|May 25, 2011|
Volume 13, Issue 11
|Midwifery Today E-News|
“Spirituality and Midwifery”
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In This Week’s Issue
Quote of the Week
Faith is the evidence of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1
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The Art of Midwifery
One herbalist I know helped a woman solve her low hemoglobin problem by having her eat wild greens. Eating a few violet leaves each day was the remedy she chose. She couldn’t stomach Floradix, but the wild food did the trick! Our bodies recognize and respond to real food so much better than to synthetic nutrients crammed into a pill.
ALL BIRTH PRACTITIONERS: The techniques you’ve perfected over months and years of practice are valuable lessons for others to learn! Share them with E-News readers by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Birth of a Conference
Editor’s Note: For this edition of E-News, we feature a guest editorial by Midwifery Today’s conference coordinator, Carole Seeley. Read more about Midwifery Today conferences in upcoming issues of E-News.
As the conference coordinator, I have a unique view of the role Midwifery Today plays in the world of childbirth. Metaphorically, I see her as the Great Mother, nurturing her children and launching them into the world to carry on the family legacy of “returning midwifery care to its rightful position in the family, to make midwifery care the norm throughout the world and to redefine midwifery as a vital partnership with women.”
The eldest “child,” Midwifery Today magazine, was born in 1987, followed shortly after by our publication division and, finally, in 1992 the “baby” of the family—the conference division—was presented to the world.
As with many youngest offspring, this enterprising child soon outgrew its local playground and set out to see the world. Traveling across the United States and to a variety of locations in North and Central America, Europe and Asia, the conference sibling of the Midwifery Today family has gained international popularity. Eager to increase its outreach, this division has been dynamic—a total of 66 gatherings in all!
I joined the family a few years ago as the guardian locum tenens for each new conference, and have watched with interest and delight as they are born. Just as many mothers around the world birth their babies with midwives at hand throughout their pregnancies, so, too, is each conference carefully tended by women who watch over it in utero until its birth.
The Great Mother envisions and plans for two events each year, although there are frequently unexpected additions to the family, particularly when someone in another country expresses interest in adopting one of our conferences! Generally, however, there are always at least two conferences in gestation at any given time. After the vision is conceived, a location is chosen for its birth and a name is selected. This genesis begins with Jan, Midwifery Today’s true Mother. Once she breathes life into the idea, together with one or two trusted friends who share in its creation, the embryonic structure quickly takes shape.
The program—the skeleton—is then carefully nurtured by several “aunties” in the Midwifery Today family, and many others contribute to the conference’s care. Much like its human counterpart, this metaphorical baby shifts position and develops through the months of its growth; its character and appearance are formed and the features that will make it unique and distinct from every other conference begin to emerge. The more time it spends in the creative womb, the larger it grows, the more space it commands and the more time it consumes!
As the time for birth draws near, there is increased anticipation in the air. Unlike human babies, each conference has a specifically scheduled due date and the many people who participate in the birth process have a particular role to play in ensuring the conference arrives on time! The delivery is sometimes accompanied by frantic last-minute activity. Nevertheless, as is the case with any highly anticipated birth, the Great Mother, along with all the midwives and attendants, greet the new arrival with much pride and enormous satisfaction in the birth of another successful, empowering and amazing conference!
— Carole Seeley, Midwifery Today’s Conference Coordinator
Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.
Jan on Twitter: twitter.com/jantritten
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News and Research
The Power of Prayer
Studies have demonstrated the link between prayer and better health. Researchers on spirituality and health say “health-promoting outlooks and behaviors” are common to all major religions and that people who pray and chant regularly reap a number of health benefits. Brief pauses throughout the day taken by those who observe spiritual or religious practices can aid in releasing stress hormones and can enhance heart rhythms.
— “National day of prayer spotlights prayer’s healing power.” May 5, 2011.
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A Vision of Birth
I can imagine myself in a dialogue with my friend Wintergreen, body worker and developer of The Pink Kit, who has another valuable perspective. Wintergreen would tell me that birth may be an instinct, like sex, but we can learn to give birth, just as we can learn to be good lovers. She would agree that it is important to look at the external circumstances of birth, but she would say that we can influence our internal circumstances by learning to work with our birthing bodies. She might mention the importance of the “internal work” of The Pink Kit, a multimedia kit that takes us into our own body knowledge, mapping and working with our anatomy, learning to massage ourselves internally and to feel inside our vaginas during late pregnancy and labour. These tools are invaluable, helping us to be “in touch” with our own bodies—which, even in birth, are sometimes seen as the province of professionals—and assisting us to birth instinctively, in whatever birth setting we might choose.
For me, there are other levels to clear in order to be able to birth instinctively. This facet of birth—which I could ascribe to my friend, and director of the International College of Spiritual Midwifery, Shivam Rachana, and which has been validated through many women’s experiences—looks at our past experiences and beliefs, all of which are stored in our bodies, and concentrates on “freeing us up” emotionally, physically and spiritually for birth. Here we can use movement (I found the Osho meditation CD, Chakra Breathing to be superb preparation for birth), counseling/psychotherapy (this was my ally in my first birth), rebirthing, body work, yoga and other therapies in order to clear out all the “stuff” that can arise for us in labour and birth. This was a very powerful facet for me with Zoe’s birth and I realized, in retrospect, how much my own childhood experience of being “displaced” by my younger sister had affected my birthing.
