By Mariah Strong
This poem was inspired by the life-long work of my mother, who is my deepest inspiration and teacher. My mom has served families on Maui for over 40 years as their ally and midwife in autonomous birth. She has birthed her eight children at home, with fellow midwives, her friends and family, into water, or into her own hands. She has welcomed her grandchildren in the same way, with the same values. Her life work has been to hold space for birthing families and their choices, to educate and empower. She is a traditional midwife, and has held that role my whole life, inspiring me so deeply that I have chosen to walk this path by her side, as a midwife.
The words below came to me in an inspired uproar, when I was told my mother would not be "allowed" to call herself a midwife after four decades of holding that title. That the State of Hawai'i would be taking that ageless designation under a new law, and only let it remain for a certain few. In most cases, these few will be birth workers who have been privileged enough to afford midwifery school and to travel out of the state to complete it. Without an amendment, this law would make all others, the traditional and cultural midwives, the direct-entry midwives and even licensed midwives from certain states, unable to serve our families legally and strip them of the title "midwife.” If they continue to use the title, the position that their community and actions bestowed upon them, they would be legally persecuted. The option to choose our care providers and birth support team would be dramatically minimized, and in some areas extinguished. Once again, our bodily autonomy and medical choices would be taken away and put into the hands of the state.
We must preserve the wisdom and teaching of those that are outside of the white-washed education system.
We must stand up for the safety of the birth workers that have tirelessly served our families, helping us to not only birth our children, but honor and uphold our personal traditions and cultures.
Now is the time to fight for our access to culturally appropriate midwives.
The words below are my call to action.
To learn more and add your voice and experience to the cause, check out Hawaii Home Birth Collective.
“You can keep your label”
A simple title
Defining a truly selfless act
A serving on the deepest level
To the reflection of soul in another’s eyes
Serving the highest power within
To birth anew
The attempt at labeling something that is nameless
Something that is ageless
A song of sisterhood
that has been sung since the birth of this world
When the goddess birthed her daughters
Her midwife, the cosmos and the stars
The ember of that holy service kept alive in the hearts since time immemorial
Forever this song was stirred hands into service
The igniting of a dance that is performed by the side of a woman in labor
The stage of this dance never the same
A field, a cave, a home, a brightly lit room, the wake of a tsunami, the back of a car, a sterile room
Regardless, we hone the ember of service
Of care, devotion, love, strength
We welcome the new world
That is birthed with each babes first breath
Even after all this time
There are those that don’t understand
They believe a label
Is what we are
In your confusion you burn us
You jail us
You beat us
You label us and try to hinder our service by law
But you don’t know the song that is hummed in our bones
The power that makes us dance
swaying our hips
Moving our hands
The dance of birth
We will forever serve
We will always be there when we are needed
When in the cry of labor
In the dark of night
A sister needs us
We will be there
No matter the label
The terminology you try to
Force on us
We stand tall
Regardless of name or label or law
We know our dance and will
Keep rhythm as one until the end of time