This past week I have been privileged to be midwife for two primiparous mothers who have given birth in their own homes. In attending these births I have worked alongside two younger midwives whose employment has been facilitated under my new private midwifery service model.
I won't tell the stories of these two beautiful births here. The focus of my reflections today is the midwives. Women who commit themselves to other women, and whose personal lives, families, and plans are interrupted from time to time, unpredictably, so that a baby can be born.
We midwives could not do what we do if it weren't for other members of our community, sometimes husband, or sister in law, or parent, or good friend, who is delighted to be the backup parent so that a midwife can go out for a birth. Midwives who are also mothers can only provide this level of full commitment to another mother when we know that our own children are safe and happy.
A midwife has a sister in law, who is a wonderfully energetic person who embraces her young nieces and nephews, so that their mother is happy to go out to a birth. The sister in law goes out of her way to give the children an especially happy time. When mummy comes home they are full of stories, and they have plenty to show, including the poster paint on their clothes as well as the pictures they have painted.
A midwife has a husband, who is deeply in tune with the moment by monent unpredictability that his life partner faces. He provides a cheerful and positive tone when answering the phone, and welcomes each new life as if the little one were a member of his own family. He recognises his mate's need for sleep after a night out, and makes the home a quiet and nurturing space for her. He knows when she would like a coffee, or when a relaxing cup of chamomile tea would be better.
A midwife has children, whom she nursed at her breast and nurtured throughout infancy. She has learnt a great deal of her midwifery from her own mothering experience, learning how to recognise a baby's cues, and how to encourage the little one to achieve. As the children grow, the emerging adult within the young child sees mummy in a different light. She is a midwife, who cares about others while planning and providing for her own. She has ambition to develop professionally. The emerging adult within the young child learns to admire the woman who previously was the personification of comfort and safety. From time to time the child needs that comfort and safety from mummy, and is reassured that those arms are as ready to embrace, and that the midwife is also in every aspect a mother. At times the child will be heard repeating advice about health promotion in pregnancy, or caring for a baby, or breastfeeding - and the mother recognises her own voice in those words of wisdom.
A midwife has friends, who respect her need to miss a tennis morning from time to time, or to be excused from another commitment at the last moment.
The whole community around a midwife supports and affirms her, enabling her to carry out the primally simple yet profound role of being 'with woman'. It's as though there is something of midwifery deep within the heart of each one, valuing the birth of a child above the small and relatively insignificant detail of their own plans at that time.
It takes a whole community - a village - to support a midwife, who in turn enables a mother to give birth to her child with confidence and strength. And the cycle continues, as a community moves in to support that family as they nurture that child.
Thankyou to the communities who support the midwives who are 'with woman' today.