"The word midwife means with women," she said.
I think a piece of me always knew this, given the way my heart would constrict and find breath again every time the word was used. But something clicked in that moment, the resonance too large and weighty to ignore.
There are all kinds of meanings behind the word with.
It can signal accompaniment, possession, attitude, and responsibility.
It can mean walking alongside someone.
It can also mean opposition.
I haven't always walked with women well.
I think I've always tried. But I don't think this is enough. I still failed. I still listened too much to the voices beside me instead of the one in front of me — the one craving space and rest. Slowly, the word with would grow fangs and rot into opposition and jealousy.
She's too needy, they said.
Be careful, the chorus chanted. She'll cut you when she's able.
I watch us. I watch me.
I want to believe the only ones with knives are those who fear the depth of their own story.
A friend of mine speaks of ladders. It's something that was told to her by a woman who knows her power.
"We can be ladders, you know. There are women who will carry you with them as they climb."
When she says this I wonder what it would look like if this were the norm. If stepping on fingers and toes wasn't necessary because we all held on to each other.
I wonder what would happen if we let ourselves be rocket fuel for another. Celebrating and ricocheting stories of worth instead of pain and blame. Whispering tales of bravery instead of dropping seeds of hate and suspicion.
She radiates life, they would say.
That woman isn't on fire, the chorus would chant. She's a galaxy. A supernova.
Midwife means with women.
Most times, this gets messy. The birthing process is slow and hot and fierce and sharp with pain. Together though, we can move mountains.
Breathe, says the woman next to you, holding your arm up and rubbing your back.
Speak, says the one on the other side, wiping your tears and lifting your chin.