Why I Do What I Do
March 31, 2015
“What made you want to do birthwork?”
I get asked that question a lot, especially since I don’t have any birth experiences of my own to point to. And honestly, I don’t really have a good answer. I can tell you how I was first exposed to the ideas of midwifery and doula care, and what steps I’ve taken along my journey, but that doesn’t really address the question of why.
The why is intangible. It’s like asking why you fall in love with someone. You can point out their character, their personality, their looks, or any number of attributes that you find appealing – but at the end of the day, it just feels right. You don’t know why you love them, you just do. Same with my birthwork.
That being said, I had an emotional rollercoaster of a weekend that helped solidify in my mind one of the reasons why I love my job(s). On Thursday night, my cat had a medical emergency that required him to have (extremely expensive) surgery the next day. I’ll admit it, I’m a crazy cat lady, and not having any children born of my own body, he is the closest thing to a child that I have, furry and four-legged though he may be. So needless to say, I was extremely distraught on Friday.
Pip before surgery.
After his surgery, he had to stay in the hospital for monitoring over the weekend. My anxiety was still through the roof, as I fretted over being apart from my beloved baby as well as the cost of his medical care. I considered canceling my events for the next two days, but I knew that if I did, I’d just sit around the house worrying the whole time. So I pushed on through, and guess what? It was awesome.
Marcella slices a piece of steamed placenta as Jessica and Rachel look on.
On Saturday, I taught a placenta encapsulation workshop to a group of local doulas. It’s so rare that I get to share my passion for placentas (lol) with people as equally interested in it as I am! We had some great conversations about birthwork, family, and life in general along the way, and it was a great way to get my mind off my troubles for a few hours. It felt less like teaching a class, and more like spending time with awesome friends. I realized after the workshop that I was not nearly as stressed as I had been beforehand, and slept better that night.
Mother blessing altar.
On Sunday, I facilitated my first mother blessing ceremony, for my friend and fellow doula/student midwife Samm. It was better than I could have possibly imagined. The ceremony was held in the same space where Samm will have her homebirth – a gorgeous suite of rooms in her grandmother’s old Victorian house, filled with bright beautiful colors and imagery of nude women, babies, animals and mermaids. I prepared the space by smudging with sage, then misting with rosewater and ringing a sacred bell to raise the energy vibrations.
Smudging each other with sage.
Samm invited her 5 closest friends as well as her doula, Morgan. To signify our transition into sacred space and leaving any negative thoughts or worries behind, the women took turns smudging each other with sage smoke. We then introduced ourselves to the circle, naming ourselves and our female ancestors, acknowledging the unbroken chain of women who have successfully birthed before us and contributed to our existence.
Then we began our planned activities. I made a plaster cast of Samm’s pregnant torso, while she and her friends shared fun memories and stories of their times together. Then, Samm relaxed with a rose petal and salt footbath, while her friend Neha did spectacular henna tattoos on Samm’s belly, as well as all of the guests’ hands. I made a floral wreath for Samm to wear, made from flowers that each person brought to the ceremony. We made an affirmation banner for Samm to hang in her birthing space, full of positive messages and well-wishes.
A sacred sisterhood.
Then, we each lit a candle as we shared our blessings and wishes for Samm’s birth. Everyone took their candles home, and will re-light them when she is in labor to show our solidarity. Finally, we linked our community of women together by wrapping a long piece of string (symbolizing the umbilical cord) around each person’s wrist in the circle, then cutting and tying it. The bracelet will be a reminder of the ceremony and to keep our positive intentions in mind over the next few weeks. We ended the evening with a delicious potluck feast.
Somehow, the gathering felt both like a fun, informal get together, as well as a sacred, spirit-filled ceremony. My heart and soul feel so full, even two days later – and even while worrying about my cat-baby. With jobs I’ve had in the past, going to work in the midst of a crisis would have pushed my stress levels over the top and likely caused a complete meltdown. In contrast, working with women, placentas, pregnancy and birth is so joyful that it actually relieves my stress and anxiety. I feel uplifted. I feel alive.
I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
(Oh, and by the way, my cat is home now and happy as can be.)