Every month, Birthing From Within sends a letter to our membership and the public, containing our reflections on happenings in birth, in the world at large, and in our organization. See a collection of our monthly letters on the blog here; sign up to receive our newsletters directly in your inbox.
National Midwifery Week falls at the end of this month. Today, I am writing not just to celebrate midwives, but also to celebrate and share Birthing From Within’s contribution to me and many other midwives. I took my first Birthing from Within workshop the same month I started midwifery school back in 2003. At that time, we had deep-seated belief systems within the homebirth community about the importance of undisturbed birth. This included judgments of any medical interventions except in emergencies – and even then, emergencies were seen to be potentially caused by interventions. Although these tenets helped shape aspects of my practice, such a rigid belief system didn’t take into account how it could lead to the trauma that we were trying to avoid.
At the time of my first BFW workshop, I was also attending births through a volunteer doula program and finding that my beliefs about natural birth were not always congruent with the birthing individuals’ needs and realities. It was through Birthing From Within that I began to name what was happening and see the bigger picture. It was timely, and it provided me with the tools for how I practice today.
BFW prevented some major pitfalls for me. It facilitated a value system of non-judgment, validation, trauma prevention, and individualized need. I mean, isn’t that what midwifery is really all about, anyway? It also allowed me to set up what has become my core beliefs of leaning into discomfort, reframing success as sometimes asking for help, and expanding our definition of sacred birth.
This place of non-judgment has become an integral part of who I am as I hold the space of birth. This holds true of my work with colleagues as well as when I teach hospital workshops. BFW that has allowed me to communicate effectively, because I have now spent years reflecting on the ways in which the judgments embedded in our language or actions can manifest and prevent connection.
Our first stories about birth and birthing people, often internalized when we were very young, can hold tight on our thinking.
This is as true of us as birth workers as of anyone. I still find myself being judgmental or hard on myself when something I do goes against my old, “young midwife” beliefs about what makes a “good midwife.” And this is where I have the opportunity to recognize possible effects on me or my students. This is where I can name disappointment or self-judgment and see how they contribute to a legacy of shame and perpetuation of trauma in midwifery. This is where a process-based ceremony of birth can be celebrated regardless of a decision to transport for pain management or an eventual cesarean birth.