Since beginning work as a midwife, even back in my hospital days, I have always found the last midwifery visit somehow unsatisfactory.
I have been with a woman through her pregnancy and birth and the welcoming and connection with her new baby. It comes time to say good bye, we have reviewed the birth and thanked each other and then we say goodbye. I have never felt complete at this time. There was always something missing.
And then MarieLouise taught Sam and I about “Closing the Bones”. Originally this ritual comes from Mexico. It’s a beautiful ceremony in which we sit with a mother and give her time with herself, to come back into herself. And in this instance the meaning of midwife: “with woman” exactly describes who, and what we are.
I am sure that our way of doing it is not the only, or the “proper” way to do it. This is what we do...
Someone else is minding the baby. There are three of us, the mother and her two midwives. We spend a minute or two acknowledging each other. Only a minute, we are already a mutual admiration society so we have to control ourselves! The midwives lay seven pieces of cloth across the mother’s bed, she lies down. Piece by piece we wrap the cloths around her, starting with her head covering her eyes, then arms and chest, abdomen, hips, thighs, calves and feet. Sam is on one side, I am on the other and we each hold one end of the cloth tightly, silently, pulling across her. We hold each cloth for 3 minutes, then move to the next one. There is no need to say anything.
We did a Closing the Bones last week. I had a deep realisation about our connection to the earth and to each other. Let me get all hippy for a few minutes....
Firstly 2017 2+0+1+7=10 in numerological terms 2017 is a number 1: new beginnings.
I think that when women are pregnant. they are in touch with the great out there, so that they can bring in their babies. I think it is the Cherokee that say that when a woman is in labour, she goes out in to the stars to collect the soul of her baby. In my mind pregnancy is a unique and blessed state in which women are an open channel between Here and There. Maybe when women are treated with respect and kindness that channel is able to open wide and some kind of universal love can more easily enter and nurture the mother, the baby and those around her. Certainly to give birth women need to be open and open more, the power of women in birth, correlates to her surrendering to the opening.
The baby is born. The mother has opened herself like never before. Those she loves the most have been her closest support, so that their love can multiply as they welcome this child into their family. My expectation is that she has been surrounded with kindness, love and respect during this powerful and vulnerable time. The kindness of her attendants will help her to gather her baby to herself without any distraction.
Those first six weeks or forty days are recognised all over, as special. The connection between Heaven and Earth seems to stay open throughout this blessed time. Mothers then are consumed with caring for their little baby. Milky days merge with milky nights. Constancy, skin to skin, staring into each others’ eyes, little toes, soft sweet skin, they learn each other’s ways.
Time passes. Babies seem to come more and more to inhabit their bodies. By six weeks babies have a more focused gaze and can see out past the person by whom they are held. It becomes easier to take the baby out into the big wide world. That heavenly channel is not so obvious and it is time for Closing the Bones.
Last week as Sam and I did this for that mother I thought about how we are held by the earth. I had a feeling for Mother Earth who constantly keeps us in her reach. We don’t think about her constancy, her steady, solid hold of us. She is always our mother. This is where she is, and where we are, in her gentle arms.