This is a day where we remember the waiting, the not knowing what would come next on that long ago Saturday. The day between.
Waiting is SO hard. Especially when you are 39 or 40 or 41 or 42 weeks. Or a giraffe who is 16 months pregnant.
And the world watches.
I got a call this morning, early, that a baby was coming. This happens to me pretty often. As a midwife, my phone is on loud, 24/7. But this was different.
The baby was a giraffe, and two legs were already out!
As a midwife, I know that it’s “hands off the breech”. Let the baby come in it’s own time, letting the weight of the body gently drop. Don’t engage the startle reflex for the baby, or the tightening of the sphincter that fear produces in mom. Only touch if absolutely necessary.
The zookeepers knew what many in obstetrics have forgotten. Birth happens best when it is undisturbed.
And so we watched. The mama walked around, two legs out, taking an occasional lick of the amniotic fluid for energy. And finally, so slowly it seemed to the watchers, the body began to slip out. Slowly at first, then all at once, the baby giraffe emerged.
And then the drop. Six feet to the ground, the whoosh stimulating the baby to breathe. And the mother watched, curious. She gently began to lick the baby with her tongue, encouraging it to breathe, replenishing her strength with the fluid. “Plop”, the placenta came. (They do that, you know, without pulling or tugging, often as the mom stands).
Did you keep watching? Did you see the baby stand on wobbly legs, then fall down? The mama was so patient, letting the baby smell and nuzzle. Finally the baby found the teat and began to nurse. What a delightful surprise! The colostrum, or “liquid gold”, was tasty!
The zookeepers began to become impatient, their curiosity winning. They came close, talking and jockeying for a better view. April noticed too. Her tail began to twitch. She arched her head. She curled around her baby, shielding it from view. Mamas do that too.
It matters how we are born.
It matters how we welcome babies.
April has given us a gift, this holy Saturday. Birth is holy ground, when we let it be. As a midwife, my “job” is to let it be.