memories: catching babies in the dark.

January 6, 2012, Michaela Evanow, 14 Comments

Below is an excerpt from my old journal written in India.

Years ago, I was with a team of fabulous women (one of them blogs here) from across the globe, working in India for 6 months on a labour and delivery ward, catching babies, speaking life, living off rice and daal.

The whole 11 month experience shaped me as a woman, changed me from the inside out. It remains a part of me (baby girl’s nursery is Indian themed–I mean, I had to do something with all the collected trinkets!) and when I need some comforting, I turn to these stories, music that left an impression, Indian food, pictures, old friendships.

We were trained as birth attendants, we were trained to catch babies. The unexpected always happened, so in a way, we were trained for that as well. I remember the first time I came home, and saw a normal, uncomplicated birth in Canada as a doula. Worlds. Apart. That’s why I’m so passionate about childbirth, about helping women find their inner strength, about educating on natural childbirth rather than scaring mamas. When you know the statistics in Canada, you know natural, healthy, uncomplicated childbirth is the most common. But it’s often the scary stories of complications that get passed around. Those stories need to be shared, but they are not the norm. We were meant to birth.

India, 2007: Birthing room with the lights out, first time mother.

I’m alone in a room, shoved into the corner of the labour ward, full of five labouring women. It’s hot and dark and sticky. The lights are out, there is no power in this room. My nerves are a little on edge as each woman lets out her own musical groan one after the other. There’s no one in here to look after these women. One of the labour wards is being painted, so all the women have been shifted into here. And no one seems to care. I wander back and forth between each one, offering water and checking fetal heart tones. Suddenly the one in the farthest corner yelps. It’s a sound I know well and it never fails to send me running with gloves and a birth kit. The lights are very dim as the power has been out for the past hour and the generator is running low on fuel. It’s a little too dark for my comfort. I can’t quite see what’s going on down there. I mean I could figure out what that is…and maybe—that. My gloved hands flutter along her skin, finding the shape of her, feeling for familiar territory.

She motions to me frantically and tells me she has to go to the toilet. I smile sheepishly and tell her it’s okay. She can go ahead…on the metal table. She does and as she goes the baby’s head appears. I snap the birth kit from the table and inch my way closer into the little space near her bed. She’s crammed against the wall, sweaty hands pushing against the blue chipped concrete. I’m starting to feel trickles of sweat run down my back. It’s so dark. She motions for me to turn the fan on. I shake my head and tell her there’s no power. She gags. I want to gag too but I have no excuse. She wants to vomit. I give her more water. Then she stares into my eyes and I know; it’s time. My hands move towards her and suddenly I’m telling her to push in her native tongue. The room is quiet. No one is around. No one is groaning. It’s just me and my patient, dressed in her saffron coloured sari top, with eyes the colour of milky coffee. Me and her.

Normally we have one staff member with us. Normally. And there are always doctors and nurses running about. Not this time.

I’m alone.

I take the opportunity to start praying. The head comes out. Ok, breathe, you’re doing it, she’s doing it, it’s alright. I relax my raised shoulders, show her how to breathe gently so the baby doesn’t come shooting out. I place my hands gently around the neck and watch the head rotate. Beautiful, just as planned. I start to pull the anterior shoulder down but the baby doesn’t budge. Or move an inch. The mother starts to yell.

I want to walk away. I want this to be over. But instinct kicks in, and I know i can do this. I know she can do this. My hands are apart of this; there’s no turning back now.

Lord Jesus, come.

I support her and pray some more. Suddenly a hand pops out and flails around. That’s why it stalled. My hands tell me what to do; they work naturally, trained to do this. I support with all my might so the elbow doesn’t leave a mark on her. After what seems like hours, but is really only a few moments, the whole baby comes out gracefully and in one swoop I have her on her mum’s tummy. She grasps my fingers with her strong, tiny fingers and struggles to breathe. I scale the suction bulb across her cheek, looking for the hole of her nostril, and suction. I rub her back and precious, warm air floods into her lungs. She howls. I hold her there, the mothers hands shaking, unsure of what to do with the warm body on her stomach. I take her hands and place them on her baby.

Finally a doctor comes running and clamps the cord for me. I cut the cord and breathe a sigh of relief. I did it. Mama, you did it! In the dark! Little do I know, these experiences are teaching me life skills, engraving their lessons on my heart, preparing me to manage the storms. I learned to trust myself on that birthing ward. I learned the palatable sensation that fills the room when life hangs in the balance. I learned to walk through it, ready to fight for life.


  • Reply gifts with purpose: 10 organizations that support maternal health in the developing world. | Michaela Evanow November 20, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    […] I have a heart for maternal health, here, and all over the world. I’m a birth junkie, and always will be, and have spent some time overseas working in this field. […]

  • Reply 5 minute Friday: on mercy. | September 13, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    […] this, this is what I can do. This is what caused me to sweat and smile and cry and be broken, and no amount of blood or crowning […]

  • Reply dearest mum: woman of strength, beauty and wisdom. « May 11, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    […] mum came to visit me in India, a trip that would ignite a passion in her for the country. She has been back many times, and […]

  • Reply memories: finishing it with a bang. « babushka mama February 27, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    […] is an old post from years ago, when I was in India. It was nearing the end of my six months, and things were wrapping up in classic Indian fashion: […]

  • Reply Telsey January 8, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. You are awesome!

  • Reply Mum January 7, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    O.K. , I am weeping again. You will never know the impact you have had on my life. Since I visited you and ministered with you all in India, I have continued to go to India and now I am going again this January for the 4th time. You are a Woman of God, courageous, and truly have been impacted by the Indian/Egyptian Mission you were on. Amazing story, and one one many. Love you darling, Mom

  • Reply Jack Nash (father) January 7, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Truly amazing my darling, makes me so proud to have you in my life… I thank God for all He has done and will continue to do in your and Jasons’ life. Keep it coming baby…!!

  • Reply Nanny January 7, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    “Years ago” took me back awhile! Was it then? It seems so ‘now’ as I read your one tiny experience among so many – it was when I learned the true meaning of ‘brokeness’ for you and Shanny, and for me. I saw you literally rise to your feet from the filth of the floor you huddled on in the hallways of the hospital in Hyderabad and I wanted nay, NEEDED to get you OUT of there, but instead, I walked there with you – each step, each tear, each joy, through the days and the nights of singing and dancing, keening and joyfully raising your voices to our Lord. It was a lesson in turning all things over to Him…………for all of us. And here you are – about to join the ranks of motherhood – what poignant memories your child comes into this world holding!

  • Reply Brooklyn January 6, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Incredible story! I, too, was sitting on the edge of my seat and holding my breath! Who were you trained through? Was this part of your YWAM adventure? I’d love to learn more…

    • Reply Michaela. January 6, 2012 at 6:55 PM

      Yes Brooklyn, it was through YWAM! Such an incredible school. Facebook me if you want more info!

  • Reply tania January 6, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    your blog and your story telling is so wonderful…transporting me back to my own time of finding my sturdy feet that still to this day hold me firm to the earth..i have this compulsion to go dig out my journals from my time in the Phillipines ..perhaps i will.

    • Reply Michaela. January 6, 2012 at 6:56 PM

      Tania, thank you. And I think you should! I know I’d love to hear some adventures from the Phillipines!

  • Reply Mrs Loquacious January 6, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Beautiful story! 🙂

  • Reply Peaches and Pumpkins January 6, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    This is such a wonderful story, thank you for sharing. I was litearlly sitting here holding onto my seat reading this. I can’t believe how brave you are, and such a good person for doing this, and helping those women through that. Thanks again:)

  • Leave a Reply