Eres Una Partera? Are You a Midwife?: Reflecting on My First Quarter of Midwifery Training
Today marks the end of an incredible 3 months of life. I can honestly say I couldn’t have done this alone. The journey to this point has been quite the struggle, with friends and family supporting me and my vision for healing our collective. So many things and ways of thinking have changed.
I barely recognize myself sometimes when I look in the mirror. There is this exhausted, grateful and mature set of eyes that stares back at me, wanting to tell stories. Wanting to describe what it felt like to catch a woman’s child for the first time on an October night. I stepped into an entire new reality the moment my hands made contact with a brand new, wet, slippery, bluish-pink human body. The gravity of the responsibility I have chosen to take on stares at me when I am doing my newborn exams and check hour-old pupils. I remember calling my best friends the morning after I began to call myself a midwife. I told them every detail I could remember before it slipped into the blur of the speed the time here races at. I spoke of feeling the presence of Ochun, Yemaya, and La Virgencita de la Guadalupe, whose candle was burning in a corner that night. I remember feeling connected to all the women who had provided this service generation after generation. More than anything else, I was in awe. I still am.
The beginning of my first apprenticeship year has been full of growth, challenges, and opportunities to reflect on my values and ways of relating to others. I had a conversation with one of the midwives about how our practice has an impact on how we move in the world. As a midwife, there are things that are black and white, with the gray area designated to the unexpected and uncontrollable. It takes skill and experience to know what situations go in which space. The same way I have had to learn those differences in prenatal care, labor, delivery and in the immediate postpartum has influenced how I view my personal and public work. With that, midwives often have to make decisions about what care and skill they provide and commit to them, for better or for worse. I am noticing how that is forcing me to look at my own decisions and decide whether I want to commit to them powerfully or cut my losses.
This is a hard political location to come to terms with. Living on the frontera between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico comes with a long history of struggle and present-day tensions between both countries, at the expense of Mexican and Mexican-American people. I think about this every day; I walk out onto the back porch of my home and I can see Ciudad Juarez. When I get to the clinic, women have had to travel for hours for their appointments, dealing with crossing the border and the hassles that come with that. Although I am an Afro-Dominicana, the struggle with United States imperialism, immigration issues and the stress that causes folks is all too familiar. This familiarity can make it hard to witness women and their families face these obstacles daily. This part of my experience has made me markedly passionate about educating on the detrimental effects of the United States and imperialist patriarchal white supremacist ideologies on Central American, South American, and the Caribbean communities’ self-determination.
Recently, I had a hot chocolate with a sister who was born and raised in El Paso. I mentioned to her the politics of the frontera (that she is all too familiar with) and how sometimes I have to contend with also feeling like an intruder because this is not my hometown. That having to travel outside of my community in the northeast to come and get trained, then going back home with the knowledge acquired feels like a double edge sword. These facts could be otherwise upsetting and unbearable; at times they are overwhelming. I told this sister that these hard places make me more intentional about the care I give to these women.
I came here because I am a native Spanish-speaker and can address a woman’s needs in her own language well. I came because I have no desire to be a certified nurse-midwife despite the fact that my home state, New York, requires a master’s degree in midwifery to be licensed. I am not interested in working in a hospital. I believe birth is a natural process, not a pathological emergency. To be in a hospital is to betray one of my most fundamental beliefs: birth is part of life and a woman is more than capable of bringing her child into the world without medical intervention. I believe hospitals are places for emergency situations. I came here because I am always trying to find a way to learn how to be with birthing women in a similar way that my ancestors did. This is not as close as I’d like it to be to traditional birthing but it’s a happy medium that I am learning quite a lot from. I came here because I wanted to have the women who come to receive care here would teach me how to take care of them. I wanted to gain a foundation of skills that I could build upon as I continue my education for the rest of my life.
When this society speaks about immigrants, it is usually anything but positive. We are given images of people struggling, impoverished and in many cases, criminally-inclined. The struggle is real. The economic disenfranchisement is real, and the actions marginalized people take that they are later penalized for are done out of a need to seek out basic things like food, water and shelter. What I have realized from witnessing family after family welcome a new member is that we never see images of the close-knit support and community that Mexican people and other immigrants depend on and cherish as this system continues to fail them. These are not my stories to tell. However, I want the world to know that Mexican women are strong and amazing. I want you all to know that their families have their back, for better or for worse. I just wish you could see the beautiful ways these births happen and how they have changed me, only for the best.
The tenderness of a mother-in-law helping her son’s wife through a contraction and her joy when the baby finally makes it earthside is incredible. Watching women become mothers, grandmothers and aunts for the first time moves me deeply. It’s indescribable. The husbands are astounding human beings. It is watching them hold their partner’s hands, giving massages and counter-pressure on lower backs and some bursting in tears when their child is born that has cemented what I want when I find myself giving birth one day. I want to be like these women. I want to do whatever it is that my body needs from me to birth a child, unscripted and unabashed. I want a partner who is committed, who will be there supporting me and doing whatever they need to do for me in that incredible moment of birth. I look forward to ecstatic family members when they get the news that I’ve become a mother. The memories of what I have seen here will stay with me.
No human experience is free of its grievances and I surely have them with the circumstances I have put myself in. To be in integrity with my spirit and politics, I can admit that this training is being between a rock and a hard place all of the time. There are hard realities and frustrations here. There are things that make me want to pull my hair out. Something I tell myself often is that one learns quickest in spaces of challenges and density. That when you are uncomfortable, you grow quickly and are forced to be present. Whenever I deal with something difficult here, I tell myself this. When I find myself exhausted and homesick, I am reminded that I am not here in vain but as a revolutionary woman striving to make this world a better place for the babies I’ve received in my hands.
When I get back from the clinic after a 24-hour shift and I recount what happened to my beautiful roommate, I remember the joy that courses through me and the pride I feel for getting this far despite all the obstacles thrown in my path that attempted to stop me. I feel unbelievably blessed to be trusted to catch a woman’s baby. I am more and more comfortable with calling myself a midwife. I opened the door one night and a woman accompanying a laboring woman is standing there. She asks, “Eres una partera? Are you a midwife?” Without hesitation, I said yes. I don’t have a license yet and certainly have more years of training ahead of me. I am a midwife. This is one of the most precious parts of my identity and I claim it to be true. Let’s see what the second quarter has in store for me.
To know how you can support and help me continue my midwifery journey by donating to my tuition and expenses, check this link out for more: http://www.gofundme.com/thesewatersrundeep