I cried myself to sleep last night, and so my eyes are puffy and itchy this morning. We failed to elect a leader that will promote goodness, equality, and love, and my son will be five years old before we get to the end of this. I know it won’t last forever, but it’s gonna be long and heartbreaking.
The sun came up this morning, which was a slight surprise as last night all the hope in the world seemed to have magically and inexplicably evaporated.
Yet despite the sadness and the emptiness I feel, I trust that this is still the moment for us, for women, for love, for beauty, growth, and progress. Everything that Hillary represented, and all the hope we invested in her, still stands; and though it may be shaken and dismayed – we are the ones who provide the structure and the strength to that future we ache for, the female future Hillary stood for, and the future we want for our daughters and for our sons. Sometimes it seems easier to have a crusade: to make posters, wear buttons, and chant in front of a banner. But most of the time we campaign for things that may never have a clever hashtag, or a cool t-shirt, or even a collective name: just waking up and diving in and doing good. It seems so much easier to blast our message, to condemn those that oppose it, and to claw till our fingers are raw. But we might just have to love, to care, to be soft and uncompromising, instead of hard and abrasive.
As I cried myself to sleep last night, despite the concerns about friends losing their health care or being deported – in fact it’s hard to sidestep imagining all the ways our leadership could screw us in the next four years – the deepest sadness I felt was for the execution of all the delicious feminine hope that was radiating across the nation for women and girls. I felt crushed that our female representative – the one who was ready to blast right through that glass ceiling – had not been elected, and even worse, that someone who has denigrated women so egregiously has assumed the role as leader of us all.
So we have to fight even harder than we did when we had a united cause. And the fighting may not even look like fighting, it may look like the drudgery of our normal lives. It may look like a fatiguing repetition of “be kind, be good, be decent – whatever you do be decent.” From today, this fight isn’t women against men, and not even bigot versus non-bigot, it’s just those of us who are heart-broken and wary slogging it out to make the good and bright things in this world our rallying call. After yesterday, we don’t really have another option. If we can’t have a woman in the White House, we must be the woman in our own house who is championing for human rights and decency, and caring for our fellow man. If universal healthcare is repealed, then we must be the ones to step in and care for our friends and neighbors. I know that freshly baked bread doesn’t pay the medical bills or cure an ear infection, but it matters. Last night when my heart was hurting, I called my mom and asked her to console me. She’s the strongest woman I know, and despite the tumult of this election, she will continue to be the strongest woman I know, and that makes a difference.
As mothers and aunts and sisters and friends, we have to be the force for good that permeates our families and every corner of this nation.
Thanks for letting me preach. Last night, I kept asking my husband, “What if this really happens? What are we going to do?” I even looked up jobs in London. But life isn’t over; my baby boy still needs to eat, he still needs naps and cuddles, and he’s still going to smile at me, and laugh, and radiate joy. This is still the moment we have been waiting for. I’m so sad that Hillary’s election to the presidency is not the impetus behind which all women can rally and rejoice. But hell, if Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the oval office is what sounds the clarion call for women and men everywhere to stand up and change the world from our own house on up to the White House (instead of the other way around), so be it. Bring it on. This is it.
I’m still in mourning. My heart is broken. But this can’t be the end, this has to be – has to be – the dawn of something good.
Other good places on the subject
cup of jo
reading my tea leaves
When I contemplate the course that has led me to pursue midwifery, it is a collection of trivial moments and impressions that ultimately amounted to something of imperative importance. And although the prospect of becoming a midwife entered my thoughts imperceptibly, it has grown to become a goal I feel obligated to pursue.
I attended Brigham Young University and received my undergraduate degree in Social-Cultural Anthropology. In order to receive my degree, I was required to complete a rigorous field study on a particular research topic. I chose to study the influence of medicalization on Hmong childbirth ritual, particularly the postnatal burial of the placenta. Before entering the field, I immersed myself in the literature of medicalization and birth. I also received my doula training. Not only did I learn about the procedures of birth, but I realized the immense empathy and vulnerability required of a birthing assistant.
While in Thailand, I lived in a village called Paklang, where Hmong families had been relocated after the Vietnam war. Due to this relocation, these families now interacted with Thai culture in their businesses, television, schools, etc. This exposure to Thai culture had a profound effect on Hmong culture and spirituality in the village.
