One of the many things that is unique about attending births at the Minnesota Birth Center is that the midwives are tasked with readying the birth rooms for families about to meet their babies. We arrive before the mother-to-be, before she’s moaning with the pressure of contractions-waves-rushes-surges; before the father-to-be looking on in awe as this person who he has loved for so long shows the strength he has never imagined to bring forth their child; before the mother-to-be helps calm her partner by whispering birth affirmations in her ear.
We walk into the space; potential crackling, anticipation building, and we ready it for the miracles about to happen there.
My favorite time to enter that space is at night or late evening. No one is around. I’ll most likely be humming whatever song is in my head. I always start by filling the tub. As I turn the taps, my mind usually turns to a recent birth I’ve attended in that tub. I think of seeing the shock of newborn hair in between surges-waves-rushes-contractions and the delight on that last person’s face as they reached down to feel the baby emerging from their body. I run my hand under and through the water hoping the tub will give the person giving birth a sense of safety, warmth, containment, relief. I turn the lights so they sparkle invitingly above the tub. Not too bright. Just enough.
As the tub does its noisy business, I move to the counter. I take out the heating pad and baby blankets. I select my favorite blankets. There is a white one in our St. Paul location that is larger than the others and especially stretchy. It is my favorite swaddling blanket. I always wonder briefly where the baby blankets my mom made my son ended up. I’d love them to be here – they were so good for gathering up a newborn. I nestle the blankets within the heating pad. I bring out the birth kit. Clamps. Scissors. Gloves. Sometimes a lab tube. All in a little silver box covered in a white shroud. So simple. It’s nice to know that the main tools of my trade are at the ends of my arms.
I begin to ready the bed. I remove the fancy linens, leaving only the easily laundered sheets and blankets behind. I try to recall the last birth that happened in that bed. They tend to be few and far between as most of the births in the birth centers take place on a stool or standing at the side of the bed or a yoga mat or the tub. But you never know, so I cover the bed with pads to soak up the liquids of birth. After 17 years of getting beds ready for births, I’m still working on getting that placement just right.
I check the emergency equipment. The oxygen tank is full, the resuscitation equipment is in place. I run through the steps in my mind: the what-ifs. I do this as a mantra against the potential. It is both intellectual exercise and warding off of bad luck.
If I have time, I like to set up the essential oil diffuser. My favorite labor concoction is 10 drops clary sage and 5 drops grapefruit. It’s a combination of bright earthiness that people tend to really like. The drops entering the water of the diffuser take their time. You can’t really shake them and hurry the drops along. I take this as my birth lesson and stay patient for those 10 clary sage drops as I stay patient for the languorous labors that often come with first births. Grapefruit comes faster. Grapefruit must be having its second baby.
The room is ready, inviting. I try to infuse my intentions for a safe, fulfilling birthing time into each action. Now is the time I take some deep breaths, center myself, grab some coffee, and wait for the soon to be new parents.
The headlights shine, the doorbell rings, there is a knock. Another family is welcomed to Minnesota Birth Center to continue their birth journey.
Katie Ireland is a midwife and clinical co-director at the Minnesota Birth Center. She finds joy in readying the birth rooms for each of our MBC clients. Read more about Katie.