Birth-it’s something we plan for, build our daydreams around and in some cases fear right from the moment that we realise that that little life inside us is going to want to make its way out into the world at some point.
As a brand new student midwife I remember standing clutching my little red book that was the key to having all my competencies signed off- my pathway to registration and an entry into the esoteric world of birth support.
In that little red book were all my hopes & dreams for my birth as a midwife, a supporter of women, someone who would empower and enable, support and nurture my sisters as they grew in life and became mothers.
My little red book had a section for the number of normal births the midwife assisted in and another for those with higher risk factors- epidurals, induced labour, labours where oxytocin support was needed. The interesting thing is that from the moment I started collecting those NHS numbers the whole process focussed on ‘deliveries’. “How many have you got now?” “how many do you need”- the standard collecting of proof that you have been at enough births to conduct them alone competently and safely.
And here is the thing- subtly the language had changed. From discussions about birth as a normal physiological process to collecting deliveries like a demented statistician- the change is stark. For women this shift is important- it takes a strong midwife to hang on to that belief that birth is what we are all about. There are many many wonderful midwives who are out there actively supporting birth, but there are many obstetric nurses who are helping to create speedy efficient deliveries.
I’m sure there are people who are going to think –well hang on- its just words. But you see it isn’t. Its about philosophy, about paradigm shift and ultimately its about what we as women want for our sisters, our daughters, our friends and ourselves.
Do we want deliverance? Do we want to be saved from our own bodies, from our children? Do we want our memories to be of intervention, of being done to, talked at and finally submitting to whatever is suggested?
Or do we want birth? Do we want the gradual unfolding of a dark mystery, the growing of a woman, the rite of passage that takes us back to a primal force that rips us apart and builds us anew, stronger, undefeated and primed to start a journey that will take us through many trials, battles and joys as we nurture new life.
There are many times where we need to collide with the harsh world of science, where lives can be saved and terrible damage prevented by intervention. There are just as many times where we need to remember that birth is nature’s way of perpetuating the species and that left to its own devices the female body can do amazing work.
As a midwife I wanted the most normal, safest and most empowering births for the women whose lives I had the privilege to enter. As a woman it is my hope that I can always advocate a philosophy that values birth and motherhood, that celebrates woman and all of our strengths. That is why the words are important- birth makes us who we are.