|Painting by Annie Ibanez|
After reading an article in Midwifery Matters Issue 151 Winter 2016 I was deeply moved by the experience of a newly qualified midwife's experience working her elective in Argentina. Annie Ibanez chose to work with the Awaike school of midwifery in the mountain province of Cordoba. They train lay midwives in the ways of tradition and they celebrate the spiritual journey of motherhood and birth.
The students there are taught anatomy and physiology but also the use of local herbs, songs to be sung during labour and rituals almost lost in the relentless medicalisation of care spreading throughout the world. Annie recognised that the science directing midwifery care in the UK has all but drowned out any traditional 'with woman' care that takes into account the spiritual meaning of labour and birth. The fact that giving birth is intrinsically linked to emotional processes is all but ignored in our high tech obstetric led hospitals today.
The Awaike school is focused on recovering and conserving the wisdom and rituals from native peoples of Latin America. Women in their care develop a trusting relationship with a midwife, a luxury that is often missing in our overloaded GP clinics today. Women are encouraged to rest, bond and feed their baby and are given this opportunity for 40 days after the birth. What a wonderful concept, how high would our breastfeeding rates be if our women were given this time to truly engage with their newborn.
Annie comments that the women she saw in labour were using instinctive behaviour surrounded by the rituals of birth including song and that seemed to be "a powerful analgesic judging by the way women responded". Perhaps the women felt so loved and cared for and free to move, eat and drink as their body dictated that they were simply not afraid of birth as women in developed countries have learned to be. By now all my readers know how damaging adrenalin is in labour. Perhaps women cared for by the Argentinian midwives did not know any fear at all and were free to have a pain free labour as most women could achieve if society would stop treating labour and birth as an illness to be cured.
Annie concludes her article by saying that we need to truly listen to women and honour skills and intuition, to value our ancient as well as our modern midwifery tools. Thank you Annie.