Our Work Was Birth — The Primal Act of a Woman's Life

Posted by Katie Moriarty on April 08, 2014

“Our work was birth — the primal act of a woman’s life. A time fueled by instinct and by fear. Trusting our instinct can be what we fear most. Our actions are ours alone, and we must suffer their consequences.”

It is nearing the end of the university semester — and this modern day midwife/professor smiled with this episode! We just discussed childbirth preparation and education during our last class. We explored counseling and teaching for the woman and family during pregnancy. The nurse-midwifery students presented different childbirth preparation methods and shared information about the history of the methods, identified the philosophies underlying the methods, reviewed course content, identified research that evaluates the effectiveness of childbirth education, shared local and national childbirth organizations within the United States, identified local instructors with contact information and specifics such as cost for our families and gave their reflections on the varying methods — including their impressions of cultural/ethnic appropriateness with each method. The childbirth preparation educational methods that we discussed were: Bradley Method, Lamaze, Hypnobirthing, Birthing From Within, and Mindfulness Childbirth and Parenting.

Just as the nurse-midwives and nuns attended the lecture and explored the concepts within Dr. Grantly Dick-Read’s “Freeing Mothers from Fear,” we also discussed this leading advocate of natural childbirth. Dr. Dick-Read was born in 1890 and died in 1959 — the same year as depicted in this season’s episode of Call The Midwife. His first book was published in 1933 and was titled "Natural Childbirth". His second book, "Revelations of Childbirth", later retitled "Childbirth Without Fear," was published in 1942. This book is still in print. In 1956, Dr. Dick-Read became the first president of the U.K. Natural Childbirth Association. This association is now called the National Childbirth Trust.

It was fantastic to watch Cynthia as she empowered the young woman during her long labor and birth with the relaxation techniques. She helped her trust in her body and in the birthing process. She believed in the woman and persevered — and along the way even Sister Evangelina was transformed.

I remember having a button that said "MIDWIFERY – CHANGING THE WORLD ONE BIRTH AT A TIME." I feel like I get to see the Nonnatus House nurse-midwives and nuns doing that in each episode, and I get that feeling when I attend a birth or watch one of my students attending a birth!

“The beginning of life drove us to be strong throughout it … in those acts of instinct and courage we found a freedom and it made us bold. It made us believe we could change the world. In our own small ways WE DID.”


The Bradley Method

Birthing From Within


Lamaze International

Mindfulness Pregnancy and Birthing

Mindful Motherhood

International Childbirth Education Association

Katie Moriarty (CNM, PhD, CAFCI)Katie Moriarty (CNM, PhD, CAFCI) is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Nurse Midwifery education program at the University of Michigan. She has been a nurse-midwife since 1992. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Windsor, and her Master’s and PhD degrees are from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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