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In case you haven’t heard, next week is the 2013 conference for Christian Midwives International. This year it is conveniently located for me in Savannah Georgia, just down the road a bit from Atlanta. I’ll be there, and ready to see friends old and new. I’ll even be helping other midwives update their skills with a clinical update on menopause. I can’t wait.
If you have been on the fence about going, or if you think this conference isn’t for you I might be able to change your mind.
First, even though this is a conference for Christian Midwives International, it isn’t just for midwives. In fact, this is the first time I’ll go since beginning school to train as a midwife. Every other time I went I was “just a doula” or “just a childbirth educator.” One year I was “just a student nurse.” But that didn’t actually matter because the conference is so well run I was able to learn things and make great connections that benefited me and the families I served.
Secondly, the learning and sessions are only part of the value. Think of this conference more like a “retreat” than a conference. Even if I skipped every session (I have to guess here because it is not in my nature to ever skip a session), the time to talk with other Christian women who work in the birth world is tremendously uplifting. The friendships made through CMI are the ones that keep me going. These are the friends I call when I’m considering career options, the friends I call when I have tough research decisions, and the friends I want to call first to celebrate great things. I cannot stress enough the benefit of having a community of women in birth to pray with me and for me.
Finally, because this conference is for all christian midwives I am able to be around a mix of women from many backgrounds. There are CNMs, there are CPMs and DEMs, there are midwives who work at hospitals, birth centers and home. There are midwives from places where midwives are persecuted, and midwives from communities who respect and cherish midwives. There are midwives who have worked around the world for long or short term mission work. Honestly, it is the widest variety of midwives I every get the chance to work with. And the best part is the respect they show each other. The lectures are equally likely to be given by a direct entry midwife as a nurse-midwife; actually they even let non-midwives teach (like me – I did a session on educating clients one year as a childbirth educator)! Midwives from different backgrounds feel comfortable asking and answering questions to all types of midwives – and non-midwives.
My point is, if you think a CMI conference is something for you in the future, it is very likely something for you now!
Did you notice it is already March? I wanted to get your mind set on a project you can do to support the needs of expectant families in your area – host a “Baby Shower” at your church for Mother’s Day.
This can be as elaborate or informal as you choose. Some churches put up boxes on Mother’s Day weekend to collected gently used items which they donate to a local shelter or crisis pregnancy center. Some churches have a get together for all the new mothers in their church, helping them build relationships with the more experienced mothers for mentoring and friendship. Some churches do a Blessing God’s Way for the mothers who are expecting, helping to celebrate the role of the mother.
There are many opportunities to serve within your church and community, but they all take some preparation work. You still have time to set something up. Let me know what your end up doing.
Now that I have officially graduated, I’ve returned to my normal practice of reading the Bible through each year. I’ve kept up very well in the past two months – which is amazing given how unfocused I have been at the other items on my to do list.
I have been excited about this year’s Bible read through. I chose an edition that is organized chronologically, which is one of my favorite reading plans. But more importantly, I have been given eyes to finally see things other than issues of parenting, pregnancy and birth. I know it sounds weird, but before starting nursing school I had at least three years where nearly every day my reading revolved around pregnancy. I have lots of notes from my journals I kept during those readings, but posting what I learned is not even on that to do list I don’t stay focused on. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for that.
So what eyes am I using to read? The eyes that see power and politics behind the stories. This has completely changed so much of what I assumed about the Bible. I can give an example, but I don’t think I’ll do it much justice. I’ll try anyway.
Remember the Exodus? I’ve always sort of glazed over the surface of the story – Moses is a true believer of God and God hardened Pharoah’s heart. But this time, I saw things differently.
- I saw that it wasn’t just the Israelites who became servants of Pharaoh; that due to Joseph’s wisdom the entire kingdom of Egypt and some surrounding areas had to basically sell themselves as servants to get food. Though the Israelite family had traveled to Egypt before during a famine, this time they felt they couldn’t leave when the famine was over – Joseph himself asked to have his bones removed in the future when they could finally leave.
