Issue 139

Expecting the Unexpected

I am beginning to feel a little like Forrest Gump when he said, “My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” I would change it to “Birth is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get!”

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The Bottom Line

I wish I could show you the VHS (a type of videotape) I have from back in the day when there were no cell phones with which to film births. It is of the birth of Gregory, an almost-10 lb first baby born to a couple in my area. The birth was lovely.

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Coming Full Circle: My Return to Midwifery

Every midwife knows what it feels like to return home after a long, challenging birth. The moment your home comes into view, the soft creak of the porch steps, the hushed house, the deep sigh as you finally sink into bed. I am experiencing that right now, as I return to my much beloved midwifery practice after 20 years away.

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“The Birth of St. John the Baptist”

Not long before the outbreak of the coronavirus and Governor Newsom’s order to Californians to shelter in place, I visited the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. It is a small museum with an extraordinary collection, which includes a seventeenth-century oil painting by Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo, entitled “The Birth of St. John the Baptist” (ca. 1655). The canvas, strikingly large at more than four foot by six foot (146.7 x 188.3 cm), caught my attention as a midwife.

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Natural After-Death Care: Completing the Circle of Midwifery

Like a number of midwives I know, as I have gotten older I’ve gone from attending births to attending the dying in some way, such as working with hospice, attending the dying as a doula, or helping families reclaim natural after-death care and holding vigils. The similarities between this sacred work at both ends of life are obvious, and both have traditionally been the realm of the sage femme/wise woman/midwife. The first time I provided natural after-death care was both a revelation and a revolution for me—one that seemed to bring my midwifery work full circle.

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