The Best Midwife: From outlaw midwives vol 1

 

Cover of outlaw midwives zine. Mother nursing baby in lower right corner with butterfly shadow-like behind them and multiple strips of text reading "outlaw midwives" behind them.

My third son and child was conceived while I was living overseas in what some people call a third-world country. Others call it a developing nation, still others say it is post-colonial. At best these are misnomers. At worst they are derogatory. The last barbarian invaders to be expelled from this nation were fair-skinned thieves who had used airships and guns to murder the citizens, who were armed mostly only with swords and sometimes only rocks. After many years the barbarians, who truly saw themselves as sophisticated folk bringing civilization to this nation (while reaping the financially benefits of being “colonizers”), were finally expelled by the tenacious citizens. However. The citizens did choose to keep some of what they thought were the best bits of the barbarians’ culture, such as their pastry recipes and some architectural innovations, though the citizens generally had far superior architecture already. The citizens also kept the barbarians’ native language and allowed their media to continue to enter the nation’s ports and airwaves. This, I feel, was a grave mistake on the part of the citizens.

I can see how it could happen though. Keeping the language could have eased the citizens ability to have economical dealings with the barbarians’ and their rich neighbors’ nations. However, isn’t it somehow faulty thinking to expect the people who recently hated you, stole your land, and murdered your family–isn’t it at least naive to expect these barbarians to participate in fair trade with you? Several decades later, today, the barbarians remain horrid racists and nationalist who will never accept the citizens as equal and still only abuse the citizens, never allowing them to participate fairly in trade or to receive the same quality of life the barbarians enjoy. Some citizens will emigrate to the barbarian’s lands, but will only succeed if they refute all traces of their heritage. Though their skin and their hair and their noses and their eyes will not betray their ancestry, still their tongues will try.

***

The citizens of my host nation eat “family style,” with the whole family sitting around one big dish and all eating equal shares from it. Or they use to. Or some still do. See what happened is that the barbarians introduced the country to these new enormous shallow bowls. The bowls were dispersed far and wide all over the country. Men would climb ladders and stairs carrying these huge bowls onto the people’s roofs. Then, they would attach these bowls on their sides to metal rods in a diagonal position which left them completely useless for enjoying and sharing a warm meal from. The food in this nation really is spectacular as they have expelled many invaders always keeping their best recipes. Actually, even though they tout themselves as modern and civil nations, the barbarians’ rich neighbors still steal the citizens food products and resell them for much higher prices marked as being produced in their own lands, but that is another tangent. So these bowls were some of the worst of the treachery left behind by the invaders. The barbarians poured their media into these bowls and from there it trickled into the citizens’ homes. And these bowls told the citizens that their bowls and their way of eating were far inferior to the barbarians. And some of the citizens believed that.

Media is a seductive liar. It is a subtle thief, charmingly disarming. It entertains your eyes and nafs (base desires) while reaching into your pocket and stealing your identity and the keys to your life. My country has this same problem with media, except that we export it. Still, my fellow country folk also often believe the lies that our own media tells us, such as that women are weak creatures and childbirth is dangerous for us to manage on our own. We have been told, and most of us believe, that men should manage birthing and that they should be compensated ridiculously well for doing so. How supremely absurd that is even if you just superficially think about it. But that’s the amazing trickery media is capable of.

***

So, while I was pregnant and living in this country I couldn’t find a midwife to attend my homebirth. That just isn’t done here anymore. Afterall, that is not what the barbarians do. This country has embraced the barbarians’ brand of civility and medical intervention and sterileness and clinical birth settings. The citizens have bought (literally) the barbarians’ lies which tell them that if the citizens don’t adopt the barbarians’ ways of life then the citizens are in fact the true barbarians. I have even been told that homebirthing is now illegal here. Though the barbarians still think of themselves as models of civility and like to say that the women citizens are oppressed, women barbarians have very little birthing choice in their country and very high rates of doctor-decided cesareans.

