Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 23, Autumn 1992.
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The orthodoxy of today’s technological birth procedures is built on false foundations masquerading in the name of science, but whose master is often fear of malpractice. Not many women can stand up to the onslaught of intervention that is its result. No pregnant woman should have to negotiate her way through a maze of her own fears and then succumb to the fears of her care providers. Rare is the woman among us who has arrived at childbearing age with no fears and few hurts that can affect her birth. We come to our childbearing years with a deep need of healing. What better means of transformation is there than a safe, peaceful, joyous birth?
Loving care, attention and counseling are part of the role the non-interventive midwife plays. She calls up her special gifts and truthful information to assist families through this life-changing passage.
You as midwife or educator are a healer whose deep reserves of wisdom can move people into transformations. You must be open to your gift and humble in its use. This gift is not learned from medical texts nor made manifest through the so-called miracles of science or technology.
The wisdom surfaces gently from within. Maybe it starts with your own births, which inspire you to want to serve others. It may come when you are a nursing student and you perceive birthing women as beautiful, powerful individuals who deserve to be cherished. The wisdom may not even find its voice until someone else really needs you. And most importantly, the special gift arises while you are truly “with woman.” The birthing woman is your greatest teacher. She allows you to open to all dimensions of your soul, and you are humble in its revelation. This revealed wisdom enables you to see and hear beyond your own human level of seeing and hearing. For example, it is this wisdom that tells you just what to do to break through blocked up birth energy when it stalls out labor. It is not just your mind at work, but your heart that understands that the mother-in-law’s presence in the room is the cause.
When you are “with woman,” you are dipping into a well of knowledge and understanding that moves your hands and speaks through your heart. You know just what to do and when to do it.
How does our birth wisdom develop? We use practical knowledge to gain the best understanding of all that is available to us, then we apply it to an individual woman, baby or family rather than expect them to conform to an already existing framework.
This context of birth care makes obsolete many of our textbooks, which so often deal with mom and baby as a mere pathologic or physiologic unit. Moreover, the scientific foundations and observations may be entirely wrong—as in the case of aggressive management of length of labor when the woman might still be in prodromal. Textbooks emphasize allopathic concepts which often translate into interventions, drugs and surgery. They do not teach wisdom like your birthing mothers do.
The realm of birth wisdom is far more embracing than the world of modem scientific pedagogy. As we midwives and educators pool our knowledge and wisdom, we have the power to co-create, with the world of science, a new foundation of knowledge based on psychology, genetics and anthropology as well as spirituality, homeopathy, herbs, techniques from other cultures and intuition.
And how do we record, compare and contrast what we have so painstakingly learned, tried and tested when our numbers are so small? Make observations, record them, keep statistics. Speak through Midwifery Today, speak through each other’s books and workbooks, speak out in traditional journals, in workshops and conferences. Give evidence of your wisdom. Testify to the merits of midwifery. As we gain a unified voice, we gain momentum, and momentum creates change. A new body of knowledge must emerge, one that includes our wisdom.
We can start now. Anne Frye, who brought us Understanding Labwork in the Childbearing Year and Suturing, A Manual for Midwives, is giving us an immediate opportunity. She is asking midwives and-educators in the field of normal birth to assist her in the monumental task of writing three new textbooks. She needs us to look into our own practices and examine carefully what we have learned from all disciplines and communicate to her what we have found and how. The more documentation the better. Let’s change the basis of our knowledge to reflect the heart, mind and soul of hue “with woman” care.