This summer I had the extraordinary privilege of witnessing a baby being born for the first time.
(Technically, I was present when my own children were born, but I’m not counting those because I was in The Zone. The Drug Zone first time, the Pain Zone second time, the Hypnobirthing Hippie Zone the third time – but that’s a story for another day. Those in The Zone aren’t witnesses, they are warriors.)
This time, though, I was the witness, and witnesses get to wear funky hospital hats.
Through a series of extraordinary events, my friend had to have an emergecy c-section just hours after her husband left the country on a business trip. While my friend’s premature twins were being born, their daddy was 30,000 feet above the earth, and I cried with joy and wonder as I held my friend’s hand in the OR and tried to hold the camera steady with the other.
It is a remarkable thing to be a doula for a day. As the birth buddy, I was right there when it all happened: I heard the doctor say “happy birthday” as he scooped each baby into this world. I saw the vernix on their skin, heard their first cries, smelled their little heads. I had not contributed anything: it wasn’t my body, they weren’t my children, and it all could have happened without me – and YET! oh YET! Yet I had the humbling privilege of experiencing it all. A front-row seat to the miracle of life.
In hindsight though, perhaps it was not quite the first time I have been a birth buddy.
A few weeks ago I was being interviewed about discipleship and the one-on-one mentoring relationships I have had over the years. I shared about how, when meeting with women, it was my habit to suggest we read the Bible together: casually, over coffee, like a book-club. When meeting with new friends who were investigating Christianity, we would always read one of the gospels and talk about the main character, Jesus.
My memory flew back to sitting under a tree with Sharon, reading John’s gospel, and how she described herself as standing in front of a line in the sand, with Jesus calling her to step over the line to join him. She told me she was about to step over that line, and as we sat under that tree on a Spring afternoon – I was right there when it all happened.
Years later I had a weekly coffee date with Denh and the gospel of Mark. We talked and talked and laughed and wrestled through chapter after chapter of Mark, and then one night I was in my kitchen stirring spaghetti when she called and told me she could not avoid Jesus any more. I whooped with such wild excitement that I splattered sauce all over the ceiling and as the tomato dripped to the floor I laughed – I was there when it happened.
The new birth. Being born again: scooped into eternal life and hearing the Father say “happy birthday”. Again there was this strange and wonderful tension. I did not make it happen: it wasn’t my heart, it wasn’t my convincing, and it could all have happened with out me. and YET! I had the extraordinary privilege of having a front-row seat to the miracle of eternal Life.
I think being a birth buddy ranks among the greatest privileges and joys of my life. Even if I have to wear funky hospital hats.