Here at Ed to Save the World we celebrate “status quo challengers”, people who ask, “Is there a more just, sustainable or healthier way to do this?” Today’s innovator does just that with the act of child birth. Mary Beth Harris is a birth assistant. Her words follow.
Being a Birth Assistant is a not a convenient vocation. The hours are unpredictable at best, the physical demands are nothing short of running a marathon, and the pressure from the general public regarding the social acceptance of out of hospital birth is somewhat like having two heads – people look at you funny most times. However, the intrinsic reward of helping a healthy low risk population of pregnant women, mothers and babies exceeds most day in-day out jobs. At least for me.
I work at one of the nation’s foremost freestanding birth centers: BirthCare and Women’s Health. Staffed by six Certiﬁed Nurse Midwives and a number of Birth Assistants, BirthCare serves the community of the Metro DC area. As a birth assistant, I’m expected to assist the midwife with labor support, evaluation of labor progress, monitoring the health and wellbeing of the laboring mother and her baby inside, and I have been trained in the most common complications of labor and birth and how to handle them. If I happen to arrive before the midwife and the baby is coming – I have been trained how to “catch”.
I know what you’re thinking. “But what happens when something goes wrong?” I’ll say it again: we serve a healthy, low risk population that is educated about the process of childbirth, prepared for an out of hospital birth, and is attended by qualiﬁed, licensed health care providers. Some times things don’t go as we hope or plan, and in those instances, we ask for help. Most of the time, it doesn’t look like “A Baby Story” with the sirens and bright lights and screaming women. If you were to videotape natural birth attended by CNMs, it would be rather boring. “OOHHHHH….AAAAHHHHH…” “Good work, Lulabelle!” “I think I’m gonna throw up!” “YES! Awesome! Baby is coming!” Birth workers are weird. We get excited about throw up. And poop. And other bodily ﬂuids. Like I said – Weird.
People often ask me how I got into this business. First, I tell them, I don’t consider it a business. I consider it a vocation: a calling in life. I didn’t choose it, it chose me. I had a baby, started teaching other women about natural childbirth, then I attended births as a Doula (labor support) and eventually began Birth Assisting at BirthCare. One thing just lead to another. But what keeps me coming back is the inexpressible gratitude for the miracle of life that I experience each time I am invited into the birth of a family.
The moment when a woman transforms into a mother is tangible. Across culture, faith, ethnicity, the language of birth and of motherhood needs no translation. When a woman is supported at her birth, when she is carefully listened to and patiently waited upon, she is validated in her abilities to care for the child she is bringing into the world.
This validation turns into conﬁdence in her mothering capabilities. This conﬁdence brings about a new generation of patient listeners and conﬁdent do-ers.
I once saw a T shirt that said, “I make milk. What’s your Super Power?” I love this t-shirt. I think all women are Super Heroes. I do what I do because I think that women have strength inside of them that they do not know about. When that strength manifests itself in childbirth, it transforms these women into ﬁerce protectors, compassionate nurturers, and capable mothers. These women go on to raise the next generation of world leaders, health care workers, business men and women, inventors, scientists, and innovators (just to name a few).
Cool, right? Thanks for sharing, Mary Beth!