Part One: The Preface
As usual, I sat down and just wrote and wrote about the experience of watching Emi give birth, and I didn’t really allow myself to cut it short. I wrote everything I felt was pertinent, to me, personally, so — as usual, I was long-winded. I’ve broken up this long catalogue of emotions and lessons and experiences into three blogposts, and am now finally posting them over the course of a few days, so stay tuned, and enjoy!
I’m looking through pictures, now, a handful of days later and I’m still just – in awe.
Now, safely on the other side, it’s easy to let the wonder slip – life is calmer now, more joyful, certainly – but calmer. Less suspense, less worry, less what if, what happens next. Baby Jude is here, now, and she’s safe and she’s absolutely surrounded by so much love from so many people, and Emi is well and whole and safe, and their entire little family is now home, together – all those hours of crazy intense labor fade in comparison to the thrill of new life, here now.
And then I start glancing through the pictures I took, looking at my dear Emi’s face, sweet Travis watching her, his hands gentle on her head, her back, her tummy – and it all comes rushing back: that feeling of wonder and excitement, the supreme calm and utter surety that all would go well – the absolute awe of my dear friend, my soul sister.
Let me back up to the beginning.
This is a background story I hope to tell in more detail in context of my own life and my own hopes, here in the relatively near future. But understanding why I was present at this birth in the first place may require a bit of explanation – apparently, most young women are not so gung ho to be in the room when their friends give birth, aren’t so gung ho about pregnancy and birth in general. I’ve always been different in that respect – even as a teenager, I had this fascination with pregnant women. At church, I wanted to feel the bellies of young pregnant women, wanted to hear their stories. I knew it was kind of odd, considering my opportunity to give birth would still be several years off – but I’ve just always felt this pull, this calling to learn as much as I could about pregnancy and birth.
Luckily, in my young adulthood, I’ve found more kindred spirits who share the same fascination. As we started connecting over the topics, I came to realize why I was so passionate about birth, so fascinated by pregnant women. To me – it’s a miracle, plain and simple. I know we all say that, toss those words out because we’ve heard other people say them before and it seems like an appropriate sentiment – but birth really is such a miracle. We take it for granted so much, I think – even if we are wowed in the first few days after a birth, it fades, as life returns to normal, or as near as it can get.
Sometimes it feels like some people have started to view birth as an inconvenience in the way of having a baby – and so we can’t help but take it for granted. We want it to be as quick and as painless and OVER as soon as possible. I think we as Americans especially have such a cavalier opinion about birth. Yeah, yeah, birth. Hurts like a bitch and then there’s a baby. We’ve removed the majesty and the miracle from it. Why aren’t we fascinated by it? Why is it treated as something hush-hush, too gross to be shared openly? We are the only details we see on TV or in film about pain, pain, rush, fear, more pain?
(Disclaimer: I’m well aware I haven’t given birth yet. I’m well aware that every birth is different, and that I may change my mind, when it’s my turn. And giving birth, in whatever manner, is incredible, and an incredible feat that women endure and acccomplish, and should be applauded for.)
Giving birth is AMAZING. Being pregnant in general is AMAZING. We should worship these women! Where there was once NOTHING, there is suddenly this whole new human life. A woman grows this new life inside her person, and then brings it earthside in one of the most challenging, painful, scary, and yet empowering, uplifting experiences she may ever have in her entire life. Of course birth hurts – women are bringing a new human life into the world, this is not a light and easy task, this is not the flip of a coin or a whisper on the wind, this is life, this is a human. This is not a simple undertaking, parents are taking responsibility for more than just a little baby who coos and giggles – they are taking responsibility for a soul, and that requires a moment of true testing, I think.
All of this – I felt before. Or I suspected before. I read a lot, a lot, every birth story on Birth Without Fear (no, seriously, I think literally all, or pretty close), any I could find on any other site. I heard these incredible stories of spiritual, empowering births, and I dreamed it could be true. Every pregnant woman I met, I asked about their pregnancy, their plans. Every woman I knew who had given birth relatively recently, I asked for their story.