In this nation, a nation you could maybe call in an identity crisis, I couldn’t find a midwife to aid me in an uneventful birth, even though I knew that there must be women trained to attend births somewhere within these borders because even my husband had been born at home. Eventually I returned to my country and hired some midwives to attend my homebirth, which ended up being a hotelbirth, but that’s a whole other story. What I just discovered, six years and a couple babies later, what I just found out is that there was a midwife sleeping in the room next to me for nearly a year while I was living in this foreign country. We ate off the same big bowl together everyday for 300 and something days. This midwife was trained by one of the best midwives in her region and attended many of my husband’s cousins’ births. She is my mother-in-law.

That best midwife, who trained my mother-in-law and attended my husband’s birth, was my grandmother-in-law. She was also the go-to-woman who performed what my people call, “well-baby check-ups” for the families in her region. My sister-in-law was conceived while living in this same city where I could not find a midwife. My husband’s young mother could not find one either at that time. Since her city neighbors, who haled from regions near to my in-laws, had become accustomed to doing as the barbarians did and hadn’t learned how to help their nieghbors-in-labor my mother-in-law birthed her first daughter in a hospital (which was at that time run by the barbarians). Her next two children were born at home with the help of a neighbor-friend who had moved to town from their old region. My mother-in-law attended five births for the neighbor-friend.

***

My primary interpreter during that time when I unsuccessfully sought out someone to attend my labor in this city was my husband. He has been by my side at the birth of all five of our children and agrees that birthing at home is a much more comfortable environment as compared to our one experience with midwives in a hospital setting. I asked him yesterday if he knew that his mother attended births. Yes, he did. Then why, I asked, didn’t he suggest her? He replied that he thought I was looking for a “midwife.” She is a midwife, I replied. He said that I wanted a “trained midwife.” She is trained, I said.

Sometimes my husband still believes some of the barbarians’ lies. And I suspect that if I could ask myself of six or so years ago, I would have also considered this woman, trained by the best midwife in her region, along with all of my acquired knowledge–I would have considered us inadequate to manage my son’s birth. As smart and strong and capable as I am, with all my access to information and opportunities, I have still believed so many of the barbarians’ lies. Seven years ago, though I didn’t know the difference between a midwife who is CNM or a CPM or a DEM or a CM, I understood that they have been vetted by a system that, really, I am naive to be so trusting of. And I am worse to have been so exclusively trusting in this hegenomic system that I know was and is controlled by the barbarians and their neighbors, but I probably would not have trusted my mother-in-laws system (tradition) which is based on shared knowledge, shared wealth, and love.

