On Living and Dying Day 20 by Kathie Arcide

Timothy’s Death, Timothy’s Birth

Kathie Arcide of Chosen Perspectives


It is now many years later and I finally feel ready to tell Timothy’s story.

I get the call early one morning, as I am putting my much-needed, vacation-packed suitcases by the front door for the cab driver to load.

The distraught caller says “It’s Jim. Our baby died!” They are only 6 months pregnant with their first child.

I function unusually well in a crisis so within minutes I have canceled the cab, dashed to the hospital and am walking in as the doctors are telling the devastated couple that the best course of action is to induce labor and birth the baby “normally”. These words, in Jim and Brenda’s shocked state, are clearly not computing.

“Birth your baby”…..Wait, doesn’t that imply new life on the way? I see this innocent mother’s face go from incomprehension, to a hopeful split second of misinterpretation, and then all the way to the sinking horror of what they are actually saying to her.

The baby is dead and Brenda has to go through labor ANYWAY.

I’ve loved being a Professional Childbirth Attendant for over 35 years, but the next 24 hours were an amazing spiritual journey the likes of which I have never experienced. I specialize in high risk births, where there is an emotional, physical, or psychological component known in advance, so I am a veteran in a variety of intense and dangerous circumstances…but Jim and Brenda though were NOT in that category. There was no reason to prepare for anything other than a completely normal birth.

Let me tell you about Jim and Brenda. They were the reigning stars of a very large community of people who were all bonded through a powerful self-exploration and personal growth program. Leading by example, their openly shared love story was a modern-day fairy tale come true that gave hundreds of people hope about the possibilities of real soul mates finding each other. Their expected child, named Timothy, was already being loved, engaged with and welcomed by many.

As is true with all births, there were many aspects of this one that were significant, but the real story here is one of family love…..profoundly deep and lasting devotion.

The scene burned into my heart that best captures this tenderness is the following….

It is many hours into this brutally unfair labor. Both Mom and Dad have taken turns “losing it”. First, being beside themselves with the pain of it all, and then switching to nurture the other. The dance between them in this trading back and forth, back and forth, is a graceful and lovely ballet.

The progress of labor has been excruciatingly slow. The only remaining insult to be added to this undue injury would have been an emergency C-Section. The OB has informed Jim that he will only give this labor  a little longer. Then he says that he will “take the baby”, always an interesting choice of words.

I’m thinking, “Shit. After all this labor?”

Both Jim and I understand that Brenda does not want this whole thing to end. She does NOT want to birth their son, for all the literal and symbolic things this will mean. She is fighting it.  Her body and psyche are absolutely refusing to let go of her Timothy.

So, Jim, who is nearly dead on his feet after more than 20 hours of this, finds a huge second wind of determination. He climbs up into the bed with Brenda and starts whispering in her ear. This is an excruciatingly tender and intimate scene. I feel intrusive and turn away to give them some privacy. It goes on and on and on and enough sound bites drift my way that it slowly dawns on me what he is doing.

As if guided by some primal urge, he is telling her the story of the conception, gestation and birth of their love for each other and of their relationship. He is recalling the minute details of all of their first days together; their first meeting, first date, the clothes she wore, and the places they went. He is describing the building of their bond, the realization that they were meant to spend their lives together, the decision to marry, the engagement, the wedding, all their years they have been joined in their life’s work, the amazing travel afforded them, their many adventures, all the way up to the conscious conception of their son, Timothy.

Gradually, mesmerized by his love-filled voice and all his recollections, Brenda begins to calm. Slowly, surely, she relaxes and finally, she “opens up”. This courageous Mother is finally ready, and Timothy is born with an ever so gentle single push. Here he is.

As you might expect, especially if you knew this couple, the next few hours are astonishing. They greet their son with the same, amazed joy and excitement any new parents would. They know with absolute certainty that their Timothy is present, right here in the room with them. He is just not in his tiny little body. So they talk to him, rave about him, fawn over him, explore him, count fingers and toes, recognize themselves in his features, share him with waiting family and friends, brag about him, and then, they thank him for choosing them as his parents. They thank him for being their son, and, even though they had hoped for longer, they thank him for the exact amount of time he was alive in their family.

Somehow during this eternal 24 hours of labor, they have grieved the shortness of Timothy’s time here, mourned his death, and have moved on to true gratitude and celebration for his life.

I realize, with a depth of wonder and gratitude I cannot articulate, that I may have just witnessed the biggest miracle of all.

