Monthly Archives: April 2016

Pregnant with story

I am a keeper of story…her-story. Today I have bathed in words; hard words. Pulled my shirt off, made me get into bed, cut, no food, so tired, so thirsty, told I had to, pulled my legs open, no choices, wouldn’t listen to my no. 

What horror is being described here? Let your mind connect the dots, your imagination fill in the blank. 

It sounds like sexual violence. One in three children in America. It must stop! When do we say “no more”? 

I fight for this. 

But these words frame stories of obstetric violence. “Birth rape”, some call it. One in three women in America; cut. Countless more stripped of their dignity. Her story packed in a box and tied with a bow, with a tag that reads “at least you have a healthy baby”. Maybe. This hospital bag may take a lifetime to unpack. 

I say “no more”!

As a midwife, I fight for this. 

And it starts by daring to listen…to her-story. 

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In sickness and in…

We have been testing out the sickness piece lately. It seems like if it’s almost ready to be 100° that all the viruses should die off. But apparently not.

First one kid then another, then another. Gratefully, I am still above water. I am hitting the immune enhancers hard. My immune system is suppressed from treatment, and I ask for an extra measure of grace.

And so I sit on the porch, listening. And in the stillness of the night, I hear the quiet. The Spirit of God moves over the face of the water. Perhaps this still small voice whispers. As my mind drifts through the day, I notice the soft movement of the wind. There were moments of goodness today. 

Hugs from my youngest, not to be taken for granted. I remember twice a week in attachment therapy, spooning pudding and playing games with M&Ms. We didn’t know if bonding was even possible.  My man cub child came out tonight with a sore ligament after basketball. I rub some essential oils in, marveling that touch is possible for this one, for whom trauma has left a mark of vigilance. He lingers; I notice. Spelling words reviewed on the front porch with a daughter by candlelight bring the pre teen anxiety down. A wee note from a daughter in Nazareth, ironically; reassurance to a mama’s heart. Food was served tonight, fish in a masala sauce. An every day occurrence perhaps for some, but I do not take for granted the making  of meals, as my body does the work of healing. I took little jars of water to the garden seedlings today. There is grace in the noticing. I have had the reputation of killing plants for too long. Recently I decided I am tired of that label. I’m asking for eyes to see when plants are thirsty. I had my hands on a mama belly today, the baby stretching little feet to push back. it reminded me again that the story of the work of my hands is not yet done being written. 

And so, among my every day moments; today, there shimmers glimpses of the Eternal.

And for this moment, in the midst of sickness and healing, it is enough.

 

These hands 

You have no business catching babies.”

These words, spoken by a doctor this week in about 20 different ways, have haunted me. This is the second Doctor who has made grave proclamations about my midwifery practice and my hands. 

What do they picture when those words are uttered? Sitting on a stool with the mom up in stirrups, gloved hands in the air? Do they imagine some sort of intense hand maneuvers?

Perhaps they do not picture quiet waiting by candlelight. Maybe they don’t see the mom reaching for her own baby? How can they sense the deep stillness with the only sound being the movement of the water in the birth pool. 

In this place, this holy ground, hands are still needed. But they are gentle hands. 

I was privileged to hold space to welcome a baby last night. Another midwife was there, for the strong hand movements if needed. An apprentice brought her strong and capable hands. And so we held this vigil together. A vigil for the new baby, joining us earth side. We held space in our hearts for another baby born three years ago on this night who we knew could not live outside the womb. And there was a tender knowing that the space was also sacred tonight for these hands of mine, healing still. 

No doctor can imagine what it means to be a midwife in a home. The most empathetic practitioner falls short in picturing this holy work I am called to.

It is not a business; I do not need a work release. It is a calling. And so I listen for the Spirit; for the yes and for the no.  And I am encircled by my sister Midwives, Who protect me in this fragile work of healing.  They bless these hands. 

No one knows the journey ahead. Perhaps I live more aware of that and than some. But for today, this knowing is enough. I have stood again in that space where the veil between heaven and earth is so thin it shimmers. 

  
And to this holy work I offer my hands; broken, and healing. 

These hands. 

(Picture used with permission)

The gift of pain

I believe Pain is a gift. I have lived many years with pain as a journey companion. As a child, growing up with rheumatoid arthritis, I learned many tricks for dealing with pain.
Now, since the car accident, I have not experienced pain or feeling in my arm for 3 1/2 months. The impact of the airbags saved my life; but they broke a bone in the hand and elbow and damaged the nerves.
I grew up with a mom who avoided pain at all costs. As her pain increased, body and spirit, the pain meds required began to rule her. And the cost of that was high for those around her, as addiction always demands a price. She gave me the only gift she had, the skill of going away, in order to survive the violence of nighttime. My work now is to lean into staying present.
In a different context, we learn from our brothers and sisters with leprosy, or stroke, or neuralgia that pain is a gift. Without it, skin breaks down and unnoticed injury destroys the body.
In the church, pain appears to be an enemy. We pray for God to take it away, and sing about the day when that will occur. The longing underneath is right and good, that desire for shalom to be restored. But where is the theology of suffering?
I had pain yesterday! I was so excited I did a happy dance. I felt something in my elbow, which is healing, and went and looked in the mirror. It was swollen. It worked! The pain feedback loop worked! The message came through.
This opens all sorts of possibilities. Physical therapy has been on hold because I cannot tell if I do too much. With pain, I can hear my body’s stop signal.
Last week, I felt a Drop of water on my hand. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? But it has been 3 1/2 months since I have felt that sensation. Nerves wake up in funny ways: heat, cold, pins and needles, like a leg you have been sitting on for too long. I feel more of those things now, the arm awakening after a long winter’s sleep.
And so I ask…
To hear my body talk.
For the gift of pain.

Birth and grief

Birth is a joyful experience! How many times have you heard those words? And yet, sometimes it is not.

I am gifted with the privilege of listening to birth stories. I read them, I hear them, I love them, I breathe them.  

And in a culture where one in three women experience a surgical Birth, and Birth violence is more often the norm in the other two thirds, birth stories can be painful.
 And so, I listen. Multitudes of words have been silenced with the phrase “at least you have a healthy baby”.  Are we willing to dare to hear the but/and. It takes two hands held open to hold the paradox.

It matters how we are born. 

It matters for the baby, and it matters for the mother. Healing is possible, no matter the road. I have the privilege to hold space for birth in new ways. Or perhaps, The ways are very old. Have we forgotten the sacredness of birth?

We must dare to hold space for Story. We must listen without words. We must not filter or shut down grief. It is only in daring to feel the grief that we can truly feel the joy.

And in that way, we can reclaim birth. May it be.

Good girls grow up

Good girls don’t…

How did the gender roles of your childhood fill in that blank?

In the circles of my childhood, girls were to be sweet and nice and silent.  

  

There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  And when she was good she was very, very good. And when she was bad she was horrid. 

My dad would trace an imaginary curl on my forehead as he quoted that. It always have me chills. 

The good girl of those years was not safe to speak up. But good girls grow up. Some stay sweet and nice and silent. They fill church pews and PTA groups. 

But some girls find their voice. 

There is a time to be silent and a time  to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

A woman who has found her voice is beautiful and strong. She knows how to speak for those who have no voice. She calls out injustice. She cries out on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, the child without a home. 

This week, truth has asked me to stand up against embezzlement. It has asked me to name sexual harassment for what it is. It has caused me to fight for midwives being treated with respect by hospital colleagues. 

Wisdom cries out in the streets, she raises her voice in the public squares. (Proverbs 1:20)

No poem can silence that voice. 

…a time to speak.