Connecting with the Earth
We are also creatures of the Earth, and our bodies need the Earth’s nourishment to work efficiently in any instinctive behaviour. Good nutrition is a very important aspect of instinctive birth, as any animal breeder will affirm. Australian naturopath and author Francesca Naish ascribes much of our modern difficulties in labour and birth to poor nutrition, and it is certainly true that our Western diets are generally not wholesome or replete with everything that our bodies and our babies need. Her books, co-written with Janette Roberts—including The Natural Way to Better Pregnancy and The Natural Way to Better Birth and Bonding—contain valuable information to help us enhance our birth experience, as well as the long-term health of our babies, through optimal nutrition.
There are also deeper levels to our connection with the Earth. For some women, pregnancy brings an urge to garden or to go walking, to hike or just to gaze at the scenery of earth and sky. All of these activities help align us with the Earth, our Great Mother, and teach us respect and love for the natural order. If we want to birth instinctively, we can prepare ourselves by beginning to live more instinctively. We can, for example, make an effort to live less “by the clock,” which UK writer Sheila Kitzinger calls the worst piece of technology in labour and birth. This helps us to tune into our own instinctive—and earth-based—rhythms, which are much gentler on us and on our babies.
Spiritual beliefs and practices are another facet of pregnancy and birth. In a practical sense, having faith helps us to believe in our bodies and in birth, and prayer is a beautiful way to prepare for birth and motherhood. Belief systems that venerate the feminine as well as the masculine principle have a special place in my heart. I see, from this spiritual perspective, that much damage is done to women by religions that fail to honour the female body and feminine authority. Through the ages, we have also had our birthing goddesses and saints, from Artemis to Mary (who gave birth unassisted and surrounded by mammals!), to remind us that birth is a natural and instinctive act for all women.
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Birth Wisdom from the Web
In Norway we found that the use of ultrasound in the population as a whole went down after everyone was offered one (all maternity care is completely free). Previously, you needed a medical indication, but the lack of a routine ultrasound seemed to increase the demand for ultrasound. It is an offer, not a recommendation, and is used mainly to date the pregnancy and check for twins and placenta praevia.
Norwegian recommendations state that ultrasound has not been shown to reduce mortality and morbidity, so that is not the reason for the offer. Of course, you can buy private services. Another Norwegian study shows that parents who found out about malformations before birth had more severe and longer lasting negative psychological symptoms than parents who found out at birth or shortly after. This suggests that knowing may be worse than not knowing ahead of time, or that coping with a shock is easier than preparing for the worst.
— Sarah Margaretha Fogth Lindqvist, Facebook
Pulling unwisely on the head (especially with fingers in the neck) can result in a “fainted” baby. Delivering the baby without a uterine contraction can disturb the normal rhythm of placental separation. I’m convinced that allowing the body to complete the birth process through normal uterine contractions results in a better third stage and less risk of postpartum hemorrhage.
— Gail Hart, Facebook
If you’d like to share a bit of wisdom from the Web, please send a 4–5 sentence excerpt, accompanied by a link, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Think about It
Labor is a natural event with natural variations in length; nevertheless, maternal exhaustion is an inevitable consequence at some point and dehydration and fetal distress may follow, especially with prolonged rupture of the fetal membranes. Today’s birth attendant has a range of potential interventions when prolonged labor becomes distressing, from the simple to the complex and technological. Knowing when to wait and when and how to intervene is a vital aspect of the art and science of midwifery.
— Marion Toepke McLean
LettersHello Midwifery Today,
Thank you so much for all of your great work, especially with the fabulous information on Facebook. Love it! Thank you in advance for your support in helping us get this message out to the community.
Mother Health International is seeking volunteer midwives and OB/GYNs for the months of August and October 2011. We are seeking volunteer midwives who practice gentle birth techniques that allow a woman to birth with dignity, love and with family support. We are looking for skilled licensed midwives and OB/GYNs who are willing to donate three or more weeks of their time to serve the women of Jacmel, Haiti. Volunteers are responsible for all expenses for travel to and from Haiti. Mother Health International has a house for volunteers to stay during their volunteer time, with meals provided. MHI has a required list of supplies to bring if you are accepted as a volunteer.
Student apprenticeships are also available in Jacmel, Haiti, at the Mother Health International birth clinic. MHI is a NARM approved birth clinic located in Jacmel, Haiti. We will accept one or two student apprentices per month at the MHI clinic in Jacmel. Apprentices can either come to our clinic with a preceptor or have a MHI midwife volunteer, who is a NARM approved preceptor, serve as a preceptor. A minimum of one month volunteer time is required (three months suggested) for all apprentices. Fees and other details are on the application.
During the apprenticeship, you will observe and practice all aspects of midwifery relating to pregnancy and childbirth with the mother and a NARM approved preceptor. These experiences include prenatal exams, births and postpartum visits. Our apprenticeship is perfect for those midwifery students who want to practice a traditional midwifery model of care with emphasis towards recognizing that fewer interventions bring the best outcomes in birth. If you are coming with your preceptor she will need to fill out and submit the volunteer midwife application with your application. If you are interested in volunteering with MHI please visit http://www.motherhealthinternational.org for more information. MHI is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.
— Heather L. Maurer
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Periglow, the best to support the perineum after birth. Periglow is a ready-to-use Swiss compress to promote healing the first weeks after giving birth. As a soak or bath. http://www.periglow.com
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