catching a baby in Africa

This past November I was invited back to Namibia, Africa with the hope of attending the first birth of a good friend.  Of course, timing international travel for the arrival of a baby is an imprecise science. Nevertheless, we planned with optimism.  I weaned my littlest, at 26 months of age, just a few short weeks before my travel and did my best to prepare myself mentally for leaving my family for the first time since our expansion to include offspring.  All of my previous international travel was accompanied by a friend or my husband which, as I discovered, makes 30 hours of travel infinitely more enjoyable.  For all of the complaining I’ve been known to voice about just needing “a moment to myself!” every once in a while, exasperated in the constant company of my affectionate babies, the long series of moments solo international travel provides was a bit much for even the most introverted introvert.  After uneventful travel, I arrived on a sunny, warm Namibian afternoon–thrilled to see my large-bellied and beautiful friend and her husband!

We spent the week catching up: talking birth, babies and breastfeeding.  We ate out, napped, took day-trips to the capital city, enjoyed walks in the warm evening air. I painted her toenails, gave a massage, took photos and we took turns poking protruding baby limbs under her tightly-stretched belly.  Please come out we’d gently beg. Today’s the day we’d plea.  We want to see your sweet face we’d croon. We went on an off-roading safari game drive to admire the local wide life and not-so-gently bounce her womb into action. Unsuccessfully.

Although I believe strongly in the innate and prefect timing of arriving babies, I began to feel a creeping sadness at the thought of the long travel back home without seeing my friend through this miraculous journey, meeting her firstborn.

Just 12 short hours before my flight home, this might be it, she said.  Something feels different.  Maybe…let’s wait and see.  10 hours before my flight home, I was overjoyed with the unexpected privilege of catching her sweet baby girl myself as my friend did the hard, beautiful work of birth with such grace and strength.  I could not have been more proud or humbled by how birth instantly ushers in the first, breathtaking moments of motherhood (and fatherhood!).

I’ve shared the details of the great adventure my friend invited me on again and again.  Each time, my audience voices how scary it must have been! (my medical-mind says “YES!  It was.”), what a crazy story!You caught your friends baby in the remote desert in Africa! And, from an outside perspective, that all is obviously true! So true! But what I love about this experience was how meant-to-be it all felt.  Her baby and I had a divine appointment neither of us were willing to miss!

I impatiently journeyed home.  Having my own babies to hold again had an extra air of sweetness.  This birth took place 4 years to the day that I experienced my own first labor. Divine, indeed.



This weekend I took two finals and competed the didactic portion of my masters degree program.   I’ve been working towards this for over two years now and the rhythm of it feels familiar.  In the last weeks of a term I feel burnt-out, read-out, lectured-out, practice guidelined-out, professional journaled-out.  Anxious to be done, distracted and unable to concentrate.  My husband now laughs at my predictable routine with each term of school:

Beginning of the term: Feel overwhelmed by all I have to do.  Make lists, lists, lists.  Reorganize the house 5 times.

Middle of the term: Accomplish the bulk of my coursework.  Nose-bured in books.  Motivated and running extra miles to cope with the energy of it all.

End of term: Can barely make it through a paragraph of clinical text.  My mind is always on real-life scenarios: how to manage a shoulder dystocia, treat chlamydia, midwife a patient with a history of sexual assault, recognize a baby with a heart defect.  I make lists of what I want to accomplish during my break. Dream of a beach vacation.  Stalk google maps with wanderlust.

During break: Sleep, watch movies and read for about 18 hours until I feel …restless and find myself in clinical journals, board review books and house projects.

It has been comforting and comedic to see it played out 9 times over the past 2.25 years.  This break is different because next month I’m venturing into the clinical realm.  This long-worn cycle has served me well, protected my sanity and become a calendar of sorts for our family.  For all of the struggles that come with graduate school with a husband and two small children, there’s something to be said for the shelter and predictability it has provided.  This Spring, I’m venturing outside of the familiar rhythms and steeling myself for the unpredictability of clinic and hospital nurse-midwifery.