A beautiful woman gives birth at home, in sunshine, surrounded by the love of her partner and young son, with a flower in her hair. Her baby arrives to laughter, a daughter, is delivered straight to the breast. A midwife is there, mostly standing by. All is straight forward and regular.
In Spain, this is how they sell mattresses.
I hope this is as clear to you as it is to me. May all of our beds be so inviting, sunny and calm.
For those not yet versed in the physiologic and cosmic possibilities of childbirth, I’d like to introduce you to birth in the caul. I’ve recently come across a video of a Mama having a water birth—which is a method of birth during which the awesome parturient Mama is partially submerged in lovely warm water and the new little soul being born slides from her first watery home into another wet environment. The baby, still getting oxygen from the Mama via the placenta and umbilical cord, does not take it’s first breath until out of the tub when she is stimulated by the air. This video is extraordinary because it shows both a water birth and a birth in the caul!
The amazing image that you see here, which looks like a pearly gem emerging, is actually the baby’s amniotic sac bulging out. The bag of waters or caul is the valise that the little bean lives in during the average 40 weeks of gestation. Most often the membranes rupture during the labor process (think: “My water just broke!”) or is artificially ruptured by a Midwife or Obstetrician prior to birth. There is no harm in leaving the amniotic sac whole, however, and many peoples all over the world believe that when left intact the caul and the baby which bears it have magical qualities.
Legend holds that caulbearers carry good luck and protection from death by drowning, making them considerably valuable folks among seafarers. The Scots, too, believe the child will be fey, or psychic. And from the ancient Egyptians we learn that the newborn baby is destined for the cult of Isis, a mystically inclined fate.
Notice first of all how relaxed this amazing Lady is while pushing her baby out. You can see that the sac bulges and contracts with pushing efforts and relaxation respectively and that the head is born with the caul intact. The Midwife then breaks the membranes and catches the little one.
Just think how cushioned both Baby and Mama are during this process of birth in the caul.
Psychic abilities?! No perineal tears?! No cephalohematomas?! Three cheers for CAULBEARERS!! (As well as the amazing Women who push them out and the Midwives and OB docs who have the patience and respect to leave the process be).
I’m wild for the LIFE photo archive that’s been put up recently by Google. It’s such an incredible resource and an insane rabbit hole. Today I punched in “midwife” and came upon W. Eugene Smith‘s photos of the right honorable Maude Callen, a nurse-midwife who braved the swampy lowlands of rural South Carolina to help laboring mothers deliver their babies and to attend to any who needed her care for whatever reason. Smith took these photographs in 1951 and they ran in LIFE as a 12 page profile of this remarkable woman. At the time, Ms. Callen had been working in the Pineville, SC area for nearly thirty years and she we would go on to serve the community another 40 years until her death in 1990 at age 92.
I love how fully the photos show a midwife doing her work well: journeying to the mother’s house when called, calmly preparing, listening and waiting, calmly preparing some more, receiving the baby, and educating the next generation.
For a sensible glimpse of midwifery in America today, my favorite nurse-midwife to be, Nile, suggests you take a look at a recent article in the LA Times, Midwives Deliver. It is so great to see such a positive and proactive endorsement of midwifery care in the mainstream media.
So, friends, as many of you are aware, the Ladies of Gravel & Gold are each fierce multi-armed beasts. Aside from our stringent duties at the shop—manning the desk, attending flea markets, seeing to glamorous international buying sprees and chardonnay-fueled deckside planning sessions—each of us also pursue interests other than the shop. Lisa is an accomplished filmmaker, presently at work on The Snockumentary, Nile is a certified doula and is now working toward her master’s degree in nurse-midwifery at UCSF, and I have been working away on a website called Sutros.com that invites musicians to share their music with a Creative Commons license—which allows all the music on the site to be freely available for legal downloading.
We just launched the site last week and we’re beginning to get all sorts of feedback and making a ton of improvements all the time. It’s so exciting each time somebody signs up and decides to put up a few tracks. Here are a couple of my favorites so far: