Birthing from Within and Midwives

birthing from within for midwives: image of closeup of two clasped hands

As a midwife, I feel lucky that my training included an extra special element from the very beginning. I had the good fortune to take a Birthing from Within class as a pregnant parent, just before starting midwifery training, and to begin my apprenticeship years in the homebirth practice of a certified BFW childbirth educator and professional trainer, Rosanna Davis. Birthing from Within was like a special ingredient, giving me valuable tools that added depth, compassion, and connection to the rigorous, exciting work of midwifery.

Without the gift of Birthing from Within, I would be a very different midwife today.

 

Like many aspiring birth workers, I entered the field with enormous passion and idealism. I had powerful ideas and beliefs about what birth should be, what birth needed to be. I was fired up about all of the ways I saw birth going wrong, people being mistreated and misunderstood, the lack of true options for birthing families, and all of the other familiar passions that many of us share. I wanted to fix it all, and return birth to what I believed were its gentler roots as a personal and social event, imbued with the primal energy of transformation and growth.

 

These were (and still are) noble ambitions and motivations. The echoes of these ideals reverberate in my work to this day, nearly 14 years later. But they were also quite rigid and fixed in my mind, with clear delineations between good and bad, right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable choices and outcomes, for the families I served, for birth at large, and for myself as a birth keeper. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting change and holding a strong vision for the future of birth. But rigid belief systems with a very narrow set of acceptable outcomes don’t fare well in the face of the mystery and unpredictability of birth and the complex systems of our modern world. I was unknowingly setting myself and my clients up for more alienation and even trauma by being attached to such an inflexible attitude. 

 

Birthing from Within offered me a much more expansive vision, as well as the tools to embody that vision and bring it to clients. As my training progressed, I was challenged to examine my own biases and motivations, as well as the internal rules and agreements I had unconsciously made about myself and about what I believed my client outcomes meant. I learned to feel deeply into the human elements at play in birth, both within and beyond the systems and structures of modern birth. I began to connect to the shared humanity, the positive intentions, and the personal traumas and struggles not only of midwives and clients, but also of doctors and nurses, whom I had previously believed were my adversaries in the fight for “better birth.” I have now attended hundreds of births, in a variety of settings, and I still disagree heartily with many of the standard practices and protocols in birth today. But my reach as a professional, my compassionate heart, and my ability to be with nuance in birth have expanded exponentially.

Largely due to the philosophy and tools I practice with BFW, the birth world is no longer black and white. I am able to see in color.

 

Birthing from Within practices help me keep holistic care, personal reflection and growth, shared humanity, and compassion for self and others at the center of my work with clients, even in the midst of attending to clinical tasks and fulfilling my midwife role. BFW supports me in building  community through Village Care ™ – the group midwifery care model that Rosanna Davis and I co-developed to weave clinical midwifery care with BFW, creating a strong support system of both peers and professionals for clients. And perhaps most importantly of all, Birthing from Within is a great friend to me as I navigate the intensity of midwifery, with its soaring highs and subterranean lows. I have learned to love myself so much more honestly as I apply BFW teaching to myself as much as my clients. Birthing from Within helps me to swim in the wide and deep waters of birth, over and over letting go of the belief that to be a good midwife I must control it all. 

 

There have always been midwives in Birthing from Within. It was of course created by Pam England, who was a midwife long before BFW was born. And while I love and embrace the doulas, childbirth educators, nurses, and other professionals who make up the majority of BFW mentors, I have always wished there were more midwives among us. I believe BFW is such a natural fit with the Midwives Model Of Care and general philosophy of midwifery – centering the birthing family, individualized care, walking with families through birth rather than telling them what to do, embracing a wide range of normal experiences, honoring birth as a rite of passage. 

 

I think many midwives don’t know how much there is here for them. Perhaps they see a childbirth educator or doula program and think they won’t learn anything new. Perhaps they need to spend their continuing education time and budget on programs that offer CEUs. Perhaps their time in appointments is already stretched thin and they don’t see how incorporating BFW’s signature art, visualization or storytelling processes could work. But I, and other BFW midwives, know how valuable this training is for those in this profession.

 

Every midwife I’ve known who is a part of Birthing from Within has expressed the wish to bring BFW to more midwives and their clients. We have dreamed many dreams about how this might happen. I am delighted to say that one of these dreams is finally manifesting.

This October, we are offering the first ever Crossing the Threshold exclusively for midwives and midwife students! We have applied for MEAC CEUs for this program, and we will post updates about CEU status to our website.

 

Crossing the Threshold for Midwives contains the same core curriculum as all other CTT retreats. But with a practicing midwife (me) as the lead facilitator, we will turn the metaphorical kaleidoscope a bit, shifting the focus of our lens to:

  •     Explore how BFW can positively impact clinical practice and our relationships with clients while also nurturing us as midwives and as human beings.
  •     Hold space for the particular struggles midwives encounter and create a supportive community of others who understand these experiences.
  •     Experience for ourselves the loving attention, space, and nurturing that we give to our clients, thus reducing burnout and trauma.
  •     Provide a rest from the weight of responsibility we carry as midwives, and reconnect us with the holistic, whole person perspective that called many of us to midwifery.

 

 Midwives are of course welcome to join any of our Crossing the Threshold workshops and find learning and nourishment there. But this special offering was created especially for midwives and students who feel that they could benefit from learning in an environment shaped by the factors above. This workshop is open to midwives of all types (CPM, LM, CNM, CM, TM, TBA) and all practice locations (home, birth center, hospital), as well as students and apprentices on any of these paths.

 

Midwives are on the front lines of changing birth in our culture. We are leaders in serving families who experience oppression and marginalization, with a focus on individualized and connected healthcare, and carrying forward traditional wisdom about the health of the whole person, whole family and whole community. Midwives embody the intersection of ancient and modern knowing. Gathering together gives us the opportunity to deeply experience how Birthing from Within processes and philosophy can support us in this demanding and rewarding role.

 

A dream is coming true for me, as Crossing the Threshold for Midwives combines the two branches of birth work that make me who I am: midwifery and Birthing from Within. Midwives, I invite you to share with me a vision of releasing and reintegrating polarization in birth, reclaiming its wild and mysterious nature, and walking in the footsteps of beloved ancestors while forging the new paths of modern birth.

About Maeve Sundstrom

Maeve Sundstrom is a Licensed Midwife and Birthing From Within Facilitator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She finds infinite inspiration in the Art of Mentoring and the many colorful forms it can take. Maeve enjoys reading, listening, writing, storytelling, poetry, art, and being by the ocean, and she is delighted by how these all inform her work in birth. Learn more and get in touch at www.RedwoodMidwifery.com.