“the heart of a midwife loves every body where they’re at.” Chemin Perez
Last week I supported 4 birthing couples through the body/heart/mind/soul journey of welcoming their babies earthside and this is what I tried to do – love them just where they’re at.
Standing at the edge of the portal between the physical and the ethereal is not for the faint of heart. We midwives hold space for people in their most vulnerable moments.
But these are also the most real moments that humans can experience. When labor calls you down into the depths, sometimes your midwife’s eyes or hands or voice are the only thing that can call you back to yourself. And so as a midwife I have traveled to and from the underworld of the human psyche so many times I can’t even count.
Here in India, many people want to call me ‘doctor’ as a cultural sign of respect, but I am so NOT a doctor. I am a midwife. And I’m waiting on the day when being called a midwife is a sign of respect.
My colleague Emily Render Graham says, “We all need a midwife, not to do our work for us, but to see us naked and call us beautiful, to acknowledge we are more than a vessel, to witness our power, and remind us when we have forgotten, what we can do”.
This is what is so humbling about midwifing. This is what’s so different than doctoring. And perhaps why our out-come-focused, efficiency-driven, linear, patriarchal society can’t see value in what midwifery truly is.
Most of the time I look like I’m actually doing nothing. I nod, I smile, I acknowledge, I listen. Midwives rarely have need to ‘rush in’, or ‘do’, or ‘fix’. We don’t have ‘rescuer’ or ‘savior’ in our job description- quite the opposite really. Attending birth as a midwife to the outside observer could look kinda like witnessing a janitor at work. I clean up a lot, I tidy, I organize, I get quietly out of the way.
My colleague Hannah Dahlen says, “midwives should be sherpas not usurpers”. I do indeed carry many a client’s baggage.
But once you begin to study midwifery like my amazing current students Sneha, Chetana & Meghana, you discover how much knowledge and skill is really required – it’s rather like a duck smoothly gliding along water, but with legs peddling madly. NHS midwife Nikki Lee describes this profession as “the art of sipping tea intelligently” and Australian midwife Holly Powell Kennedy calls it “the art of doing nohing well”. Midwifery certainly isn’t very sexy or flashy.
It truly is an art to monitor but do nothing extra. It’s a zen like practice of knowing how to even know when to do nothing and when to do any/everything. But love is certainly at the heart of it.
Oxytocin is the hormone that controls labor and birth, it’s also the hormone that creates bonding, attachment and love. Oxytocin is highest in our bodies during 5 peak human experiences – 1. Making love 2. Breastfeeding 3. Being born 4. Giving birth 5. Witnessing birth
Midwives are literally bathed in oxytocin – the hormone of love is our natural state of being. If you know a midwife, you know this is true.
Yesterday I got to hold this darling bundle as his parents shared their birth story. I clarified a few things like how a uterus could be tilted and why we tried all the ‘positioning exercises’ during her 48 hour labor, but mostly, I just listened. I listened to their pain and triumph, I listened to their wonder and confusion. I listened to the discovery of their deeper connection and confidence to each other and to all new parents. I just loved them where they were at, while also quietly reviewing their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health throughout. Maybe baby was feeling my love while he smiled in his sleep.
If you want to take a midwifery workshop with me please join us at one of three Skillz & Drillz workshops this year.