- I saw that Moses asked God who he should say is sending him, and for the first time I didn’t read it as “Hey God tell my your name” but rather, “So, which god are you that is sending me?”
- I saw that Pharaoh’s fear of the Hebrew people was that they would turn against Egypt if another nation were to attack. Letting the people go was not merely the loss of a big chunk of the workforce and a devastation to the economy, but probably sounded suspiciously like a conspiracy.
I could go on, but my main point is that things that seemed so unreasonable before (like Pharaoh not allowing them to go to worship in the desert) suddenly seemed very logical.
It got me thinking about my own life, and the decisions I make. Everyone believes they make good decisions. Sometimes we come back and admit we were wrong, but really we all think we are making the best decision at the time – that is why we make that decision. Pharaoh’s decision was perfectly logical given the circumstances. But when I view it through the eyes of the Bible (from God’s point of view), Pharaoh’s decision was wrong, and rather than protecting his country it caused just as much devastation as Pharaoh was trying to prevent.
And really, it is easy for me to think Pharaoh’s decision would have been different if he had followed God. But then I wonder if that reflects my experience. Do I go against the logical decisions I make because God leads me to do something completely illogical? Or do I stick a “God” stamp of approval on my logical decisions.
I think it’s time to update the birth planning materials to ensure there is plenty of room to follow God’s lead, even when it doesn’t make sense.
I started reading Job this week. I’ve always loved the Book of Job, the way it speaks honestly about trouble and problems. My heart goes out to Job, who so openly confesses to his friends that their attempts at consolation are pitiful. Because of Job I never use cliches or simple phrases promising life will get better or that this is probably for the best with friends who are struggling with the loss of a child or a difficult pregnancy. Job taught me it is OK to sit with someone in pain, that I don’t need to speak to be comforting. And Job taught me that and immediate deep depression is a normal human response to a tragedy.
This time during my reading I noticed the words of Satan in a deeper way. I had always understood the challenge – if you give Job trouble he won’t love you any more. I’ve heard many sermons about the importance of problems and how they test us, make our love of God deeper. These always seemed to be supporting Satan’s position to me – that most people will fall away from God if they have trouble, only the best will be drawn closer to God.
I had never really read what Satan was saying — that Job ONLY loved God and did what was right because God had blessed him. Interesting thought isn’t it – that it is easier for someone who is wealthy and had an easy life to love and serve God. This is the opposite of what I had been taught – that money and material things make it more difficult to love God because without a NEED for God’s help you never get to know him. It reminds me of my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa, where I was challenged to see how much of what I called Christianity was defined by my life in a wealthy country rather than the Bible.
God proved that Job did not only love him because he was blessed – Job did just fine under the test of trouble. The wealthy and blessed are able to love God enough without having to meet someone else’s idea of a “struggle.” I admit I never had a very good understanding of what it was that makes some people love God, and today I think God revealed that I understand it even less than I had imagined.
Which leads me to the difficulty of parenting. One of the things I have told myself was how the struggles of a parent in the first few months teach them to trust God more – which I read as love God more. But what if this is only half right? Do I really believe the parents who are blessed with an “easy” baby are not learning to trust God more – or learning to love God more? Do I really believe the ONLY way to grow faith is experiencing trouble? If I do, then I must be wrong — Job teaches me that.
Just another reminder that God is infinitely more complex than can be summed up in three simple sermon points or a catchy phrase.
Just a reminder that prayers do get answered. I had lost my files due to hard drive failure. The retrieval company reported all the files as corrupt but were willing to give us what they found for a greatly reduced rate.
When the files arrived, they could all be opened and my work could continue.
How amazing is our God?
I am so thankful for technology that makes my life easier. For example, I con now make blog posts directly from my phone. This means you are more likely to get posts. We all win.
