It is not an accident that I have felt led to write this post on “Black Friday”. My inbox is filled up already, at 9 am, with offers and deals. Buy this! Buy now! Gotta get their money before they spend it somewhere else. Not enough, never enough. The way of the world is commerce and cash.
Or is it?
About 6 months ago, I decided to offer a different sort of midwifery services; from the heart, without money and the typical kind of “transactional” relationship. I decided to try this as an intentional way of recreating my midwifery practice as we relocated from Sedona, AZ to Kentucky. It seemed like no better time to see if it would be possible. I entered into this offering with an open mind and open heart and also some thoughts of “what if” or maybe even fears. But I figured that I would learn something regardless, and reminded myself I didn’t have to continue if if didn’t feel right. I am the master of my creation!
If you’re wondering where this idea of “gift economy” comes from; it’s actually ages old. There was a time when people in communities gave freely to others, based on their own gifts and talents. I’m sure it didn’t always make perfect sense, but the idea being that we can support each other in our unique ways. I yearned for a time when the “village midwife” was an honored role. The community would take care of her, as she in turn took care of attending and witnessing the new life, and also death, and probably all other sorts of healing as she was called to do. I entered into this, in the here and now, fully knowing that times are different. But in my ideal mind, hoping and SEEING that if I hold the vision, the vision is there to be held.
With this all in mind, and some further reading/studying/contemplating (Charles Eisenstien’s work) and also experimenting with Margo (our 13 Moons birth course has been a “pay what you can” for over a year now!) I decided to rename the “gift economy” to a more specific offering called “The Abundance Project”.
Yes, my midwifery guidance and expertise IS a gift to these women. But in the spirit of balance, it is highlighting the idea that we are ALL Abundant. I do not offer this gift to be liked, or to put myself out and look like a martyr. Nor do I offer this gift because I am independently wealthy or because I hate money. I have structured this offering to reflect the fact that when we believe in our own light, our own gifts and offer them to people that CAN RECEIVE (more on this later); we all are in the energetic flow of the Universe and we have enough. That is the bottom line. If you give, you will receive. As opposed to the dog-eat-dog-world; when you give, you are a sucker that must not value themselves; or we give but it’s stingy and based on getting something tangible back.
To be clear, this is not “free” services although I have certainly done that randomly in the past.
Actually, my first stab at the gift economy/Abundance Project happened about 2 years ago without my conscious awareness. I served the most lovely woman, who was in a unique circumstance of not having a partner and being a traveler while she birthed. For whatever Divine reason, I never mentioned money nor did she. I know it was not an accident that attending her birth was one of the most magical experiences of my life. I was given the gift of feeling and seeing the difference when money is not exchanged, yet there is a DEEP APPRECIATION for the services and love I held for her. She did not take advantage nor have the attitude of carelessness that can happen when something is perceived as “free”. That birth changed my life and I have held it close to my heart since then, wondering how I could “do more” midwifery like that.
Briefly; I have earned a lot of money as a midwife and I am grateful for that. Obviously, cash is nice, and thanks to those families that paid my fee without question all of those years….so much was materially possible for me and my family. It’s a strange thing to be grateful for that, and yet not care if it continued. What I came to for ME is that the money also created a transactional relationship, and for some people it felt like they thought they “got something” in exchange, like the birth they wanted. Or there was just this underlying expectation to be overwhelmingly available or something. Which also is funny, because I feel very available to women engaged in this Abundance Project now, but I also don’t feel obligated to overextend myself. My new mottos is, “I will do what I can do”.
But onto the actual project; this is the first blog post on this topic, and I am sure I will have more as I learn more and experiment more. As it stands now, engaging in this project with the right women (and that’s a big topic!) has felt beautiful, right, successful, and life changing. I reserve the right to say otherwise or change my mind as time goes forward, but this is where I’m at right now.
Entering into this project with me is a choice. It is not “free midwifery” and it comes with the responsibility of learning about this model, engaging in it, and also experimenting with it and giving feedback. It is not static. The Abundance project is the ACTIVE creation with these women.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I have the vision of Abundance for our communities expanding over time, and perhaps not realizing the fullest vision in my own lifetime. This is a baby step, a way of creating conversation but also LIVING IT. I believe there is enough for me. I believe there is enough for you. I believe you are worth this gift. I believe your own gifts are beautiful and valuable. I believe that together we can create loving, close knit, “the world has gone to hell but these people have my back” kind of communities. I believe it is possible because we are doing it, even as new and clumsy as it may feel.
