The natural processes I am referring to include the wind and rain and sun; the soil; and the little group of brown-feathered cleaners (otherwise known as chooks) who maintain a weed-free and regularly fertilised soil wherever they go, but who are quite indiscriminate about what they scratch up and eat.
I work in harmony with these natural processes by choosing places that are exposed to enough sunshine, by watering when there is not enough rain, by adding natural fertilisers and root growth promoters to the soil, and by putting up fences to keep the hens away from plants that they would otherwise destroy. Some of these measures are even 'interventions', to use language familiar to midwifery. The end result is a healthy, bountiful harvest.
|Two rosellas in a peach tree|
We haven't always had good outcomes. When young plants are not watered, or supported, or given adequate nourishment, or protected from snails, or ...
Sometimes the fruit trees blossom during a rainy spell, and there aren't many bees to do the work of pollination, so not many fruit develop.
The other great natural (even back-yard) process that I seek to work in harmony with, and to intervene carefully into if and when appropriate, is (of course) childbearing.
It's not enough to simply declare my trust in natural birth; to admire the function of the woman's body; the integration of physical, emotional and hormonal energies that work so marvelously most of the time.
I, the midwife, function in a similar way to the gardener. I must understand and respect all the forces, internal and external, that are at play. I must take measures that will prevent harm from illness (eg pests) or poor nutrition (eg by rotating plants to different garden beds), or physical forces (eg the chookies).
A midwife colleague challenged me recently when I described a situation when I accompanied a woman in labour to hospital. After what I considered to be a reasonable period of time had passed, during which the physical progress of the baby into the birth canal was minimal, the woman agreed to a caesarean birth. I agreed with this decision.
My colleague questioned me sincerely: was I not concerned that the act of going (from home) to hospital could have interfered sufficiently with the labour to CAUSE the obstruction of progress? Could this woman have given birth 'naturally' if her physiology had not been interfered with?
My answer: No.
I know this because I was there. This woman's body did all it could, under the natural physiological processes and rules, and it was time to move to Plan B.
The sobering thought, that we must not forget, is that even wonderful natural processes can lead to death and mayhem. Recognising the points at which timely, and relatively small interventions, such as health promotion through improving diet and activity in pregnancy, or major interventions, such as the need for a caesarean birth, is the work of the midwife. Just as the back-yard bounty is evidence of many months of careful work, the healthy newborn baby, at the breast of the strong and healthy woman, is evidence of a woman's strength and care of herself and her baby, as well as appropriate maternity care.