Sunday, March 28, 2010

Only 86 noisy women

I've heard it said a couple of times in the last couple of weeks that there are 86 (licensed) midwives in our state, which is well, a drop in the bucket when it comes to the horde working to keep midwives quiet and limited.

I thought about all the births that these 86 women have attended, and how many collective babies that is that have been born. How many of those babies have grown up and are over 18? How many of these families have friends who have been exposed in a positive way to the idea of midwifery? How many of these birthing women have female friends who care about their own rights?

It seems to me that with a core of 86, that's an enormous network. I imagine all of these people standing together with T-shirts that say, I support midwifery and I VOTE!

I wonder what that number would swell to- and I wonder what the power of that could accomplish.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It's happening

I say yes, I am a midwife. The shift happens and every decision I make is routed toward and around that knowledge - it isn't a matter of 'I hope to', or 'if it works out' or 'if I can afford it.' It's just going to happen, like I will get older, I will pay taxes, I will be a midwife. There it is. Plain and simple.

When I say this out loud, the question gets bounced back to me, "Where will you go to school?" I have no idea. I'm not even thinking about it. It doesn't even matter right now. I have a young child who needs me home right now and we can't afford to think about school anyway. For once I don't feel like I need to map out my future.

I trust completely that this is going to happen in its own time. I see the minute shifts that happen in the way I talk about birth, in the way that I feel when talking about midwifery politics - I chuckled at myself today while having a great discussion with some ladies about the politics of keeping your head down and not rocking the boat. I thought it was funny that just weeks ago this conversation would have confirmed why I would never be a midwife (you know, someone who catches babies), and today I listen and open my heart so that I can meet this when it will surely arrive when I become a midwife (you know, serving women).

I don't fantasize about homebirths. I fantasize about being with women and their partners as they make the myriad shifts into parenthood, into the new phase of their relationships. I think about promoting whole-ness, well-ness, into the lives of other people. Birth is a natural extension of that, not the center of it.

This doesn't live in my head, it's in my heart and bones, and wow, what an immense difference that is.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Trusting mothers

Not for the first time I have a client who is exploring the possibility of a cesarean. Her inner wisdom, her heart, her intuition lead her to explore the possibility of a type of birth she's never dreamed she'd have. When I get her emails I am so conflicted emotionally, but my compass is clear and always rests on trusting the mother.

When I was pregnant with E, I wanted my shot at a homebirth. It was my third and probably last birth, my first two births were induced with epidurals and by this time I'd been a doula for several years and had shed a lot of the fear around birthing at home. Unfortunaltely I was high risk for several reasons, so it was not a guarantee that it was a possibility. I talked with my OB/GYN. I spoke with the perinatologist. I met with the midwife I knew I'd choose if I could go down this road. Everyone single person said, "I don't know yet, let's wait until you're further r

Not hearing "No." meant I could engage the idea in my heart without the distraction of being defensive or needing to protect what I wanted. It meant that my heart could quiet and I could let the answer rise within myself. It was a couple of weeks later that I couldn't deny the quiet but steady voice inside of me that said, "This baby must be born in the hospital." I couldn't say it out loud, it was too painful. I had to give up my hopes and wishes and last dream for a homebirth if I admitted it. I continued to talk about my homebirth but at some point it became so intense that I looked to my husband and said, "This baby needs to be born in the hospital." I burst into tears and he held my hand and we just sat with it. It didn't need explaining, we both just knew, I think.

When I have a client tell me that despite what she thought she would want, she has to change course, I have this moment of, "Oh no, she's succumbing to pressure, she's reading the wrong things, she hasn't seen this study, she's..." It's fast but powerful, the urge to 'correct' her and guide her to the outcome that is least interventive.

Quickly I see how important it is that she is met where she is at - it means trusting her inner voice the same way I had to trust my own. If I had had a doula or a provider try to talk me out of what I knew I had to do to safely birth my baby, it would have broken my trust in her. I would have felt she wasn't listening to ME, she was listening to herself. I would then be defensive about what I'd chosen and less likely to open up about it.

When I am working with a client one of the many questions I ask is, "What does your heart tell you- aside from the noise of everyone else telling you what they think, aside from any fears you're having, what does your heart tell you?" I see women get quiet and go within and come back with very clear information, even if that information is "I don't know yet, I need more information." Another great question that has been really helpful is, "What do you need to know in order to make this decision?"

Sometimes as a professional it's easy to get stuck in what I think is the best outcome. I've learned to be pretty good about letting go of what I want for every client beyond to be met with compassion, treated with respect, and provided information to make decisions, with the support to execute them. However she gives birth, it's her journey.

