Six months into this new space and it’s been quite an experience. This post is a personal update from chilly though sunny Seattle:
The process of opening my own practice with a store front that people drive and walk past has meant that the door to the building is in constant motion, with all sorts of people coming through. We have the well documented occurrence of middle age men sliding through the door toe-first, “I just wanted to see what is happening in here because when my daughter was born, her birth was…” We have families thinking about conceiving, trying to conceive, just peed on a stick, and well into pregnancy seeking a different model of care that is convenient and family friendly. There are the bouncy 8-10 year olds who come for Girl Sense, and the salesmen who stop by to use the bathroom between calls. We have grandparents who come in for a drink of water on their walk, and they always mention the hope of glimpsing some babies. We had the middle schoolers packing the building and spilling out into the parking lot who came to get to know a safe-spot in their neighborhood. And of course the mamas, expecting and new, the babies, the families, and the providers who work or have meetings here. It’s a zig-zag, criss-cross, busy-busy tiny little building.
We have also had a run of mothers who are seeking prenatal care for the first time when they are quite a ways into their pregnancy. Some have grown up in a health care system that denies their right to informed, respectful, and culturally humble care and they have a lot of anxiety about walking through those doors again (There’s a future post when I figure out how to articulate what I’ve seen this year). Some have been told that they have no options other than a direct road to the OR for the birth of their babies. Some didn’t realize that they could access care in Seattle if they don’t have insurance or cash. Some mothers are working one long job or two or more jobs and can’t get to the OB during business hours. I have been fortunate to have the door to my office swing open and to be able to receive mothers where they are at. To meet them in their time and space and to provide them a sense of possibility and very real options for care. We’ve had the absolute blessing of a gathering of like-minded providers who can pace themselves in time with mothers and babies. They provide donation-based services, for free, or on a sliding scale so that barriers to holistic health care get a little bit easier to cope with.
My dear friend who is a midwife from another country talks about women walking to the hospital from remote villages, and the other providers chastising her for not making them shower and clean up before she provided care. She gifted me the most poignant example of the strength of midwifery and community based care when she said, “why would I tell them to change themselves for me”? I have taken her lesson to heart, to stay open to the people who present themselves at the door, who are kind enough to come in and trust me to be with them as they find their way. I have been taught the kind of earthy lessons that only come from moments like these. I have been humbled, and raised, and smacked down, and distraught, and comforted, and I’ve been able to love really, really hard. And contrary to common sense, it doesn’t wear me down at all. It is fulfilling and challenging. It can be tiring but the kind of tired that comes from hard work. I do take a few hours here and there to read or walk in the woods or sit with friends and scheme about the future. I’m still in a relationship with a certain heavy-bag (thanks Arcaro Boxing Gym) and that morning workout allows me to prepare for each day and get out the frustrations. I get to stay connected with my family. This year has not been all-fun and goodness, it’s had a bit of plain awful, and a share of colossal heart breaks (is there any other kind?) and it’s been loaded with some pretty big whoppers in the mistakes category. And I am lucky I get to try to repair the mistakes, heal the fissures, and grow as a human. But all-in-all pretty good stuff and the happy finding that midwifery has not become clinical for me but remains relational and holistic and a means to bring babies to healthy mothers and fathers who are ready to meet them where they are at and receive them in love.
Wishing you all a healthy, joyful, meaningful holiday season and new year, and looking forward to seeing who comes through the door in the next six months.