Saturday, March 20, 2010

"You're the one who receives the new life."

Most of my Ursuline life has been spent as a practicing midwife, and mostly in New York City Hospitals and clinics in the Bronx. It has been a wonderful life of caring for women and their children, delivering their babies, watching their families grow, sharing in their struggles as new immigrants, striving to find their way in a strange culture.

Midwifery is a wonderful profession. It can be practiced in a large, state-of-the-art hospital or in a dirt hut in a third world country. ( I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to do both.) Babies come the same way everywhere – and believe it or not they even come if we’re not there to help them (and the mother) along!

One of my most memorable moments was with an African woman whom I was caring for in Lincoln Hospital. “Oh,” she said in a way I will never forget. “You’re the one who receives the new life.” ‘Yes,” I said, almost blown away by the concept. I don’t deliver the baby; I receive the new life. And that has been my vision of my work for the many years since that wisdom was imparted to me, woman to woman, bonded in the empowering act of giving birth.

After a life time of working in packed clinics, managing busy labor floors and learning to say “push” in a variety of languages I have stepped back from the day to day of midwifery practice. I now go out from the hospital in a mobile van, offering free services to uninsured woman.

Three days a week we rumble through the street of the Bronx, most often to sites that have booked us for mammograms, but sometimes just parked on busy streets, like the merchants, hawking our wares. Women climb on the van, most weary, all happy to get the health care that has become so costly without insurance.

As I welcome the women on the van, it seems I have seen their faces all my life. And as I look, I keep looking for that one special face that so many years ago helped me to know what it means to be a midwife.

Sr. Maureen McCarthy, osu

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