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.