Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Be A Midwife?

Hello, I’m Rebekah, aspiring midwife. I’ve been forced, yet again, to evaluate if, in fact, midwifery is really what I want to do. The answer is a resounding yes, yes OH YES!

Why? What is it about the birth world that fascinates me so? Why is it that nearly every time I see a birth (usually on youtube) that moment of birth just takes my breath away? Why, after watching probably a thousand videos do I still tear up? Why is it that deep in my soul, I feel like empowered childbirth is SO SO IMPORTANT? Why do I feel like I MUST facilitate this in any way that I can?

There are probably a lot of reasons but the thing that gets to me the most is because birth, in a way, is the heartbeat of society; of ALL societies. When a child is born into the world, a new mother is born and with her, a new father, a newly defined family. That newly defined family changes the community they live in and so, with the birth of that new child, a new community is born. And so on and so forth until you’ve expanded that reasoning out to a whole new world being re-born every couple of minutes! I mean, you can’t HAVE a society without birth. It just makes sense to me to acknowledge that how birth is viewed and handled has an enormous impact on society, recognized by most people or not!

Birth is the very stuff of life. I believe that when birth happens under duress and in a fearful, imprisoning environement, it has ripples of impact that just keep spreading out until it touches everything. When birth is celebratory and a rite of passage experience, the mother that is born that day has the potential to be more confident and empowered as a mother. And confident mothers inspire confident fathers and the two, in turn, inspire confident children. I don’t think birthing is an issue just for women. HELL NO. Are you a person? Were you born? Are you likely to procreate? Any plans on living in a society where people are born and procreate and are raised up by other people that were born? It impacts us all, quietly and often unspoken of.

Birth is like a giant bloody mystery in our culture. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve met over the past couple of years that know literally NOTHING about childbirth until they get pregnant and even then, something like 80% of them will walk into the delivery room with “What to Expect…” being the only thing they’ve ever read about birth. A crappy hospital “do what the doctor says” course, masquerading as a chilbirth prep class will be the most information they’ve heard in their entire lives about birth. Fathers tend to be even LESS prepared!

It seems to me that in cultures where the birth itself is celebrated as a rite of passage and a time of great joy and anticipation, the women grow up hearing about it, celebrating it, looking forward to it and preparing for it. Fathers in these cultures tend to view birthing as a woman’s domain and don’t get involved. It’s not callousness, it’s an innate trust in their women to do what they were created to do, without their inerference. I don’t know if they have the same deep-seeded fear that our culture’s men do. I find it unlikely. For them and their women, it’s a thing of quiet, intense pride, bearing a child (or at least, that’s the impression I get). In our culture it’s the BIG SCARY THING that we have to endure if we want children. Fear permiates the air of most discussions involving childbirth, though I think most peope don’t even realize it. Most of the stories I heard growing up (though not all!) involved terror, trauma and relief that someone saved the baby or mom’s life. My own mother has 3 awful stories to tell, out of 4 births. She is, to this day, so poorly educated about how birth works and so deeply mistrustful of her own body that she still believes the complete nonsense they told her when they justified an episiotomy by suggesting she doesn’t DILATE FAR ENOUGH. If you don’t know why that’s a pile of horse-shit, you are in desperate need of a basic education about your body and what it does when it’s birthing. My mother isn’t stupid nor is she generally an under-educated person. She is, however, a perfect example of a society that shrouds it’s births in mystery and fear and promotes the pervasive notion that our bodies are defective and need to be delivered of our children. This notion is destructive to society at large because it’s implications impact and reach farther into our lives as a whole than just our birthing-days. It undermines our trust in ourselves in general which leads to a whole host of insecurities that touch everyone we interract with.

My hope in being a midwife is to help women to re-discover their own unique power and inner voice and in doing that, she spreads those positive ripples out from where she stands, having a positive impact on the lives of those around her. I suppose every person that enters into the healing field has a little bit of a hero complex; that inner drive to help or “save” people. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t exist within me. That said, my goals in becoming a midwife are not to “save women” or to save the lives of their children. I don’t see myself becoming any woman’s personal savior. I think if that’s a persons’s goal in going into midwifery, they are entering into the wrong profession. The Hero complex to that degree doesn’t belong in the birthing room. It’s not about my ego. Rather, for me, it’s about trying to do my part to help heal a hurting society by reaching out to the women in my community and fascilitating them to heal themselves. To me that’s what midwifery is all about; serving and nurturing a community. It’s NOT about catching babies (though what an honor if that’s the mother’s wishes, yes?). No, it’s about nurting our families, about being a shoulder, an ear, a helping hand. It’s about service and THAT is what I want. I think the reality is that I will learn more from the families that come into my lives doing this than any of them will ever learn from me. I truly hope so.


Martin and Luschka said...

I was thinking today about how many women believe they simply 'cannot breastfeed'. I can't tell you how often I hear 'I couldn't feed'. I am not sure if it's the birth drugs, related to the c-section rate or something else, but while I was thinking about it I was just struck by the sadness that so many women have such a poor self image/self belief? What caused it? Is it a negative side effect of women's lib? Is it older and deeper than that? I honestly don't know, but I feel such sadness for these women who just don't believe themselves capable of the one gift God gave us - reproduction and nurturing our young (okay, two gifts).

Good on you for wanting to help women reach that potential.

Michelle said...

I love birth. Every part of it is just amazing.