I first came up with the idea of having my sons write a blog post about what life is like as a midwife’s son over a year ago. It was easy to
force get Parker to do his, since he was 10 and still lived with me. We got it done right away. You can read it here. As you can tell if you have been following my blog for awhile, I have kind of slacked off on it over the last year. So a couple of months ago, I asked my boys again if they would write me a blog post to share with you. Pat sent me his today. Parts of it made me laugh. Parts of it made me cry. Midwifery school and struggling to build a viable business has on occasion made me question whether I was doing the right thing for them. I will let you read Pat’s story and let you decide for yourself.
My mom is the most badass feminist I’ve ever had the honor to meet. I’m unsure as to whether she’d appreciate the label, but that is the reality that I’ve witnessed being the son of Mercy Eizenga, single mother of 4 and East Texas midwife. Feminism – as I’ve come to understand it – is about confronting patriarchy and pushing toward equality between genders. But more specifically, feminism is about promoting a woman’s agency, her “choice”. My mother has devoted her life and career to that very aim all while raising me and my brothers, showing us boys what it means to be strong.
Midwifery is one of the oldest vocations in history. First recorded as a profession in Ancient Egypt, but certainly predating it as a tradition dating all the way through early hunter-gatherer societies. Back then, it was a necessity. Any woman who’d survived childbirth would seek to help others in her tribe do so as well. Flash forward to 2020, and we’ve lost that communal, sisterly experience in favor of one of the most corrupt and patriarchal industries in America. The Truven Report estimates the average uninsured cost of childbirth in the United States to be around $30,000. That is IF the birth is “uncomplicated” and vaginal. My mother’s full prenatal care, checkups and birth? $4500, with payment plans and discounts available for those who are struggling. In hospitals, you may find yourself being pressured to have a c-section when not necessary, coaxed into accepting drugs you don’t want, and having your bodily autonomy violated at every turn. Like most feminist issues, these are exacerbated when race is taken into account, black women having more than double the infant mortality rate in Texas. In midwifery, you are in the comfort of your own home with whomever you feel comfortable with around, and you are taken care of by a woman who’s been through this before and is here to help.
Midwifery, in the modern day is practiced in a lot of different ways, I’ve learned. But I like my mom’s philosophy toward it. She’s always kept her prices low and affordable to be accessible to poor women. She values listening to her clients and her clients listening to their bodies, and keeping them informed. She works diligently traveling huge stretches across North and East Texas, working for days on end at births, prenatals and marketing not just her business but the concept of midwifery as an option to keep women safe and comfortable.
I’m better as a feminist today from having that sort of influence in my life to guide me as I became a man. I didn’t always have such a high opinion of it all, however. As a young boy, I thought childbirth was gross. No amount of parental teaching can overcome the conditioning we receive to fear birth from movies and television, school, church, etc. But innately, even young boys don’t want to hear about it. We don’t want to watch the suture videos with the red Jello and we will not invite the neighbor kids inside if you’re gonna be weird. And what is a single mother to do when she’s called in the middle of the night to help deliver a baby? Why, wake them up as well to take them to a babysitter, of course! I have never enjoyed being woken and I never will. I resent every instance of this. Could not this damnable fiend respect MY autonomy and just leave me unattended? I can take care of myself! (I’m was 11). Jokes aside, there was certainly no avoiding talking about or being involved in some way with mom’s work. Many other families have done this, never quite understanding what their parent does for a living. Impossible for us. Despite lack of interest or agreeability, I couldn’t refuse to learn way more about the female reproductive system than any gay man normally does.
Being a midwife’s son hasn’t just sharpened my respect for consent and women’s autonomy, but also helped me develop a healthy skepticism for false narratives and institutions that do more harm than help. It isn’t just knowledge (wanted or unwanted) that being a midwife’s son has developed in me but wisdom as well. I’m critical, skeptical, stubborn, and self-possessed, a combination which I know made me a hell child. But SHE raised that child, through economic hardship and putting herself through school and apprenticeship. So some of my worst traits, but all of my best are her creations given to me over the years through love and weird similarities. I’m proud to call her my mom, and would highly recommend anyone reading her blog to learn more about midwifery, it’s history, and whether it might be right for you or someone you know.