My First Catch

Five years ago, I caught my first baby. On 10/10/10. Do you get a better date for a first catch than that? I was not expecting to catch the baby at this birth. I was expecting to sit and observe, like I had done at every other birth to date. Hopefully, I’d get to listen to heart tones if I was lucky. I was prepared to do small tasks for my preceptor, chart as I was able, and learn learn learn as much as I could from the generous clients who invited me along to their birth.

So we’re settled in and everything is going beautifully. The mom is laboring on her own in the birth tub. She says she has to push. My preceptor looks at me and smiles. We check to make sure she’s completely dilated (she is) and give her the go ahead to push when her body tells her to. My preceptor steps into the hallway and calls my name. I come right over. I am, after all, an eager student who wants to please. She leans over and tells me that I’m going to catch this baby.

My whole world stopped in that moment. What? Really? Am I ready? Will I ever be ready? Is this the right birth, the right circumstances? And hang on a minute, this is absolutely not how I thought this would go. I thought I’d be planning for weeks if not months in advance. I thought my preceptor and I would have many conversations leading up to this, making sure I knew what I was doing. I thought I would be more prepared. I thought …

But she’s still standing there, looking at me expectantly. I gather all of my courage and turn to her and say “Ok. But only if you’re right there beside me.” She laughs, and agrees. And there’s no more time to think because we have to get back to this mom who is pushing very effectively on her hands and knees in the birth tub.

But here’s what they don’t tell you in midwifery school. And this is why my preceptor laughed at what was undoubtedly panic and excitement and trepidation all mixed up in my eyes. Here’s a little secret I’m going to let you in on: catching the baby is the easy part. You just put your hands there and … well, catch.

I watch, transfixed, as the baby’s head emerges. My preceptor whispers in my ear. I put my hands on the baby’s head, waiting for the body to be born. The shoulders are a little sticky and don’t come right away. “Give a little pressure,” she says. I do. She says, “No, like this,” and puts her hands over mine and pulls downward. I never knew you would need to put so much pressure to help a baby out. And then suddenly there’s a shoulder and a baby and joy and tears all around. And that’s it, I caught my first baby. With my preceptor right by my side.

I will never forget that birth. I will never forget the sensation of baby head in my hands. I will never forget my panic and elation all mixed up together, or my preceptors’ guiding hands over mine. I felt so nervous and honored and chosen and lucky in the that moment. It felt so right. There are few moments in your life where you can definitely say that your life was changed forever. Black and white. After this moment, nothing will be the same again. And this is one of those few, precious, beautiful moments for me. That moment when I caught my very first baby, five years ago today.

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