Sometime last year I stumbled on to the PBS show Call the Midwife. As a former lay midwife myself, I was immediately hooked. It provided a wonderful counterpoint to the last two shows I had been fixated on – Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones! Call the Midwife is a loving and thoughtful portrayal of a community of midwives, nurses and nuns serving in a low-income community in London. It makes me remember my long nights and days and the hundreds of moms who passed through our clinic.
It is true that, once a midwife, always a midwife and I know that my experiences “catching babies” in El Paso still provide a core foundation to my view of the world. (We said “catching babies” because we as midwives weren’t delivering the babies – that was the mom’s job. We supported and encouraged and “caught” the new arrivals!)
But it wasn’t until last week when a wise friend likened the concept of doing community work to the work of midwifery that I ever thought of how I bring my midwifery heart to my facilitation work.
The essence of midwifery is supporting the natural process of birth. Midwives encourage the parents and help the mom be her strongest as she moves through the deepening contractions. Midwives help moms tap into their own strength so that they can have a successful birth experience. Ideally, midwives only intervene if something goes awry and even then she never forgets that the mom is an essential player in decision making.
I truly believe that communities have an innate strength and that my role as facilitator is to help them tap into that strength. A facilitator’s job is to support and encourage, not come in with external solutions though they should provide insight when asked. Like midwives, facilitators have a set of tools to use to help the community tap into its own strength and knowledge so that when work is done, the community can own it fully.
A facilitators job is also to be a liaison – just as the midwife is sometimes a liaison between the medical system or other family members. Sometimes facilitators act as liaisons between funders and community or developers and community. Just as midwives hold the mom’s interest front and center, so does the facilitator hold the community’s needs front and center.
At the end of the day, both facilitation and midwifery are about good communication and helping hands.
Need a “midwife” for your project? Email me at email@example.com