A friend is out-of-town saying goodbye to her grandma. This dear, tough and talented young woman comes from similar stock: her family is as tough as nails. My friend’s grandma lays in a rented hospital bed at her daughter’s house, eyes closed, breath deep and uneven. Her ‘brain is dead’ but her heart beats on, steady and strong. For days now, the doctors have said this woman is ‘about to die’, and yet, she is still here.
Last night, my friend texted me, wondering about her grandma, why she is not letting go, is there something else that they should do, maybe her grandma is hanging on because they are still there, maybe she is scared, maybe…
As a midwife, questions like these are not unusual, even as text messages. People seem to think I will have answers (or at least that I will listen to their queries).
I remind my friend that sometimes, bodies have their own plan, that even when an individual’s heart and mind are made up, the body can have a different agenda. I remind her of her own birth plan: going full term, laboring at home, maybe even talking a walk outside early on, using the tub when contractions became intense, pushing her sweet baby out into my hands as her partner supported her, birthing at home. This was a great plan and her heart and mind were completely behind it. However, her body had its own ideas.
Sudden onset high blood pressure, proteinuria, swelling, headaches, and brisk reflexes all spelled Severe Pregnancy Induced Hypertension. My friend’s lovely planned home birth quickly morphed into an emergent surgical delivery at the Regional Perinatal Center.
While I have heard it said that ‘the mind is willing but the flesh is weak’, as a midwife, I see time and time again, that flesh is strong. In labor, uterine contractions come one after another, after another. Fetuses push and kick and roll. Babies suck and suck and suck for hours and hours. Flesh is strong!
I remind my friend that her mind planned a home birth, but her body demanded something different. Even if the mind is completely willing, sometimes the flesh is stronger. I suggest that her grandmother might be in a similar situation: ready to die but her heart keeps pumping. (Did I mention that my friend comes from really tough stock?)
My phone lights up with more texts:
‘I love u. U are right.’
‘I wish I believed in god. I believe in something, though not sure what.’
I write back: ‘Believe in Love’
The next day, my friend’s grandmother died. Grandma’s strong heart finally stopped beating. And my friend? Well, she still loves her dear, tough, feisty grandma. Flesh is strong, and Love is even stronger.
May all babies be born into loving hands