Housecalls are lovely, and when you’re pregnant, it can be such a relief to know that your midwife will come to you for your prenatal visits. No need to get dressed in “leaving the house” clothes, and no gathering up kids, packing up all the stuff, or fighting the clock. You can just relax and enjoy a friendly, no-judgement-about-the-stains-on-the-couch talk, with your super supportive midwife.
But even though your prenatal home visits definitely don’t count as “company,” sometimes you really don’t want ANYONE coming over, am I right? And sometimes you are on your way home from work or errands, and it’s just easier to stop by your midwife’s office while you are out.
I’ve been setting up a little space for you so that you can have options for where you receive care. Swing by my office and I’ll put the tea kettle on!
Or if you’d rather, stay home in pajamas and I’ll come see you. I have three messy boys of my own, so if you have clutter, sticky counters, or dust bunnies, I truly won’t even notice. Midwifery care is all about having choices. So, my place, or yours?
My son has this little stuffed bear. He’s been through some rough times. By rough, I mean that the dog has savagely attacked him and torn out his eyes, on multiple occasions. Every time this happens, my son brings the bear to me, and when I eventually get around to it between working, feeding children, and walking the savage dog, I sew on some new button eyes. This bear must be on his fourth set of eyes. This is a broken little bear.
Recently a dear friend of mine had an experience like that – the kind of experience that leaves you broken. My heart has been aching for her, as I’ve struggled for words of comfort to help her begin to heal. You see, the whole idea of actually healing from an injury this terrible can seem like a cruel lie. When you have been hurt so deeply that you feel as though your very fibers are torn asunder and you are plunged into darkness, the truth is, you can never be the same.
For example, you know how when mothers have miscarriages, sometimes well-meaning loved ones will say “It will be okay. You can try for another baby.” Yeah. No.
Loss is loss, whether it's losing a baby or experiencing any other trauma. It cannot be erased, or made up for, or made “good as new.” These experiences change us. I don’t want to lie to my friend by telling her otherwise.
But here’s the thing. In time, the darkness will fade, as we are somehow given new eyes to see. They will not be the eyes we started with, and this may cause us to see things differently.
This funny little bear came with shiny, spherical eyes, complete with pupils, in a warm golden brown color. Now his eyes, at least for this month, are a very bright robin’s egg blue. He has also had his face reconstructed with some tan felt. We will never be the same as we were.
But here’s the other thing: my son has a 3DS, an empire of Legos, and several other things that modern kids love, but it’s the bear he loves the most. This worn old bear gets tucked tenderly into his own special spot to the side of my son’s pillow every night. I doubt that any level of injury could change that. My son is pretty steadfast.
I think it’s the same for my friend, and for all of us. The goal is not to claw our way back to where we were before tragedy befell us. The goal is to wait in the darkness, and, eventually, learn a new way of living and being, as changed people.
Many of us are broken bears. Brave, soft, broken, repaired, broken again bears, who are deeply, unwaveringly, loved.
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!
The Singing Tree
Long ago, far away
A tiny seed was planted
I don’t know; who’s to say?
I think it was enchanted
Right away, up she grew
(And so did all the weeds)
Like a seed is meant to do
It reaches up for what it needs
How I guarded her and waited
Through the wind and snow
But she never hesitated
Though we had so long to go
Just a sapling, frail and small
With tender leaves and shoots
Grew up strong, grew up tall
Stretching downward with her roots
She was loved into being
I held her close through time
Not yet ready, but enough
To know that she was mine
Then raging fires of doubt
Swept across us where we stood
But they refined her; they remind her
She is strong and good
Firmly planted in the clay
My sisters circled round
A foothold grasped, her leaves did sway
Between the sky and ground
Loved into being, refined by fire
Rooted in sisterhood
She grows and grows. Till when? Who knows?
The little tree that could
She sings a song, clear and strong
She’s growing quite vivacious
For she was me, all along
And you, and all of us.
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.