the midwife`s journal < contents

7. making cakes
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I have just come home and made an entry in my Birth Register. Baby girl, born in good condition, at home in Blackburn. The father caught his baby daughter. I arrived when the baby was about 5 minutes old. As I walked through the kitchen into the laundry where the mother was (she hadn't made it to her 'intended' birthing place, in the lounge) the father welcomed me, thrust a camera into my hand and said "can you take some pictures". I took photos of the family of four.

A couple of minutes later the mother was bearing down and birthing the placenta. She is a determined, strong young woman. Annie (the other midwife) had had further to travel than I, and after she arrived we all progressed quietly through the familiar routines that go on after a birth.

The smell of the house was very special - a fruit slice was cooking in the oven throughout the birthing event. Another mixing bowl on the bench had what looked like the makings of a chocolate cake - the bright yellow egg yolk carelessly dumped on top of a mound of chocolate and flour and sugar and butter. The woman finished mixing it up and baked it when her baby was 3 or 4 hours old.

Making cakes seems to be important for this woman. I first met her when her little boy Jack was 5 days old, and she had a cake in the oven then too.

Annie had attended Jack's birth at their previous home. Jack was having some difficulty breastfeeding, and that's when I was called in. The woman's breasts were full; her nipples nearly obliterated by the engorgement, and both mother and baby were losing faith in the breastfeeding process. I visited them several times in the next few weeks, and the woman persevered until she and Jack got themselves back on track. There were times when their attempts were unsuccessful, and expressed milk in a medicine glass was the best way to get him fed.

I don't think Jack ever became able to nurse with what lactation consultants call 'good' attachment. He made lots of slurpy, tongue-click noises. But he was certainly good enough! He thrived.

I remember one day, I think it was in the August or September of that year, the woman came with baby Jack to the "Breastmilk and Special Care Nurseries" conference, to help me with the milk banking promotion. During one of the sessions the woman was at the back of the auditorium, nursing Jack. Lots of slurpy, clicky sounds were coming from him. I noticed heads turning. I sensed that these women, all breastfeeding experts, were thinking "that baby is not well attached". In my mind I prepared some appropriate remark, just in case anyone should make a helpful comment. This lovely well-nourished little boy was achieving good nutrition, even if he was noisy in the process.

I have shared a few experiences with the woman and her man since then. I felt her pain and sense of powerlessness when she had first one miscarriage, then a second. I visited her just after the latter. She was, in her deliberate and direct way, searching for answers. This woman, who had been so strong in birthing and nurturing Jack, was now learning how frail and unpredictable our bodies are.

I thank God, the great father and giver of life, for the blessing of this little girl, born in the early hours of the morning, of a bright clear early Spring day. There is a large camelia bush near the front door of the home. The heavy red blossoms are everywhere, and a thick carpet of red covers the mulched ground. Dafodils and jonquils are in bloom, and many other flowering shrubs and trees add to the energetic display of life and fertility. It is a fitting time and place to welcome this little one.

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