Here at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, we share voices from many perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the sacred weeks post birth, and the experience of humanity is experienced in countless ways. We learn by listening to one another and honoring our stories. The views and opinions of our writers do not necessarily reflect the mission, viewpoints or opinions of the Center for Sacred Window Studies.
“I’ve come to understand that bringing back proper protocol in birthing spaces is crucial for our Nation’s health.”
“To reclaim the way our ancestors birth is not one decision. It is also talking about food, movement, history, healing, art, seeds… It’s a whole dialogue that opens conversations about a huge range of topics important for the sovereignty of indigenous Nations. And more importantly for our sovereignty as humans. ”
– Noemi Salvador
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about blood. What it means…How it builds us…What memories are embedded on our cells…
Perhaps all peoples can relate to this topic. But this article is specially written for birth workers. Birth work is an identity. Not a chosen career or a hobby. The difference between an identity and a capitalist career shows in the way you choose to show up. How you perform your work and the protocols you use to navigate “healing”.
Birth work has an interesting way of finding you. Perhaps it is in your blood ties, or you are needed on someone’s journey. To be called out of your own to step into someone else’s journey is a big honor. But how are you showing up?
The thing is, that due to systemic constraints (purposely crafted broken) there are communities that have undergone mass genocide. This started with the extermination of our birthing practices. To control the backbone of our Nations is to determine the future. If our womxn have traumatic experiences when delivering the next generation, that is a victory for the colonial settler state. It means that the next generation is born with fewer teachings than the previous.
Violence that starts at birth snowballs as you grow up. A system that instigates violence in the beginning of life is a system that disregards life itself.
A New Vocabulary
At this point there might be new vocabulary for many people. Mainstream history doesn’t teach the masses about the true history of any country. It created the vocabulary which addresses separation through fear and lack of knowledge. Many have been given the vocabulary and the tools which continue to uphold a white supremacist model as a way of “community”, as a way to give birth, to take care of life, and during postpartum practices.
These times call for birth workers that understand colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, mass militarizations, etc. To be born in times where migrant indigenous children and families are numbered and detained in concentration camps on stolen land. To be born in times where birthing people are dying in hospital beds due to being black, brown, native… To be born in times where the Earth has endured so much that the axes are tilting just so that she can heal. Times when indigenous reservations in the US are used as toxic dumps and native relatives are being taken away. Black men and children shot in the streets at the hands of police enforcement.
Strength and Awareness
This requires a lot of strength from the spirit. To assist in the biggest ceremony we get to share as peoples requires a lot from us.
If you are a birth worker I invite you to research which peoples build the protocols that you use. If it’s a rebozo, closing of hips ceremony, herbs, shells, foods. They all have an origin, and cultural appropriation doesn’t reinforce healing. It sustains a system that steals and if you’re serious about healing you don’t want to reinforce this.
We all carry blood…However, there are certain communities whose blood remains heavy from the mechanisms of defense we adopted to survive. Now we look for ways to ditch those mechanisms so that we can heal.
Our original medicines come with protocols. The way we harvest, the plants we use, the way we grow our crops and process them for storage, how we serve them. And the ceremonies themselves… We need these original protocols to address the brokenness and remember.
While we are trying to recover many ceremonies that had to go underground, there are many who take advantage of the availability of certain aspects. These aspects are sometimes broadcast in social media. “Shamanistic retreats” for example, are not full protocols and can be disrespected as such. There are many reasons for this, but a quick summary – you can hurt yourself and those around you.
If you come from a community that sustains ceremony in a good way you understand the power of ceremony. As a student midwife who works to serve indigenous migrants and indigenous communities (as well as black, asian, white) populations I’ve come to understand that bringing back proper protocol in birthing spaces is crucial for our Nation’s health.
Honoring Birth and Decoding Trauma
I’ve seen birthing people decode trauma while birthing. Processing intergenerational trauma while having a contraction is like trying to hike with a broken leg. Yet many of my indigenous mamas have done it. You can feel it- when their respective tribal protocols occupy spaces that are designed to erase them there is a shift in the air. When they birth outside of hospitals where they can burn their medicines and pray to welcome a new life, history shifts for their families. Because it is likely that hospitals reinforce traumas tied to colonial practices of excessive force and un-consented treatments.
There is something very powerful about a womxn who decides to give birth in their home, or in a birth center, on a traditional structure… After decades of forced hospital births. See… the government did a good job making it
very hard for traditional midwives to assist original birthing practices in what now are reservations. By dismantling traditional communal structures and replacing them with IHS. Instilling fear about birthing outcomes outside of hospital settings. And deeming our traditional protocols as irresponsible and incompetent.
To reclaim the way our ancestors birth is not one decision. It is also talking about food, movement, history, healing, art, seeds… It’s a whole dialogue that opens conversations about a huge range of topics important for the sovereignty of indigenous Nations. And more importantly for our sovereignty as humans.
Since 1492 after settler arrival, many remain. Yet there are wounds that need addressing. Indigenous communities don’t need allies. We need space and resources to define what healing looks like. We don’t need more NGO’s with second agendas, we don’t need pity, or scraps.
We need good neighbors that choose to unlearn and heal.
Noemi Salvador is a member of the Kichwa tribe. She is a student midwife who works to serve indigenous migrants and indigenous communities (as well as black, asian, white) populations, and is a student of the Center for Sacred Window Studies. She is an inspiring voice in recognizing birth as ceremony, and the foundation for life. She offers perspective on historical wounds, navigation towards cultural healing, and pathways to cultural understanding and practice without appropriation for dominant and capitalistic cultures.