A true midwife operates from a place of deep respect and reverence for life. She understands suffering and is therefore capable of magnanimous compassion. Such a midwife is able to stand in her strength yet be as flexible as a willow branch in the wind, in order to withold her projections and refrain from disturbing the process of labour and birth. A good midwife tends her spiritual garden and nurtures it, making sure she herself is nourished from the Divine Source.Bonnieta lives in Cape Town and experienced deep rejection during her pregnancy. The father of her child and ‘mother-in -law’ rejected Bonnieta as a wife and mother because she is not ‘white’. This is a hurt that runs deep in our country, South Africa, and despite the progress we have made since the days of apartheid, still exists and shows itself in the community. There were many days when Bonnieta cried buckets of tears in our presence. The birth was exceptionally beautiful and exquisite Isabella slipped through the water into the world. While Bonnieta is still receiving counselling support, she remains ecstatic about the memory of giving birth to Isabella and said it was the best day of her life. Ruth and I were honoured to nourish her with our love.
When a midwife is afraid, her own fear will influence the progress of the labour and birth. To overcome her fear, a midwife needs to know herself on a primal level and understand the place from which her fear originates. She also needs to learn and know extensively the anatomy and physiology of labour and birth and continue learning throughout her lifetime. A good midwife will recognize each mother’s unique composition and allow her labour and birth to unfold in her own individual pattern. A good midwife spends her time waiting for babies and never tires of listening to the mother or loving her.
While a true midwife may love and bond with each baby born as if it was her own, she facilitates each mother and baby’s bonding and attachment style with loving assistance and acceptance. Labour and birth is not just about the business of being born, it is also about love, tremendous yielding and immense self discovery.
Ina May Gaskin has said in her book Spiritual Midwifery: “Great changes can be brought about with the passing of a few words between people or by the midwife’s touching in such a way that great physical changes happen. For this touch to carry the power that it must, the midwife must carry herself in a state of grace. She has to take spiritual vows just the same as a yogi or a monk or a nun takes inner vows that deal how they carry out every aspect of their life. A midwife must do this if she is to have a touch that has any potency. A person who lives by a code that is congruent with ‘life in compassion’ and truth, actually keys in to and agrees with the millions-of-years-old biological process of childbirth”.
A spiritual midwife observes where there is a lack and acknowledges the responsibility she has to Great Spirit to fill the lack, impart the knowledge and share her skill. A spiritual midwife is skilled and practical and this coupled with a recognition of the divine source of all life gives her the tools to meet the needs of pregnant women, unborn babies, fathers to be and the expectant community.
Our world desperately needs midwives at this time who are filled with courage, are unafraid to take a stand against both the desecration of biological birth and the lack of midwifery services in areas of need. Our world needs midwives who are willing to protect spiritual birth.