Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why keep fighting? Part 1

I was asked at the Capitol Wednesday why this fight (and yes, it is a fight) is important to me as an individual. What I said was, "I hope to be a Midwife someday and I don't want to risk imprisonment to do it. I also don't think anyone should be able to tell me who can see, touch, and have general access to my vagina."
But the issue goes much deeper than that. My answer was what you would call the "Cliff Notes" version: short, sweet, and to the point. To understand WHY I'm here, I first have to understand HOW I got here. So, without further ado, here is my story.
I was thirteen when my mom got pregnant with my brother, Tumeric*, and like any other self-absorbed only child, I was less than thrilled. I had been the center of attention for thirteen years and I was not yet ready to give that honor up. I watched her belly grow with mixed feelings gravitating between awe and angst. She had a Blessingway towards the end of her pregnancy, and while I pretended to be bored to tears, I was secretly enthralled. With a crown of flowers atop her silky pregnancy hair, she looked like a queen. Her friends surrounded her with love, poems, songs, and well wishes for a healthy birth.
I don't remember the details leading up to Tumeric's birth as well as she does, but I do remember a lot of walking, squatting and moaning. The moaning stuck with me the most. I had never experienced something so primal as this low, guttural noise coming from my usually composed and somewhat dainty mother. Three generations of women gathered around her and followed her from room to room as she labored her child into this world. We all spoke in hushed tones so as not to disturb Mom or the aura she wished to have around her during labor. My role was quiet observer and bringer of the warm washcloths, not too warm and not too cool. As she prepared to push Tumeric out of her body, I remember feeling horrified at all the fluid coming from her. Then I saw it, this massive pile of dark, wet hair. My brother was about to be born! I couldn't believe the wave of emotions that hit me during those precious few moments it took him to glide out of her. It was all at once the most beautiful, wonderful, miraculous thing I had ever seen. Like the great Mother Goddess long ago, my Mom opened herself up and birthed a being unlike any other in this world. She was a Goddess in her own right. In that moment I felt connected to her, and the rest of the women in this world, in a way I hadn't known before. Those minutes changed me. I saw that birth was not scary, but instead a transformation of body, mind, and spirit. I saw that the body truly knew what to do, even when Mom wasn't sure. I saw her guided through this experience by not only the support of her favorite women, but also the innate knowledge inside her. I saw the potential in all women to labor unencumbered by anyone or anything and find not only that they could do it, and do it well, but that they could become warriors for themselves.
Three years later, she did it again. This time, though, she knew by experience that she was a warrior. She knew she could birth a child into this world on her own and had none of the fears she had before. My youngest brother was in a hurry from the get go. While Tumeric took his time entering this world, Mack* came barging in. He came so fast that the Midwife just barely arrived in time. I had only been awake for an hour when he made his entrance. Still groggy from being awoken at 3am, my memories of his birth are a little foggier. My most prominent memory from him is that he was born in the caul (amniotic sac still intact). It looked like Mom was blowing a bubble and I thought that was fascinating. I held a mirror to show her and she was not quite as fascinated. He was completely born a few seconds after that. My other memory of that birth was that I was supposed to catch him. Mom had said it was okay when the Midwife asked if I wanted to. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't. That right belongs, at least in my mind, to the mother or father or both. Mack's father caught him and seemed extremely surprised at how slippery he was. I was disappointed at the time, but that disappointment has long since passed. While Mom, Mack*, and everyone else were having some well deserved "down time", the Midwife and I chatted. She complimented my mature handling of the botched catching, and asked me if I had ever thought of being a Midwife. That's where it began. I'd heard the calling while watching Tumeric being born, but I hadn't realized exactly what to call it until then. She gave voice to that longing inside me.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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