Earlier this week, I spent some time with my friend Ellen. As has been my routine (as much as anything in this life is routine), I spend hours every week at Ellen’s bedside, supporting her and her family as she journeys toward death. This week, when I was there, I took a small break while Ellen and her husband Eric, her Person, had some sweet, private time together. I went downstairs, ate an apple with almond butter, then headed back upstairs. Instead of turning towards Ellen’s bedroom, I went into her office, sat on the couch, and opened Facebook.
Facebook?! Incredulous, I asked myself why was I looking at Facebook when I could be sitting with Ellen. At that exact moment, a text popped up from my sweet daughter, “Oh mamma…” Peering down at my phone to read the text, I finally looked at Facebook, Vicki Wolfrum’s post first on the screen. That is when I realized that my friend, mentor, and midwife, my Vicki had died.
Air rushed out of me and some kind of sound (sobs? cries?) escaped. I know I made noise because Ellen’s mother came up the staircase and sat beside me, stroking my hands, murmuring the things a mother murmurs to a upset child. She probably thought I was crying for her daughter’s imminent passing. When I managed to blubber that my friend Vicki had just died, Kathryn didn’t miss a beat. With gracious kindness she said, “Tell me about her.”
Vicki was my midwife. Vicki was the one that heard my excitement, my worries, my fears, my joys. She is the one who held my words in confidence, stroked my hand as I cried, and protected my perineum as I pushed my babies out into the world.
Vicki was my mentor. She showed me how to take a blood pressure, do Leopold’s (aka belly checks), assist with breastfeeding, listen to fetal heart tones, and how to listen, I mean really listen, to a woman’s true story. Vicki modeled for me how to start and maintain a business, a community of mothers, and a family, all while doing the work that she loved, the work that I love.
Vicki was my friend, Hell, she IS my friend. Death does not take that from us.Vicki is the Other in my head, the one I have silent conversations with all day long. And in the days since her death, those conversations haven’t stopped (though now they are occasionally punctuated with tears and sighs). “Hey, what do you think of…” tears. “I cannot believe we used to use a bulb syringe at most births…” sigh. “Having hospital privileges is…” sigh.
Ellen has been dying slowly, so slowly, for months. Vicki died suddenly, in an instant she was gone. Both left us decades too soon.
These women, these midwives, spent their lives loving their families, building communities, and dedicating their lives to women, supporting women become the powerful creatures that we are all meant to be.
Here are pictures of my Vicki, in her role as my midwife…
Hi Michelle I don’t know if you would remember me. I think I knew you when you lived in San Pedro CA. My name was Sheryl Hobbs back then I had my babies with Vicki: Rosemary in 1985 and Kathleen in 1988. Vicki also inspired me to go into health care and I am a certified hospice and palliative care RN in Oregon. Thanks for your beautiful tribute to Vicki.