I was squatting on the floor with tears running down my cheeks, tears of joy, of strain, of a sense of awe. I could barely see through the lens of my camera but knew I must do so. My daughter had asked me to photograph her home birth. I could sense each contraction in my body as hers worked to open up and push her baby into this world.
For some reason, or perhaps just instinct, my daughter felt more comfortable on the firm surface of the floor, leaning against her husband, who was behind her. The midwife and her assistant coached my daughter, helping her breathe, comforting her as they cheered her on in this miraculous process of giving birth.
When my other daughter gave birth, I had hoped to be with her. At age 42, she was considered a “high-risk” mother. Determined to have as natural a birth as possible, she opted to have a doula accompany her. Her husband and I were both allowed to be in the labor room. The labor progressed slowly. All of a sudden, everything changed rapidly. The doula noticed the baby had an extremely low heart rate. She called for help. The doctor was not in the hospital at the time, and the RN was with another patient. But help came; they rolled my daughter off to the operating room for an emergency c-section. The next few minutes were an eternity. My son-in-law and I prayed silently as we waited near the operating room. When the newborn gave his first cry, our voices joined the cheers we heard from the OR. And I gave thanks for the presence of the doula. I believe she saved at least one and maybe two lives by her close attendance to the birthing process.
It is a miracle that one whole human being can emerge from another body, not their own. Each time is different. Each birth story is unique. What kind of a world greets that newborn? All too often, the story leaves little room for joy and love when they leave the dark warmth of the mother’s womb. Every baby deserves a mother who has been able to choose whether or when to give birth. They both have a right to culturally sensitive health care services that respect the mother’s right to give birth in safe and supportive surroundings. They both have the right to live in a safe and sustainable environment as that child matures. May all births be wanted and be occasions for joy and love. May our future be shaped by reproductive justice.