Enter Emi. She and my lovely sister Jeannie are my fellow birth junkies. Jeannie studied midwifery briefly, and now works as a nanny generally to newborns, and Emi has worked for a doula for years. Not to mention, you know, she’s already birthed my two favourite little humans, Jackamo and Nae. And through that, she was my first foothold into becoming more versed in the world of birth. Although I met her a bit prior, I first got to know Emi when she was pregnant with Jack. I remember feeling the first tingles of anxiety in the weeks before she gave birth, just because I had never experienced the waiting so closely before. I don’t have a lot of cousins, I have no nephews or nieces, and very little family living in the area – I had never had the opportunity to follow the swell of a mother’s belly, to know the baby before it left the womb and then meet them earthside, after. I wanted Emi to be OK, I wanted the baby to be OK. I had never felt so invested in a pregnancy before.
I think Emi and I really grew close, in those first few months after Jack was born. We were carpooling to Murray almost every weekend that year, to do dance company rehearsals on Saturdays. We’d kiss Trav and Baby Jack goodbye, and drive up to Murray, at first chatting slowly and carefully. By the time the show rolled around that spring, I knew I had found a kindred spirit in Emi.
And then came Norah – Emi, Trav, and little Jack came over to tell us, and the weird thing was – I’d already kind of known. I’d had a flash of insight, a week or two before – I can’t explain it, even now, even after what I’m about to tell you. I definitely wouldn’t call myself psychic, not even close – but I had an inkling. I think Emi’s pregnant, and she just hasn’t told anyone yet.
So, she unzipped Jack’s jacket, we saw his T-shirt, I’m gonna be a Big Brother! – and we cheered and squealed. And although I wasn’t at the birth center with her when Norah was born, I was even more involved in her pregnancy than before, now that we were close friends, now that Jeannie and I talked birth as often as we could. Norah was born, and we came to see the entire family at their home, while Norah was still fresh, maybe a day old.
The last year and a half only intensified the relationship between Emi and me, in the best way. Over the first few years we’d known each other, we’d built this lovely friendship, first because she was married to Trav, and I had been his friend since we were both five or six years old; yes, really. Then because we were friends of our own right – suddenly, I wasn’t texting Trav to make plans with his family, I was texting Emi – and then I was texting Emi just because I wanted to, just to chitchat, or share my day.
And then she and Trav decided they were going to go live in Africa for a year, become missionaries in Uganda and take the kids with them. I’ll admit it – I worried. I worried about a lot of things – their health and safety, of course – but I worried about my friendship with Emi. She had become so precious to me, and I was scared that her living on a different continent for a year would weaken that bond – not intentionally, on either of our parts, but it’s hard enough to keep up with your girlfriends when they live in the same town, much less in a different hemisphere.
Happily, that exact opposite happened. You have to really love someone and cherish them to make an effort to keep in close contact, when they’re living so far away. You have to work at it, you have to take time. And Emi and I did, and I am so grateful for it. Through various apps, her shoddy Ugandan wifi – we were able to text almost as if she really were just a few miles down the road. I found the two of us becoming closer, stronger in our friendship, because of the effort we had to put forth to maintain it. Because not everyone made that effort, but we did.
I swear we’re getting close to talking about Emi’s most recent birth.
So, last December, Emi and Trav and their sweet babes came home, and all of us in our #friendsfamily were overjoyed. Those kids are the light of every gathering, every dinner, every holiday party. Welcoming Emi and Trav back into our daily lives was such a warm, comforting thing.
Then – some of you know this story already. Some of you have heard it too many times and are bored of it – but bear with me. It needs to be told in context of this birth, this baby.
In January, I woke from a particularly vivid dream. I can’t even remember the specifics of it anymore. I just know I woke up, firm with the knowledge that Emi was pregnant.
She humored me, at first. Because of the whole Norah-pregnancy thing. Sure, OK, Emmy, she’d say, smiling until her eyes crinkled. I mean, it’s possible, but it’s not likely.
She, Jeannie and I took a road trip up to Louisville in January, and the topic kept coming up. Maybe you’re not, I’d said, maybe I’m wrong. I just feel it in my gut.
A week later, she was late but we were all carefully not making a big deal about it. So what. Probably just overexcited. Nothing to pay attention to. I remember standing in the kitchen with her and Jeannie, while everyone else gathered at a #friendsfamily dinner in the dining room. It’s probably nothing, the three of us agreed, probably nothing at all.
And a few days later, I got the defining text: HOW DID YOU KNOW?!? I understood instantly – she was pregnant. And then another text, a few seconds later. Trav says, if you ever have a dream that he dies in a tragic accident, to please let us know right away.
Emi was pregnant – and that’s where this whole story begins.