Both of my labor and delivery experiences have been wonderful. Really. I’m sure there’s some eye-rolling going on right about now (Is she crazy? She’s just forgotten about how bad those contractions get.) But I’m telling the honest to goodness truth. It helps that I experience warp speed labor – even with my first baby, I went from 1 cm to fully dilated in seven hours without anything other than a lot of walking around to encourage my contractions along.
However, that first delivery, as beautiful as it was, was still clinical in many ways. I used midwives, but I gave birth in an academic medical center and the only reason they left me alone is because they thought I was a mistaken first-time mom when I told them my contractions were right on top of each other. “It’s too soon,” I heard and, “You may be having dysfunctional labor.” Whatever that means.
I was really starting to doubt my body and worry about my “dysfunctional labor” when the midwife came to check to see how I was progressing for the first time. You should have seen her surprised expression when she discovered that I was ready to push. (To give her credit, she’d just finished her training and was new to solo deliveries and a very “by the book” physician was looking over her shoulder the day I was admitted.)
When I met baby for the first time, I was euphoric. I thanked God over and over and was sobbing. Madeline always looks at a picture of me crying holding her for the first time and asks what was wrong. She hasn’t grasped that there’s such a thing as tears of joy.
Yet, even though my first birth was unforgettable, I didn’t feel God’s presence during labor and delivery, although I certainly did when I was holding my miracle in my arms.
Rachel Marie’s birth story is entirely different, largely due to Diane Tandy, a Catholic certified nurse midwife. I was experiencing another super speedy labor and the pushing phase, as strange as this may sound, came too quickly for me. I didn’t feel ready to push and was having trouble concentrating on the hard work I had to do to get my baby out. Diane recognized a frustrated laboring woman and grabbed my hand and started to say a “Hail Mary.” My husband and I joined in.
As soon as “Amen” left my lips, I could feel my focus shifting from the pain to the overwhelming sensation of Rachel Marie’s slippery body rushing out of me. Moments later, Diane handed my second daughter to me. As this tiny, perfect bundle rested on my deflated stomach I once again found myself crying tears of joy and saying, “Thank you, God.”
My gratitude was for many things – an easy delivery, a healthy baby, an amazing husband, knowing God was with me in L&D, the profundity of motherhood… But much of my gratitude was owed to Diane. How many women have been encouraged to pray in the delivery room during a routine labor by their health professional? I doubt many.
Diane is no doubt a compassionate and skilled health professional. But she is so much more. She is a woman of faith and a courageous defender of the inviolability of human life. And so Canticle asked me to write a feature about her. And I did. And you’re going to want to read it. And don’t worry, it’s not a play-by-play account of my daughter’s birth. No, I’ll leave that for another time. What’s at the heart of the article is a story of a Catholic convert, who like our Holy Mother, heard God’s call and answered it.
So stop reading blogs, would you? Order the May issue of Canticle and while you’re at it, why not get a year’s subscription?