Yep, you can’t make up a headline like that.
As the floodwaters unleashed by tropical storm Harvey inundated the suburbs of Houston, one local woman went into labor.
As interstates and freeways disappeared under water, Andrea Haley began to experience contractions. She knew she was approaching active labor. Her baby was going to be born in the submerged city.
But when she phoned her midwife, 63-year-old Cathy Rude, to come quickly, Andrea was told the floodwaters were too high. Cathy couldn’t get out. Her birthing supplies would become contaminated in the filthy waters if she tried to wade through it.
Still able to drive the streets around their home, Andrea, her mother, and her husband Daniel climbed into their truck hoping they’d be able to get through the water to pick Cathy up, but they were stopped. Andrea’s midwife couldn’t be reached. The water was too high in her street.
After a few frantic calls to friends with kayaks, none of whom could be reached, the Haleys were getting desperate. And Andrea’s labor was progressing.
It was then they saw the strangest sight.
One of Cathy’s neighbors was floating down her street in a huge inflatable white swan.
Yes, I said a white swan.
Andrea called from the window of the truck, “Hey, would you be willing to give my midwife a ride so she can deliver my baby?”
The neighbor agreed and Andrea hastily phoned Cathy to say, “A swan is coming to pick you up.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
When the swan arrived at her door, Cathy loaded up her birthing supplies and climbed on board, sailing majestically, no doubt, down the flooded streets of Katy, Texas, to deliver Andrea Haley’s baby.
Later that night, Andrea’s and Daniel’s third child, a healthy son named Bennett, was born.
Andrea admitted another medical provider could have helped her deliver Bennett, but she wanted Cathy, who had previously supported her through the birth of her second child.
“It’s almost like having a really, really good friend there supporting you, not just a medical provider,” said Andrea. “One of the other midwives could have helped me — they’re all very capable — but it was nice and comforting to have Cathy by my side.”
I love this story. It appeals to that part of me that likes to find these beautiful moments of grace in the midst of a monumental calamity.
But more than that, it confirms what I’ve previously written about the power of the midwife. In a book I co-authored with Christiana Rice, we say,
What God has birthed and is birthing are seeds of the new creation that will lead history to its true end. And the church has been invited to participate in the myriad ways God is changing our world. As provocative as it might be for the prophet Isaiah to refer to God as a woman in labor, we would like to introduce a fresh metaphor to describe God’s people – midwives.
Seeing the church as midwives can deepen and expand the reality of our calling. In fact, we think this metaphor can powerfully ignite our imagination for what God is birthing right before our very eyes. God is giving birth to the new creation, and like a midwife, we have been invited to assist.
That’s also why the image of Cathy Rude floating through the floodwaters on an inflatable swan is so precious.
Just as Andrea didn’t want to give birth to her son without Cathy by her side, it seems God doesn’t want to birth the new creation without us by his side.
And, like Cathy, we should love serving God’s purposes so much that not even hell or high water (literally) can stop us. We should be as devoted to what God is birthing that we’d go to extreme (even if comical) lengths to serve that task.
The intimacy and loyalty demonstrated by Andrea and Cathy should serve as a beautiful illustration of the church’s relationship with God.
After all the hullabaloo had died down, Cathy said humbly,
A midwife is not just a care provider, she’s your friend. So of course, she wanted me to be there. I think she was appreciative, but I don’t think she was very surprised, because as midwives, that’s just what we do.
Yeah, that’s just what we do.