I, like many others, was aghast recently when Ryan Tubridy and the rest of the country watched the robot Lucina give birth. A lifelike mannequin was used to simulate a “normal” delivery in order to better teach students under life-like conditions how to facilitate birth. Lucina was hailed as the “the way of the future” as she enables us to “recreate the setting for birth”. It is particularly pertinent, we were told, in improving communication between mum and care providers. Ryan engages in what he presumably considers good psychological care of Lucina “chatting to her all the time,” a token stroke of the hand, a condescending pat on the head “you did great.” Lucina, dutifully compliant is flat on her back, immobile, silent (apart from stating meekly that she is cold), and passively awaiting her birth providers to “deliver” her baby for her. A random group of observers (the audience) watch the “experts” mechanically “deliver” Lucina of her child under the guidance and scrutiny of a male expert and another random stranger (Ryan Tubridy).
And all this in the name of science and advancement.
Really? Don’t get me wrong. I am all for the use of simulations in teaching and the concept is brilliant. However the manner in which Lucina was showcased by official trainers in healthcare services and by our national broadcaster shows just how deeply patriarchism is indentured into our maternity services and into our national psych.
Allow me to introduce you to my Lucina.
Three years ago I was searching for a name for my perinatal services. I awoke one morning with the name Lucina. Further research revealed Lucina as the Roman Goddess of fertility and birth, the carrier of light and goddess of the moon, who safeguarded women in labour and influenced every aspect of birth and childhood. Also known as Juno, she is the daughter of Saturn (god of regeneration and time) and the sister of Jupiter (god of the skys, sacred trust and justice) and the mother of Mars (god of war). In Roman mythology she conceived her son Mars magically when Flora (the god of plants) handed her a flower which she placed on her abdomen.
In mythology Lucina protects against sterility, tracking fertility cycles and pregnancy duration. She is the protector of pregnant woman and unborn children. With pleated hair and long knotted robes she wears a moon crest on her forehead and carries a torch. When a mother is in labour she stands at a the bottom of the bed, a reminder of sacred knowledge and innate feminine wisdom. As labour progresses she unties her clothing and lets down her hair, symbolising the release of hindrances and blocks to the flow of labour. She shines her light through the birth canal showing baby the way. She encourages baby to take the first breath of life and secures the bonds between mother and child.
Lucina is an archetype of birth. She is found in many cultures. Also known as Luna and Diane in Roman mythology she is Eileithyia in Greece. Her equivalent in Ireland and the British isles is St Brigid. For me Lucina embodies all aspects of the sacred feminine, the nature of midwifery and of birth itself: The Maiden (innocence), the mother (nurturing) and the hag (wisdom). I wanted to call my business Lucina but was nervous of the religious connotations and concerned about isolating people from pursuing natural childbirth. I felt that Wexford (and I) were not ready for that! As a compromise Lucina became a tag-on to my business logo, quietly tucked away behind the name HYPNOBIRTHING LEINSTER (Now Simply Birth & Beyond), a discreetly visual representation of my personal philosophy of birth as a sacred and natural event.
A year ago today for my 50th birthday I went on a creative writing retreat in The Beara Cork where I met arts therapist and beautiful soul Julie Aldridge. I spoke to Julie about my vision of birth and of the concept of Lucina as its architype. Her enthusiasm for the topic and support of what I was seeking to achieve was inspiring. She later presented me with a painting of Lucina. In that moment Lucina was born.
Exactly one year later and on my 51st birthday I finally have the courage to reveal Lucina in all her glory, to fully embrace Lucina and to stand behind my personal vision of birth as a sacred and divine
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Julie Aldridge and all of the women past, present and future who have given me the opportunity to support them in their birthing journey and beyond.