A moment of pause

April came and went like a hurricane.

Sawtooth Star
My first “sawtooth star,” a quilting piece I made for the Boston Modern Quilt Guild’s “quilts for Boston” project.

The Boston Marathon bombing swept through our lives bringing with it fear and despair, but in equal measure hope and inspiration. I saw communities come together in ways that I’ve never experienced. Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein, at an interfaith vigil at Harvard, said that we need to “hold on to one another with both hands.” With one hand we hold on to the community that we most closely identify with, and with the other we hold on to the wider community. After the bombings, my own Muslim community felt a wave of dread that has yet to subside; not only did we feel the grief and anger felt by every other Bostonian feels, but we also fear for our own safety and well-being in these times of fear of and prejudice against Muslims. The support from other communities has been immensely comforting. It’s a powerful reminder that if I value the support of other communities, then I need to be able to break out of my own bubble, my own hamster-ball of concerns, and support others seeking comfort and justice.

Two weekends ago I attended a racism and diversity in midwifery workshop with Nechama Greenwood through the Massachusetts Midwives Alliance. I learned about the physiological impacts of racism–that lifelong experiences of racism are implicated in the higher incidence of premature labor among African American women, not to mention the generally lower standard of care that women of color receive in the medical system. The course also opened my eyes to the ways that women of color have been erased from the history of midwifery in America, as well as ways that they are excised from and marginalized within conversations about midwifery today (here’s a great lecture from Shafia Monroe, head of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, on this topic). I’m still thinking about what midwifery and birthwork mean to me; I consider it good work, where “good” stands for a range of things, including “just,” and it’s also critical for me to understand my own privilege. This work cannot be done with eyes closed. (Also, if anyone is interested in my non-birth writing, Nechama’s class inspired me to write a piece on issues of inclusion, race, and privilege in coverage of the marathon bombings).

Lastly, today is the International Day of the Midwife. The more I learn about midwifery, the more I learn about its history, the more I learn about the women who have kept it alive, the more I meet the incredible, incredible women who do it, and who have a deep respect for birth, the more in awe I am of midwives. They hold paradoxes whole. I am convinced that this is a right livelihood, and while at this point in my life I just can’t rearrange things and plunge headlong into it as I want to, God willing that time will come.


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