Michigan School of Traditional Midwifery

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The Art of Nurturing:
A Primary Skill of Mothers and Midwives

by Casey Makela
Published in Birth Gazette, Spring 1997

Nurturing has been understood and instinctive in women since the beginning of time. It is a fundamental skill encompassed in the act of loving. Synonymous with words like ‘maternal’, ‘mothering’, ‘encouraging’, ‘fostering’, ‘strengthening’, and ‘supporting’, the word ‘nurture’ is defined in the Readers Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary as “the act or process of promoting growth or development; education.”

Nurturing is a vital skill for mothers and an important aspect of midwifery - relative importance exists between both. Children must be intensely nurtured to ensure their emotional well-being. This will allow them to grow into secure, well balanced adults. Likewise, those with midwifery aspirations must be nurtured with almost the same intensity to ensure balanced growth that will lead to a rewarding and productive midwifery journey. So, just as a mother has a responsibility to invest in her children’s emotional well-being by nurturing them into adulthood, midwives today have a similar responsibility to invest in the future preservation of midwifery by nurturing individuals who seek to answer their callings - literally mothering them as daughters to become capable, confident caregivers. How can we, as midwives, effectively accomplish this?

There is certainly no greater investment midwives can make today than to cultivate a warm sense of welcome and sisterhood towards newly interested ones. Well nurtured ‘new interest' is the greatest asset midwifery has. It provides not only protection for our future - it is also part of our legacy, that we set an example for future generations to ensure that midwifery survives. This nurturing process should be an encompassing reaching out, without prejudice, across the boundaries of varying educational background and ideologies, an outreach that transcends bias and proudly heralds the rich excellence found in diversity.

These are exciting times for this who practice midwifery and for those who pursue it. With more available educational routes to choose from then ever before, coupled with the historic efforts initiated by the American College of Traditional Midwives as well as MANA, those new to midwifery now have opportunities open to them that were unheard of as few as 10 years ago (although dearly longed for).

Public awareness has greatly increased the viability of midwifery as health care option that women have a right to espouse. Indeed, midwives have a lot to be proud of!

Now the challenge is to nurture new interest. We must encourage and support midwifery goals with the same enthusiasm with which we have always championed women’s birth rights - their right to choose their birth settings and attendants. We must teach others and become advocates for new interest so women of the future will still have the right to choose midwives to attend their births. Our great-granddaughters, yet unborn, are depending on us!

I can say from experience that there is nothing more heartwarming than seeing birth again for the first time through the eyes of an apprentice attending her first birth (I have been greatly blessed to witness this awaking in the eyes of some of my own daughters’ whom I have apprenticed). Often through tears of joy and wonder, renewed conviction of purpose can be witnessed as an apprentice hears her ‘calling’ more clearly in the voice of a newborn’s first cry.

Our future is literally in our own very capable hands and the mission is clear. Gather together and embrace new interest. So, let's take the initiative of introductions at conferences and get-togethers that go beyond a light handshake and hurried “Hello”. Take a personal interest in the needs of new ones. Get involved and offer support. Listen and hear what they have to say. Truly welcome those just starting out and make them feel a part of this international collective work known as midwifery and practice the art of nurturing towards all of those who are answering their ‘callings'.

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