I asked my mother-in-law if she preferred to birth in a hospital or at home. At home she said. Why? My husband’s interpretation of her responce was that its better, its her culture and what she is comfortable with. “You know how it is” he said. Yes, we do.

~~~~~~~

outlaw midwives, the zine about revolutionary birthing, pregnancy, midwifery, loss and all things related, is accepting submissions for it’s third issue–yaye to volume 3, insha Allah! So I thought this would be a good time to post–in full–my piece written a year ago for volume 1. You can see the entire 56 page zine online right HERE.

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outlaw midwives volume 3 accepting submissions

Pretty, very, super excited to announce that outlaw midwives is accepting submissions for zine #3! I have learned so much and grown so much through reading these zines and the community Mai’a has created around them–thanks Mai’a–and hope that ya’ll at least read the zines but also consider submitting something. Here’s a snippet of some possible things to write/submit for volume three:

call for submissions

focusing on pregnancy, birth, post partum, baby and breastfeeding

for and by: mothers, friends and allies of mothers, doulas, midwives, birthworkers, childbirth educators, childbirth advocates,

intention: to create a zine for pregnancy, birth, and the first year of motherhood centering the lives of working class, marginalized mothers and birthworkers.

submit: photos, drawings, visual art
poems, essays, fiction and non-fiction
tips, suggestions, lists of resources

outlaw midwives: creating revolutionary communities of love

some suggestions for topics on which you can submit…but these are just suggestions…

suggestions for those trying to conceive.  and for not conceiving.  stories of conception, abortions and miscarriage.

what are the social, economic, legal consequences and limitations for marginalized mothers to make choices about how, when and where they will give birth.

tips for the first, second, third trimester.  relationship with doctors, clinic, midwives, family, friends, etc.

how do our ideas of gender and sexuality influence how we view childbearing, midwifery, and parenting?

Your take on reproductive justice?

how do we resist the high infant and mortality rates?

what are the ways that community could support the childbearing year, mothers and families?

how have you navigated through the systems of welfare, protective child services, hospitals, etc?

reflect on the state of midwifery today.  what do you see as the positives and negatives?  how has legalization and licensing affected mothers and families access to care?

what would you want to tell a soon to be mother about pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood?  or write a letter to your pre-mother or pre-pregnant self about what you should expect.   what didnt you expect to happen/learn/experience in pregnancy, birth, the baby year?  write a letter to you daughter and/or son about what you learned/want to pass on about pregnancy, birth, baby year.

what do you wish someone had told you about early motherhood and/or being a birth worker?

what family/traditional wisdom did you receive about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding?  what practical tips do you have for working poor mothers?

keep it simple

There are more suggestions and info at the outlaw midwives site.  The outlaw midwives manifesta is also an excellent read. Deadline is May 15Th!

 

deadline may 15

send submissions to maiamedicine at gmail dot com

 

Sparkle Therapy and Sisterly Love

I got looped in! You know those internet meme thingies were people post something like, “I’ll send five homemade gifts to the next five people who promise to do the same!” and you respond “Me! Me! Me!” Well. I’ve been eyeing Sketched Soul’s swaps for awhile, but have had a lot of time constraint commitment issues and then a dear friend said something like “Oh you should” and so I did. And now I can tell ya–so should you!!

Farhana aka Sketched Soul has been doing these swaps for a couple years now with various themes and whatnot. The specifics for this particular swap called, “Gems Swapping” were pretty straight forward:

Intention of swap: To have as many sisters (young and old) as possible (around the world) to participate and spread the love. PLEASE encourage others to join.
Details of swap: Each participant will spend $5 to $10 on something(s) special for their partner. This should either be used on the item(s) or the supplies if you choose to send something handmade.
Participants allowed: International (females only).

I submitted my info and Farhana hooked me up with Miriam of Tranquil Hearts Gift Shop. I know, poor me right? We exchanged a few emails and basically all the info Miriam got from me was that I like green. And I still managed to fail to tell her that I hate forest green, I mean I hate it– it needs to stay in the forest. Thank God she guessed my favorite of favorites—CELADON!!!

Miriam is so smart, masha Allah. Ok the bracelet as is beautiful and sparkly and she even used the bright silver beads, which I love so much, and a matching dangling heart charm. But. The thing that is so brilliant about this bracelet is that it’s not, it’s not a bracelet– it is a super stealth tisbih or misbaha! I have never used a misbaha before. I have five kids and still can’t remember to put diapers in my purse, so carrying around a misbaha–not likely. And I wouldn’t awkwardly wrap one around my arm a couple of times because then there is that “for show” feeling I get, so nix that. But Miriam’s misbaha is so brilliant not only because it is sparkly and celadon and pretty–but it’s stealth! The rondelles are the perfect cut to keep the strand short enough to wear on one’s arm but still big enough to count with. So smart, masha Allah (uh, we do all I know that I am a jewelry maker, right? No? Oh, well I am and I am so rightfully impressed with Miriam’s design) And my Allah how I could use the reminder to make dhikr, athudibillah. I’m wearing it and used it for the first time today, so we’ll see how it goes!

Miriam included a sparkly pen, which I must hide from the four year old, and a handmade card that reads, “Verily in the rememberance of God do hearts find rest.” Quran 13:28. Masha Allah, so perfect and thoughtful and true!

