Do I trust birth? Well, for me, the short answer is an unequivocal “No!” This may be shocking to hear from a dedicated community birth midwife. In the “natural birth” world, this can be bold statement that “asks” for attack or derision. However, I do absolutely respect birth! The conversation should start with what ‘trust’ and ‘respect’ mean to me. So let’s dig in.
For me, to trust something is to put hope and faith in the process, to let go and stop paying attention…to let it unfold without monitoring. This is my definition, of course blurred by my life experiences. It feels “blind”, the faith you put into the sun rising each morning, to gravity holding you to the Earth, to a belief in the divine. When I trust something or someone, I feel like I can turn away, drop my guard and release the responsibility.
For me, to respect something is to acknowledge the power it holds, the strength it embodies. Again, my personal definition colored by my personal experiences. Like a force of nature or a wild animal. And like a hurricane or a mother bear, I will keep my eye on them, I will monitor their progress and if I need to make adjustments to maintain safety I absolutely will.
Listen, in most cases when a person who is healthy conceives a pregnancy, it will be a healthy and safe process. The pregnancy will progress, the baby will grow and develop. Labor will spontaneously start when the bay is full term and ready to be born. Birth will be hard work but will most likely happen relatively uneventfully. The birthing person and the new baby will teach each other how to successfully nurse. This is how our species has evolved to not only survive but to thrive. In recognizing this, we must also recognize that this will not happen every time, there will be miscarriages, there will be health issues like high blood pressure or a postpartum hemorrhage, or a baby that needs help to breathe. These things will happen too.
This is why I do not trust birth but why I respect birth. I will keep an eye on it, I will watch it unfold in all its power and glory. I will hold that space for each family. But, if I am called to, I will also intervene to maintain safety, to help guide a process that has veered off the path, back to the path. To me, ultimately, being a midwife is being a lifeguard. Like the person at the swimming pool, who mostly sits up in the high seat to keep an eye out, and only occasionally and when necessary jumps in to keep the swimmers safe. This is the difference between trusting and respecting birth.
What are your thoughts?