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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November's Theme: "Birthing"
Volume 5 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Homebirth Grandmother
by Beverley Viljakainen

How bizarre that I had to be 61 before I experienced my first home birth! Had it not been for my son and daughter-in-law's decision to have their third child at home, I might never have participated in this Celebration of Life, a celebration that would be repeated two and a half years later when Connie and Steve's fourth child, Levi, came along…

When the preparations for the first homebirth began to unveil, I offered to take care of our older grandchildren, Veronica who was almost five and two-and-a-half year old Justin. When the first signs of labour began late on a beautiful August evening, Steve called to ask if I preferred to come for the night or to be called later; his way of saying we were going to have a baby soon. I hastily left my bed and drove the twenty-minutes between our rural homes. Was I up to whatever the night would bring? I could only hope so…

When I arrived at the family home, the expectant parents were timing contractions. Leaving them to it, I once again lay down to sleep. Never have I been so grateful for and dependent on my long-time practice of yoga! Even so, my own excitement made for a somewhat wakeful night. At some point, I heard Steve talking on the telephone and, shortly after, the sounds of the midwives' vehicles roaring down the laneway, shattering the pre-dawn silence. As the outside lights lit up my room, I was overcome with the strength of my emotions: the fervent hope that Connie would remain strong and well, gratitude for the midwives' presence and experience, and an abiding confidence that the Innate Intelligence within us was flowing as best it could and would serve us all well. I was ready!

Peeking into the softly-lit bedroom, I sent the now-seriously labouring mother a silent message: "Let's do it, girl! One more time! For humanity. For That which we acknowledge to be God." In return, I saw a very determined young woman about to get the job done. Never was the ever-so-elegant French expression for 'daughter-in-law', la belle-fille, more appropriate! Her courage and focus in what turned out to be only a few minutes longer reflected for me the magnificence of all womankind.

I settled myself nearby for what I expected would be "the duration", but almost immediately, Steve called for me to bring the children. As I stood between their two beds in the next room, I said to myself, "Yeah, sure! They're sound asleep." Tentatively, I said to their sleeping forms, "The baby is coming." Before I finished the sentence, Veronica's feet hit the floor and she was gone. Her roly-poly younger brother, Justin, made it to his hands and knees before I picked him up and shot out after her. The midwife observed that their little sister actually paused to wait for us before completing the last thrust of her journey. As we entered the room, Katie turned her head towards the door, the remainder of her body still to emerge from the birth canal, as though eager to see the children who had been speaking to her during her months in the womb. 

Before the cord was cut, Steve, a chiropractor, checked the infant's spine, wanting the communication between Katie's brain and body to be as free-flowing as possible before the umbilical connection to her mother was severed and her nervous system began to function on its own. The necessary minor spinal adjustment made, we watched as her newborn grey colour became a rosy pink right before our eyes, the life force turned on full throttle. Young Veronica was asked if she would like to cut the cord and, without hesitation, she held out her hand for the scissors, listened carefully to the instructions, and did the deed. Beaming at his new sister, his expression one of blissful wonder, Justin uttered his take on the situation: "New baby out Mommy's tummy!"

The placenta was examined carefully by midwife and father alike, then taken to its previously prepared place in the orchard where a new fruit tree would be planted above it, Katie's tree, a metaphor for the magnificent harvest that yet another autumn had delivered to us and to the world.

Two and a half years later, the ritual was repeated, this time on the night of a horrendous February snowstorm. At the time of writing, Levi is a six-year-old force to contend with, especially on the soccer field, and I never fail to connect his gusto with the weather conditions that prevailed on the night he was born. I was called about six in the evening, Steve wanting me to travel before the weather worsened. As I inched my way through whiteout conditions, I was overcome and humbled by how little control we have over very much of anything. And to think that, had the mother wanted to give birth in a hospital, it would have been the parents making their way through the blizzard rather than being able to focus totally on the moment-to-moment experience of bringing this life they had created into the world in their own home and with their other children present. I recall so clearly on the drive, my own safety on the line as it were, feeling the tenuousness of life. I experienced a deep sense of surrender as I realized I simply did not know how mother and baby would fare. My task became simply to get myself there and do whatever I was called upon to do.

Because of the severity of the weather, the midwives were also called in plenty of time. Once again, my respect and admiration for the women who do this work knew no bounds. They came from great distances, arriving later in the evening from various corners of their large area. It was a night of many births and these were monitored by phone throughout the night. I felt very blessed they were with us and appreciated all the judgment calls they had to make about the other cases. Our baby arrived just before midnight, the other children present to receive the baby that would set the gender inequality in the family straight. Much discussion had ensued among the children, two girls and a boy, during the months of pregnancy about why this baby had to be or need not be a boy. After Levi had arrived, I sat for a few minutes in the living room with the little girls watching their father and his older son dance about in celebration that they were now three! Men that is! Everyone slept soundly that night as the midwives quietly packed up and went out into the stormy night their next round of particular wonders to perform.

Words almost defy the sanctity of the homebirth experience, not only from a grandmother's perspective but as a simple participant of and witness to such events that are so fundamental to human life. Even as I write this account so many years later, the sentiments well up and spill over. I can't say that I notice any difference in my relationship with our two youngest grandchildren for having been present at their births. All four have quite different personalities, which affect our interactions in a host of ways and they are all accustomed to having me in their lives on a regular basis. I do wonder, however, if the intimacy of the homebirth experience hasn't contributed somewhat to the cohesiveness and camradery among them. They really like each other and get along amazingly well, helping each other, asking for help of one another, encouraging each other in their various endeavours, in ways that are not always found among siblings. Certainly, the two home births make for good storytelling, their stories, our Story, because we were all there… except, as Levi is quick to point out, he wasn't always…

Beverley Viljakainen lives in southwestern Ontario, Canada. She is a grassroots healthcare advocate, practises yoga, meditation and voluntary simplicity, and is a life-long student of the teachings of J. Krishnamurti.

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