We learn something profound about ourselves when we give birth - what right does anyone have to step in and tell a woman to go against her inner wisdom when her heart tells her that intervention or surgery is in order? What right do we have to tell her that her birth-journey is not right because it doesn't hold to what we want for her, (even with our best intentions?)

Now when I feel an attachment to an outcome I know that even though I leave my birth-baggage at the door, something snuck in with me and needs to be set aside so that I can truly be with THIS woman at HER birth.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not a midwife, my butt.

Okay, I'm going to be really honest here. I'm not stroking my ego in any way or patting myself on the back- this is just the reality of what has gone on, what I've thought, what was said to me, etc.

I have heard it many times, "You're a midwife, Kristina!" I can't deny my ego did take a little stroking to have people 'see' something in me - something that implied that I had something special, something 'next level'. I seriously considered midwifery many times over the years and I have repeatedly come to the conclusion that I'm not a midwife after all. I don't have the ability to keep my fat mouth shut (as I've been told), I am not politically skilled enough. I maybe don't have the guts, either. It's too expensive, I've got little kids at home- blah blah blah.

You know, when you're scared of something, it's easy to drum up excuses, er, *reasons* why you shouldn't do it. The funny thing is when everyone else knows something you don't, no matter how rational you sound.

I decided at some point that I am really committed to being an excellent doula - I want to teach great classes and be an amazing doula and I really don't want to rock that boat. I don't want to want more, I'm really settled. No really.

My main reason for not wanting to be a midwife? Politics and the inherent cannibalization that I see. Eat or be eaten. Keep your head down, do the good work, don't rock the boat too much. The midwives I admire most talk loudly and get hit hard. I knew I'd fall into that camp and seeing how sucky it feels to just be a doula and have midwives pissed off at you, I didn't have any desire to try to play some political roulette just to be able to work the way I wanted. And no one likes to feel disliked. I know that feeling pretty well, and it sucks.

I signed up for a midwifery skills lab. Why? I don't know, honestly. What will I do with these skills? Nothing- I NEVER EVER mix clinical work with doula work, EVER, I feel very strongly about it and I'm very careful. I'm not assisting any midwives. I'm going to learn to do things I might never ever use, but for some reason I laid down 360-nonrefundable-dollars of my hard earned cash and figured I'd work it out afterwards. What does it matter if I use it - I want to know things and I'm going to learn things, mission accomplished.

Setting out to get ready for this lab I decided to re-read Spiritual Midwifery. Well, aside from the whackadoo advice pervasive through it, it was actually pretty inspiring. I was reading it and it hit me, as Ina May spoke about how a midwife needs to have a healthy life in order to show up for her clients, how a midwife meets a family, not just a birthing woman, and how midwives give counsel on more than just how the baby comes out, but on different aspects of life in general, it hit me. It's not about birth. It's not about any ONE thing at all. Catching babies is just one facet of midwifery. I said out loud, "I am a midwife", and I about passed out when it felt totally right. It didn't feel arrogant, or presumptive. It felt like saying, "My name is Kristina".

I thought about the years spent counseling women about their breastfeeding struggles, learning to listen objectively, learning to speak compassionately, talking to women about their cycles, grieving with them as they mourned their miscarried babies, giving direct feedback during times when they were suffering from their own lack of clarity - basically being on the planet, being me. Doing for every woman what I want done for me, and what I invite into my life in my marriage and in my friends. I thought I wasn't a midwife because of the politics, the expense, the risks.

That night I was basically was asked who I thought I was, that I wouldn't have to work and sweat and take chances for my calling? Who did I think I was, that it should be perfect and easy? Wow, that was huge. If it's worth doing, the risks are worth taking, the sweat is worth it, the sacrifices are worth it. It was like it was time to grow up and shed those excuses. I woke up with resolve in my heart - resolve to honor this calling and to stop making excuses. It doesn't mean I'm signing up for midwifery school, but I would stop dismissing the power of the words and let the opportunities come.

I'm not staking out any ground here, I'm just saying that I finally GET what people were saying when they chuckled at my adamant refusals that I am a midwife. I have never caught a baby, and I know that I am a midwife. I have no plans to go to midwifery school, and I know I'm a midwife. It's bigger than your education or how many babies you've caught. In fact I'd daresay that if you're hung up on numbers you're not paying attention to what's important.

Skills lab, here I come. What comes after that? I believe it will unfold on its own and I'll meet what's coming.