Questions of science, science and progress


Someone said to me yesterday that midwifery is very clinical, and that it’s basically a study of a woman’s anatomy, and of pain and fear. That someone who studies midwifery may find it difficult to get out of her clinical head and in tune with her body. That because a midwife views a woman’s body impassively, she may see her own self as passive. I could not disagree more if I tried.

Midwifery is so much more than science, and body parts, and clinical skills. It is an ancient art and incredibly personal (sometimes spiritual) vocation. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the science is only a necessary by-product of the art. They co-exist together out of necessity, but the science should never overtake the simple but effective method of simply ‘being there’, the wisdom gleaned from communication and experience, and the love.

I have met some incredibly strong women in my time as a birth worker, women who have persevered through mental illness, drug addiction, abuse, poverty, refugee status, infertility, baby loss, grief, depression, previous birth trauma, medical conditions, financial strain, or just being really, really scared of what was about to happen to their bodies, their relationships and their lives. I’ve also met women who pop babies out without much thought or effort, who have supportive family, ‘easy’ lives, money and resources, no health or social issues and who conceive babies simply by glancing at their partner during a full moon.

Both deserve and get my respect, my care and my compassion. End of.

My ultimate goal is not to analyse a woman’s anatomy, ‘deliver her’ of her child, or practise clinical skills on her in the name of Science. What I am called to do is empower women to inform themselves, to voice their concerns, to seek out support, and to trust that they, and only they, can make decisions about their fertility, their families, and their lives. I encourage women to trust that their bodies know what they’re doing and to release themselves from fear and anxiety, though I know this is usually easier said than done. But when a woman gets it, when she completely surrenders to her body and to the process of birth, there is very little science involved. It is nature, it is instinct and it is a powerful, wonderful thing to witness.

Science is an important and integral part of midwifery, no doubt about it. It is the earth beneath our feet, the foundations upon which we stand. But the art is the tree that grows out of that earth, reaching up to the sky, its leaves and blooms and branches reaching higher and higher into the blue abyss above, towards the unknown infinity that awaits us. We grow, we expand, we burst forth….and life begins anew.

(Image credit)

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