Birth and Death are the exact same phenomenon….Our arrival and our departure are equal. The welcoming in to this world of a brand new spirit, as well as the ushering out of one who is finished here, are identical. And both can be celebrated.

There were countless stories of how Timothy’s short life, and his powerful memorial will be remembered always, by hundreds of friends and family.

Fast forward a couple of years, during which time, of course, Jim and Brenda have grieved more and continued to heal. There never was any medical explanation for Timothy’s death. They were told “It’s just one of those things.” (Hmmm.)

Anyway, eventually they decide together that they are now both ready to try again. They plan a peaceful tropical vacation during a time she is likely to be ovulating. They are on a remote island in a secluded, rustic hut on the beach, where the only other humans they see are the ones who quietly drop off food and fresh linens daily.

Very late one afternoon, the mood strikes them, and afterwards, still in bed, resting in the dusk of the straw cabin, they are totally captivated by a firefly swirling above their heads in the peak of their thatched roof. It seems odd that these critters are out and so bright, even before night has fully descended, but the dance of the tiny lights has them completely mesmerized.

Brenda, lying there in this peaceful bliss, already knows she has just conceived.

Days later, as they board the boat that will take them back to civilization, they mention to their guide about these entertaining insects and their seemingly early appearance. The guide informs them (you guessed it) “We no have fireflies on these Islands.”

Believing unconditionally in their ability to consciously invite a new life to join their family, and being healthy in their balance of being “separate and connected” they each now know exactly who that flitting, sparkly firefly visitor was.

For Brenda it was clearly the spirit of their second child. And for Jim, it was undoubtedly Timothy, encouraging his sister to come on in.

Nine months later, naturally, at home with a midwife, hot tub, dear friends, and me, after relatively easy labor, Timothy’s little sister, Kaitlin, is born….


This was first written as a chapter in an upcoming book titled, Chosen Perspectives: a 97% true, autobiographical, educational, inspirational, therapeutic novel.



Kathie Arcide

Over a period of 35 years, as a Professional Childbirth Attendant, I have voluntarily attended 269 births. Though I am certified to assist a Midwife in a home delivery, that’s not what I typically do. Because I am a Psychotherapist, I am requested largely for high risk births…when there is a known problem going in (planned relinquishment, C-section, rape victim, underage mother, etc.). This story is NOT one of those. We had no idea.



Written for the On Living and Dying series.  If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more info here: 365 Days On Living and Dying.  But first, leave a comment and let Kathie know how you feel about what she said, and be sure to visit her over at Chosen Perspectives, when you’re done.


Featured image via www.nationalgeographic.com

About the author

I am a King without a Kingdom, in a world with many masters, wrapped in the spoils of a jealous heart, and my people’s callous laughter.


  1. I love and feel so honored that you decided to share this story here. There are so many conflicting feelings in it: sadness, despair, hope, inspiration. You must see a lot in your line of work, but this is truly a story to always keep close. Thank you for bring your light to the dungeon!

    1. Thanks for providing the platform for people to share on such a powerful subject. Timothy’s story has inspired so many and now can continue. I still feel such awe and honor to have witnessed this family all these years before and since.

  2. Kathie, You did a beautiful job of writing this poignant and very important story. It is such a valuable addition to the Living and Dying series. It touched me deeply and also brought back memories of when I worked as a Labor and Delivery room nurse.

  3. Thank you for sharing this moving story Kathie. The death and birth of Timothy and the death and birth of feelings, hopes and emotions are beautifully woven together by you.

    1. I’m so touched that this was impactful. An experience that has guided my life for many years now. And “beautifully written”? I’ll have to savor that for a while, especially coming from you Mr. Fish.

  4. Your story opens our eyes to the wonderment that is both birth and death. Hearing it told reminded me of a particular birth attended by the subject of “A Midwife’s Story” by Penny Armstrong and Sheryl Feldman. Though it’s been years since I read the book, I recall it details a variety of the many births the midwife attended (each of which of course are unique.) One in which the baby died stands out in my mind much as the birth of Timothy you describe here. While some people might find it upsetting, unsettling or morbid, as you describe the scene it must have been simultaneously quite beautiful in its own way.

    1. It was. I’m so glad you got that from my writing. I really struggled to find words for something so profound. Especially the way they honored and treated their son’s precious tiny body. They kept thanking him and the little vehicle for his short life.

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