I left Guatemala but Guatemala has not left me. The work I started there continues to unfold and the vision in my mind of young eager midwives and families who deeply value midwifery and home birth stays with me as a powerful motivating force.
It is with great excitement and pleasure that I am announcing the launch of Midwife International and Ixchel-Atitlan: Intercultural School of Midwifery. The school will serve both Guatemalan and international students and provide a comprehensive education that will prepare students for out-of-hospital birth practice and international work. Participating in the conception and gestation of this school (the birth has yet to come) has been a process of watching the divine in action and miracles unfolding.
I am convinced, now more than ever, that God needs our eyes and ears, and our voices, hands and feet to create the heaven on Earth so many of us wish to experience and some of us know is possible. We will know what this is when we join with others to make a fierce commitment to love. We cannot afford to wait for the winds to shift. It will require the gifts of every person who is at all awake to a higher consciousness. It is our willingness to make ourselves receptive and available and to respond to the needs at hand with the best of who we are and what we have to offer that is going to make or break our collective future.
Of this I am sure. I’m hardly an evolved soul but I can still do what is given to me to do as I learn to live more consciously.
Ixchel-Atitlan is a dream come true. Not my dream but a dream that has found its way into any receptive space it could find.
Our little team (four out of the seven of us) had a celebration feast just before I left Guatemala and I got to hear a story that was profoundly inspiring. Ester, the indigenous midwife at the root of this project, told us how this all began. In 1986, when she was a young woman and a new midwife, she had the opportunity to travel to the U.S. with her parents for a conference of some kind. While she was there, she met someone who asked her what her dream was. She thought about it and said, “I want to create a school for midwives.” The woman asked her to write it down and hold on to that dream. Fast forward 15 years and Ester again had an opportunity to travel to the U.S. At that point she had many years experience as a midwife. This time she went to a midwifery conference with the help of American midwife, Cindy Waterman. Again she met someone who asked her what her dream was. Again it was a school for midwives. Again she wrote it down. Fast forward nine more years to an auspicious and synchronistic moment in time. I showed up at the lake. At the same time, Mariu Gobbato, a young mother and aspiring midwife, moved to San Marcos and Corina Fitch, a midwife who grew up on the Farm, also showed up for a visit. Alicia DaCristaforo had been talking to Ester about the idea of the school and she managed to gather us all for a conversation. From that first meeting, the ball started rolling.
There have been many moments in this process that have been pivotal and miraculous but three stand out that I will mention. The first happened before the idea of a school was even much in my consciousness. I was talking to a friend of mine in San Marcos, Dr. Bill, (one of those rare physicians that really “gets it” about midwifery). He had just finished reading my book. I remember him saying, with a lot of intensity, “I want you to dream big. What would you do if you could do anything?”
That of course, is a good question for anyone.
For me, the wholesale loss of normal birth as a human experience on a global scale is a major tragedy. A heartbreak for humanity. Because the opportunity for re-membering the truth of our interdependence and the love we are made of through the experience of birth compares to nothing else. It’s an incredible gift that is being squandered. Drugged and surgical birth just aren't the same. For whatever reason saving birth has become part of my mission in life. My answer to his question was, “I would save midwifery here in Guatemala BEFORE its gets lost.” He just smiled and nodded his head. In that moment I was given permission to be totally audacious--in a good way.
The second moment (a series of moments) was several months later when I was riding the public boat to San Pedro, late for a meeting with some potential students and Ester. Stephanie Bonin happened to be on my right and she struck up a conversation with me about my project. On my left was her friend, visiting from Colorado for a week vacation. He overheard the conversation and told me I should meet his wife, also named Sarah. She was in the back of the boat and he introduced us when we disembarked. Several days later Sarah and I met at the clinic and Sarah did an interview with me for her blog, Mother’s Advocate. The link to the interview is below. As I explained to her the vision for our school, tears started streaming down her face. As it turns out, she had had a similar vision many years earlier of an international school for midwives. Her vision was to create a school where North American student midwives could get their education in a place where the need was great, alongside local women who would be serving their own communities. She had also recently been asking the universe for a way to use her talents and time in service to something bigger. She had found the answer to her seeking.
One thing led to another and Sarah Kraft has become our executive director, contributing tremendous amounts of time, skills, talents, vision, and commitment. I could not have invented a better executive director in my imagination. I am forever grateful to hand off that piece to someone who has skills in organizational development and fundraising. I want to focus my efforts on midwifery practice and mentoring midwifery students. I have a vision of mentoring midwifery students in a way that I craved during my training but never experienced. I think of it as “midwifing the midwife.”
So here is the really interesting piece....Sarah Kraft had a vision of somehow getting involved with midwifery in Guatemala (separate from the other vision I recounted) when she attended the midwives conference in New Mexico in 2001. That was the first conference that hosted traditional Guatemalan midwives, Antonina Sanchez and Berta Juarez, to teach a class on herbal medicine. It was because of them that I went to that conference and when I met them I knew I needed to go to Guatemala. I had a vision of being involved somehow in midwifery in Guatemala but I didn’t know what that looked like. Ester happened to be at that same conference though she was there only as a participant. That’s where she wrote down her dream for the second time. Ester still has those two slips of paper.
So how’s that for synchronicity? I continue to watch with rapt attention as the process unfolds.
The third moment, was shortly after I met Sarah, we were sitting at a gathering and she asked the people gathered to each tell about the biggest transformation we had experienced this year. I remember surprising myself by saying, “I have moved from trying to figure out how to make my own life work to wanting to make things work for a lot of people.” It is a very fulfilling and energizing place to be. I am still very much motivated by this drive.
Our website tells more: www.midwifeinternational.org
Also, my slide show is up on youtube now. Much easier to watch and better resolution: http://youtu.be/fGROuZCq5-U
For those of you who are passionate about global birth change like me, you have got to check out this new social media project called One World Birth at
Your comments are appreciated!