Often when I sit in a quiet, dimly lit room with a laboring mom in the wee hours of the morning, I’m reminded of my parents’ deaths. I know this seems wrong. I’m awaiting a miracle — the birth of a new life — and I’m reminded of the end of life?
My parents both fought long battles with cancer. They both died in the morning after my family sat with them through night, talking, crying, laughing, sharing memories, holding hands, napping and praying. We asked the nursing staff to keep them as comfortable as possible, and we waited.
We knew there was little we could do to slow down the process. When that last breath came and each of their souls left their bodies behind, it was almost a miraculous moment, though heartbreakingly sad for the ones left to grieve.
A baby’s birth is similar in many ways. I have sat with many couples and families as they waited on a baby, sharing memories, laughs, stories and tears. We all try to keep the laboring mom as comfortable as possible. The family waits, the nurses and providers wait, and there is not much we can do to speed up or slow down the process. No matter how many times I see it, that mystical moment when the baby enters the world and takes its first breath feels miraculous.
If we view human existence in the context of the circle of life, it seems right that birth and death should be so similar. The first breath we take is welcomed with tears of joy from our loved ones, and the last breath is mourned with tears of sorrow. Both birth and death can be peaceful and quiet, or sudden, dramatic and traumatic.
My personal belief is that there is something more after this life. As I wait with laboring mothers in the middle of the night, I often imagine that someone was waiting for each of my parents’ souls with similar patience and anticipation.
Looking back at my parents’ deaths, this image is what comforts me the most: A pair of loving hands waiting to receive them as they made that mystical journey between life and death.
Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.