Midwifery Is Standing on Holy Ground
by Jan Tritten

[Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 121, Spring 2017.]

When we help a mother bring forth her baby onto this earth it will resound in the world forever. Our calling is one of the highest God has given, right up there with being a mother! To help a pregnant woman become a mother is an awesome privilege. “The place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5. If we midwives, nurses, doctors and doulas really understood the importance of this and acted on it we would be unlikely to harm mothers and babies with unnecessary interventions, including unnecessary cesareans. We would respect the microbiome, as well as the sanctity of the childbearing year. We would protect motherbaby, as Sister MorningStar says, like a “she wolf.” It seems when we get into midwifery, including other birth-helping professions, we don’t think that we are getting into it to protect motherbaby. There are often sweeter motivations for us to enter this awe-inspiring field. It is the most precious experience to be there when motherbaby emerges as a new mother and new person Earthside, especially when the birth goes well—as some of my friends call it, “a butter birth!” In this age we work in, however, the other important duty we are tasked with is to protect motherbaby until we can help some in the medical field wake up to the damage to mother and baby physically, emotionally and spiritually. We stand guard in many areas during the childbearing year.

I have so often thought that if people understood just what they are doing and how it affects the lives of mother and baby—but also father, relatives and friends of the family and indeed all of society—they might put motherbaby in the center of their care, rather than their golf game or whatever else motivates their actions. (I have written about power and money being two dominant motivators.) To give some the benefit of the doubt, it could be ignorance of the science, spirit and emotions of birth.

Let us ponder how it might be if all who are involved in a motherbaby’s care understood what we midwives intuitively and personally understand. Birth spaces would be designed to make mom feel welcome and comfortable. (This is another good reason for homebirth.) We would treat her and her family with great respect and kindness—no matter where she chooses to birth. Her space would be almost as hallowed ground. We would scrutinize all of our routines and analyze what, how and why we are doing them. Is it fear that leads them to routine monitor strips and IVs? Let us serve in birth not out of fear but out of love for motherbaby. Return to our first love and why we entered this stunningly beautiful calling in the first place. I tell aspiring midwives that midwifery will take all the love you have to give and then some more.

I had excellent experiences in birthing my second and third babies after a devastating first birth in the hospital. But the mothering experience with all my children was the one thing I would call my highest achievement in life. It is important to remember that you are a participant in this marvelous journey. You help bring forth mothers as well as babies. You need to be one who understands when protection might be necessary and the one who is ready to protect. You are serving motherbaby, not medicine. Stand guard, for you are standing on holy ground!

This haiku written by Aubre Tompkins, one of our authors, conveys the beauty and protection of our role so magnificently that I wanted to include here.

Here since the first breath
Nurturing the flame of life
A midwife stands guard

Cool cloth to the brow
A hand extended and held
Warm touch on the heart

Space defended with love
Strength shared and multiplied
A midwife stands guard

Knees bent before her
Water given and sipped
A look for support

The threshold is thin
Power is felt and earned
A midwife stands guard

Jan Tritten

Jan Tritten is the founder and editor-in-chief of Midwifery Today magazine and a midwife who was in active practice from 1977 to 1989. She became a midwife in 1977 after the powerful homebirth of one of her daughters. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world! [ PHOTO BY ANDREA NOLL ]

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