Sunday, January 5, 2014

In the Land of Singing Midwives: Midwifery Today

Koko & mama with Ibu Robin Lim
Since I gave birth assisted by a midwife, I have developed a passion for this special category of women. The midwife who helped you having an amazing experience of birth will stay in your heart forever. You will love her like your grandma, beyond time. This is how I love Ibu Robin Lim. Until recently, Ibu Robin was the only midwife I knew that was so firmly planted in the ground and yet so spiritual and so exquisitely fun. Since I met her I felt safe. I had this feeling that she would respect me and my choices whatever conditions may occur during my childbirth, and she would fight for my rights if this would be necessary.

“Where is the land where midwives like her grow?”, I used to ask myself. Is she unique or are there more? My great-grandma was a lay midwife and healer. But in my world she belonged to the past, as there is no lay or traditional midwives in Croatia anymore. Ibu Robin is Philipino-American. There are still midwives who have not abandoned the path of traditional midwifery, instead they have implemented it with new midwifery skills that include the obstetric science and medical knowledge of birth. This is the ground where Ibu Robin, as well as other amazing midwives, come from.

Jan Tritten from Midwifery Today,
Debra Pascali-Bonaro and other participants
Recently, I had the privilege to sneak in one of the Midwifery Today conferences in Belgium. I was there for Human Rights in Childbirth Conference, but I arrived the day before with some of my colleagues from Italy. The two of us were too curious to see what they were saying that we asked if we could participate to the last afternoon of workshops. The topics were so interesting... The organizers kindly let us in. And then, a new world opened for me: it was like entering the land of fairies, just they were Fairy Midwives! “Now, this is the midwifery people Ibu Robin comes from”, I thought. It was the land of Crones, of Sage Femmes, of Wise Women who walked firmly yet cheerfully with broad hips, long hair and colorful outfits, hopping from one circle to another. Their eyes were sparkling while their tongues where rolling out stories of birth, of women, of power of life. They were fun, yet profound. They were flowing like torrents and growing like trees. I felt secure and protected. I had the feeling they would embrace me protectively and unconditionally if I was pregnant and needed their help. I felt excited knowing I have discovered the land where Midwives come from. It's not really a land, it's an international community that have roots in every place where history has not erased ancient and contemporary woman’s knowledge. My heart started to sing and opening widely. “We are not alone!”, I cried in my mind while mingling from one circle to another. “I belong here, this is my people!”, I wiggled while absorbing the knowledge they were sharing. There where participants from all over the world, and also from Croatia and neighboring countries. Some of them I knew from before and from Facebook community. I was happy we could all meet there and feel the weight of knowledge that seamed lost. Too often I have seen midwives suffering inside the insecurities and undervaluation of their profession. Now I know there is a bright example we can look at and learn again what a real midwife is, the one who stands with the woman and her child no matter what.

I was wondering... If my midwife sang at the birth of my child, do others from the Land of Midwives sing to birthing women? Sometimes, when I tell the story of my experience of childbirth people look at me in a strange way when I say that my midwife sang to us. “Oh, how romantic...”, they sigh, like if this belonged to a Fairy Land, while they were living in the realm of the Orks. So, I asked some of the midwives if they sang at birth. And they answered: “Yes, of course!” “Would you sing to me so I can record it and share?”, I dared. “Sure, darling”, they answered spontaneously. They were ready, right away. I grabbed my smart phone and said: “Go...”. My first singing midwife was Betty-Anne Daviss, a Canadian world-renowned midwife, teacher and co-author of the most downloaded study about home birth: "Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in N. America” (2005). She sang a song she learned from traditional Guatemalan midwives. The second was Carol Gautschi, from California. She's also a songwriter, and she sang one of her own songs inspired by birth. Please, note how even in the middle of the buzzing crowd their voices sound so peaceful and calm.