Saturday, February 19, 2011

A midwife's knitting

I have had knitting or crochet projects on the go, particularly in the cooler months, for as long as I can remember. My projects are not usually complicated. I lose interest in some and pull them apart so that the wool can be used for someting else. I have to be able to put it down and pick it up without losing my place. I'm not a particularly good knitter, not particularly fast.

There are shawls and rugs and hats and slippers and simple toys.

I was a little amused to read in a notice about the Womb-ecology Mid-Pacific conference coming up in Hawaii in 2012 that one of the workshops is ‘silent knitting’
“Of course the “silent knitting” session will be the historical symbol of the paradigm shift we are dreaming of after thousands of years of socialisation of childbirth, at a time when modern physiology is teaching us that one cannot positively help involuntary processes such as the birth process, but that some situations can inhibit them (neocortical activity and adrenaline release). Participants will be in an ideal situation to realise that avoiding the use of language is a way to reduce neocortical activity, and that a repetitive task like knitting is a way to reduce the level of stress hormones: a crucial step towards the rediscovery of authentic midwifery.”

As one of the midwives who will often have knitting or crochet on hand when a woman is labouring, I am pleased to know that it is receiving recognition as a valuable tool.

One day I was knitting a wrap as I waited in the semi-darkness. A young mother laboured in her home.
The wool was special - natural brown wool from a mill in Bairnsdale. I had bought it through another mother whose family lived down that way.

The labouring woman's husband was quietly sitting on the floor near her, and using some massage oil to rub on her back. Then he took the yarn and rubbed some of the oil into it. That piece of yarn was soon taken up into the work. The oil had some essential oils added, and its gentle fragrance filled the room.

I am not attached to any particular essential oils or aroma therapy. I consider them to be useful aids, chosen by a woman for use as she needs them. I enjoy entering the personal space of the individual woman, and consider myself privileged to be able to sit quietly for a time with my knitting in my hands.

After the birth I commented on the fact that some of the fragrant oil was in my wrap. I asked the husband about it. He told me he wanted me to take something as a memory from that room, and the oil seemed just right.

That birth took place more than 10 years ago. I don't remember anything else by way of detail. But I do remember the oil being gently and quietly applied to the labouring woman's body, and then to the wool.

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