Bill said, “I have a daughter named Ida!” and shook William’s hand.  Uncle Bill gave Richard and Marna five bucks for their baby.  The ladies brought us a rare treat of cookies and soda, and left us alone with our latest model.  All she wanted to do was to nurse, so William and I cuddled and let her nurse all night.  I told Marna that I’d love to see her baby, but I didn’t feel like climbing up to the loft.  She said her baby’s name was Margaret Helen, and the midwives said the babies looked alike.  They were born about an hour apart, either side of midnight so they had different birthdays.  William and I rested that night, and we went home the next morning very grateful.

Ida Louise became a physician in New York City, and Margaret is a midwife in Nashville.

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