We Two Form a Multitude
by Lois Wilson, CPM

[Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 58, Summer 2001.]

We two form a multitude. Together we are complete. Together we are invincible. We two form a multitude. Yes, there are couplings that make us feel that strong. The mamatoto—the motherbaby—is that kind of coupling.

One of the most cherished experiences of my own pregnancies was the fact that I was never alone. Someone was with me—within me—all the time. Such a sense of the holy accompanies that shared existence. We two are one; we share everything. The inner workings of my own body are yours—even my heartbeat is a shared experience. Someone knows the sound of my beating heart, my voice, my movements—from within. Extraordinary.

The very fact that we must define motherbaby, that we must explain and defend and protect motherbaby, is an indication that something has gone terribly wrong with the way we look at pregnancy and provide maternity care in our culture. We have lost sight of the obvious: why?

I believe that the motherbaby unit is so strong that the only way to control women—and the money that they bring to the maternity care system—is to “break” that motherbaby bond. If “we two form a multitude” means that mothers will do anything to protect the motherbaby, then society must divide that unit in order to gain control. In the industrialized West that division begins to take place before a woman is pregnant.

The “ideal” female body in our culture is pre-pubescent: small, pert breasts, no belly, no butt, no thighs! Young women are warned that childbearing will ruin their bodies, their sex lives, their careers, and their lives! For all the talk about “family values” each election year, we are not a pregnancy-friendly, baby-friendly culture. For all the advances that feminism has achieved, women still come to maturity abused in body and soul. In a million subtle and not-so-subtle ways, women are urged to detach themselves from their own bodies and their pre-born children before they have even conceived!

But oh, how strong is the ancient wisdom of the female body! Millennia upon millennia of instinct and intuition flows in our veins. And so—when the first stirrings of a new life are manifest within her—wonder and joy and the sense of the motherbaby will overtake a woman, despite the fears and the warnings, the brainwashing and the abuse.

Yet throughout the pregnancy, the forced division of the motherbaby continues. It begins when maternity care providers horde knowledge, won’t answer questions, and don’t acknowledge a woman’s intuition and common sense. Every word and action that undermines the wisdom and power of the pregnant woman divides the motherbaby. Every word and action that empowers her strengthens and supports the motherbaby. Every practitioner must therefore make a choice.

It should be the primary task of every midwife and doctor to examine their practice continually in the light of the motherbaby. Why? Because the well-being of both mother and baby depend upon that bond. The stronger a woman’s sense of the motherbaby, the better she will care for herself and her baby during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Her baby will grow within the deep conviction that she/he is loved and wanted in the world. The life-sustaining events that occur during the critical moments, hours, weeks and months that follow the birth are utterly dependent upon a strong, unbroken motherbaby bond. Breastfeeding problems, postpartum depression, attachment difficulties and more might be avoided if greater care was given to strengthen and support the motherbaby during pregnancy and birth.

In our nation’s recent past, tragedies have taken place that leave us numb with shock and grief. Babies are left in trashcans and dumpsters. Teenagers gun down their classmates and then take their own lives. We shake our heads, we weep, we ask “why?” We blame the parents, the National Rifle Association (NRA), violence in the entertainment industry, poverty, drugs, and the list goes on and on. Maybe we are not looking back far enough. Maybe we need to go back to the very beginning—to acknowledge that from the start our society promotes estrangement and violence.

Do we—as midwives, mothers, healers, wise women—believe it when we say that we are out to change the world, one birth at a time? I believe the power of the motherbaby is that strong. Life itself begins with the motherbaby. The preservation and promotion of motherbaby is worth examining the details of our own practices. It is worth the politics and the activism. It is worth our all.

Lois Wilson, CPM, lives with her husband, Tony, and five children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she has a small and wonderfully diverse homebirth practice. She is a contributing editor at Midwifery Today.

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