"I'm scared," I murmur again, leaning over the cream bath tub, eyes closed. My lips are red. My hair is damp, curls against my forehead. My hazel eyes open momentarily, but the room is a haze - blurry wooden bedpost, blurry faces.
The contraction comes and I grab hold of two hands - one is strong and calloused from hard work, one is strong and soft from bringing babies into the world.
Tim is on the one side. My constant. He reassures me that I can do this.
Rhonda is there on my right. She was my nurse when I delivered Olivia - and here she is again. We called her when the contractions were 5 minutes apart - when I was snapping branches between my palms, singing hymns through the pain. She said, "I'll take a shower and meet you there." Now, her face is determined, her grip is tight, her words are comfort.
With a final push, the crescendo, the baby's lungs meet the air. I stand to catch her. She emerges and slides into my arms.
After the birth, Rhonda sits at the edge of the bed and I am dancing on air. She walks us out to our car five hours later. I am shivering and this feels like deja-vu.
A few days later, she visits us at home (It's the wonderful practice of our birth center to do home visits). I am half-clothed, still bleeding. But her presence is a salve.
No less than a week later, a basket arrives at our doorstep, full of organic fruits and vegetables. The note says, "I know you will make good use of these." And we do.
Today, I honor RNC Rhonda Batchelder of the Women's Birth & Health Center for her extraordinary care of women in labor and the babies they carry. She so gently offers the gifts that every woman so desperately craves in the hours of birth and the weeks of recovery - nonjudgmental availability, quiet compassion, and tender care.
I submitted an abbreviated version of this post as a nomination for the REAL Awards. Submit yours before November 29.