Here in the present moment, in the United States and every developed nation, traditional midwifery is an anachronistic fantasy. Birth does occasionally veer outside the realm of normal and safe. And we DO have access to medical technology that didn’t exist when traditional midwifery developed in cultures across the world.
At the most basic level, there is nothing traditional about being faced with the decision to use new technology (or not) or to transport to the hospital (or not), and we can’t get around that. The decision making process for midwives will never be the same because the world we live in is not the same. Midwifery is not the same, and it is therefore not “traditional”, even if we do many of the same things midwives did in yesteryears.
We are in a new era, where we are being asked to show up to birth in a new way. Women have access to IV’s, ultrasound, blood transfusions, cesarean surgeries. At home we can easily offer catheters, medications, fetal monitoring and other technologies that were NOT part of any type of traditional midwifery.
We recently had someone argue with us that she would never bring a catheter to a home birth when she became a midwife, because it was not physiological. That is fine, and certainly her right, but I wonder if she will feel the same if she ends up transporting with a mother that simply needs her bladder emptied!
There are things that midwives can do and handle and prevent sooooo much better that doctors, both with and without any modern technology. But we would also need to be mentally unstable to think that the medical system doesn’t also have things that they can do/handle sooooo much better than we can.
It is, frankly, a major ego problem to think that we need to be better, best, or that we can “do it all” – this is not a competition!
We are trying to level up. Raise the vibration of birth. Step into power. Step into connection to self and nature. YES!!! And yet, there are (wo)man made creations that are now on the table too. There is beauty in each of us navigating this from a place of power and consciousness.
Ignoring modern medical tools is a rejection of some seriously miraculous things we have discovered as humans. Just because cesareans have been over-used and caused much unneeded trauma and injury does not mean that cesareans are thus, “bad”. Every tool can be used in a sacred way. We need to remove the emotional charge around all of these birth boogiemen. This is our aim, to really come from a place of centeredness, truth, and joy – we just happen to be doing this primarily in the home birth space here at Indie Birth. But we hope others continue this mission in other spaces like the hospital system.
What this Means for Student Midwives
I also think all of us as aspiring midwives likely went through a phase of thinking that WE will be able to take midwifery and do it “better”. Be more traditional! Invent new/old ways to deal with issues we see in birth. We beleive that we will meddle less. We will trust more. And then those old fuddy duddy midwives will see the error of their ways!
This is normal, and natural, but I want to call attention to this and call it what it is – naive! And at the same time, it is perfect, and so good to have this youthful energy and teenager hopefulness around to keep us on our toes. I think we need birth workers at all different places to bring a well roundedness to this work. I also think it is wise to listen to those who have come before.
Birth works well, most of the time. It can be simple, joyful, easy, blissful, and straightforward. But when you have attended enough births, it is clear that this is not the only way birth can look. When trying to think of a comparison, I thought of Lake Superior which is a spiritual center point here in Duluth, and is just down the street from where I live. The Big Lake can be placid, calm, and paddleboard-able sometimes, and other times it literally tears the boardwalk apart with enormous ice cold waves, or sinks ships. In the same way, sometimes birth is also hard, dangerous, and life threatening for mom and/or baby.
There is only a very small part of the birth world (we are part of it!) that actively acknowledges that both of these things are true. Birth is safe most of the time. Birth can also result in death of injury of women and babies. We need more midwives who are not afraid to live with both of these truths, and to act from a balanced place (whew).
But in the birth world and amongst aspiring midwives (myself included at one point in my life) there is a fantasy perpetuated that goes something like this – if we just leave birth alone, we will pretty much never see major problems. And it is sort of sacrilegious to bring up the possibilities too often, because that is not “trusting” enough.
If you want to be a midwife who isn’t afraid to hold all of these realities in her hands, and grapple with what this means on every level, then perhaps the Indie Birth Midwifery School is the place for you.