It’s National Midwifery Week 2010! To help you celebrate, we’ll be posting more frequently this week. Check back often and don’t forget to take advantage of our National Midwifery Week resources.
Birth, Trust, and Cultural Divides
by Lorene Gilliksen, CNM
As I celebrate my daughter’s 26th birthday, I’d like to acknowledge the help I received during my pregnancy from Mei Ka Chin, my midwife. Emily is my only child, so I suppose I am 26 years postpartum.
When I was pregnant, I worked at North Central Bronx (NCB) Hospital as a staff midwife. Mei Ka was a lead midwife there, and my friend and neighbor. As a patient, I felt confident and well-cared for because I knew that I had Mei Ka’s complete attention.
We are all thankful for midwives who listen to women and extend the values of midwifery into communities worldwide. Mei Ka is special because she listens beyond and across cultural infrastructures. She puts the dislocated, fretful, and disenfranchised at ease. Only later, as I worked at a hospital that served immigrants to the Midwest, did I think about Mei Ka’s special skills. As I attended the births of women from several continents, I thought about the courage required to give birth in a foreign city, without one’s mother, and without one’s mother tongue.
As current research on pitocin and trust reminds us, a woman needs to feel safe in order to labor. Childbirth generates a ripple effect of trust. These ripples of trust are a woman’s confidence in her body’s ability to do the work, the relationship she has with her partner, the web of immediate family support, and wide social networks. Midwives facilitate the effectiveness of these relationships. Mei Ka recognizes how each ripple contributes to a woman’s sense of safety.
Mei Ka has devoted her life to being present with women. (The word midwife means “with woman.”) She is now in Shanghai bringing new life into one of the world’s biggest cities. Mei Ka Chin wears a cell phone around her neck. She’s on call all the time. She was on call 26 years ago. She is on call now. Thanks, Mei Ka!
ACNM Members: Read the full version of Lorene's essay in the upcoming fall issue of Quickening.