The Center Tipte-A Story of a Maya Midwife
On a recent healing immersion trip to a small village in the Yucatán with my women’s health and ethnobotany class, I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from a Maya midwife, Doña Maria and her husband Don Bernardo, a local herbalist and spiritual healer. What a treat to continue to learn the art of an ancient Maya practice of abdominal massage, and to hear from this gifted, humble midwife some of the traditional birth customs in the Maya culture.
As a birth doula, my mind was overflowing with questions on fetal positioning, herbs that are used, and what does a typical birth look like in the middle of the Yucatán jungle? What I got was unexpected, but one of the most valuable things I’ve ever learned: The idea everything in a woman’s body is affected by the uterus. It is believed in the land of the Maya if a woman’s uterus is out of balance, then so is she. The uterus can be displaced from carrying heavy objects, ligaments overstretched from childbirth, high impact exercise, or an injury to sacrum or tailbone. A displaced uterus can lead to fertility problems, irregular menses, and gastritis, just to name a few!
Here’s where the magic lies: In the Maya folk anatomy, positioned within each and every human is the very important ethno-anatatomical organ, in the Mayan language known as our Tipte. The Tipte is our center pulse and energetic core that pumps blood into the four quadrants of the body. When the body is running correctly, the tipte will pulse directly below the navel, the energetic center that exists in all beings where life is created. If something in the spiritual or emotional realm is throwing off our center, then everything else follows suit. Having been practicing energy work, this thrilled me to know more, and without even realizing it, this experience is something I manifested many years ago.
For a wide variety of reasons the Tipte can be displaced and cause malaise. Doña Maria uses abdominal and uterine massage for various types of curative and diagnostics in both men and women for non-specific complaints or abdominal trouble. This is an external massage that helps guide internal organs into their ideal and proper position. She has so much knowledge and complexity in something so seemingly simple! This healing tradition helps to relieve congestion and blockages to improve the flow of chi, or life force, that pulses and circulates fluids throughout our bodies to prevent the progression of chronic disease. During a Maya abdominal massage, there are extensive abdominal manipulations that involve locating the Tipte and massaging it back into place, rearranging internal organs in relation to it. In Doña Maria’s over 30 years working as a community midwife, she has never sent a woman to the hospital, and women Ayudantes, or helpers, are used to support the laboring mother.
Being able to experience this treatment first hand from Doña Maria’s comforting touch and intuitive expertise, was truly an honor and privilege. At the end of my journey I thought to myself, I may never see this woman again and even if just for a few moments in my life she was my guide, passing down her teachings that were passed down to her. This experience was something that can never be taught in books. And now, I find myself in just a few days travelling back to the Yucatan with a healing circle of women to continue this journey. Stay tuned as more wisdom unfolds…