Saturday, May 7, 2011

Celebrating Mothers and Midwives

This week marks the celebrations of both mothers and midwives with Mother's Day on Sunday, May 8 and International Midwives Day this past Thursday, May 5. Because of the close proximity of the two days, I've been thinking a lot about the extraordinary gifts and lessons I've received from these women (I know there are male midwives - I just had women) especially when it came to my experience of birth.

Like many women, the moment I became a mother, I suddenly felt like I knew my own mother in a way I hadn't before. At the very least, I knew - as I held my gorgeous newborn son - that whatever experience my mom had of pregnancy (generally positive) to whatever experience she had after with me or in her life (a few rough spots to say the least) - the moment I was born, I was loved beyond belief and with a love that is so huge, it takes over. It becomes like the air you don't think about breathing, or as a good friend of mine says, "Do I love my baby? My baby is me. I love my baby the way I love my arm."

I also had new respect for a certain give and take that existed in my mom's and my relationship. Like moms and daughters everywhere, we are known to have fights, laughs, and all the ups and downs in between. But my mom always conveyed that she learned as much from me as I learned from her. When I became a mother, I began to understand why - that when you give birth, you don't just birth a child, you birth a mother and a new aspect of yourself. That new self has as much to learn as the baby who can't see beyond its new mother's face when breastfeeding, and the one who teaches a mother how to mother, is the child.

At the home birth of my son, I was fortunate to have two midwives and an assistant attend to me and my husband. Thanks to my mother's genetics, I was blessed with a short uneventful six hour labor (not that it felt short at the time). Throughout my pregnancy and birth, my midwives - as my mom had told me before - emphasized that pregnancy and birth were not things to power through, but to be empowered by, that while occasionally things do go wrong, overall, things are programmed to go right. They gave me reading lists and resources, so I could make informed choices about my pregnancy, my birth, and the care of my baby. They gave me their expertise and experience, not just about birth, but the full spectrum - how it changes a marriage, and your relationship to just about everyone in your life especially yourself, how in the weeks afterward, you're likely to feel vulnerable, and that the first few weeks, you should not plan on getting out of your pajamas.

I know there's a time, place and circumstance for doctors and hospitals and they exist for a reason. But my midwives I appreciated because their vision of birth included my entire life, from my diet and exercise habits to my husband's experience of parenthood. And in their care, I got the kind of nurturing I would have received from my own mother if she had had the qualifications or know-how. My son was born at 4:30 in the afternoon. My midwives stayed until 9:30 in the evening. They took care of me and tucked me into bed with my son, they cleaned up everything, they fed me, they made me tea, they checked on my son a few more times before deciding they could leave, and when they asked if there was anything else they could do, I asked if by chance, they could brush my hair, still wet and matted from the birthing tub. I fell asleep that first night as a mother, with my baby in my arms, and my midwife brushing my hair.

Again, I know there are good doctors and reasons for hospitals and that there are women who want that experience, but I have yet to hear of the woman who gave birth in a hospital and received the level of care and love I received in my own home. Or of the woman who fell asleep holding her baby while her doctor brushed her hair.

This past Thursday I sent another thank you to my midwives for the experience they showed me was possible, when we so often hear horror stories of birth and stories told as if they are inevitable and predictable, or like no other experience is possible. I felt grateful again, and that in many ways, I am the mother that I am, because of what I learned from them. And while I am pregnant again, but now in a different city and on the opposite coast, and with a different midwife, my midwife's job this time is a breeze - I've already been empowered. I already trust the process.

And this Sunday, I will celebrate my mom, the mothers everywhere that I've learned from, the mother that I've become, and my son, for making me that mom and who continues to teach me how to be the mother that he needs.


anowlsnest said... [Reply to comment]

I didn't know it was International Midwives Day - oh no! I would have sent a thank you...

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

What a beautiful post! I got tears in my eyes when you said they brushed your hair. Just amazing <3

Tara said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you! It does remain one of my favorite memories...

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