Sunday Morning ~ Midwives and Justice
Mimba si kupha namwino. ~ The pregnancy does not kill the midwife.
~ Chewa proverb
October 2, 2022
Having just returned from a midwifery retreat, I looked for a proverb about midwives; this was the only one I could find. I looked into it’s meaning, wondering if it was about pregnancy killing the mother, something happening far too often. I found it was a message about judgement, about being fair and frank; not to judge but to help. So the midwife is a metaphor, but it’s a good message to bear in mind. Spending time surrounded by nurturing women working hard to improve life for others, soaking up some of their strength and energy, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. They model justice.
We began our midwifery retreat as we often do, with a shared meal. As midwives arrived to Nell’s beautiful home on the water, the sun was setting and abundant bird life was silhouetted in the most sublime Maine setting. The water was so calm it seemed impossible another state far south was being ravaged by a storm. We’ve seen our share of those storms but this was not the time for us. Instead, the trees gracefully began delving into their annual fashion show before dropping all their glory to rest. It will be another few weeks before the bare and dark set in in ernest and it was wonderful to have time to absorb the gift. I love this time of year and the setting mirrored the beauty of the group. We poured wine, ladled soup, gathered and talked. The warmth emanating from these women always makes me feel as if I’m being cradled. It feeds and inspires me. I never feel more comfortable with myself than when I’m in their presence.
Friday evening we invited one of our state senators, a nurse-midwife, farmer, mother, activist, to speak to us about her experience in the legislature and advise us how to effectively help in the November election. She just finished her first term and shared the lessons she’s learned, the growth, and the understanding of how to accomplish progressive initiatives. She was so inspiring. She related her work in the State House to nurturing women though life stages and we reflected how our skills can be used in all facets of life. It was fascinating. Maine has a Democratic governor and legislature right now, so women’s rights are protected at the moment. But that could change if the party in power flips. We all acknowledged we can not let that happen. Our lives depend on keeping the Democrats in power. It’s already bad enough for rural women trying to access care. Our previous governor, a racist and misogynist, is running again and it was hell during his term trying to provide services to those in need. God help us if he retakes the governor’s mansion. It just cannot happen. We talked about how we can be most effective in promoting democratic candidates. Door knocking is hard in this state; houses are far apart and distances are prohibitive. Do postcards really help? Data says, yes. Money also helps. When we asked what we could do, her response without hesitation was “letters to the editor”. This is well within my capability, so it’s on my list for this week. I spent my drive home yesterday thinking about what to write.
I believe in a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body and her life. That there is any question of this in current times is so ludicrous I get dizzy. I think about myself and what I would choose if faced with excruciating circumstances. I always thought I would not have had an abortion but knowing how hard pregnancy and birth is, I cannot say I’d have made that choice if I were raped. I can’t imagine not being allowed to make that decision for myself. I am enraged at the republican stance on women’s rights to control their bodies. Imagine the tables were turned and there was an extreme population-control mandate. I know people who judge me for my large family. What if they had the power to force me to terminate a pregnancy because they don’t believe women should have more than two children? What if women were FORCED to abort a pregnancy. This control over women’s bodies could go both ways, right? Isn’t this the same argument?
We CAN NOT and WILL NOT allow men to control us. Any man who takes offense is part of the problem.
We spent a long time at the retreat yesterday discussing perennial issues with pregnancy complication, access to care, and barriers to practice. I see progress over my forty years of doing this, but many of the issues are the same ones over and over. So many of the problems of access, respectful care, follow-up care, prevention, could be managed effectively if there were more midwives. More and more obstetrical facilities are closing, stating financial reasons–– meaning it is “too expensive” to keep these services available for women in rural settings. They “can’t afford OB/GYNs” or the liability insurance. There is never a discussion among the grand decision-makers to provide all these services with midwives, a safer, well-documented historically effective solution. No, they just eliminate the service altogether, then blame women for not being responsible with their health care options. I maintain we need to change the language in our advocacy to discrimination. Eliminating services for women and those with uteri is discrimination. We can legislate that. We can problem solve. We can do it if we have Democrats in charge. It’s the only way. Losing in this election is not an option. Extremism, patriarchal control, over-medicalization, profit-driven health care can NOT be tolerated. Period. And our only hope is having Democrats in power.
Donate. Vote. Speak up. Never mind who stands where on what issues. If Democrats are not in power, we lose it all. Nationally we need two more senators and we must keep the house, then a woman’s right to choose health care for herself will become law. Vote blue down the ballot in local as well as national elections. It’s the only way to save our democracy and our women.
Love to all,