Chapter 7: Stories For Students ~ Word Medicine
I sat on the roof of our little midwifery school in Guanajuato, Mexico, and held the hands of Doña Cuca. She was one of the village healers, which includes being a midwife. She was very old and very tired.
I asked about her health and whether she wanted to tell me anything before I left for my home in the Ozarks of Missouri.
"Estrellita (little star)," she said slowly. "I'm old and can't do what I used to. The young ones don't want to walk in our path (meaning they don't want to become midwives). They don't want a chicken and some eggs for all their time and labor."
What do they want, Doña Cuca?" I questioned softly.
"Dinero!" she said simply and plainly. "They want money."
We sat together quietly, with our heads lowered and our hearts even lower. She in her world and me in mine. Her world was disappearing and the world of my Cherokee ancestors had already disappeared. Then Doña Cuca sat up straight and tall.
"And I ask you, Estrellita," she said. What are they going to do with their money but buy a chicken and some eggs?"
I nodded. We sat with our hands and hearts entwined. We sat in silence with the truth ringing in our ears and our souls. We sat with a different sort of silence. A more hopeful silence.
If you are a student of midwifery, of healing or of life, these stories are for you.
Chapter 3: Stories of Community ~ Wonder Woman on Halloween
She did it! We did it! Just as others were buying treats and planning tricks, we got the miracle we had been working and praying for. It took 23 prenatals, two pregnancy bouts of complete bed rest, protein every hour, daily phone check-ins, soul work and a bit of mystery. It took a community of women working together.
This community Wonder Woman had turned around two previous episodes of threatened premature labor and changed her pattern of postpartum hemorrhages. Instead of creating a scary drama, she simply had a gorgeous girl, and a first birth where she could hold and enjoy her baby instead of having a team fighting for her life. The whole community is celebrating and arriving with soup and songs of praise to the new mother and third daughter. I feel honored to sit bedside with such incredible women, who shape-shift reality. By birthing at home, they hold sacred space. At the same time, the experiences of birthing contemporaries share no resemblance to that moonlit silence filled with powerful grunts and sighs and sacred simplicity.
What does it take to create a crack in the cosmic egg wide enough for a soul to slip through at home under moonlight? Does it take soul work that is ours and ours alone to do? Does it take 23 prenatals or more? Does it take being a witch?
Or does a daily walk to the well with the community women work like magic?
Chapter 5: Stories of Babies ~ Little Girls
In many cultures, especially in Mexico, little girls are unwanted. One night when I was working at a small maternity hospital in Guanajuato, we had a difficult and delicate birth. We meandered through to a vaginal birth of a gorgeous little girl, the second-born living daughter of Maria, who had many sons.
"What a beautiful daughter you have!" I exclaimed, as I placed the precious creature into her mother's arms.
"Yes," she answered with a distant stare. "But it is sad, isn't it."
"What?" I asked.
"That she was born a woman and will have a life full of suffering."
I took a deep breath, wishing that the baby would take a good, deep breath with me. The medical team was increasingly concerned with how slow the little one was coming around. I shared with Maria that I had three divine and beautiful daughters—not just two—and no sons. I said that if this child had to be born a girl child, I was happy that I was the privileged midwife for her.
Maria brightened and agreed that being together was very nice.
"Together we are going to change the world of suffering for little girls," I promised her.
Bonding is critical for little girls who are culturally unwanted. Once a mother falls in love with her baby, culture comes second. The medical team wanted to observe the baby girl in the critical care nursery. It would be easier for them to observe the baby there and do other things as well. Reluctantly they listened to my reasoning and concerns for bonding and reluctantly they agreed to observe the baby in the mother's arms, placing an extra nurse in her room.
The baby improved steadily and everyone relaxed. Later they asked me, "How did you know she would be all right?"
"I didn't," I answered. But I did have nature and billions of years on my side.
Chapter 1: Stories of Power ~ Word Medicine
"You're a Strong Woman!" I told her as she wobbled, faint of body and spirit. "Look at me and say, "I'm a Strong Woman!"
"I am a S-T-R-O-N-G woman," she responded, deliberately and slowly. The full moon made dappled light in our little room in the woods.
"MorningStar, if I'm a strong woman, why don't I feel it?" she asked, tired and sick and weak. Then she pushed out her largest baby girl and held her to her warm breast.
"You were right!" she exclaimed in power, "I am a Strong Woman!"
Women birth everywhere—in woods, in shacks, in quaint homes and suburbs and palaces, under trees, in taxis, and lately, in clinics and hospitals. It's hard to birth in power without privacy, love and a place called home. It's hard to birth in power if you're scared or sick or tired. It's hard for a midwife to help you if she's far from help herself and, especially, if she doesn't know how to make good word medicine.
The instinctual life will create word medicine, even if you're on an island. I've never met a woman who wouldn't get her baby out if she were on an island. And I don't believe she would flop on her back and put her feet in the air. I do imagine she might squat and crawl and walk and pant and rest and hold on and let go and weep and sing and call to the gods, and in the end, cry out in power—in great triumph—in wet bliss.
These stories are those kinds of stories…
Stories of power and triumph and bliss.