the other side

Miles from here, right now a woman is laboring. Hours from now, a brand newborn will come home with our neighbors.

When they moved in last summer, they told us she was pregnant. Of course she is, I thought.

She was due to give birth just days from the anniversary of our baby boy’s death.

We had welcomed them to the neighborhood with homemade cookies and said to let us know if they needed anything. One evening last fall, they invited us to dinner and we brought our beautiful little girl and shared some of her story over a bottle of wine. They were eager to hear about our open adoption, and excited to hear about life as new parents. We became friendly after that, though not super close as they seemed to have a rather busy life already.

Soon they learned they were having a boy.

While I anticipated that our neighbors could bring their new baby boy home on the four year anniversary of losing my own, the thought didn’t consume me as it may have in the past. Maybe because my own arms are now filled with our baby girl instead of empty and aching, I don’t know. Maybe I am finally on the other side of my own grief, four years later.

Earlier this evening I came home late from work after a particularly crappy day in which I didn’t even see my daughter for more than five minutes (plus I had my car towed and had to pay over $400 to get it back, but that’s another story). Anyway. After I powered down some leftovers, the phone rang. It was our neighbor whose wife was now past due. I had noticed their car was gone when I left early for work, and I wondered if she was in labor. They’d had a rough night and day after being sent home from the hospital for lack of progress. She had been having contractions all afternoon and they were tired.

How could we help? I asked.

Could you come over for a while? he asked.

Sure, I said, of course, not really knowing what I could do.

He thought his wife needed some new energy, some female energy, someone to just sit with her and help her through it. They were both tired, and he was trying to help her and get ready too.

And you’ve been there, he said.

Now that’s a first.

They remembered Baby J’s birth story and that we tried to support K through her labor, that we had read the books, tried to comfort her, that we were there when our daughter was born.

No one has ever included me in that group of women who have been “there.”

I was honored.

So I took a deep breath and went next door to sit with our neighbor for an hour while she labored.

I rocked with her and rubbed her back while she hummed. I sat with her while her husband packed the car. I offered to make him some food. I reminded him to grab some snacks and water.

We counted contractions. As they grew closer together and more intense, I urged her husband to call L&D to report her progress. We sat as she rode her contractions down from 4 minutes apart to less than 3 minutes, getting closer and lasting longer. I told her how great she was doing, how strong she was. I reminded her to breathe. I reminded him to breathe. I reminded myself to breathe.

Then, very calmly, before he even got off the phone with the nurses, I told them it was time to go. I told him to get his shoes, helped her put on a sweater, and packed them up to leave for the hospital.

I told their little boy that everyone was ready and waiting to meet him.

See you on the other side, I told them.

Journey well, little one.

(See update.)


~ by luna on February 11, 2010.

32 Responses to “the other side”

  1. Wow just wow! I can’t even buy baby shower gifts. I admire you.

  2. This made me cry. Damn, you are mighty.

  3. I hope that K and her new playmate enjoy each other for many years to come. Their parents too.

  4. What an incredible gift you gave to your neighbors, one I’m sure they will often share as part of their son’s birth story. And how insightful of your neighbors to recognize and respect your role as mother, as you certainly have earned the honor. Your kindness and strength is inspiring.

  5. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being there for them. Wish them well for me!

  6. wow that is amazing I thinkyou are on the otherside.

  7. That is a beautiful experience! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Wow. Luna. Wow.
    Let us know when he arives safely.

  9. What a wonderful comfort you must have been for them.

  10. Hip hip Hoorah. Hip hip hooray.

    They may never know what they asked of you, or what you gave, but we see it. And it looks like you received something new in that process.

    Well done Luna.

    Peace to you

    love B

  11. no words really. i too think you have crossed over and sit on the other side in a way that many of us can’t fathom yet. kudos.

  12. Wow. Just wow.

  13. Tears of joy for you, for the little boy, for your neighbors, and for all who can find light in the darkness. We never “get over it,” but we can still find deep happiness and connection…

  14. You are a good neighbor and a good person.

  15. I am bawling now–maybe I’m beyond emotional, but this was such a gorgeous post that I had to Stumble it. I’m so glad you could be there for your neighbour.

  16. That is so awesome! It’s very humbling, isn’t it? This whole surviving so much grief and loss to be strong enough to receive a child through adoption – and then suddenly you’re a birth coach! You’re a born leader, you know that – right?

  17. you have the heart of an angel!

  18. How truly beautiful, Luna. You are an amazing woman.

  19. This is amazing beyond words, Luna. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being you.

  20. We had very similar losses (mine was 7 months ago) and medical histories and I cannot imagine how you could help your neighbors. I desparately want to be a nice person again but I am just so angry all the time–of course, perfect pregnant people would move next door and throw their perfect lives in your face. I hope that I can get to where you are one day. They really really don’t know what you did for them.

  21. This really hit me. I know I’m on the other side as well, and I think this experience and your documentation of it is just so, so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  22. […] little and big ones I realized the other night when I came home how huge it was, what I had done. […]

  23. That’s really beautiful. What a wonderful thing to be able to do for someone else.

  24. Wow, I think you both gave each other a truly beautiful gift.

  25. Gorgeous post.

  26. You are amazing.

  27. You are amazing! And your neighbors are pretty cool too. I hope they value what you did as much as us. Thanks for telling us about it. 🙂

  28. Such a beautiful, gorgeous heartwarming story! I loved reading this, thank you for sharing.

    I understood you. I may never experience my own pregnancy, but I have been with two friends through their labor. You reminded me how I feel about it having been “there”. Thank you for that gift.

    You are simply amazing. Congratulations on being a mom to your beautiful daughter. I hope to be a mom one day, too.

  29. I started reading this a few weeks ago and had to stop. It’s a truly beautiful post, and a wonderful thing that you did, but wow, you’re a strong woman. I don’t think I could have handled it.

  30. […] moved to a wonderful place that we’ve made our family home and we love it here. We even have great neighbors. But we got word that we’ll have to move before the end of the year if we can’t afford […]

  31. […] stay or go. We love where we live now — wonderful home, close to nature, great community, good neighbors, excellent schools, an edible garden, wild berries out back, etc. But we want to buy and in all […]

  32. […] The Other Side (February). An unexpected request from a neighbor in labor helps me realize how far I’ve […]

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