Birth Workers and the Medial Woman

The other day I was asked to speak to San Diego Birth Network about myself and my practice, but I decided also to tell a story about the commonality of the birth workers attending. As doulas or midwives we are sitting there witnessing, supporting, working, and mentoring women through their journey of birth. For birth is the time when a woman is a whole woman. She unites with all parts of herself, the parts she ignored, the parts she didn’t show to others, the parts she didn’t even know were there.

As birth workers in this culture, we have different challenges that we must mediate for ourselves as well as the birthing family. We must wear different hats as we interface between the outside world and the inside world of the birthing mother. The space of the birthing mother is one that we hold sacred. It is that space where we move right into the present one step at a time (even if it may seem like one step ahead). Wiping mom’s brow, feeding her, helping her partner connect with the process, staying out of the way, listening, feeling, moving things around in the best order, cleaning things up so they aren’t in the way, freshening everyone up, rubbing her back, shaking her hips, cheering, encouraging, giving privacy, witnessing, and in some cases lifeguarding. It is the soul space of birth that we can feel in our bones.

I was asked to teach some midwifery classes at a local school on medical terminology and charting and documentation. So, the Birthing from Within part of me just couldn’t put it out there as dry and lecture material. I had to find the other part of our brain material. Why did all this matter to midwifery anyways? And this is when I thought of “Sealskin, Soulskin.” Ok, so its not exactly Clarissa Estes’s (Women Who Run With the Wolves) interpretation of the story, but it works for me. Here we are as birth workers in this soul space that feels like home, but we cannot always stay there, even being at the birth. In an ideal situation, mom would be able to stay in this space and never leave it. But as the midwife or the doula, we must move out of this space and be the medial woman. We must also know how to move through the potential obstacle course of interfacing with the medical community and family members and possibly the general culture. Part of our challenge is not forgetting why we are doing what we are doing and not to forget what it feels like to be completely present with birth no matter how a woman births.

Yet being the medial woman is not always easy. It might just happen that we leave our home, climb out of our skin and accidently get lost during interface. We can lose our skins while we are mediating. We can move away from that conscious presence at birth. We can lose our eyesight slowly though the years if we don’t return. The desires and requirements of the culture and world may leave us far away from home. Our original soulskin, seemingly lost. And that is why we rely on each other in community or even that part of ourselves to call us back to our true nature before it is forgotten. Before we dry out.

It is with this that doulas and midwives are really cut from the same cloth, just different parts of it, different specialties, different responsibilities of different weights. But we are the medial women who usher between the soul world and the established culture. We move in and out of birthing space and weave in and out of charting and documentation or tactical decision making or gathering of information or even emergency measures. And this is the development of our craft/s providing women with the support they need in pregnancy and birth and even postpartum. The support they need in birthing by cesarean section. The support they need to birth uninterrupted at home. The support they need navigating a natural hospital birth. The support they need however they birth by choice or circumstance. Nuances of our crafts may have changed through the years, but being present with the bare bones of birthing – that is something that we must hold dear and protect together.