Saturday, January 21, 2012

Spiritual Midwifery

I could say I am late in posting because it's Slattern Day in the blog, but the truth is I've been at a volleyball tournament all day, watching beautiful, healthy, athletic young woman of all shapes and sizes smash the heck out of a volleyball. Between sets and matches, I was reading an interview in The Sun--oh, how I love The Sun! thank you, Kim J Kimmel for that gift subscription!--with Ina May Gaskin, author of Birth Matters and the book that rocked my pregnant world, Spiritual Midwifery.

This makes it a Random Coinciday in the blog, as well, since my recent finalist chapbook manuscript (over at Comstock Review) is also titled Spiritual Midwifery, in honor of that book, and contains a poem titled "Spiritual Midwifery" about a sad childbirth (that also stands for several losses in lives close to mine) that prepared me to accept what might go wrong at my own labor and also served as the contrast deepening my joy at my own wonderful luck.

I seldom read this poem aloud at public readings, but whenever I do, it releases something in someone who lets me know. And thanks me. So I am moved, grateful, and reluctant to read it in public again, lest someone be unprepared to revisit a sad moment, but I shouldn't be, right? They are glad to know someone realizes, and cares. Dilemma.

The interview in The Sun is powerful, reminding us that the mortality rate for mothers is rising in the USA, where many do not have access to midwives and doulas, and is very low in countries that do. I was surprised to learn that 100% of women in Germany have access a midwife because "there's a law that a midwife must be present." Here, doctors are no longer even instructed on how to handle a vaginal breech birth and routinely do a caesarian. Etc.

Part of what surprised me was the lessening of awareness that natural childbirth, aided by midwives or doulas, is a wonderful way to have a baby. My son is 21 years old, and somehow I thought we'd have progressed in this...return to the older, natural, woman-centered ways...but no. Gaskin points out three main ways to have a baby in America: planned home birth with a professional midwife, hospital setting with a certified nurse-midwife (and doctor handy if needed), and hospital setting with a doctor and nurses.

I had both my babies with certified nurse midwives in a hospital, no pain meds, which was right for me, and all was well. If my daughter chooses and is able to have a baby, she will probably need to be in a hospital setting, as well, and I am glad of our medical knowledge today, and glad of the midwives who understand that love, encouragement, and support are crucial.

Also on my wishlist is Home/Birth: a poemic, by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker. Maybe I'll have read it by the time I can hand it down to my daughter!

The Sun's cover photo is by Corey Hendrickson.


Karen the neighbor said...

God Bless good CNM's, and the big deep birth pools that hospitals have now. Sadly, lay midwifery is still illegal in our state. It exists, but is underground. Women's rights have a long way to go in the area of life changing, life giving birth.

Collagemama said...

Much to think about here, but I'm not quite ready to comment more. Thanks.

Kathleen said...

Thank you both.

seana said...

Great post.

The Sun is rather a local magazine here and has a strong following.

SarahJane said...

In Germany you are entitled to a midwife, but she needn't be present at the birth. It's more a matter of her (him) visiting you and the baby about 5 times or as needed AFTER you're home. This is very helpful. Ours told us about bathing, breastfeeding, earwax, etc. It is indeed a perk, as healthcare generally is these ways.

Kathleen said...

Thanks for clarifying that, and that's what I had here, too: home visit from the midwife after the birth. Very helpful.