I first began noticing large birds while riding around the rural counties I serve with my first apprentice who is a biologist and bird expert. Years ago she opened and ran a Raptor Center for rehabilitating injured owls, hawks, vultures etc. So whenever we were driving to prenatal visits she would point out the red-tail or other hawks sitting high in the trees and on phone lines. Last fall I noticed on 3 or 4 occasions that I would see owls when I was on my way to births. I didn’t think much about it the first few times but then one evening an owl flew across the interstate in front of me and landed in a tree on the other side and I realized they kept crossing my path. Of course it was just coincidence but I vaguely wondered if they were signifying something.

Recently I was on my way to work at The Bookstore and as I was slowing down for a left turn in my neighborhood a huge vulture flew slowly in front of my car, so close that her wings almost touched my windshield. I stopped, as did an oncoming car, and we watched her land in someone’s front yard where I expected to see her begin pecking at a dead animal on the ground. But instead she just stood on the grass and turned around and looked at both of us for a few seconds and then flew up to a tree. As soon as I got to work I picked up one of our reference books and looked up the symbolism of vultures. I really expected it to be something ominous and scary because vultures can be so creepy looking. So I was surprised to see that vultures are considered a symbol of protection. This is believed to have been derived from the predator’s fierce defense of her chicks. Another book said that the vulture was a symbol of the Egyptian goddess Nekhbet and that Egyptian hieroglyphs used vultures as “words” for mother or grandmother. This culture as well as the Greeks and Romans all recognized the vulture as a “leading avian symbol of the Mother of death and rebirth.” So perhaps this vulture who made sure I noticed her was a sign of some type of change in my life; dying of something old so that something new can emerge. Or perhaps she was telling me and the driver of the oncoming car to slow down because the left turn I was about to make has a blind spot where an oncoming car can’t be seen until it’s almost too close to miss hitting.

On my way to the birth I attended the day before going to the Dominican Republic I was leaving my neighborhood around 10:00 in the morning and, again, an owl flew across the road in front of me. I thought it unusual to see an owl in the morning. I watched it land on a tree limb right next to ANOTHER owl–also unusual! I later told the laboring mom about the 2 owls and we noted that the date was Feb. 22 (2/22). Again, I have no idea if these sightings are just coincidence (most likely), but it’s fun to wonder if these birds of prey are carrying some sort of message. Owls tend to have some negative symbolism but they are also symbols of wisdom and foresight (probably due to their ability to see at night). Perhaps I can view them as a reminder to be wise and plan for every eventuality (a must for all midwives). Or, I can think of them as Birds of PRAY and just remember to offer a prayer for safety and protection and ask God to give me the ability to always trust in the wisdom of His divine design.