Monday, September 6, 2010


Posted by Katy 

The first day of the year, at orientation, we each shared our journey to the room that day. Even though I already knew everyone in the room, taking the time to listen to and tell our stories was quite powerful. There were a few common threads that are worth mentioning. Many of the students expressed the challenge of getting to midwifery school. Many students came to the profession of midwifery through academic and intellectual pursuits, a path that may be more common to university training programs.

Almost everyone at least mentioned that midwifery felt like a calling. They stated that they were more driven by impulse and conviction, than practicality and certainly more than money. However some students chose were drawn towards a support of family that is offered by the midwifery profession over medicine. The calling to midwifery seems to be driven by an innate drive to support women and families, to shepherd and guide women, to be present and available.

Most deeply, the connection between birth and death came to the surface. Unquestionably, birth is spiritually akin to death. Both are periods of transition, of vulnerability, and a time to consider the meaning of life, death, and beyond. Midwifery also perhaps prepares us to be with people at the time of dying in addition to at the time of death. It teaches a sort of patience and a presence that enables the support through both periods. The values of midwives correspond to those that work in the support of the dying.

Storytelling is an essential part of the birth process. When I tell people that I'm studying to be a midwife, people often tell me their birth stories. This immediate elicitation of such an intimate story I think reflects the intimacy and the trust of the midwifery profession. I respect the professors in the program for emphasizing the importance of storytelling as a method of instruction and as a vital component of the process of becoming a midwife.

Storytelling has been brought into my life in a more immediate and intellectual way by my newest roommate who is studying Narrative Medicine, and I hope that his studies will contribute to my own experience in becoming a midwife!

1 comment:

  1. I think a lot about storytelling, too. It is so central to being human and relating to one another, and it gains extra potency when someone is cast in a role of "provider," "expert" or "authority." I so much remember the skill with which my first midwife, Anita Rojas wove a beautiful spell around the story of baby positioning. When the subject came up in a later prenatal visit, she casually recounted how so many babies she sees posterior in pregnancy spontaneously turn around to the anterior position during labor. In labor I had a mental image of a baby turning, knowing what to do to help itself through that pelvis. I could practically feel my son slipping into the easiest path out. And so it was. I don't think it was accidental, I have a hunch that telling stories mindfully is something she has integrated in her practice intentionally.

    Sister MorningStar's book "The Power of Women" speaks to storytelling in midwifery quite a bit. She calls it "word medicine." Gloria Lemay and Jeannine Pavarti-Baker are also role models and advocates for mindful storytelling in midwifery. Thanks for posting about this, Katy, I think it's a subject we could never spend too much time on.