The notion that midwives like herb gardens (and gardens in general) is kind of a stereotype. I don’t know if it’s really true. I will say this though: I was never really into gardening of any kind, until I became a midwife.
As the trees leaf out and flowers pop up in front yards around the neighborhood this time of year, I find myself taking, and really savoring, more deep breaths. I also find that the more I work with mamas, dads, babies, and families – the more time I spend around pregnant women and the potential and wonder of their growing babes - the more gardening feels really good, and, well, meaningful.
I’m not actually knowledgeable about gardening at all. And while I’ve taken classes and read books about growing, harvesting, and using medicinal herbs, I’m still mostly a beginner. But even though more knowledge and experience will hopefully increase my success in the future, it’s really more about the process for me.
For now, it is quite astounding to put a seed into some soil and see green, tiny shoots push themselves up into the air and light.
It’s such a simple thing: a seed, dirt, water, and sunshine. And yet it creates magic. I guess simple things can sometimes be the most inspiring. It’s clearly a metaphor for midwifery. From the careful tending, to the waiting and more waiting, to the purposeful and loving harvesting of a mature herb, growing herbs (or vegetables, or whatever) calls to me just as a laboring mom draws me like a magnet, to soothe her with a cool cloth, to squeeze her hand, to reassure her.
I know that I won't, and could not, make these plants grow anymore that I can do the work of labor and birth for a mother. They do all the work of growing. But I can tend, guard, nurture and wait with them. You see, even though midwives do know an awful lot about physiology, pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum care, newborn care, and lots of other things related to the childbearing year, most of what we do is the simple stuff: nurturing, tending, and waiting. These things come fairly naturally to many midwives, perhaps because midwives love their clients the way a gardener loves his plants. Not in a weird, lack of professional client-caregiver boundaries kind of way, but rather in a deeper, love for humanity and respect for the sacredness of motherhood kind of way.
Anyway, tending herbs and other plants is good practice for midwives. The flowers are beautiful and uplifting. The culinary herbs are fragrant and sustaining. The medicinal herbs are nurturing and supportive. If you are one of my clients, I'm sure at some point I will offer you a nourishing pregnancy tea. Hopefully it will be made from herbs that I've grown for you and harvested myself.
It’s difficult not to feel optimistic for the future when you are working outside with plants, just as it’s hard not to feel blessed to hold the fresh, delicious beauty of a newborn baby in your own hands, or to feel grateful and humbled when a dear client says, “I did it!”
All birth is astounding. May we all be restored by the verdant new life that surrounds us now. Happy spring, everyone!
Kassia Walcott is a Texas Licensed Midwife, Certified Professional Midwife, and lover of mothers, babies, children, animals and nature. A homeschooling mother of three, she lives in Plano with her family, pets, and herb garden, where she loves to read and drink too much coffee.