My First Catch


      My midwifery career officially began with the first baby I ever caught, my granddaughter, Abbey Danelle Smith, but it was all quite a surprise.

      I had been involved in attending births since 1994 when I began teaching The Bradley Method of natural childbirth.  My interest in being involved with births began when my middle child, Amy, told me as a young teenager that when she got married someday she wanted to have her babies at home.  I had never known anyone who had done that and it really frightened me.  I had been raised in very medically-minded family and the answer to everything was take a pill or call the doctor.   The whole idea of having a baby at home just seemed way too old-fashioned to me.  The reason Amy was so interested was because we attended church with a lady who had had a couple of babies at home and who was now attending births as a midwife herself.  She had attended the birth of another one of the ladies in our church who had invited us to come to their home within minutes of their daughter's birth.  Amy had always been so frightened of doctors and hospitals that this seemed like the most wonderful situation to her.  I thought maybe this was just a phase she was going through, just all caught up in the excitement of it all, but it wasn't.  From that day on, she never looked back and never let up on the idea.   If anything, it got stronger. 

      I knew that because of my own fear and apprehension that if she pursued this idea, I would be the kind of mother that would give her a lot of grief about it all.  I desperately wanted to support her so in an effort to do that and to understand more, she and I began attending classes at our midwife friend's home.  We attended those classes once a month for a couple of years and each month discussed a different aspect of birth to include problems in pregnancy, the birth process, newborn baby issues to include breastfeeding, etc. 

      There were many women who came and went during that time period.  Each month, one or two of the ladies would share their birth stories.  During that time, an amazing thing happened to me.  I never once heard a birth story that was 'sweet and exactly what I wanted it to be' unless it was a homebirth.  I heard many hospital birth stories with many comments of, "it wasn't what I wanted,"   "I didn't know I had choices,"   "I didn't want them to do such and such but they did it anyway,"   "I feel like what they did to me caused more problems,"   "they forced me to have a c-section,"   and many more situations.  The homebirth stories were so exactly opposite.  "It was the hardest thing I ever did but I wouldn't do it any other way,"   "I wish I had known about this with my first birth,"   "It was exactly as I had envisioned it to be,"   "I loved being in my own home and the freedom of moving around and getting in any position I wanted,"   and many more.   I later told my husband it was like a Sesame Street moment - "what's wrong with this picture?"   So, that was the beginning of a tiny nudge in my heart of wanting to make a difference.  At that point, the thought of becoming a midwife had not entered my mind.  I was approximately 40 years old and the best I could envision for myself was being an old lady walking a picket line somewhere, holding up a sign saying, "you can have it your way!"

      While I was attending those classes, I met a lady who was a Bradley teacher.  I asked her if I could attend a series of her classes so I would better know how to help my daughter when the time came.   I absolutely loved the classes and learned everything I wish I had known when having my own babies in the hospital setting.  I shed lots of tears during that time, wishing I had known.  After that, I pursued my certification as a Bradley instructor and over the next few years was asked to help at many births, mostly in the hospital setting.  I also had been attending births as a helper with my midwife friend and her partner.   My daughter Amy had her first baby at home in 1998 after a 43 hour labor and that little boy, Ethan Nathaniel Smith, weighed in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces.  Amy was very tiny and the baby was posterior so it just took a while but he was born with nothing but a tiny tear that wasn't even felt by the next morning and everyone was thrilled. 

      During those next years, my friend's partner became ill and she asked me if I'd be interested in going to some births with her.  Even though I've never done drugs in my life, I likened this situation to what I've ready about that addiction.   I just couldn't get enough.   Witnessing a miracle every time I attended a birth and seeing the joy of those families and the celebration of that new little brother or sister, was the most precious thing I'd ever seen.   I began to say, "When I grow up, I want to be a midwife."   In the year 2000, Tennessee passed a certification credential and the decision was made by my husband and myself to pursue that license.  My husband recognized that the certification would not necessarily make me a better midwife but would give me a level of respect that I wouldn't have otherwise. 

      My midwife friend had reached a place in her own life when she felt the need to stay home with her many children and care for them.  My daughter was having her second baby in October of that year and the plan was for the same midwife to attend her birth so this would be one of the last she would attend.  Amy and her husband Scott wanted me to be allowed to catch the baby so it could be my first "catch" working toward my certification requirements.  The midwife who was training me didn't think I was ready and didn't want to take the responsibility of being the preceptor.  All of us were greatly distressed but simply prayed about the situation and hoped that somehow it would all work out. 

      On the day of her labor, I went over at 8 am to find Amy having very strong labor contractions every 5 minutes or so but handling them well and sitting on the couch.  We called the midwife and she had just gotten home from an all-night birth and was tired.   Based on the way things looked and the fact that her first labor had been so long, we told our friend to just go to bed for a while and we'd call her when things picked up.  At noon Amy asked me to go to the local town diner to get her some lunch.  I was gone approximately 15 minutes and when I came back home, Scott told me Amy's water had broken and she was back in the bedroom.  I found Amy lying on the bed and when she saw me, she jumped up off the bed with her arms flailing in the air and said, "Mom, I can't do this."    I said, "yes, you can, honey - why don't you lie back and let me check to see where you are."   When I did the exam, my finger only went to the first knuckle and I felt the baby's head!   Everyone except my husband had left for a while and he was outside talking to my son.  I ran to tell him that Amy was having the baby and asked him to call the midwife, who was immediately out the door.  I ran back into the bedroom, Amy pushed twice, and out came the most beautiful little girl before we had time to even think about anything! 

      We were all so thrilled that God had worked it out so I could catch her for my first birth ever.  That experience was the beginning of the most fulfilling life I could possibly have.   There is nothing like seeing that little baby, created by God, take his or her first breath and look lovingly into the eyes of adoring parents and siblings.  That day is forever etched in my mind and heart.



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