Learning to be Gentle

By Lillian Medhus

I am a midwife. The word "midwife" translates to "with women." I have the honor and privilege of walking with women through their lives, from adolescence, through adulthood, and into menopause. My days consist of seeing women of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds in the clinic and attending births in a community hospital. I wee women for gynecologic issues, mental health, and prenatal care. Many times I have listened to women share their birth stories, when they didn't feel listened to, honored, or cared for. They come to a midwife looking for someone to treat them with gentleness and respect. It is an honor to hold those stories for them and help them heal from those experiences. 

I recently returned from a trip to Guatemala. This country has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in Latin America, and that rate nearly doubles in the indigenous regions. I was on a team of midwives and nurses that traveled to four cities and villages to educate professional midwives (parteras), nurses, doctors, and traditional midwives (comadronas). Many of the people we taught were from Mayan and indigenous people groups, often did not speak Spanish, and lived 1-3 hours from the closest clinic or hospital.


We partnered with local midwives who are now equipped to begin teaching their own courses in their villages. These courses from the World Health Organization focus on preventing the most common causes of neonatal and maternal mortality around the world: infection, postpartum hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and lack of neonatal resuscitation skills. They focus on imparting skills to the providers who will be able to use them and teach their colleagues, in order to reduce deaths.


During each course, I worked with 4-8 students to practice skills on the mannequins. I would be the pregnant mother and they were the healthcare provider.  During the courses with the comadronas, I was brought to tears several times by the gentleness with which they treated me. These women (and 1 man!), though they had never had any formal training, had learned from their mothers, grandmothers, and midwife mentors how to care for women.


During the birth scenes, they were often praying over me, thanking God for a healthy baby, and reassuring me that “everything is going to be okay my daughter, because I love you.” They were gentle in the way they touched and the way they spoke. Though I was able to teach them some skills to prevent emergencies, I learned so much more from them.


One day after we finished our course, two of the midwives took me into a clinic room, lit candles, and taught me Mayan postpartum care. They taught me through gentle massage, and honest questions, how to help a woman heal after birth. I walked away from that experience knowing I had experienced God in a new way through them, and knowing they anointed me afresh with the gentle hands of a midwife.


Gentleness draws people out as they feel safe to share their hearts with us, and that is something we can all grow in regardless of our career.


Philippians 4:4-5 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”