I recently heard a definition of the hermeneutic circle:
“The interpretation and analysis of a phenomena or an experience happens by moving between the parts and the whole. We see a part of something and then it shapes our story of the whole… and as we expand our understanding of the whole, it changes how we see the parts.”Hillary McBride – The Liturgists podcast
Three days ago, I became a grandmother for the 4th time. It was by far the fastest and most intense labor and delivery experience that I’ve ever been a part of and I’m finding myself in need of processing all of the parts of the last few days so that I can come into a deeper understanding of the whole.
Wednesday morning, I was sitting at my desk, working. I had been talking with Chris that morning about him maybe needing to go to Urgent Care as he had been having some increasing abdominal pain over the last week or so that was beginning to reach a severe level. I had also been having conversations with Grace because the transmission in her car had gone out a few weeks earlier which meant that we were down to one working vehicle between the three of us living in our home. Knowing that Sadie was near her due date, and knowing that her first baby had come much faster than the average first baby, I was unwilling to be left home alone without a car for too long. And so the three of us were having a conversation about Grace taking her dad to Urgent Care, when my phone rang. It was Sadie, saying something to the effect of “I think I might be in labor. I’m not really having contractions, but something feels really different. I mean, maybe it’s contractions? I might have just had one… it’s really low and there’s a lot of pressure but it doesn’t really hurt. I just wanted to let you know. Nothing’s happening yet, but I’ll call if I want you to come.”
It was 10:15am.
Here’s a screenshot of the texts that happened next:
In the meantime, we decided that Grace SHOULD take Chris to Urgent Care as he was in really bad shape. We figured he could always call someone else to get a ride home but at least that way, he would be taken care of, which he really needed. Grace called and told her work she couldn’t come in due to multiple family emergencies happening, took Chris to the clinic five minutes from our house, dropped him off, and came back for me, while I hurriedly finished up all that needed to be done at my job and we rushed out the door.
About halfway to Sadie’s, at 11:39am, she called again. “Where are you?” I could definitely feel a sense of urgency behind her calm voice and I was glad at that moment that we hadn’t taken the time to get food as we had briefly discussed, even though we were both very hungry. I assured her we were five minutes away. We pulled into her driveway at the same time as her mother and sisters-in-law and walked in the house to the birth tub being filled in the living room and Elisha applying counter-pressure to her back. Jude was still in his pajamas, happily sucking his thumb and observing. When the contraction was over, my very calm daughter asked if the tub was full enough for her to get in. We determined that it was and she climbed in, allowing the warm water to soothe her aching body. Callie pulled in the driveway next. She had somehow managed to find someone to watch her own two babies on very short notice so that she could be there for her sister. Now we had everyone except for the midwife. As Sadie endured one more contraction while in the warm water, she very quietly said, “I feel like pushing.”
The roomful of women exchanged eyes at that point and an entire universe of thoughts and emotions passed among us in that holy space that is the transition between darkness and light, pain and joy, sleeping and waking… death and life.
I texted Megan, the midwife, “she feels like pushing,” who immediately called me and kept me on the phone as she sped through the final minutes of her drive to Sadie’s house in the back hills off the California coast, trying to make it in time. She gave instructions and we all did what we came there to do. Some of us readied towels and hot water, some of us coached Sadie on how to breathe through that urge to push, some of us held the sweet, thumb-sucking Jude, some of us applied pressure to wherever Sadie needed it most on her back, her hips, her legs as that baby made it’s VERY rapid descent through the entirety of the only world he had ever known, which was my precious daughter’s very body.
The next many parts are a blur. Megan arrived, we helped her get in and set everything up, I snapped some pictures, Sadie pushed once and we saw a head, and many things were happening as she pushed again, including the midwife’s assistant walking through the door right as someone was saying “the baby’s out!” At which point Sadie reached down and lifted her baby out of the water and held him close and smiled as his lungs filled with air and he let out a wail.
It was 12:28pm.
Welcome to this world, Alyosha Jasper Brigham. This whole, big, beautiful world is yours, baby boy, every last bit of it. You are a welcome rearrangement to the parts that make up my ever-widening world. You, little guy, have helped me understand my wholeness more deeply these past few days, which now allows me to see all the parts in a new light. You, who I watched come through the water and into life, out of the depths of your mother who once grew within me, along with her sisters, as we all participated in welcoming you with love. You have come to join us here with a thousand other brilliant, beautiful creatures, through a thousand particles of light, by way of a thousand different parts. You, who are created and loved by the creator of the universe, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and will love you for a thousand generations.
May you have the same heart for this world that Dostoyevsky’s similarly named creation had:
“In his heart there is the secret of renewal for all, the power that will finally establish the truth on earth, and all will be holy and will love one another, and there will be neither rich nor poor, neither exalted nor humiliated, but all will be the like the children of God, and the true kingdom of Christ will come.’ That was the dream in Alyosha’s heart.”The Brothers Karamazov
P.S. Chris did not end up needing an emergency appendectomy, which was my fear that day. We still do not know for sure what is causing his pain, but he has been receiving care from multiple specialists and seems to be slowly getting better.