Thursday, June 4, 2009

Stories from Seattle

by Ann Darlington, CNM

I live in Seattle and want to share an unexpected convention highlight that came for me in a yellow cab. Late one night after convention-style celebrating, two friends and I took a taxi back to their hotel. Our driver was a quiet, pleasant Somali man who listened to us midwives jabbering about the convention. As my friend Mary Lou reached to hand him the cab fare, he took her hand, drew it to his heart, and patted their joined hands against his chest three times (an unusual and moving gesture for a man from his world). He told her that he loves midwives, because they take such good care of his wife and family. When she joined us on the steps to the lobby, she shared this with us with tears in her eyes. A light went off for me—Muslim man, works nights, wife sees local midwives—so I scurried back to the cab, introduced myself, and asked what clinic his wife attends. As I had guessed, his wife has had her babies with my NeighborCare practice. Small world!

Another small world story: The Local Host Committee midwives had two beautiful handmade quilts to raffle off at our hospitality booth. The mothers of two different Seattle midwives made and donated the quilts to help raise money to defray our convention costs. When I was working the booth, a midwife from Ohio named Marsha Atkins totally fell for one of the quilts. Marsha asked how in the world she could win this precious work of art—she just had to have it. Naturally (and logically) I suggested she buy more tickets, so she did—an arm's length. She stroked the tickets with a prayer and a blessing, a “c’mon baby, come back to mama” and carefully laid them into the ticket collection basket.

The next day the raffle tickets were drawn, and Marsha Atkins won! She was ecstatic—whooping and smiling and crying. (Girl got mojo.) It turns out that 15 years ago, Marsha attended the birth of another Seattle midwife, Mary-Paul Backman, when Mary-Paul was active duty Navy at Bethesda and Marsha was active duty Air Force at Georgetown. As Mary-Paul tells it, Marsha “took over my prenatal care as a favor to a mutual friend who felt I needed someone strong-willed to get me to take better care of myself during my pregnancy….Believe me, I met my match in Marsha. My husband and I were both active duty and busy and she reminded us that we would only get the one chance to do that pregnancy ‘right.’ Watching her teach the OB residents on L&D was part of what inspired me to be a midwife. There was such a difference in how midwives taught and the OBs taught.”

A couple of lessons for and by midwives: what goes around, comes around, and we are but one or two separations from each other. Midwives share a small and beautiful world.

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