WITNESSING LIFE’S GREATEST MIRACLE AT HOME.
By Philomena Canning
No one could convince me that there’s a more rewarding occupation than being a midwife. Witnessing the vitality of a baby’s first breath; the joyous sound of its cry filling the air; the quiet attentiveness to the familiar sounds of its mother and father whispering their hundred million welcomes; the meeting of eyes lost in love; and the insatiable desire for the nurturing milk of its mother’s breast are among the unfolding gifts that proclaim the miracle embodied by the new-born baby.
‘Midwife’ literally means ‘being with woman’ and I’m particularly lucky as I get to be with women who choose to give birth at home. Planning a home birth comprises effective preparation for the best possible experience in birth. Childbirth is a natural physiological process where the mother surrenders herself to the power of her birth-giving forces. In doing so, she and her baby are safe-guarded by the protective effects of mother-nature.
Giving birth at home facilitates the capacity to surrender. In a familiar, private environment, the mother retains a feeling of control and belongingness, and can more freely ‘let go’. In surrender, there is vulnerability. The mother-to-be needs unconditional trust in those who are caring for her. In the mother-midwife relationship, trust is developed through many visits and conversations. By the time the birthing process begins, the mother is calling on someone she has come to know, who shares her values and beliefs, respects and gives credence to her capacity, and who she knows will guard and protect her and her baby.
Respect for the power of nature is scientifically proven to be the key to the health and wellbeing of the mother and baby in physiological childbirth. The midwife has no role in intervention which disrupts a natural process that has served us well through the ages. In respect and awe of the power of creativity, the midwife keenly observes, using her knowledge, wisdom and intuition in the art of facilitating the universal process of childbirth that is unique to each woman. The physical process, where bones negotiate bones, can of course offer up challenges that a mother’s body alone cannot remedy, but nature can be relied upon to provide ample time to access the skills and expertise of western medicine and technology if and as we need them.
In a safe haven with her loved ones and trusted carers in attendance, many of the practical measures needed by the mother are simplistic; the use of warm, deep birthing pools, low lighting, relaxing music, movement, massage, complimentary therapies, hot flannels, soft mats, flexible furniture, and soothing words of encouragement and reassurance enable her to birth her baby at her own pace into the bosom of her welcoming and loving arms.
The reward for the physical struggle of human creativity is the greatest sense of emotional fulfilment, empowerment and spiritual wellbeing bestowed on the mother which, in turn, nurtures her baby, her family, the community and the world. I am blessed by the occupation of worshipping at the altar of childbirth.
Philomena Canning is a self-employed midwife based in Dublin.
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