That Time I Cut the Umbilical Cord

(First of all, I am breaking blogger rule 101: this entry has no images. Just words; just my story.)

Take a second and think about the most memorable thing you ever learned. It need not have been in the classroom. It could have been the time you learned how to skate the corners – and you can still remember the chill on your nose, the weight of your stick in your hand, the slight breeze as you turned, put skate-over-skate and glided around the corner successfully. It could be the first time you had to perform CPR and you can remember how it seemed to come naturally, like you had known how to do it all along, and adrenaline kicked in as you saved a human life.  It could be anything; what was it for you?

See, the thing with me is, this keeps happening. I think I have learned, and seen in action, the best thing I will ever know. And then I will see something else, just as good, and I am just blown away. Like, my first birth. God, I will never forget it. It was just days after I finished my doula training in New York. I remember learning about this connection between mother and baby, that mom can’t even put into words, like she doesn’t even KNOW about it, but it’s this connection that her baby knows how to be born, and she does EVERYTHING in her power to make sure her baby is born correctly. I KNOW this is true just from seeing the differences between labors, deliveries, and when moms just instinctively know when something isn’t right. It’s freaking amazing. I remember, during my first birth, seeing the head emerge, and then seeing the baby turn so he could fit his shoulders through, and take his first breath in the outside world. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. That was the moment I KNEW this would be my life work. And I am forever grateful for that moment <3

However, not every moment of seeing learning in action has been a good one. Like, the first time I saw the cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. In the same way that I get overly excited and emotional for the good situations, I get just as scared and “how do I make this situation better, and best support the parents” sense of urgency in the not-so-good-ones. Luckily, I heard and saw this precious baby take a breath, and knew he would be fine, but the wait for him to get out of the NICU was still so intense.

Recently, though, I was blessed with another first. And this one was so, so positive. I was asked to cut the umbilical cord. At first, I didn’t really think about it. I mean, I was totally HONORED to be given the opportunity, but at the time I had a laboring woman to support through pushing. I just stored it in the “things to do after labor support” part of my brain. But, when the time came, I turned into a bit of a puddle. As I was sobbing, hugging, and congratulating the wonderful mom on a job well done, the doctor said “Mary!” and pointed at the scissors on the table. I asked some stupid question (out of nervousness), like “now?” or something of the sort. She smiled behind her shield and nodded. I picked up the scissors, and to my surprise, my hands were shaking. “Do you know where to cut?” the doctor asked. I nodded, too overwhelmed to speak…

So far, this story may seem a little dramatic. But, in those short moments (we are talking less than 15 seconds) my mind was racing. Up until this point, mom and baby were one life. That baby was only alive because of this cord attached to mom’s INCREDIBLE placenta*. Now, it was time for his own life to begin, and for some reason, this job seemed bigger than it really was. The doctor gently held the cord closer to me (as if to say, no really, like now), and I went for it. I cut the cord, and basked in the glory of it for a moment. Then, I went right back to work, and held it together until it was time for me to leave. As soon as I got out of her room, I felt the emotion creeping back. By the time I made it to the nurses station, (I had never been at odd’s with the intense security of the maternity ward before) I had nurses by my side asking me “what happened” and how they could help. What happened? How do I explain it in words. The miracle of life? That’s what happened. “I’m just happy” I replied, “could you please buzz me out?” The doctor who was in the room put her hand over her heart and wished me well. She is someone I certainly hope to cross paths with again.

Is this how you feel when you go to work? I hope everyone gets to experience this amount of joy in what they do at some point in their life <3

Until the next cord… 🙂

*Originally, here, I had a whole rant about how amazing placentas are. Sometimes, though, I feel like the world just isn’t ready for placenta love. Someday, though, someday 🙂

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