WELL BALANCING ACT BY SAMMI JOHNSON
The Flathead Valley is big, scarcely populated, but still allows for frequent encounters with people I should know, but don’t. Often, these are strangers I simply don’t have the nerve to approach and say, “hello.”

I often see the neighborhood grocery store manager, but don’t know her name. I see my bank teller at local events and imagine her judging the size of my checking account. I smile at my favorite waitress and fellow commuters who each offer a touch of familiarity. We’re all cordial. I smile, they nod and we carry on. Maybe it’s just human nature to act this way. Maybe it’s just me. But there is one group in the Flathead to which I extend often-awkward “hellos” in an attempt at bridging that stranger gap.

When I see the women involved with my two deliveries, the world slows a bit. This is a surprising aftereffect and not-so-obvious aspect of having children: My newfound fascination and wonderment with the women I encountered in delivery and post-partum care. These women aren’t strangers to me, and I’m often caught staring.

Not only did they help deliver my babies, they were messengers of comfort and hope and provided the much-needed support my husband and I so desperately clung to.

I should clarify. When I say women, I mean those whom I dealt with. I know the world is filled with amazing men delivering and helping moms bring babies into the world every second of every day. This tribute goes to them, too.

I mean, what a job? Every patient is different, which is the only constant throughout this wild ride of having kids. How do they know how to react and what to say to all the different women, babies, partners and situations? I only have my own experience with which to imagine and compare their daily lives. If I acted like a two-headed dragon, what is everyone else like?  I secretly hope that everyone morphs into some sort of foreign creature, so I’m not the only one etched into the staff’s memory as such. But who knows? This only adds to the fascination.

I was in awe of how the staff would manage the dragon in labor in one room and walk out to monitor the heartbeats of a newborn in the next room without wavering. During my hospital stays, I would try to find out as much as I could about how many women were in labor and whether the babies were boys or girls. The staff always kept pretty mum, which only fed my curiosity. When I couldn’t promptly get the nurses to spill the details of babies and families in the next room, I’d continue grilling them.

“What’s going on out there? Do you have kids? What does it take to do what you do? I’m seriously considering a career change. I love you.”

I clearly adore them, to a fault.

Now I often see this group of women in the community. On the surface, they are strangers. But for a few brief hours in the delivery room we were a team. They were my salvation and no longer strangers. I see them skiing, at restaurants, enjoying local events or simply crossing the street.

I awkwardly confront them, eyes bright and full of love. I say “hi.” Again, with their usual poise and innate ability to know exactly how to handle every situation on the planet, they humor me and return my greeting. If I’m alone in this, I don’t care. I can’t help it. I love them. All of them. Even the ones I haven’t met. I love you, too.

So, here’s to you nurses, midwives, doctors and doulas in the world – thanks for all you do and how much you care. I’ll leave this work for you; there is no career change in sight. Just know I think of you often. I know that you remember me, because those tears of joy you shared with us in the delivery room were authentic.  Thanks for caring and doing a job I can only daydream about.

I, and everyone else, owe you so much.

Sammi is a mother, wife, business owner and production and marketing director at the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell. Have an idea for a column, or a story to share? Email sammi@flatheadbeacon.com.