Feeling Our Way
I don’t believe that I really know anything unless I physically experience it. And, even then, meaning only comes when I have space to reflect on my experience.
I say this as someone who spent most of her life trying, and failing, to know solely through my brain. My panic memories make my stomach churn: Hiding in a bathroom stall in a Washington, DC office building, shaking as I fight to remember the facts for my smart presentation; trembling in a grad school seminar room as my key points melt into gibberish in my mind.
Much (much) later, I realized that this panic came from trying to think without my heart. Slowly (very slowly), I learned that my best thoughts come from my whole being. I discovered that my recall of information grows when I’ve looked up to see the stars, that my comprehension in complexity increases with singing and dancing, that my ability to generate alternative solutions deepens through meditation and prayer.
Even though I helped edit the early drafts, I still cried a little when I saw how my beloved Birth Center Equity teammates Leseliey Welch and Nashira Baril decided to open their recent article, “Birthing Black: Community Birth Centers as Portals to Gentle Futures”. At the top of their article was this:
the white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am.
The Black mother within each of us—the poet—whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free.
—Audre Lorde (“Poetry Is Not a Luxury”)
As community birth center leaders addressing maternal health in the US, Leseliey and Nashira are navigating matters of life and death, and carving out a liberatory path.
In our practice of coming back into our bodies and feeling our own joy, pain, and power, we do not ignore that we are in a crisis of maternal health that bears down inequitably on Black people. Rather, our analysis requires that we learn and uplift the true history of midwifery and the stories of Black people being experts in their own reproductive health; celebrate firsthand accounts and images of elders catching their grandbabies; and honor Black midwives and the call to uphold reproductive justice—“the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Our practice of visioning and of honoring the past, present, and future helps us and our communities to hold steadfast to the legacy and vision of community midwifery and transformative spaces for collective care and collective courage.
Trusting and reflecting on the feelings they experience in their bodies, Leseliey and Nashira put forth an audacious goal that they envision and and invite us all to work toward:
The domination of obstetrics will someday be history,
and midwifery will be the number one choice for birth care.
I understand that many still wonder, in this moment of great challenge in the world, when all of us are called to take responsible action, what structural changes feeling can take us to.
My answer is simple: The only ones that matter.