Life Can Change in One Breath

Posted by Katie Moriarty on April 27, 2020
Spoiler Alert: This post discusses events in Season 9 Episode 5.
Ctm s9 05 004 - katie blog
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.
“There are moments when the world seems to pause -- in its perpetual spinning. When the minutes hang suspended – as life begins or ends. The Sisters of Nonnatus house were guardians of the threshold: a wise word, a gentle glance, the first or last moment of blessing. They brought wisdom. They brought comfort. They brought love. They were witnesses to all that mattered: struggle, loss, triumph, ties of blood. Other people’s lives where their life. And in their service – they gave all they had … all that they were. They did not stop to count the cost for this was their mission, their calling, their joy.”

As a Modern Day midwife what resonated with me was the sentence…”this was their mission, their calling, their joy.” I remember many years ago being at my parent’s house and a family friend, a priest named Father Armstrong, was over visiting. He told me: We both have had a calling, mine to be a priest and for you a calling to be a nurse and now a midwife. I have often reflected on that statement, as it was so true. It is an honor to walk with someone through a transformative period in their life. It is a timeframe when a person is so vulnerable, unbelievably open, and so willing to expand (literally and figuratively). Prior to when I was catching babies as a midwife, when I was just starting my career off as a nurse, I helped many people as they transitioned out of this world or life. That was a very powerful experience. When I became a midwife I have often been struck by how similar both birth and death can be. In an instant everything changes …. For an instant it feels like the world holds its breath… and just like that there is a beginning or an end.

I remember in the first years of my career — two clients that I took care of as they transitioned from this Earth. The lessons from both of these deaths or their passing have given me life lessons that I have always appreciated. In my first year as a nurse I was taking care of an older woman on an orthopedic unit. She was alone and her son was out of town. She was not doing well and we tried to contact her son but were unable to reach him. I remember feeling stressed with all the varied duties that I had to accomplish and some of the trivial things even within her room. I was 23 years old and had never seen a person pass away. I remember the Head Nurse saying to me - it is ok we will cover your other patients…just be with her. I remember sitting on the bed and just talking to her, holding her hand, and saying some prayers. I did not know if she heard me but time stood still – you wait—you breath—you wait…you are present. I do not remember her name but I have often still think of her. 

A couple years later I was working on a Thoracic Surgery unit and taking care of a patient named Mary. We spent many hours together through her battle with lung cancer. I thought she really was so unbelievably gorgeous—and all the doctors were so enamored with her—she had a vibrant personality and charisma. I remember being with her on the night she passed away—and doing the after care of her body. Several things struck me… it was not that her beauty was gone but that I could not feel it anymore. At an early age I was able to see that the body is not the person. Once she passed away I truly felt that her spirit had left – I was able to see that the body is just a vessel to carry the essence of who we are. I remember feeling honored to have known her and truly felt happy for the blessings of the moments when we talked and connected. I remember when I and another colleague took unbelievable care and tried to really show our love as we did the aftercare to her body. I had lost my sister when I was 20 years old—and I thought—I will use all my energy to show respect and love and honor this person…as I hope someone did for my sister.

Several years later I became a Certified Nurse-Midwife and when I experienced being at births, I was so struck at the similarity to death. You find that time stands still: you wait—you breathe—you wait…you are present….and in an instant the world and universe shifts. There is a breath and a cry. There is energy. There is hope and a new beginning that everything and anything can happen. What a gift to walk with someone as they travel their path—as a woman steps over the threshold to motherhood.

As a Modern Day Midwife, I feel for the families that are going through their joys and pains and that things have shifted due to COVID-19 with how they can be present. I think of the role that nurses and midwives play and hope that it gives them some solace to know that we are there and that we will always remember and think of what we have learned from each person. How life can change in one breath…. That they were not alone.

“The wise will always learn. The generous will always find they have more to give. Thus we cross the threshold into freedom and in to progress. Into embracing all that is new. The world shifts around us and we shape ourselves to fit ….. imperfect and beautiful…. wounded and thriving …. delicate, invisible, forever moving on. Time is not the tide -- it moves in only one direction. Go forth with courage and in hope. Change is not lost … We must run with it …. dance with it …. give it all we have.”

Get Another Take: Recommended Call the Midwife Recaps 
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From WGBH Boston | Watch Drama After Darkor Read the weekly recap

About the Author

Katie Moriarty, PhD, CNM, CAFCI, FACNM, RN is a professor on faculty at Frontier Nursing University and a Certified Nurse-Midwife with WSUPG CNM Service at Hutzel Women’s Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Katie serves on the Board of Directors for the American College of Nurse-Midwives as the Region IV Representative. Previously she was the Associate Director of the Nurse-Midwifery Education Program at the University of Michigan.