The women that have entered into this project with me have already changed my life and the relationships with them have exceeded my expectations. To me, these women feel like sisters and equals and friends. I feel like I am truly serving them because I want to, not because I am getting something. I care so much, but not too much. This is their pregnancy, their birth, and I have not promised to do anything but stand by them and share my experience and knowledge. I would do anything for them, but also don’t feel an unhealthy responsibility. I never realized how much money played into that inequality or even unconscious power dynamic, but I think it did. Without sounding creepy, I hope, these relationships feel like connection over lifetimes. There is something deep and holy about the sisterhood that I feel.
In feedback from these women, it sounds like they agree. Shared thoughts about this project have been the closeness of the relationship, the way it fits into life in the big picture vs. a “client-midwife” relationship which more often has professional boundaries of the relationship ending at a certain point.
Where we are all still working and growing: there isn’t a set price and exchange so this can lead to questioning and ambiguity. How can I give back? Will it be “enough”? These are some of the thoughts that have been shared. These are things we are figuring out together, and I too am curious how this will look into the future. I am not wanting people to feel indebted for life; I hope the “giving back” can feel natural, organic, and maybe is a giving back to the community at large, and maybe it’s in ways I will never see. It’s a reminder that while it is about me, and them…it’s also not about any of us individually.
I’m ok with all of that. And the emotions and feelings that it brings up for me, and also these other women…of our own worth, of how well or uncomfortable it is to receive….these are all ways we need to grow. Individually and collectively. I have had moments of “is the worth it??” Or “how can I not make money this way?” as well, and so I am just as much sitting in the experiment as much as anyone. Sitting and noticing where my limits of expansion are and where I feel resistance.
A few more things; the births I have attended for women in this Project have changed my life. I don’t know if I can explain any more of the “why”; but I know how I feel. Something immensely beautiful has been gained, and something superficial or feeling like this is “work” has been lost. Maybe it’s because there is no money as motivation. There is no feeling of “if I had gotten paid more I would do this!”. It’s all simply based on the intention to support and trust, in not just birth, but life and the flow of resources.
Lastly, a MAJOR lesson in the project for me has been this: you can only give to those who can receive. I had to make the “mistake” of offering this to a family that was not ready or willing to engage in it, or in receiving or giving back. This taught me that (once again) I am not the midwife for everyone, and that if I give to the wrong people, this all feels awful and unfulfilling and like I am being taken advantage of. Luckily, that experience also made me create a process around WHO to engage with. A clearer system was needed, rather than just offering this to anyone I might like. Also luckily, I was able to disengage from that relationship with grace and lessons learned.
But that brought up a final (for now!) question. If the people are NOT the kind that understand this or want to understand and engage, then why would I work with them at all? I am increasingly becoming the midwife for the very few, the minority, for many reasons. If I don’t resonate with someone enough on this level, then why would I take money from them to be their midwife? I have learned over the years that I could not be paid enough to be the midwife for some women. There is no amount that feels like “enough” when it is the wrong match. If midwifery is a sacred calling and a sacred role and archetype, there are matches that are just not resonant.
All in all, the Abundance Project has enriched my life and practice. Giving and receiving is something I am still practicing and will be working on, probably forever! I am so infinitely grateful to the women and families here in Kentucky that have chosen to learn with me too. They haven’t just chosen me as their midwife, but they have chosen the new paradigm of living. Even if we are all just figuring it out together, it feels amazing to have that sisterly support and love. I truly believe that reimagining midwifery in this way could change the world in ways we cannot fathom.
Onto the next phase of the Abundance Project; I’ll share with you as I go and I hope that many of you will consider this model. (If you’d like to learn more, email me for my Abundance Project PDF and check out our Mini Course on Gift Economy through Indie Birth (offered as a gift! You’ll have to join our free platform first).
To Abundance. To every human feeling that they are enough. To stronger communities that value each person’s skill, experience and gifts, no matter how physically palpable. To the artists, and the visionaries; to the people that grow food and build houses. Every single one of us is needed to respond right now in our integrity and truth.