So now I want to know, how do you utilize technology in your ministry?
I’ve returned from Honduras, and am using an unexpected break to update the main Birthing Naturally website. As I started, a funny thing happened – I realized how much my view of birth has been changed by my learning over the past few years.
It isn’t that I’ve suddenly changed my whole philosophy. It is that my understanding of the problems women face has been expanded. Let’s face it, when you are an independent childbirth educator or doula you pretty much see one kind of woman – the kind who does research to make informed decisions and has enough freedom in her life to act on those decisions. I was a little different in that I also worked with single women and teens.
But now, I’ve worked with women without access to basic health care; women who don’t know where their next meal is coming from; women without any understanding of how their body works – and this is all before I add what I’ve experienced when I travel.
This has had the effect of softening me. I used to think I understood what women needed during pregnancy and birth, and the list was short because it reflected a culturally homogeneous group. My lists are more flexible now. I have less things I think a woman must do, and more things women might benefit from.
I am taking this as a sign of growth. How have your expanding experiences changed your perceptions of pregnancy and birth?
The next step in my crazy schedule is six weeks in Honduras. I’ll be volunteering with an organization – teaching neonatal resuscitation in a few places and putting in some hours as a doula in the local hospital.
Did this just get you excited, because you have a heart to help internationally too? If so, why not start in your own area? You could volunteer with a crisis pregnancy center, provide free doula services to teens or pregnant women, even sign up to be a peer breastfeeding counselor. Find out what is possible and go for it.
Dear friends, I hope your year has been fruitful and a blessing up to this point. I have been overwhelmed with school and had to stop all non-essential work for a few months. But the semester is nearly over for me, and I am getting back to my “real” life.
Isn’t it funny that we have a “real” life – one which we believe happens, or should happen, or that we want to happen; and we have the life we actually live that seems like it is only distracting us from our “real” lives.
So I take that back. I have been living my “real” life.
My real life is interesting and amazing. I am constantly learning new skills and information and my capacity to serve has grown exponentially. But to experience this incredible time of growth I needed to participate in a “retreat” much more serious and Spiritual than any weekend getaway with my campus ministry in college. I have had to sacrifice things I enjoy, to choose carefully how I will spend my time.
So this makes me wonder, how many times has God given me an opportunity to grow and learn when I wasn’t willing to set myself aside to learn? How many times has my inability to let go of the things I think I want or need gotten in the way of my growth?
I’ve made a goal this month to promote birth ministries. I actually have a contest going on between the website and the facebook page to have individuals share about their birth ministry. This brought up an interesting question, what is a birth ministry?
I have a group of friends that struggled through this question as we created the International Christian Childbirth Coalition. We wanted to create a source of support for leaders of birth ministries, but not take over the job of any individual organization. This meant we needed to define what a ministry was, who could join the ICCC and who should join an ICCC member organization. It was a difficult process to work through.
But this contest isn’t about ministry leaders or membership. It is simply about sharing what you do and how you do it. The definition of a birth ministry can be much broader. Here are some examples:
You may purchase books about pregnancy and childbirth for your church library to ensure families in the church have access to quality information.
You may organize food delivery for families with new babies or women on bed rest.
You may provide free childbirth education or doula services for the women in your church, or through a crisis pregnancy center, or friends of friends.
You may knit baby blankets to donate to a homeless shelter.
You may organize a birth or baby supply drive to send to churches in areas of need.
You may advocate for the rights of breastfeeding women at your church to stay in the service or to have private space to nurse.
You may plan weekly or monthly mother’s groups for new and expectant mothers so they can provide support for each other.
The point is, your personal birth ministry does not need to be anything formally organized. It is simply the way you serve God by serving the needs of new and expectant parents.
I urge you to take a few minutes, write your story and share it with others to inspire them to find ways to serve God through pregnancy and birth. Here are the directions: http://birthingnaturally.net/christian/ministry/contest.html