Saint Brigid - Patroness of Midwives and Babies - February 1
Have you ever gotten that feeling like a saint is reaching out to you? One that you've never really had any devotion to or even information about before? That's where St. Brigid and I were. All throughout the pregnancy of my fifth, I felt this with Brigid. It's a pull…an invitation almost. The hard part about this was that a lot of Brigid's background is unclear and has been pieced together from differing biographies over the centuries, many of those biographies dabbling in legend and folklore. So it's hard to know a lot of specific history to feel like I could grow in relationship that way. But still I felt drawn to her, as little as we concretely know. She was born in the mid 400s (probably 451) to an Irish slave who had been baptized by St. Patrick. Her mother was forced to sell her into slavery and from all accounts of her life, she was known to have a special relationship with God and performed many miracles especially for the poor. At around 30 years old she founded a monastery in Kildare and is credited with bringing organized women's monastic life to Ireland. It is attested in one biography that she had a close friendship with St. Patrick. There is a "St. Brigid's Cross" associated with her due to a story of her weaving a cross out of reeds and drawing a dying man to conversion. Her feast day is February 1.
Due to some of the substance of her miracles, she has been named the patron of many things: Ireland, chicken farmers, milkmaids, brewers, scholars, blacksmiths and more. While I already love that list (we raised chickens once upon a time, I've spent a whole lot of years being a different sort of milkmaid, and I do enjoy a good beer), what first spoke to me is her patronage of midwives and babies. My heart leapt to learn that there even was a patroness for midwives and that it was the same as the patroness for babies.
For thousands of years women birthed their babies with the assistance of a midwife so it makes good sense that there would be a patron for these important women. Midwives are trained professionals skilled in normal birth. They walk with women through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and many are able to offer well woman care as well. Midwives in the United States may attend birth at home, birth centers, or hospitals, depending on state.
The midwifery model of care emphasizes a personal approach that centers the mother rather than the provider or medical system. It views birth as a normal, healthy, and powerful event in a woman's life. Appointments are often 30 minutes to an hour long allowing the midwife to get to know the mother and her history, experiences, and desires for the birth. Midwives are trained to recognize when things might be varying from normal and may need more medical intervention. One of my favorite parts of having a midwife is that at home or birth center, they are able and competent to assess and care for the baby. There's continuity of care and no new providers showing up at birth with differing protocol who have never even met mom or baby but who assert authority over baby.
Note: not all midwives practice the midwifery model. There are certainly midwives who practice more as "medwives" and physicians who practice more as midwives. Generally speaking, though, midwives are much more familiar with normal physiological birth than obstetric surgeons. Their statistics often reflect that with low cesarean rates (transferred to a surgeon, of course), lower rates of intervention, lower NICU visits, and better overall outcomes for moms and babies. In many other countries, midwifery care is the standard for maternity and birth unless a situation shows itself to need more medical attention. Important to notice is that these countries also have far better birth outcomes than the U.S.
What a gift it is to have a special patroness for the women who have answered this special calling. Let's pray for the conversion of all midwives and especially for the increase in faithful skilled midwives to serve families that is so desperately needed. Let's pray that all midwives respect fertility, respect life from the moment of conception, and are blessed and strengthened in their important work of serving mothers and babies.
It also makes sense that there would be a patron for babies since everyone's a baby at some point and our Lord has a special place in His heart for the littlest among us! But for some reason, I just had never heard that there was a named patroness for both midwives and babies. As far as I can tell, I'm not alone. It doesn't seem to be well known by others or her help often invoked in either way.
I got pregnant with my fifth baby shortly after finding out this information about Brigid and felt that invitation to stay close to her for that pregnancy. I struggled with a lot of uncharacteristic fear during that time and a mild but lingering premonition that things were just "off." So I began to ask her intercession for my beloved midwife and for the health and safety of that baby. I continue now to turn to her for prayers for newborn time, for the midwives I know, and for all my doula clients and their babies, too.
What a great gift it is for parents to have a special patron for babies! She's someone that they can turn to with all the many needs of babydom - for overall health, for difficulty teething, for SLEEP, for colic, for feeding issues, for a happy and content demeanor, and whatever other difficulties come up during! I don't balk at turning to prayer for any of it especially for the littlest, most vulnerable ones of our families. The Lord cares deeply for each of these little ones in their pain or fussiness or frustration and He cares deeply for the worried, anxious, sleep-deprived, maxed-out parent, too. We should readily avail ourselves of the grace He offers to help in those difficult moments and situations that come with birthing and raising babies. What an absolutely beautiful thing it is to know that Brigid can be called upon to pray for us in those moments.
May Saint Brigid intercede for those caring for us during birth and for these precious babies that are given to us.