Wednesday, July 8, 2009

hard lessons

In a previous post, I alluded to needing to do some processing. A lot of processing has gone on over the last year and a half. Learning skills and judgement, figuring out how to work with each client and her family, acquiring enough Spanish to talk like a five-year-old midwife to the clients here at Casa (actually, I think I'm not as good as a five-year-old), learning about the business and politics of midwifery all have worked on my brain. Clearly, any kind of important work also works on your soul, and last week was my opportunity for this kind of processing.

Out of respect for the privacy of staff, interns, and clients here, I can only speak in generalities. When you work in the world of birth, you know in your brain that gestation, labor, and birth are unpredictable, that things can happen that you don't expect, that you might make mistakes even. You say this to your clients, your students and yourself in an effort to be somehow prepared for this certain eventuality. You read, learn, practice, drill so that you can react if and when you need to. Then an experience happens so that your heart learns this lesson. You realize that even though your hands and your brain knew what to do, all the work you've done in your brain did not in any way prepare you for how it would feel.

Always with the birthing there is a dying. A pregnancy dies as a baby is born, a young woman dies as a mother is born, a baby leaves his aquatic environment and makes the change to breath, to life. Transformation and change, birth and death inextricably intertwined. Sometimes even when everyone is healthy, we experience the events of birth as loss--loss of a lifestyle now changed forever, loss of the fantasy of what having a baby will be like, loss of who we used to be before we became parents. We work through these changes and losses, slowly but surely, and we are re-birthed as parents.

Sometimes, the losses are bigger than this, doing bigger work, making bigger transformations. I don't think I've heard anything so mournful and heartbreaking as the wail of a mother who's baby is no longer numbered among the living. I understand in a new way that as a midwife, I stand with a family on a narrow divide between one world and another, between water and land, between heaven and earth. I hope to shepherd many babies safely to this world, to land and earth and breath. But for the ones who don't make the journey, I pray that I will still be a blessing to their families, that somehow I could offer some comfort in their loss. And that all of us involved will be re-birthed, re-committed to doing this work, re-invented to continue to work for the glory of God.

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