Friday, October 29, 2004


Academic Armageddon- that's my English prof's title for our final paper assignment. On the surface it isn't bad- 5 to 8 pgs, annotated bibliography with at least 3 print sources. No biggie, I've had to write longer. And there's no topic restriction, which is always nice. Only it's 25% of our grade, so I'm sweating it. I settled on my subject being drawbacks to the increasing reliance on technology in childbirth (hospital birth, but since 90% of people assume that's the only kind in existence, I don't think I'll have to qualify it ;). It's a topic I know a lot about already and have read books galore on, I just have to pull out quotes, essentially, and write the paper itself- my research was largely done two years ago when I trained with DONA (to obtain certification, there's a bunch of required reading you must do). I think it sounds like a boring paper, but I know it's one I can do easily and well. And it would probably be interesting to most people- my familiarity with the subject is the major root of my ennui.

But I wonder. I wonder. I wonder. I keep coming back to midwifery. I read an article in Mothering about a paraplegic woman's homebirth and her midwife's complete confidence in her, and I think I want to do that. I talk to my midwife and think I want to be her. I hear a woman's birth experience, and sometimes I want to find her doctor and beat him/her mercilessly for how she and her birth and her baby have been violated and abused. I think, often, I need to do something about this. Part of me would love nothing more than to love women and catch babies for the rest of my life. To function as a doula in the hospital and a midwife at home. Rolla (that's my midwife) and I are soul mates- I don't usually connect to other women immediately, but I did with her. She seems almost like the mentor I wasn't looking for.

But part of me shoots back that it's escapist. I'm not thinking of becoming a midwife with some political goal or statement in mind, not to protest the system but to support the counterculture that already exists. I'll never be one to march against hospital birth or hospital policies, nor can I see myself calling legislators to get laws changed. I don't even really have a goal of convincing people that homebirth is as safe or safer than hospital birth (even though I deeply believe it is, and there is plenty of evidence to support it). It comes down to preaching to the choir, I guess, and the evangelical part of me says that isn't enough. Lifestyle witness for alternative birth isn't enough. Walking my walk isn't enough. I have to talk the talk; convince people on the other side to come around to my POV; proselytize for homebirth, in other words. But is that even true?

In the past, I've compromised with myself and decided that I'd do something else completely as a day job (usually teaching or social work- apparently I have an obligation complex, sheesh), and be a doula only- in my spare time. As a hobby. The doula role is easier to justify, as in a very real sense it is an activist role- a doula is, at heart, an advocate and servant of a birthing woman, making sure she is as comfortable and well-supported as possible, and communicating the mother's wishes to the hospital staff when she might be too "good" (compliant) or focused to advocate for herself. I have the added benefit, since it is a hobby, of being able to choose not to charge for my services- which obviously wouldn't be the case if I were a doula/midwife full-time. It feels pretty morally unimpeachable. I'm completely addicted to the sense of being morally superior. I hate that.

But it also feels useless. How much spare time will I really have as a wife and mother of four? Maybe this is just another sneaky 4 (enneagram) way of avoiding a decision so that I don't have to worry about making the wrong one. Except.

Except that decision time is coming whether I like it or not. Either I will decide or something or someone will decide for me.

I have a pretty good feel for my gifts, I think. I just wish I had a better sense of my calling.

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