'Tis the Season! Now that it is officially Fall, Halloween is just around the corner ready to kick off the season. Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine but as I have gotten older and deeper into my profession, it has become a bit more important or closer to my heart.
I mean, I knew I was a witch, but now I really know it.
The history of Midwifery is not all rainbows and sunshine. The roots of the political and class wars between Docs, the upper class, and lay healers such as Midwives, the lower class, run deep in not only American history, but throughout various countries around the world (Although worse here in the US compared to other industrialized countries who far better utilize Midwives). Despite plenty of statistical data that proves midwifery care is in fact, not only safe, but often times SAFER than today's obstetrical care provided by Obstetricians, many of the ridiculous and just plain wrong deeply seeded misconceptions/lies have followed us (midwives) for literal centuries.
Prior to colonial New England (around the 1600s), lay healers were predominantly women. Women were the ones nursing people back to health, cultivating and sharing herbal remedies, caring for pregnant women throughout pregnancy, delivery, and during postpartum, and providing general counsel within the community. Midwives traveled from home to home, often living with the woman until well enough to care for her baby and potentially other children. Midwives were well respected. They were considered and called wise women throughout their communities, and they were.
Fast forward to today and we see that "health care" (let's face it, we don't have health care here, we have sick care, but I digress) is predominantly owned by men (yes, we have seen a steady growth or increase of female doctors since 2008 but the systems are very much still rooted in the masculine history of medicine). Only about 8% of births are attended by Midwives today, a stark difference from prior to the 1800s when women were often the only healers for other women and the poor.
So what the f*ck happened?
They took our shit over.
That's what happened.
The emergence of the European medical model played a huge role in the witch hunts that lasted over four centuries from the 1400s through the late 1700s spanning from Germany, Italy, France, England, and eventually, to the US. The majority of witches hung and/or burned at the stake were lay healers and midwives. Modern medicine, backed by upper-class white men and the church, had to convince the people that lay healers were dangerous and dirty and should not be trusted. Seems to make sense that an easy way to go about this is through accusing these healers of witchcraft. I feel it is important to note that this movement if you will, was truly a two-part issue. One being the war against women, and the other being the war against the poor. Lower-class women had little to no support against the upper class and church which were tightly intertwined. Shit sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Ah, but fear not! For every dark cloud, there's a silver lining. And in our case, it's a shimmering, magical one.
You see, while the upper echelons and the church were busy pointing fingers and lighting fires, the spirit of midwifery, like any good witch's potion, refused to be extinguished. Instead, it bubbled and brewed beneath the surface, waiting for the right moment to rise again. And rise it did!
In the shadows, midwives continued their sacred work, passing down their knowledge from one generation to the next. Whispered secrets of birthing techniques, herbal remedies, and the ancient art of healing were shared in hushed tones, ensuring that the legacy of the wise women lived on.
And let's be honest, who wouldn't want a sprinkle of magic during one of life's most transformative experiences?
As the centuries rolled on, society began to see the error of its ways. The witch hunts ceased, and slowly but surely, the reputation of midwives began to be restored. Today, while we are still fighting our way back, we are not being burned at the stakes, and those who do choose us know the unique blend of care, compassion, and yes, a touch of magic, that we bring to the table.
So, as you carve your pumpkins and don your witchy hats this Halloween, spare a thought for the midwives of yore. For in their honor, we continue to serve, heal, and sprinkle a little magic wherever we go.
While history may have tried to paint us as wicked witches, we know the truth. We are the guardians of ancient knowledge, the keepers of sacred traditions, and the embodiment of feminine power. And if that makes us witches, then so be it. I'll wear that hat with pride!
Happy Halloween, my fellow magical beings!