After an hour of spontaneous, non-directed pushing, a baby boy was born into a quiet room and his mama’s arms. His papa had made it clear from mid-pregnancy that he wouldn’t be cutting the umbilical cord, so when the on-call midwife handed him the scissors, he recoiled.
The midwife turned to me, offered the scissors and asked if I wanted to cut it. The question seemed inappropriate, since it wasn’t really her gesture to make. I felt like she should’ve turned to the mama for direction instead of me. It was already an awkward moment, in place of what should have been a rush of joy and accomplishment for the mama, and I was trying in my mind to balance making it more awkward or with going with the flow of things and cutting the cord.
I looked to the mama, who smiled and suggested I go for it, and I did. This all occurred within a matter of seconds, but to me there were huge implications.
Was it really my place to step into this intimate moment of ritual for this new family? As a doula, I’m already enmeshed in my clients’ lives in extremely intimate ways–physical contact, nudity, an understanding of the social & emotional culture of their family, and a sharing of some of the most intense moments of their lives.
But it still felt iffy. In a cultural era of delayed cord clamping as a way to prolong the deep umbilical connection between mother and baby, I felt uncomfortable being the one to cause the separation.
It’s difficult to juxtapose the simultaneous emotions of discomfort and feeling honored by the experience. Cutting this baby’s cord was a privilege, an honor, and a first for me. A very thought-provoking honor.