Mediation as Midwifery by Sherry Cassedy
If you have been blessed by children, you have also experienced the intensity and ecstasy of childbirth. You may have also attended childbirth classes where very knowledgeable and skilled midwives or nurses attempt to teach you about the process that is to come. They explain the various stages of childbirth, the necessary physical progression and prepare you to cope with each stage by various breathing, concentration and physical techniques. You trust them and you try to prepare yourself according to their advice.
When you go into labor (or your partner goes into labor), you are feeling ready, probably more than ready. Labor can begin slowly, with the predictable signs that you have been looking for. You prepare yourself mentally for the hours to come, resting when you can, monitoring, gathering your resources. For some time, things progress as planned. You are breathing, feeling in control, moving through the process, and then it intensifies. The contractions are overwhelming, breathing doesn’t work anymore, fear enters in, you contract, you lose control, you lash out at whoever is nearby especially your partner, you seek any immediate exit or relief, the wheels come off. Interestingly, this phase is called “transition” and it is a little wild, unpredictable, feeling completely out of control but it means that you are almost there. And then, one more push and voila! The baby arrives, ecstasy, relief, joy, accomplishment, and the beginning of a new chapter. Of course there is repair, rest and recovery, but you have gotten through.
When I tell my clients about divorce mediation, I feel like that nurse-midwife trying to preview a process that you can really only fully appreciate through experience. Sure there are predictable stages and steps and strategies for moving most productively through the process. But there is also an element of the unknown, unpredictable and uncontrollable that enters in, that is often necessary and also signals that you are close to completion. After several sessions of collecting information, gathering appraisals and bank statements, analyzing income and stock options, you chart through the agreed-upon and disputed items. There are real differences that need to be addressed. You look at various options and try to see the other’s point of view. There is a culmination of all the data, uncertainty about the future, emotion about the past, that is overwhelming. It feels scary, wild, out of control. In that moment of moving through “transition” you might want to give up on the process, look for any way out but through, opt for the Ceasarian–for the professionals to come take the baby. As your midwife, I will tell you, breathe, push, you are almost there, stay with me, breathe. Even when you go off the rails, I will try to bring you back to your breath, regroup, move through the process. And voila! You have an agreement. You made it–maybe not ecstasy but certainly relief, accomplishment. It will take us some time to write up the agreement, dot the i’s and cross the t’s, but you have gotten through, together.
This analogy occurs to me as I watch many of my clients go through “transition” and I wonder at how what seemed a very thoughtful, rational process suddenly goes off the rails and both people are flairing with emotion, recounting the pain and disappointment and anger, everything is flying. But then, things settle a bit, we realize that we need to get through this process and soon an agreement is taking shape and we are putting the pieces back together to move forward. I want to prepare my clients for this possibility so that when suddenly everything goes a little crazy, they will understand the need for this release valve in the process, recognize that it is not emblematic of things to come but a signal that they are close to completion, the end is near. To breathe and persevere with some guidance that reassures them this is a normal part of process, they can do it, they are almost there.