From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul 2

The Face of God

The drama of birth is over. The cord is cut, the first cry heard: A new life begun. . . . The mother—seeing, hearing, perhaps touching her baby—scarcely notices the world around her, let alone how much her body aches. She just participated in a miracle.

Carrol Dunham

In my years, I have seen the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the splendor of the Alps, the purple mountains’ majesty of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and the seeming endlessness of the Pacific Ocean. Yet, nothing I have seen, or ever expect to see, compares with what I once witnessed in a dark-paneled, antiseptic birthing room. Then and there, the power and love of God enveloped me.

I was on the last night of my clinical rotation as a nursing student on the labor and delivery floor, and I had yet to see a birth. When my children were born, fathers were relegated to the labor waiting room. Now, at 7:00 P.M. on my last student shift, my nursing instructor suggested I check into labor room four to see if I could watch the birth. With some trepidation, I knocked on the door, stuck in my head, and asked the young couple if I could possibly observe the birth of their baby. They gave me permission. I thanked them and found myself a spot in the room that kept me out of the way but still gave me a good view of the birth. Then I stood with my hands behind my back, studiously looking around the room at the preparations being made by the nurses.

The young mother, covered with blue sterile drapes, lay in the most uncomfortable and exposed position imaginable and was sweating profusely. Every minute or so, she would grimace, groan and push with all her might. Her husband stood beside her, coaching her breathing and lovingly holding her hand. One nurse dabbed her forehead with a cool washcloth, while another encouraged her to rest when she could. The doctor worked on a low stool to ease the birth as best he could. I stood apart, proud of my unemotional, clinical detachment.

The nurse assisting the doctor said, “Here she comes!” I looked and was amazed at what I saw: the top of a head covered with black hair began to appear. I instantly lost the ability to call this wondrous occurrence something as medical as “crowning.” Then the doctor began gently but firmly to turn the shoulders of the new life and pull. Transfixed to my spot, I am sure my mouth was agape. The doctor continued to turn and pull; the mother pushed; the husband encouraged; and an event that had taken nine long months of preparation was over in just a few seconds. At the sight of the infant’s beautiful face, I felt such wonder that I truly believe angels sing at such times.

My professionalism and clinical detachment had deserted me, replaced with a warmth that surrounded me. At a loss for words—congratulations seemed such an empty and trite thing to say to these two blessed people at that moment—I nonetheless offered my congratulations anyway. After leaving the room, I walked around the corner into a deserted hallway and allowed my tears to flow.

That night some of my fellow students, all of whom were women and many of them mothers, asked me about the birth. Each time, I welled up again with tears and choked out that it was the most beautiful experience I had ever had. They would hug me or pat my shoulder, and with a gleam in their eyes say, “I know.” Days passed before I could speak of the birth in any medical light. Even now, as I review that night, I continue to be in awe.

I have seen many sights in my life. Before my life is over, I will see many more. But none can ever compare to the night I saw the love, hope and beauty of God in the face of a newborn child.

Tony Collins

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