Questions of science, science and progress

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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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Incubators R Us

A pregnant woman in Texas is being kept alive, despite being legally brain dead, so that she can continue to incubate the fetus she is carrying. The woman in question, Marlise Munoz, who collapsed in November after suffering a suspected pulmonary embolism, was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her ‘death’. She is only being kept (artificially) alive because Texas state law forbids the switching off of life support when the patient is playing host to a dependent being. Despite Munoz’s husband’s pleas to let his wife and child die peacefully, as per Munoz’s explicit wishes that she not be kept alive in such circumstances, hospital administrators are unable to allow it because of the batshit-crazy law that makes doing so illegal.

This is seriously some fucked up, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ shit right here. Margaret Atwood is an oracle of doom.

 

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Even when you’re dead, politicians will try to tell you what you can and can’t do with your vagina, especially if you’ve got a fetus tucked up there in your bone cave.*

Feminism isn’t needed any more, my ass.

*Another Margaret Atwood term, from her most recent book, MaddAddam. I think it’s catchy!

Rules for your vagina

If you’re a woman with a vagina, you know that there is a whole lotta politics involved with what goes in and comes out of it. People you’ve never met before, mostly those who don’t even HAVE magical lady caverns, want to tell you what to do with yours — how it should look, who can see it, what is supposed to go in and come out of it, how you should be paid and treated and behave on account of having one, and all sorts of other vagina rules that you didn’t ask for. Way too much of our time is spent worrying about what others’ think of our vaginas, what we’re ‘allowed’ to do with our bodies and how we can best please the patriarchy with our bewitching beavers.

This blog aims to break down some barriers and explore why the vaginal is so political. As an active feminist and birth worker who strongly believes in women’s autonomy and right to choice, I also aim to get women thinking about how their own actions, words, thoughts and beliefs can either add to or help destroy the Great Big Book of Rules For Your Vagina. This book does not actually exist (as far as I’m aware — there may be a self-published e-book out there somewhere just waiting to prove me wrong) but it exists in the power structures, cultural norms and societal standards that we all live under and within.

Subversive Owl is a pseudonym that I know not everyone will identify with or even like, but it is the one I’ve chosen so I hope you will stick around to read more content as I create it, and to join in the discussions that I hope take place.

I do actually have one rule about vaginas, though: I will not, under any circumstances, refer to a vagina as ‘yoni‘. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but I am not quite hippy enough to say or type that word with a straight face. Besides, yoni means ‘sacred origin of life’ and I believe that vaginas are more than that. They are like any other body part in that sometimes they are simply there, or in pain, or in need of a wash, or glowing with health, or bruised. Vaginas can be a source of pain, joy, pleasure, confusion, terror, ┬ápassion, birth, growth and even death. We are more than simply givers of life. We are people — women — with flaws and plans and dreams and regrets. We don’t just give life, we are life. We are more than our vaginas. It’s time to throw away the rule book we’ve been forced to read from and get a little…subversive.