Friday, August 9, 2013

I Went to the Farm & I Didn't Milk a Cow

photo credit
Yeah that's right. I. Went. To. The. Farm. The Farm Community but also The Farm Midwifery Center. The reason midwives exist in the US today. The largest intentional living community in the nation. The place that has a super legendary story that's almost too awesome to believe. I went there.

Yes, it was pure amazingness. And yes, you should be jealous.

photo credit: Rachel Leber
We learned practical skills like vital signs, dilation/effacement/station/presentation checks (YEAH it's SO about more than how big your cervix is at that given moment), feeling of bellies and listening to babies. We took time to appreciate the deeper meanings of these skills. Unlike the photo suggests, we did get to practice on actual pregnant ladies and for the first time in my life I shared in the squeal-y joy that comes with being around pregnant ladies with other females of my age range. I feel it every time a pregnant mama is in my midst. A silent and assumed yet intense and unshakable reverence of the beauty occurring before me. It is an incomprehensible process, pregnancy. And I hope that feeling never leaves me.

There were sixteen of us total who came to learn. Ages ranging from 18 to my mom's age (probably). A ton of doulas, a few yoga instructors, some birth activists (well aren't we all in one way or another?), a nurse, a nursing student, a Montessori teacher. Plenty of ladies with no kids and plenty of ladies with several. A woman who had an unnecessary c-section and doesn't want that to happen to anyone else, so she's decided to become a midwife. A woman who had a medicated birth, an unmedicated birth, a cesarean, and a VBAC (in that order - we all applauded when she told us that). Several women who had several different breastfeeding stories to share. A woman who went from 9 to 10 weeks pregnant that week. A lady who was born on The Farm and another who hopes to birth there. Single, married, gay, straight. California girls, women who live in states where midwifery is illegal or unheard of, Canadians. Vegans and raw milk drinkers. A truly diverse group was us. And I couldn't have asked for a better group of women to pass time with that week.

The sisterhood was something to tear up about. Living with women who don't roll their eyes when I get visibly upset about the state of maternity care in this country but instead initiate those conversations and get pumped up with me...women who revere midwives as "ancient mothers" and sing songs about them...women whose idea of idiotic fun is going to a birthing cabin, putting a pillow up your shirt and taking pictures (as much as I would love to share these photos I will just as willingly refrain)...LIVING with them, it ranks as one of the most refreshing experiences of my life thus far.

I'll never forget one of those nights. I think it was the third night and after a class in the clinic a few of just...never...left. We sat on the couches in one of the exam rooms (Can we stop calling it an exam room though? Midwife rooms are so much cozier than that) and talked. We talked about midwives, attachment parenting, vaginas, and telepathy. Until two in the morning. I never knew those topics could be so hilarious. We laughed, we cried. But mostly we laughed. And come to think of it...I'm pretty sure we were just crying from laughter.

Yes, I met and spent time with Ina May Gaskin, the "mother of modern midwifery." Also Pamela Hunt, Deborah Flowers, Joanne Santana, and Carol Nelson. (They are all mentioned in Spiritual Midwifery.) Have you ever sat at the feet of the master of the craft you are pursuing? Have you ever had dinner with someone who you would list as a person you would most like to have dinner with? Have you ever talked (or rather, listened) to someone whose wisdom you just ate up like honey...or sweet potato fries? (I love sweet potato fries.) Yeah, that's what it was like.

If anyone wants to know what the midwives are like, here's my two cents. They are extraordinarily sweet, calm, and meek (in a good way). They are also very humble, especially when you consider who they are and what they've done. They do say words like "telepathic" and "psychedelic" and they call their clients their pregnant ladies. They are not as crunchy as one might expect. One has personal beliefs against placentophagy ("Great job placenta, you're all done now") and some doubt the safety and validity of water birth. They care, and they are very knowledgeable.

I learned two songs that will go with me wherever I go. One entitled "The Witch Song" and another "Ancient Mother." Both beautiful and true.

The food was deliciously vegetarian (mostly vegan). I was really scared about that since I do love my steak and bacon but I came back wanting more of that goodness. I didn't miss the meat at all (although I know I would if I tried to cook vegetarian at my house for a week) and mainly ate the beef jerky I brought so my suitcase would be lighter coming back.
photo credit: Rachel Leber
We got to talk to Ina May about the history of midwifery, and we were all intrigued. We also got to discuss maternal mortality with her. We got to see some pieces of the Safe Motherhood Quilt and we discussed reasons why mothers die. (And so many! And only a third of deaths from pregnancy-related causes are accounted for! And and and...) The energy in the room was very heavy that night.

And the rest is a feeling that lies deep in my soul that I won't give up. It will stay here. It has to.

I would love if some of my fellow Farm workshop attendees would comment on this entry with some of their favorite memories of that week.