It was pretty much my first live radio interview, local radio but nerve raking enough, I know I’m there because I’m an oddity, a freak some might say working as a midwife since 1994 and being 27 stone, shaven headed, barrel chested and goatee beard bedecked certainly helps to perpetuate my freak hood.
Jonathon, the talk show host is nice guy, we enjoy a pleasant, easy chat before the show, he matches me witty anecdote for anecdote not to mention his ‘bear like’ stature, warm demeanor and engaging smile, this all helps to create a fuzzy report, im beginning to relax for sure.
‘Right’, he says, a little more tersely, ‘we are going on air’, something changes, I feel it more than I can point to anything specific, but change it does, after a few ‘warm up’ introductions and questions, he hits me with the bomb…….’Mark, your book Men, Love & Birth speaks to male audience about being present when their ‘lover’ gives birth, isn’t that just a lot of stereotypical, pigeon holing nonsense’?
I’ve grown more accustomed to the way ‘short form’ media works these days, and to be frank, if you hear the ‘sound bites’ describing what it is I say and teach you could be forgiven for thinking just that for sure.
In getting to grips with writing this piece about my life time of working as a man in the predominantly female area of birth I was drawn back to my chat with Jonathon, his fantastic question has supported me in digging deeper to explore how to communicate what are, (I think) at the root of how our spices of mammal has managed to survive these millions of year, and the ‘mechanisms’ in play since we have (recently) evolved a necrocotex with its ability to make up ‘stories’ about ourselves through language.
‘My story’, I have spent my whole live surrounded by women, I grew up with 5 sisters, moved out of the family home to get married, having never lived on my own, my first 3 children were girls, and in 1994 I qualified as a midwife, one of only 62 men out of female midwives 36,000. Women are very important to me.
Remembering my late wife being diagnosed with cancer and subsequently dying in my arms evokes that sense of feeling ‘abandoned’, which in the story I tell myself about life, points to strong attachments made to my amazing mother, having birthed 8 children and adopted one, then pretty much single handily caring for us when money was to say the least, a challenge, I love women, I love my mum.
I probably had some intuitive understandings based on lots of interactions with the women in my life since early childhood which stood me in good stead for the work I was doing as a midwife and in many ways those early years were characterised by deep relationships being forge with women in the birthing process and their partners.
The same could not be said for working relationships with other midwives, from early on I managed to create much conflict and often felt close to over whelm, being accepted by my colleagues, or at least feeling accepted was very slow in coming.
I kind of knew, even back then, that men and women were different, obvious physical difference aside, I ‘felt’ a difference when I related to male and female friends, my reading of feminist birth literature at the time did act to restrict, in some ways, my appreciation of these difference and slowed my journey towards the insight I have now.
Studying the work of dr Richard bandler, dr john grinder, who in turn had used the work ofAlfred korbiski, dr Gregory Bateson, Noam Chomsky and many others was a life saver (melodramatic, but it felt like it) for me.
In a nut shell, my experience of the world, as a human being is received, constructed and stored through my data receiving channels, my five senses; how else could I make sense of the world?
Each human animal has a unique internal ‘map’ if you like, of what’s ‘out there’, it seems to approximate what’s ‘real’ but remains a map, my problem as a human being is that I confuse the map for reality itself, I believe it’s the ‘Truth’, and this “Truth” making mistake, happening ‘most’ of the time.
This ‘model’ for understanding how humans communicate was half of what enabled me to understand what was going on when I spoke to another person regardless of gender, the next piece of my own puzzle was the understanding of our mammalian evolutionary development, which stretches back many million of years before we had a higher functioning brain capable of framing language and therefore creating the meaning we live in on a day to day basis now.
The females and males of our species of mammal have evolved differences in terms of our neurobiological physiology which enabled us to survive, and these biological structures are still very much at work in our lives and relationships today, we are very much ‘stone age people’ living in the ‘fast lane’, most, if not all of our instinctive behaviors flow from our ancient brain structures; then our ‘infant’ higher brain creates ‘our stories’ which in turn ‘causes the ‘good feelings’ or ‘bad’ ones that end being mistaken for our ‘personality’.
Jonathan, that lovely, engaging radio presenter was on the money for sure, when we speak about the ‘differences’ between the female and the male of our mammalian species, it can sound ‘just a lot of stereotypical, pigeon holing nonsense’.
Our human necessity to tell ourselves and others stories is part of what it means to be human, not looking as deeply into those stories is what kept me from developing the kind of relationships with women that is now enriching my life.