This journey of anticipation is so familiar to me, and yet each time so new, so different. Each time it has a different, and often deeper significance. When I was a young apprentice, unmarried, inexperienced, the excitement on the journey was surface-- or maybe just a little deeper... What will it be like this time? Will we make it in time? And the usual speculations about statistics; height, weight, length of labor, name, gender...
When my own babies started coming the journey changed, deepened, lengthened and grew ohso slow and ponderous. Now no longer a car ride away, but months and weeks and days and hours. Then minutes. Then seconds, creeping by, drawn out breath by breath. In... out... breathe... And finally, arrival! Joy!
Then my sister-- a plane ride, a few days of waiting and a somewhat-tense ride to the hospital. A friend, who came to me, to pace my sidewalk and look at the stars together along that journey. My sister, again. This time we waited at home and her husband was the traveler, the journey-taker. In between those and since, there have been travels to birth-side by phone, or in prayers and thoughts. Always my place beside the laboring mother is so familiar, so right. It's where I belong. An honor and a privilege to serve, even if only with prayer and words.
(I heard a man say that last night in answer to a thanks for his service to his country, and it stuck in my head-- such a fitting response to thanks for service of every kind. As followers of Christ, it is our honor and our privilege to Serve)
This time I'll be on a plane again. Going home-- doubly. Home to my people and home to the job I feel most at home in. Standing shoulder to shoulder to a woman in her finest hour, giving her whatever comfort I can, encouraging, upholding and enabling her (and him) as they start off on a new leg of their journey. And this time the experience will have that added beauty of watching my little brother become a father. This is the child that will take him from Man and Husband, into the new-and-dangerous-but-so-beautiful world of Father.
And in a way, I will have come full circle in my vocation. Because my very first of these journeys was down the stairs from my bedroom to the living room, full of a quiet light. I saw him, lying on my mother's stomach; umbilical cord attached, still covered with vernix and amniotic fluid-- the vestiges of his previous warm, dark world. And although at that age I could not articulate it (other than to weep) I never forgot that sense of having come so close to something Holy.
Birth is an everyday miracle and I will never tire of seeing it performed.
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