Sunday, March 10, 2013

Submitting to the spontaneous

learning to breastfeed at an early age
This word, spontaneous, is repeated over and over again in my writing.  (you can check - do a word search using the search function on the right side of the screen)

Today I am thinking especially of the lovely young mother in my care, who is waiting for spontaneous onset of labour (and all that follows).

I am also thinking about the young midwife whom I am mentoring, and who hopes to attend the birth with me.  The work commitments that she has, together with other unpredictable factors, mean that each birth, each mother-baby consultation, needs to be negotiated in real time.

We are experiencing hot, dry weather, with hot nights in Melbourne at the moment. Energy is depleted as everyone goes about their tasks a little slower than usual.  Perhaps this baby is waiting for a cool change?

The challenge of waiting for spontaneous onset of labour, and working in harmony with natural physiological processes demands submission from the midwife as well as the woman.  Waiting and watching.  It's a discipline, in which the midwife supports and watches, and in which the woman makes preparation, nesting and waiting.

Submission to the natural order, as well as to social expectations, happens moment by moment in life.  Couples submit to each other, knowing that together they can achieve more than the sum of two lives.  We submit to the road rules, not because we enjoy driving slowly, but because that's the way we can reduce the risk of collision and harm in built up areas.  Parents submit to the needs of their young children, reorganising meal times, sleep times, ensuring healthy eating, and lots more to achieve harmony. 

Submission will, at times, include an element of frustration.  We all like to plan our days,  We all value knowing what we need to do, and when we need to do it.

A midwife is unusual in that she has an imperative to accept unpredictability, and submit her own will to the greater forces that are at work in childbirth.  A person cannot be an authentic midwife if, for whatever reason, they want to work 9-5, Monday - Friday.   In recent decades the progressive medicalisation of birth has led to increasing rates of induction of labour, business hours maternity services, elective caesarean births, and the like.  Medical management of the birthing process is the opposite of spontaneous birthing.  Managed birthing sets up processes that use the staff and facilities of a hospital in the most productive way.  Managed birthing tells midwives they don't need to submit to these unpredictable, wasteful, hormonally driven processes.

Yet it is the hormonal environment of spontaneous birth that sets a woman up for the next demanding steps in her journey: nurture, bonding, mothering.  Without respect for these finely tuned processes, mothers can feel as though they are being processed in a factory.  Without submission to and engagement with the natural processes. midwives become technicians who manage machines and who maintain the records for their employers.



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