Before arriving in Thailand, I had read many accounts that indicated the spiritual importance of burying the placenta as an essential marking point for the soul after death, but none of my interlocutors – or any of their friends – were carrying out the placenta burial ritual. I was taken aback. And although they were no longer burying the placenta, they were still performing the hu plig, or soul-calling ritual (performed on behalf of the child three days after birth), and observing the mother’s 30 days of postnatal confinement. And in order to rectify the spiritual ramifications of not burying the placenta, shamans altered the wording of the leading-the-way funeral ceremony to reflect the changes made due to medicalization. I found that these Hmong families allowed themselves to pick and choose which rituals mattered in their changing circumstances. After completing my research, I concluded that Hmong families were active agents in the process of modifying their birthing rituals; they proactively altered their course of religious observation to coincide with their beliefs, and reconcile the medicalized model of birth to which they were exposed. This research has greatly influenced my desire to become a midwife and enable families to participate similarly as active agents in creating their own birth and family culture.
After returning from Thailand, I joined my husband in Columbus, Ohio and began contacting midwives, seeking out potential preceptors, without success. Two and a half years later I became pregnant, and my husband and I felt strongly in favor of having a home birth.
During my prenatal appointments, labor and birth, and during postnatal appointments, I was struck by how significant it was that I had received such tender care, and that I was allowed to be an agent in the birth of my son. The choice to have a midwife and give birth at home has given me confidence as a mother, has strengthened my husband’s bond to our son, allowed for a comfortable pregnancy and an untroubled recovery. I wish to provide these gifts to as many women and men as I can.
This is a great time to be a woman; we have access to a wealth of opportunities and incredible role models after whom to pattern our lives. But I feel there is still a grand dilemma facing women. In her book Gift From the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh articulates the dimensions of that dilemma:
“The Feminists did not look … far [enough] ahead; they laid down no rules of conduct. For them it was enough to demand the privileges. … And [so] woman today is still searching. We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them.” Regardless of the time period, she adds, “[for women] the problem is [still] how to feed the soul.” (Gift from the Sea, New York: Pantheon Books, 1975, pp. 51–52.)
The midwifery model of care has the potential to be the solution to this searching for satisfaction of the soul. Although pregnancy and birth are only slight portions of a woman’s life, they can be endlessly influential in forming who she is and her identity as a female. If this can be the model upon which all other institutions involving women are based: a system of empathy, compassion, femininity, education, empowerment, awareness, individuality, personal advocacy – then perhaps we can succeed in creating a world in which women are uniquely empowered to be themselves. There is no other environment or facet of life that more explicitly pertains to women, and instead of cringing, or submitting, or avoiding involvement, the midwifery model of care could be an opportunity for women to carve out an identity and an affiliation for themselves that is the ultimate empowerment, women for women for the benefit of all. This is the work in which I desire to be involved. This is the legacy I want to work toward and effectuate.
I am passionate about midwifery because I am passionate about women and their unequivocal and universal role in society. By using the midwifery model of care, I can do something substantial that allows me to communicate with and educate real women in a comfortable and compassionate setting. I am inclined to allow every woman the choice of how her child enters this world, but I am fiercely eager in ensuring that each woman has the option to birth in a way that affects her for good. I appreciate that despite the need for infrastructural changes, my role as a midwife would allow me to enact change and show sympathy and care on an individual basis.
I am passionate about midwifery because I see it as an opportunity to empower women to reclaim a unique and collective feminine identity; and though I do not desire to enclose women into a solitary role as mother, I feel that this is the unique opportunity deprived of many women. Starting from prenatal care, women can be centered, empowered, and made whole. This is a great time for women. And while my skills as a midwife would not resolve the dilemma of all women, it would make a difference for some women.
My husband just accepted a new job in Utah. And though I thought that the opportunity to become a midwife was still distant, something has urged me to follow this course. I am reminded of a quote from the article “A Noble Calling by Lindy Casey” that I read on the MCU website a few years ago:
“We like to think that midwives are called to their profession. Through some series of events, experiences and observations we imagine a woman is struck by a spiritual lightning bolt that practically forces her to take on the mantle of midwife and begin trudging out into the night to the bedsides of women.”
I have never felt so called to do anything.