Fire & Midwives

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The world is on fire. Good.

Because sometimes things need to burn in order for new things to grow. Some plant seeds are unable to sprout until they have been subjected to intense heat. It is true for new systems too.

So if you feel shifts beneath your feet, if you feel like your world is on fire, you're not wrong. It absolutely is. What you're feeling is real.

And I've been watching people on my social media feeds trying to put the fire out with metaphorical garden hoses. At first I was angry. But now I feel comfort, because garden hoses are no match for forest fires. This movement feels big because it is big. The US is in labor right now: we are collectively trying to birth something new.  Sure sure, labor sucks and it involves sweat, tears, and pain, but at the end of it is something glorious, promising, and beautiful.

I deeply want to midwife this process. I can offer my encouragement, my strength, my energy, my everything, but I know that I do not know how to give birth to what needs to be born. And I really feel that in discussions of race, the role of midwife is one of the most impactful for white women.
Black people have been pushing, pushing, pushing for change.  And instead of showing up with an epidural to numb the pain, midwives understand that the pain makes sense for what is happening, and so they do all they can to ease it. Back rubs, hot baths, kind words. Midwives offer solutions and support, understanding that ultimately, it is the person giving birth that should have the ultimate say in how the birth happens.  Midwives care and advocate for and protect the birthing person, watching out for their health and safety as they journey through the process.  But midwives never birth the baby: the victory belongs to the mother alone. The distinction is subtle yet necessary.

Women, we know what it is to be harmed in the birthing process. We know what it is to be cut in our tenderest places, to be unheard, to be invalidated and invisible. We know what it is to have our power overridden, to be vulnerable and exposed and taken advantage of all the same anyway. And this means we know better. We know better than to do the same to someone else.
A sign at the George Floyd protest said " All mothers were summoned when George Floyd called out for his momma." Mamas, we have to show up for this birth and we have to learn how to be effective midwives. I do not pretend to know perfectly what that looks like but I do know we have to try to figure it out. I do know birth is a serious matter, and therefore requires us to act with swiftly and deftly, with caution, care, and bravery. The time to both prepare AND act is now. We have no choice but to show up and learn on the job, because the collective is in transition. Birth is nigh. Our Black friends need us: not to save them, but to make and hold space long enough for them to step in safely and stay there.

The world is on fire and its re-birth is imminent. Breathe and ease the pain wherever and however you are able.

© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.