the midwife`s journal < contents

2. maia
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Fertility, springtime, new life - the month of May, named after Maia the goddess of Spring in the ancient legends.

It's Spring here in Melbourne, and it's September. A few days ago a baby girl was born, and her parents named her Maia.

Maia is the first word in my journal. Maia and the midwife are closely linked, and when I learned the link, some months ago, it seemed good to me to start my new Journal with a note about Maia, and the derived word, maieutic.

Maia ~ midwife

The maieutic mode of enquiry is the way a midwife teaches and learns.

The dictionaries explain the connection:

Maieutic = act as midwife. Pertaining to the Socratic method of bringing out ideas latent in the mind. [Webster's]

(Gr maieutikos maieuomai = act as a midwife.) - [Concise Oxford]

Maieutic learning compares with didactic instruction, which involves an authoritarian teacher. A medical dictionary [Gould] explains:

Didactic (Gr didaktos from didaskein = to teach) In medicine, pertaining to teaching by lectures and textbooks, as opposed to teaching by the clinical method.

My journal allows me to explore my thoughts, to reflect on my experiences, and bring out a new understanding of what it means to me to be with woman. I do not attempt to teach a woman how to birth her baby. My work is to seek ways of restoring to her the authority that is rightly hers for her body. Some women are strongly conscious of their own personal autonomy. For this woman I am able to join in the celebration of life, sharing her confidence and protecting her safe space. Another woman has been hurt in the past, and struggles to trust her body. She asks me to go with her through her time of pain, and lend strength where she is weak.

The birth of Maia took place in the kitchen of the small rented house. The birthing pool was set up where the kitchen table had been. This pool became a big blue watery womb which encircled the labouring woman and her man. As the baby's head birthed the woman's hands were in constant contact with her child. My left hand rested gently on the woman's hand, and in my right hand I held a torch. I passed the light to my partner midwife as I reached into the water to support the baby's body as the mother lifted her child triumphantly out of the water. The other midwife and the woman's sister witnessed the birth through the lenses of two cameras - providing a superb sequence of treasured birth photos.

During the preceding months the woman learned to trust me and shared some of her deep concerns. The big issue centred on her first-born, a bright and energetic two-year old. It was obvious that the birth of the first child had changed her life. This child had taught her to be a mother. This child was the essence of her womanhood. This child had captured her heart. Would there be room enough for the second?

I saw the woman engage herself fully in the great paradox of total attachment and total separation, as she approached the time of birth. The memory of the first birth was strong. As she spoke of that time, in a different place, she became aware of the need to let go of that experience in order to take up the new. Before labour the woman wondered if she should use the homoeopathics that she had used last time. She consciously separated herself from the known path, and accepted the unknown, wanting to trust her body to labour at the right time. The first labour had been long, and her midwife had encouraged her to check the opening of her cervix. We talked about checking the cervix. She decided to trust her body that the labour was progressing, without any checks. After spending some time in the birth pool the woman began to fear that her labour was slowing down, and she remembered the time when, in her first labour, she had been helped out of the water so that she could walk to stimulate the labour. She wondered, as she laboured for the second time, if she should get out of the water. I encouraged her to trust her body; to relinquish conscious control; and to submit to the forces that were at work in her body. She did. Separation from the known; embracing the unknown.

The separation from the known also meant a physical separation from the first child. This was something that the woman did not understand until she was in labour. She had thought she would like to have him there, participating in the birth. Yet as she laboured she found that she was distracted by his presence. Her sister came and read to him in bed. He stayed awake long beyond his usual bedtime, and it was not until he was quiet that the woman could feel free to work with the labour. In accepting the separation from her darling, she took up the challenge of the second child.

The time of attachment to the newcomer was also directed by intuitive forces within the woman, rather than by any pre-thought plan. Her hands did not leave the baby's head as it gently emerged. The newborn child absorbed her total focus, as she and her man joyfully welcomed the little one. The woman's arms became a protective encirclement, as she held her child close to her breast.

The babe nursed vigorously for a long time that morning, then slept. She did not seek the breast again until the following evening. That time of wakefulness and eagerness to take milk became the woman's opportunity to give her undivided attention to her daughter, and to "fall in love".

The little boy woke to find that he had a sister. The woman was satisfied.

The miracle of the second child is that mother-love, instead of being shared, is multiplied. The woman found that she did not have to take love from her first-born in order to give it to her second. The necessary brief separation allowed a new attachment, which included all that had been precious before the birth.

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