Here she is, pickle number three. Safely delivered, and at home by some good friends (who also happen to be professional midwives). There is something really special having the baby at home, and having friends and family involved. The baby was born in the living room, with the children in their bedroom right next door (they claim not to have heard a thing!), surrounded by people who we knew, loved and trusted.
It contrasts to our first two who were born in hospital with significant medical intervention. Not that the care was bad; far from it, and not that the interventions were not necessary (neither of my other two kids nor my wife would be probably be with us now if there had not been those interventions). However, the experience of a normal, everyday but hugely significant life event in your own home is something special.
One of my favourite books of all time (Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Man's Life) explores how the rituals with which we surround ourselves help give meaning to life events like birth, marriage, coming of age, death, and dinner. Around all of these life events (major and mundane), however much we may not realise it in our post-industrial world, we are steeped in a huge variety of big and little rituals. The one we went through yesterday evening was the ritual of modern birth - attended by professionals with their notes and equipment, the ritual checks of the baby and mother, etc. Today I participated in the modern ritual of announcing the birth to friends and family - in the past done my letter or word of mouth, now done by email and blog spots. The instant nature of the modern ritual means this post-industrial father got one of the new baby's names wrong, and had to apologise on line!!
We have lost some of the deeper meanings of all of these events. My father-in-law brought us back in to focus today by simply praying over the child and making the sign of the cross on her forehead as she slept. One of her names is Grace, a reminder that she is a gift to us out of God's grace - the abundant, selfless, unearned blessings He pours out on all Creation.
Little rituals connect us back with deep truths.