the midwife`s journal <
32. this land is for the children
It's Spring time, and the living, growing things around me all call out, like children eager to noticed. My thoughts have been drawn to the land, this earth which sustains us.
There is a particular rose bush in my garden. Today I noticed prolific new growth on it. Two years ago I buried a placenta near that rose, just above it as the land slopes gently downwards. The placenta belonged to baby Samuel, one of the first babies born at home in my care. His mother asked me to take the placenta - their home was on a steep hillside with little topsoil, and no garden.
The native peoples of this land have special beliefs and traditions concerning the placenta. I have learned something from my indigenous sisters, to hold dear each part of life's experience. When did my people lose their birthing knowledge? Why am I so late in learning to treasure my wonderful body? My mother, my grand mothers - did they care about what happened as they carried and birthed their babies? It has taken me many years to unlearn the cold, distant clinical approach to the miracle of life, and to start to learn from within.
Thismorning as I drove across the Westgate Bridge I noticed from its high point the magnificent panorama as far as I could see. The air was crystal clear, and the distant line of hills was clearer than I have seen it previously. After visiting Celia and her twin baby girls I headed back across the bridge. The bay to my Right, the Dandenongs ahead in the distance, and the range to the North completed the huge circle. For a moment I was on top of the world. My heart embraced it all in that moment. This is my place. Not the city towers or the shops or the huge warehouses or the houses that are home to millions of people. In some way that I don't think I can explain I claimed that vast span, the land, the hills, the rivers, the ocean, and even the great orb of the sky. I claimed it for the children, the babies, and the ones who are coming.
Yesterday I visited a young woman whose baby is due in a few weeks. I like to visit the home prior to labour, so that I can find my way in the daylight. It took me half an hour to get out of the suburbs, then another hour along a road that followed a creek valley most of the way. Little towns were scattered along the road, their small shops and other buildings hugging the edge of the road. There were places where the road was cut through tall stands of Eucalypts. The edges of these forests were gilded with heavy bouquets of golden wattle in full bloom. As I moved along my eyes drank in the beauty which was there for the taking.
A few days ago I was called to a birth in Mill Park, the suburb in which we had lived eighteen years ago, when our youngest was born. As I drove home following the birth, a strange emotion took hold of me. I was revisiting the birth of my baby. This place was my link with his birth. Not a small suburban block of land with a brick veneer house that looks like every other house in the area, but the land itself. He was not born at home, and I had not kept his placenta, so I could not claim that there was a physical link with the earth. I did not know about homebirth then. As I allowed my thoughts to flow I was able to acknowledge things as they were and are. I have four beautiful children, all born before I knew that 'birth is not an illness'. Perhaps my experiences as a consumer and a practitioner of medicalised childbirth have helped me to focus my efforts for women and babies more effectively today.
I wonder how many other midwives today and in the past have sensed this affinity with the earth. Perhaps I am not alone as I claim the earth for the children. It is not a selfish possessiveness. It is inclusive, knowing that the earth in its beauty and bounty are here for us all. As each new baby is born, and the placenta is returned to the earth, that baby's bond to the land is sealed.
I am conscious as I record my musings that I am one of the privileged few. I live in a beautiful place, and I have all that I need - a home and loved ones, a strong body and mind, and freedom from fear. The women I attend are well nourished and healthy, and able to assert their own authority for their bodies. This is not the case for many of the women giving birth in this world, women who fear hunger, disease, oppression and political strife. Safe motherhood for them means access to the bare minimum of care.