As my fragile father bravely wraps his arms around me, ready to be transferred from his bed into his chair, we hug close.
I rest my chin on his now slender shoulder.
Standing for a moment together we breathe and I listen to his breath. His racing heart beat, pulsates against me.
‘Dad’ relax,’ I say, ‘breathe with me, don’t panic, I am here for you.’
Together we breathe, unconsciously practising entrainment breathing.
I hold him and tears fall on his shoulder. My heart is aching for him.
Underneath the shield I have protecting me to enable me to nurse and care for him, I feel vulnerable.
I feel helpless and so does he.
He finds the courage to shuffle to his chair.
‘Dad, you’re nearly there, 3 small steps.’ Words of encouragement are all I can offer, yet they provide him with the support he needs right now. ‘One more step, dad. Ahh that’s it you’re there now.’
Together we feel the relief.
He gives me a reassuring pat on the shoulder, he has no energy to talk. It’s his only way of saying’ thank-you’ for being there for him.
He sits down, gathering strength for his next move.
A friend wrote me a letter saying her dying father once told her the two greatest privileges in life are to be an attendant upon the birth or the deaths of those we love. It is so true.
Caring for my dad is a great honour and made me realise what an honour it is for our birthing partner to be there for us during labour and birth.
As we struggle to find comfort during the surges it is our birthing partners who are there for us, tenderly massaging our sacrum, our legs, breathing with us, as we ride the wave of discomfort. They reassure us and find the words we need to continue and feel safe.
So, although as mothers we are the ones in labour, giving birth, lets remember to say ‘Thank-you,’ even if it is through a tender touch, a glint in the eye or a grunt between surges because being a carer is a labour of love in itself.