Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Homebirths 2008 in Victoria

For summary and comment go to the APMA blog.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"a goodly child"

Christmas greetings, as we celebrate the birth of the Child.

As the Christmas season approaches each year, it is usual in our family to not only send our greetings but to briefly summarise the highlights of the previous year.

I have always found this a challenge, wanting to say something worth hearing, without being tedious. The recipients of our letter include our families and close friends, with whom we communicate by phone, email, and in person as often as we can; and other friends, some of whom we have not seen for many years, and with whom we communicate only once a year.

I have been reflecting on the highs (and lows) of this year 2010, and my mind has returned consistently to the two new babies, James and Eve, who were born into our family in May, and who are thriving in mind and body. The wonder and beauty of new life is powerful enough to keep me going for as long as I have energy to think and write.

Like ripples in a pond, my thoughts have then moved to our precious grand-daughter Poppy, and beyond her to our own four children.  I have remembered my own mother, and the generations of mothers before her.

Grand-parents are allowed to dote, quite openly, on their grand-children. Parents are often more cautious. Parents carry the weight of many responsibilities, and often struggle to achieve what they consider basic, such as feeding, clothing, educating, teaching manners, and getting the children to bed on time.

In my musings about our grand-children, and our children, my thoughts moved to the story of a baby, in Exodus 2.
"The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months." (verse 2)

Another version says he was "a goodly child". 

The story is well known.  After three months the mother made a little basket of papyrus, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch to make it water-proof, and set in in the shallow reedy part of the Nile river where the princess would come to wash.  She set her daughter Miriam as the onlooker, ready to offer practical assistance of a Hebrew 'wet nurse', the baby's own loving mother, when the princess also saw that he was a fine baby, and decided to keep him.  This decision saved the life of that baby boy.

When the birth of a child is welcomed by a mother who sees that this is "a goodly child", and that mother does all in her power to protect and nurture the child, even in the most adverse circumstances, there is hope for the future.  It was no miracle that the mother of the child saw that he was "a goodly child", and defied the government of the day in the most strategic way in looking after him.  The miracle was that the princess shared in the vision of "a goodly child".  She knew exactly what the mother intended, and she agreed with the mother's plan to save that child's life.

When a child is born there is a flooding of the love hormone, oxytocin, throughout the mother's body, in a way that she can only experience at such a time.  This outpouring continues with each touch, look, and suckle from the infant.  It is right for a mother to look at her child and see "a goodly child".  It is right and normal for a mother to use every strategy at her disposal to ensure the safety and nurture of that child, while maintaining the closeness of the exclusive mothering bond during the infant's first years.

I want to encourage every parent who reads this blog, to take a moment to look at your child, and see that she or he is wonderfully special, a child with great potential.  See that your child is "a goodly child".  Whatever the challenges you face in ensuring the safety and care of that child, so that she or he can grow to unhindered maturity emotionally and physically, keep your vision clear, and remember the mother whose child was wonderfully saved in infancy, and later became a great leader.

I also want to encourage midwives who read my writings to see each child as carrying immense and unmeasurable potential.  We midwives are the guardians of the next generation, protecting the mothers in their ability to not only give birth, but also to see their children for what they are.

May God's blessing be on you as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


From time to time in this blog I attempt to write a personal letter to my readers. Many readers have never met me in person, and I don't know you. However, our common interest in midwifery and anything that touches on women's reproductive lives gives me the opportunity to use a broad range of topics in writing to you.

The wonder and beauty of human love shared by a woman and her man, are in my mind, founded on the creation story in Genesis 1. God created human kind “in our image, according to our likeness”; “in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. God blessed them ... God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

"Indeed, it was very good" the way our bodies, male and female, were created. The workings of the male-female creature, made wonderfully in God’s image and likeness, are indeed very good.

It [the way our bodies work together as woman and man] is very good whether we [intellectually] understand the processes or not. It is very good because it has been very good from the start, and we have a deep intuitive knowing that it is very good. 

This separation of intuitive ‘knowing’ from intellectual ‘learning’ fits with my understanding of normal, physiological childbirth and nurture of a baby. (I use the word ‘physiological’, to differentiate from normal meaning ‘usual’, which is often very far from the normal, natural process.)

Intuitive, or maieutic, knowing is influenced by the amazingly sensitive hormonal states within our bodies, and is not dependent on theoretical understanding of what's going on at the time. The intellectual ‘learning’, achieved through more didactic processes involving teachers/writers and students/readers, is a particularly human characteristic. Other creatures who share similar physiology do not seem to share our need, or capacity, to understand why, and how.

Although there are aspects of the whole loving – childbearing – child nurture spectrum that our minds are able to investigate and delve into, I believe that the unique opportunity that the creator has given us is that we can experience something that is VERY good best without seeking to manage, control, or even understand it.

I see this principle being worked out many times when a mother who has given birth to her child is transported into a relationship of deep love for that child.  Science calls it maternal instinct, and tells us that the primal parts of the mother’s brain are able to assert themselves, while the neocortex, or ‘new’ brain, is unstimulated.

That makes sense, and it reminds me that “indeed, it was very good.” The hormonal interactions of the normal loving – childbearing – nurture activities are “very good”. And when, as happens in these activities, there is a climax – a peak of the loving hormones, and we experience an altered state of consciousness with a huge rush of excitement, pain, wonder and amazement that we had not expected and that floods our being: indeed, that’s very good.

I don’t know if there is an ideal way for a couple to enjoy their oneness. I think it’s best not to seek that knowledge from an intellectual perspective. Each couple has the opportunity, in the privacy of their own relationship, to seek deeper and more enjoyable sexual intimacy. There is something reflecting the image and likeness of God in each of us that is, indeed, very good.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Notation on the Register

I have now completed my application for 'notation' on the midwives register, as a midwife eligible for Medicare. My CV has been adapted to comply with the AHPRA standard, and copies of documents need to be certified as correct, also in compliance with the required standard.
This process has been a challenging one for me. A few of my trusted colleagues and friends wonder why I would even try to become 'eligible'. By accepting a terribly flawed process, am I not supporting our society's attempts to medicalise women's lives, and to give a veto power to the medical profession over midwifery and women's choice of physiological birth?
Readers who have followed this process will understand that the decisions midwives must make are complex.

I have come to a pragmatic point of acceptance:
... that the government has enacted a process for certain midwives to be eligible for Medicare.

The person who will benefit from my being eligible for Medicare is the woman, not me. The woman will be able to claim back some of the fee I charge - possibly one third for planned home births, and more if and when I am able to attend a woman privately for hospital birth.
I will seek to do all in my power to prevent this process from taking away a woman's freedom, or working under medical supervision in primary maternity care.

There are several hoops to jump through yet, and it may be a couple of months before I hear back from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia if my application is successful.