We were about to have a new baby.
Just like with my other children, it would be a home birth. Unlike my others, this one was coming early. Labor had started in the middle of the eighth month.
As with all home births I had attended, participated in or been the father of, there was a complex combination of feelings. The feelings ranged between joy and jubilation, and deep-rooted anxiety and fear.
With every birth, there was the possibility that wonderful things would happen if everything went right, and the possibility that horrible things could happen if something went wrong.
In this case, the labor was relatively short and painless (easy for me to say). After all, this was
an experienced mother and a small pre-mature baby. Once the head was crowning, just one more push and the baby, a girl, slipped out quickly.
I had never dealt with a premature birth before. She was born, but she was motionless and silent. The midwife cut the cord, used a suction devise to remove any fluids or mucus from her nose, gently breathed into her mouth, rubbed her back, and finally gave her a stiff swat on the bottom.
Time stood still. The room and the baby remained motionless and silent. Fear. Dread. Sorrow. Then she drew a breath and let out a big scream. Her bluish body turned pink.
I felt a huge sense of relief, joy and jubilation. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks as the midwife wiped her clean, wrapped her in a blanket and handed me my new daughter.
The midwife was cleaning up her mother and helping her with delivery of the afterbirth. I could see that she was well and happy. So, I felt free to focus on the new baby.
Once the baby was born, and the afterbirth cleaned up, the room began to fill with well-wishers who had been waiting in the living room next door. Toasts and cheers were being shared. But all that was a blur, because my attention was so focused on this tiny little new child in my arms. I had never held a child so small and so light. I watched her tiny little pink lips pucker, soften and pucker again.
I turned my attention to all the close friends in the room who were there to celebrate the birth. It was difficult to share in the celebration because I wasn’t feeling the joy. I was feeling a sense of relief.
The midwife came to my side, waiting for me to hand her over to she could take the baby to her mother. It was time to start their bonding and to see if she would suckle. I was reluctant to let her go.
As I began to hand her to the midwife, I saw that her pink color was turning blue. We both realized that she had stopped breathing.
The midwife took over. She asked all the well-wishers to leave the room and began efforts to revive the baby. She tried and tried, but to no avail. Our little baby never started breathing again.
We laid the lifeless baby on her mother’s breast. We cried. We sobbed. We prayed. Inside myself something else was happening, I cursed, I doubted myself and my decisions. Did it have to be this way? Over the next hour, we began to acknowledge and accept the reality.
In the corner of the room was the wooden cradle I had made for the baby. It was made from white cedar. On the head of the cradle, I had carved an angel with wings spread wide to protect the baby.
I laid the baby in the cradle and covered her with a blanket.
In the morning, I carefully nailed narrow cedar planks across the opening making her cradle into a coffin. The arching headboard with the carved angel rose above the now closed top.
Just a half block down the street from our house was Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Before the day was done, we had buried her there.
We never had a chance to name her. I called her “Rosebud” because of the way her tiny lips looked while they were pink and puckered up.
That was over 40 years ago. I’ve moved on and moved away but a part of me will always be there — in Seattle on Queen Anne Hill in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.
Story Series: Anyone can write
Nearly 40 years in the business have taught me that readers are bombarded and overwhelmed with facts. What we long for, though, is meaning and a connection at a deeper and more universal level.
And that's why the Cody Enterprise will be running, from time to time, stories from students who are in my writing class, which I've been teaching for the past 10 years in Portland, Ore.
I take great satisfaction in helping so-called non-writers find and write stories from their lives and experiences. I remind them if they follow their hearts, they will discover they are storytellers.
Tom Hallman Jr.
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