Watching Births

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a restoration on an old photo of her daughter as a newborn, getting to know her big brother.No more kind nurses. No more jolly nuns. By midsummer I had finished watching the entire series of Call the Midwife on Netflix. Most sadly, there would be no more daily doses of real-live babies being born, the highlight for me of every episode. Births remind me that life is ongoing, blooming fresh and miraculously. My own two birthings had completely changed my world. So for weeks after the last Midwife show, I trudged heavily through my days, daunted and dazed like I’d lost my beloved family.

Around that same time, off the west coast of Canada, there were reports of a mother whale keeping her dead calf afloat for seventeen days as she swam along with the rest of her pod. The whale carried the baby on her head, diving deep into the Pacific to push the dead calf up to the surface each time it slipped and sank into the depths of the ocean. She did this for a thousand miles or more. Until the baby’s body disintegrated.

As a bereaved mother, I could understand this. It reminded me of my own efforts to keep my dead daughter’s spirit alive. Wearing Marika’s clothes, reading her poems aloud, eating her favorite foods, listening over and over again to the CD where she sings with a voice that still pulls at my heart … doing all the things she loved to do … I tried desperately to keep my daughter from sinking into the depths of oblivion. Over the years since she died, her life became my life. And any sign of life at all became precious.

“One of the cows is giving birth!” friends announced, last week, shortly after I arrived at their farm for a potluck dinner. I dropped my dish-to-pass and hurried to the barn. A minute later, facing the tail end of a huge black and white dairy cow, I witnessed the birth of a girl calf. She was big. And alive. Standing stock-still, I watched the miracle. And the world suddenly felt right again.

So now I’m wondering why, the next day, I was seized with trembling and nausea when I discovered two nests of new baby mice in my kitchen cabinets.


What does watching or hearing about someone being born do to you? Do you feel emotionally fried when your favorite TV series ends?







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8 thoughts on “Watching Births

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I’m glad you witnessed an amazing birth.

    Ummmm….I deal with rodents by calling Kali’s Extermination Service. I am the owner, mouse trap technician, and sole customer of KES. Mouse “droppings” in the silverware drawer? I draw the line.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Okay, I think I get it. In order to exterminate, you take control of the mouse infestation issue yourself and make it purely a business transaction. Not sure who Kali is but I believe you’ve given me a model for how to deal with this most confounding problem of having to make life and death decisions for other living creatures. I wonder what I can name my “business”?

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    When my favorite TV series ends, I usually watch it over again! Maybe not right away, but after a break I think you’ll enjoy it the second time around.

  3. Daryl Anderson

    Great ending Robin… all is not so easy or obvious.

    Baby humans are delightful, calves and goats and puppies warm and cuddly. But mice are varmints. And that wasp nest being built next to the doorway is just another sort of critter trying to do the baby thing – but I don’t want it there.

    What does this say? Is everything relative ? uncertain ?

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh, Daryl. Sorry to hear you have one of those nest-things too. Mine are hornets. And I think it would be great if, like you, I could think of it in terms of “critters trying to do the baby thing.” But that is a stretch, I’m afraid. For me, it’s easier to relate to the not-wanting-it-there part, for sure. But calling wasps and hornets ‘unwanted’ and naming baby mice “varmints” – well, I’m wondering if this might not be seen as discrimination. Intolerance. Misrepresentation, maybe. Denigration, as well. We need to be careful of what we say about our fellow creatures of earth. We have animal lovers and insect lovers among us whose grinding teeth are spitting out their ears reading these slanderous statements. Let’s just stick to, “All is not so easy or obvious.” Thanks for tuning in. Cheers!


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