As I supported my client Erin and her husband Ronald at the birth of their first child this January, I needed to call on all of my skills of professionalism and decorum which I had luckily acquired over the years. That is because the timing of the birth support could not have been more challenging; I had just received word that my mother in America was terminally ill. The text came from my sisters across the Atlantic. My mother who I last visited three years ago had developed pneumonia and sepsis. One of these illnesses is, for an almost 80-year-old, very concerning. Together the illnesses meant one thing; the end was near.
For the next hours, possible scenarios played out in my mind, could I find a replacement to accompany my client who was expecting the birth of her baby within the next week? Would it be at all acceptable to my clients to send a replacement? As I promise exclusive birth support, using backup companions is not part of my philosophy nor normal practice. Could my mother hold on until I arrived to California? Since I had just returned from Christmas in New York, my “fun money” account was depleted, so the next monumental question was “where would I get the funds for travel and boarding cost for this emergency”?
At least one of my questions was answered within a few hours, my mother would not be able to hold on until I arrived, she had passed away.
The afternoon was a blur of my deep wish to support my sisters in the US and help with the burial arrangements, intermingled with attending to immediate commitments such as canceling appointments and rescheduling. All through fits of tears and a deep sense of loss.
That evening I was “relieved” momentarily from these concerns; the call came that my daughter had an accident. She and her sister were awaiting an ambulance. I arrived at her apartment to find her on the floor with her kneecap dislodged. Exhausted, after little sleep and many hours waiting in the emergency room, which was packed with people with serious open wounds, I longed for time to mourn my mother’s death. I decided at that moment that the new challenge of my daughter’s injury, which would require surgery, made joining my sisters and say goodbye to my mother impossible.
Upon returning home, before I sunk into a deep sleep, I wondered if my client would go into labor that night. Thankfully I had a few days time before the birth started to reflect what had happened, to care for my injured daughter. As I received notice that the birth had begun I was fairly well rested for the circumstances.
There was a very beautiful, poignant moment during the birth, which I allowed myself to experience. Erin, Ronald and I were together in a large bathroom as Erin showered. She was feeling the best under the stream of warm water, she was well. I looked over from the window seat I was leaning on and glanced at Erin behind the shower curtain. I witnessed the beautiful process of birth. Feelings of appreciation for my mother who had just died, and for all mothers, surged from within me. As my face suddenly turned bright red and tears flowed from my eyes Ronald looked my way, I whispered quietly, “I’m sorry, my mother recently passed away”.
He kindly took my hand, looked into my eyes and replied, “I understand why you are crying, it must be overwhelming to witness the circle of life at this moment”. It was. It was overwhelming, healing and beautiful.