~~~

If you are interested in joining a swap–come on, you know you wanna!–Farhana has a swap newsletter or you could just follow her blog which also features lots of craft tutorials and other Goodness, including this basbousa recipe I need to try, insha Allah.

Thanks Miriam and Farhana and she-who-kindly-twisted-my-arm to do this!

Why Zines? ~ Jewels for Survival 2 (of 3 hopefully!)

 

Black and white cover of Jewels for Survival vol. 2 zine has cherries and cherry blossoms on it.

So i am learning, maybe revolutionary love is self love and self acceptance, to begin with. Learning how to recognize that if i have to give up myself, in anyway, then it isn’t love. It is abuse. Learning the difference between subsuming my own ego and harming my own soul. Acknowledging that heartbreak is around every corner, but there are lessons in each corner.

~~~

I was a little hesitant opening the second volume to this series of zines done by Aaminah. The first zine was fairly phenomenal. I say “fairly” only because I fear exaggerating on my sister–it really is. So I was worried that the second couldn’t live up. The Hope. I can only spare so much of it, but wonderfully, my pessimistic technique means that I am occasionally dumbly wrong. Jewels for Survival vol. 2 is quite amazing. But first, I’ld like to preamble a bit about why zines, since two of my three readers seem perplexed about why a few zerox copies sent via archaic mail processes are exciting. Actually you can read them online too, but…

The thing about zines is, they are art. Made by the artist, untouched by an editress or a publicist or a publisher or marketing team or anyone else. You get the real deal, unwatered down, unconsumerized. What? Yes, of course they are for sale, most art is. But many, including Aaminah’s–for reasons I cannot understand but respect–are available free online. And it’s so coool that you can read zines online now too…down fangirl…ok, so if you love to read, then maybe you have a vague idea about what is available to purchase and…quick! Name a Muslimah American poet! If you got one name than is likely that all you got is one.

There is a HUGE void in published works by woc, poc, Muslims and other/all minorities. So, self-publishing is an important thing. Actually, I was just reading about the poet Eavan Boland and how she self-published her first book of poetry and then I ‘membered how many, many poets have done this, see chap books.

Chapbook is also a term currently used to denote publications of up to about 40 pages, usually poetry bound with some form of saddle stitch, though many areperfect bound, folded, or wrapped. These publications range from low-cost productions to finely produced, hand-made editions that may sell to collectors for hundreds of dollars. More recently, the popularity of fiction chapbooks has also increased.

The genre has been revitalized in the past 40 years by the widespread availability of first mimeograph technology, then low-cost copy centers and digital printing, and by the cultural revolutions spurred by both zines and poetry slams, the latter generating hundreds upon hundreds of self-published chapbooks that are used to fund tours.

~~~

So, what I am telling you is, I’m not sure why zines are poopooed. They are a literary art form with a rich history. I’m not sure why they aren’t absolutely treasured–they should be. Especially Jewels for Survival 2. which, by the way is not just poetry, but also includes prose and art. And, Aaminah makes/sells awesome stickers that I like to sticked everywheres.

when you think that if i say

i am Muslim

it must mean

i see the world only thru the lens

of that one part

then you miss out on the breadth

of my awareness

~~~

Insha Allah, coming up next is a review of Sumayyah’s (of Sumayyah Said So) zines.

Homeschooling in the Mahgrib

Took a couple of kids to a gallery today. The nine year old is a prolific little artist and loves to “see how other people draw.” While me and the sil and the 12 year old were walking around downtown this weekend we passed a closed art gallery. Today I dragged 9yo and 7yo over there to check it out. Lots of awesome art! Traditional furnishings, including Berber rug, paintings and painted objects (like a traditional stringed instrument) from artists in Essaouira, a huge three dimensional model of a neighborhood and a wall of color photos of the same neighborhood.

So much variation and the receptionist was so friendly and informative. Except it wasn’t an art gallery. It was a real estate agency. *shrugs* You work with what ya got, ya know? Next week an outing to the aquarium–really.