The Midwifery difference goes beyond just the high quality care you can expect to receive during birth and the perinatal time. In midwifery communities, the name says it all: ‘Community’ is the very foundation of what makes this kind of care of exceptional. In other modalities, the doctor-patient relationship is typically all business, with the exception of some warm greetings from the familiar office staff, or meet-and-greets that occur with practice based childbirth education, there aren’t often opportunities to get to know the other clients in your provider’s network.
When comparing and contrasting the medical and midwifery modalities of care, it is often the birth and perinatal experiences which garner the majority of our focus. A core guiding principle that belies the very foundation of midwifery is holistic care. Holistic. This is a word I’m sure you’ve heard thrown around in many different contexts, so let’s take a moment to revisit exactly what ‘holistic’ even means. If you ask Mama Google for the definition of ‘holistic’, she will reply:
- characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease.
The definition I am most interested in is the one under the ‘Medicine’ header- “taking into account mental and social factors”. Holistic means seeing the woman as a whole being, not simply a uterus filled with a growing fetus. But let’s take the definition a step further — I argue that holistic means more than just the ‘woman’ in static isolation. Holistic also implies that we view the woman within the greater contexts of her social networks — from her nuclear and extended families, to close friend circles, colleagues, mentors, professional support workers, etc.
Historically, Western civilization made a shift from functioning with family structures that included members beyond just the immediate family to a nuclear set up in which the Mother-Father (or other non-traditional partnership) dyad is left singularly in charge for the care of their direct offspring. The Nuclearization of Western families has had a great impact not only on the way we each relate to one another, but perhaps most critically, on the way mothers thrive. On the one hand, shifting from extended to nuclear family systems has allowed individuals pursue their own goals without being bound any longer to familiar anchorage in one geographical area. After leaving the family home, adult children are free to fan out across the country, and even across the globe, without the sort of pressure which once existed to remain connected to the locale of their extended family.
This Freedom has come with a great price. Women who once had many hands across all generational lines, to support her in caring for her children, now bear the lion’s share of child rearing themselves. While the prevalence of stay-at-home fathers is climbing, mothers still take on by FAR the greatest responsibility for childcare, even when they hold employment outside of the home.
The stress and strain of taking on a job that is meant for a village but has been handed down to one person now commonly manifests itself in deeply destructive ways. Postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders amongst newly postpartum mothers are on an alarmingly sharp upward trajectory. All too often the psychological struggles suffered by new mothers are left unrecognized and untreated, thereby left to rampage the well-being of the family as a whole.
A mother who is given little in the form of support, has little to give to her family. When mothers lack support, everyone suffers.
So what does this have to do with midwifery? Well, let’s return to the concept of ‘holistic’ care. Midwives strive to address the woman’s whole being, which includes her need for socialization and the support of a loving community of like-minded people. What midwives understand is that if we want to support healthy clients, both mothers and babies, we must address their fundamental needs for community. Unfortunately, our society is often bereft of the kinds of communities that truly foster a supportive avenue for mothers to flourish in their roles.
The village which was depleted with the nuclearlization of the Western family structure must be restored and midwives play a crucial role in re-establishing and maintaining thriving communities where families can come together to connect, support one another, and share their unique gifts with the community from which everyone can benefit.
Locally, the midwife for whom I am currently an active apprentice, has created a thriving community in the South Eastern part of PA. Kate Aseron of Rising Moon Midwifery connects mothers both online and in person. Digitally-speaking, Kate has harnessed social media to create a private Facebook group in which all clients, both past and present, are invited to join and discuss a wide range of topics regarding pregnancy, birth, parenting, nutrition, sex, relationships, current events, and more. The online group has become something of an informational market place where members are free to offer their unique knowledge sets in support of each other (for example we have some nutrition gurus who frequently answer questions related to food and nutrition). There are chiropractors, artists, nurses, teachers, chefs, and so much more in the group, and everybody has something valuable to offer.
Of course, for communities to truly flourish, it is essential that meetings occur in the flesh as well, so on the first Friday of every month, Rising Moon Midwifery gathers the women and hosts a community-wide “Mom’s Meet” potluck where mothers can come, bring their babies, share food, and spend time with one another- visiting together and strengthening the crucial bonds of extended family. Yes, I did say ‘’family” because while although we are not bound by blood, we are all kindred in spirit, philosophy, principal, and stage of life.
Annually, Rising Moon Midwifery also hosts a Rising Moon Family day in which all members of the family are invited, including partners (who don’t attend Mom’s Meet). The result has been that families are strengthened, instances of depression are curbed, the community rallies together whenever a family suffers a tragedy, meal-trains are put into motion for each other, and families connect beyond the meeting spaces that Kate and the midwives of Rising Moon have erected.
On a personal level, some of my most cherished friends have been cultivated through the Rising Moon Midwifery Community (RMMC). The RMMC has provided me with the support I needed to make the transition from having one child to having two when I gave birth at home with Rising Moon midwives in October of 2013. Had it not been for the community support-system built into the Midwifery care I received during the perinatal time, I am certain that my transition would have been vastly more difficult.
In conclusion, as you process through your care provider options, be sure to consider *all* your needs as a “whole” family. You are not just a uterus with a fetus, you are a dynamic, three-dimensional family structure with physical, emotional, nutritional, educational, social, and spiritual needs. Be sure to choose a care provider who can address your full spectrum of care, from a perspective that embraces the holism that is you and your family. Community support is foundation to a healthy life, and midwives can be the key to the community you’ve always dreamed of, and of course, healthy communities beget healthy families which beget healthy children. Healthy children are the keystone of a beautiful new generation to replenish the Earth with their love after we are gone. And *that* my friends, is what it’s all about.
Brittany Ortiz is a Student Midwife of Rising Moon Midwifery, serving South Eastern Pa. She is also a childbirth doula, Lamaze certified childbirth educator, breastfeeding educator, birth photographer and overall birth geek. Her doula business can be found at www.sacredcirclebirth.com . Examples of her birth photography can be found on her facebook page at www.facebook.com/ASacredCircleBirth <– ‘Like’ her page and follow for birth-related updates!