Birth Keeper is a newer and maybe even “trendy” title, and as such, it lacks a widely agreed-upon definition.
In this poist, I endeavor to tell you what it means to ME, both ideologically and practically.
From the best of my ability to track down its origins, the term Birth Keeper was coined by Jeannine Parvati Baker, a midwife and herbalist who practiced in the 1970s. She was making a parallelism with the term Earth Keeper, an eco-activist who would protect the Earth. SImiliarly, a Birth Keeper is a birth activist who protects birth.
As traditional midwifery has been increasingly swallowed up by medical protocols, and regulated, licensed, and integrated with the medical-industrial complex, birth workers who don’t align with this new expression of midwifery and appropriation of the word midwife have been groping around in search of a title that will clearly delineate them from that form of it.
I believe, at the simplest level, a birth keeper is a guardian of physiological birth.
I tend to think of it more as a qualifying or descriptive adjective, which can be paired with any other root noun. (That’s my old grammar geek coming out). For example, one might be a birth-keeping doula or a birth-keeping midwife.
Birth Keeper is a state of mind and a commitment to a set of priorities around birth, and a philosophy of how to support it.
A Birth Keeper wants to keep a clear and plentiful distance between her work and that of medicalized midwives or even mainstream doula work which declares all birth choices as equally safe and beneficial and integrates the practices of the medical mindset.
A doula with a birth keeper heart might opt out of attending births in the hospital because she is no longer willing to enter into a broken system under the false illusion that she can “fix it from the inside” or protect women from its abuses. She is likely to be open to attending unassisted births.
A midwife with a birth keeper’s heart might turn down certification and/or licensure and seek out methods of developing her skill set through apprenticeship and study of the older, wise woman way. (I often find that these women may alternatively call themselves Traditional Midwives or Traditional Birth Attendants).
A childbirth educator with a birth keeper’s heart will craft her materials/courses to focus on the nature of physiological, undisturbed birth and will seek to bolster the woman’s trust in her own body and in the process of birth. She will teach that birth works best when it’s left alone.
A Birth Keeper knows that…
There are those out there, like me, who will use the title Birth Keeper, but you will quickly find that we don’t all mean quite the same thing by that term when it comes to the services we provide or the skillsets that we have. This is why it’s important to ask the specific Birth Keeper whose services you are considering booking what it means for HER.
You can’t see the term Birth Keeper and automatically assume any of that about her and her work.
You MUST pursue the deeper conversation and get to know her more deeply before you can decide if she is the right person to invite into your birth space.
Stay tuned for Part 2, when I’ll get more explicit about my own answers to the questions above. Because if you are considering me as part of your birth team, these are the things I need to be upfront about.
I’d be curious to hear in the comments about how you would have defined “birth keeper” before reading this post.
PS: you might also enjoy this post for further exploration on the topic.
©Template by roselyncarr // ©photography by brooke collier // 2021 all rights reserved