Once Upon a Time in Western Washington

Hello! It’s been a long time, nice to see you here again. I realize I haven’t posted since, well, I left Austin. There are a whole lot of reasons for not the least of which were adjusting to a new state/new midwife/new clients/etc. as well as healing emotionally for the reasons I left my preceptorship in Austin so abruptly. I’m working through it all and have several posts planned to touch on those subjects.

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you a story. It is a story about a bizarre convergence of events, touching on mysterious Pagan ways and midwifery. It begins in the usual way, like so:

Once upon a time, a young baby dyke was growing up in the woods of a placed called western Washington. She made friends with a Very Tall Family. This Very Tall Family was so tall, in fact, that they did outlandish things like keep their microwave on top of the refrigerator where the shortish baby dyke could not reach without standing on a stool. The Very Tall Family loved to go backpacking, and the mother in this family talked frequently about how she used to go backpacking with her former best friend, Teddy. The baby dyke heard lots of stories about her escapades and adventures backpacking with Teddy and though she never met the woman, felt like she kind of knew her anyway.

Skip ahead a few years, and the baby dyke finds herself attending a women’s gathering called Longdance. The mother and daughter from the Very Tall Family go, and apparently Teddy used to go too. She learned all sorts of wonderful things, including songs like We Are Sisters On a JourneyShe thought these are purely Pagan chants and delighted in teaching them to her circle mates in her college Pagan/Wiccan Collective.

Fast-forward several years later when the baby dyke (not such a baby dyke anymore, btw) decides to become a midwife (called to be a midwife, really, in an undeniable way. But that’s a tale for another place and another time). She travels a great distance to a far away land called Maine to attend midwifery school. There, she learns about MANA and how it was formed, and also about a woman named Teddy Charvet who was instrumental in founding the Seattle Midwifery School and was the first president of MANA. And then she had an epiphany that this Teddy Charvet was the same Teddy Charvet who used to go hiking with the mother of the Very Tall Family all those years ago (who, btw, now goes by Therese and still loves being in the forest). And she found out that We Are Sisters on a Journey is not just a Pagan song, but a beloved song for MANA as well. In fact it was sung at the very first MANA gathering brought, I like to imagine, directly to MANA by Teddy herself from the bosom of the women’s Pagan circles that later formed Longdance.

And it is in this roundabout way that I feel like I have always, somehow, had a connection to the rebirthing of midwifery in the US and the creation of MANA, although I didn’t realize it until very recently. Curious, no? It does seem strange to me that I’ve seemed to narrowly avoid meeting this woman my entire life.

What I Have to Offer

So as a beginning midwifery student, it quickly becomes apparent that you don’t know much. You fumble through the first several times you take blood pressure, and you are terrified to stick someone with a needle to draw their blood. At least I was. I attempted to take the pulse of one of our clients during a prenatal and was completely embarrassed when I couldn’t find it! When everything is this new, even something that sounds as simple as taking a pulse can be difficult. (I remedied the situation by taking the pulse of everyone one of my classmates the following day. I learned that pulses can be subtle. Sneaky buggers.)

So while I am continually being reminded that one must be a humble sponge as a student (the better to soak up knowledge and life lessons with), I also of course want to feel like I’m contributing and doing my part to help. Partially, this is coming with experience – the more prenatal appointments I sit in on, the more I see places where I can help. I can take blood pressure, pulse, check reflexes, for edema, etc. etc. etc. all on my own even as a student. And I can contribute knowledge that I’m learning in class. But really, I still don’t know very much.

So I get very excited when I feel like I can really contribute. And one area I feel I can definitely do that is with the spiritual side of birth. Whether it’s moving energy, holding space, or creating ritual for our clients, I feel completely qualified to participate! Finally, something I’m good at. I put a lot of energy into this when an opportunity crops up because I have so much experience in this area. We created a beautiful blessingway ceremony for one of our clients and I couldn’t have been happier to participate. Being a Pagan for all these years has been good for something! Mostly, though, it’s exciting to be able to contribute something I feel uniquely qualified to help with. Am I an expert at checking cervical dilation? No way. Do I know how to shift the energy in a room and create a productive birthing environment? You bet. It is an honor to be able to provide our clients with any part of this and is something I’m very excited about doing.

So I’m going to keep learning and absorbing and making mistakes and trying new things. But I’m also going to bring nearly a decade’s worth of work connecting to the Divine, moving energy, and creating space. Because I think every pregnant and birthing person can benefit from a little of that.