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A personal tribute to Margaret Adey, 1954-2014

Margaret Adey, co-founder of Birthlight and Chair of our Board of Trustees for fifteen years, died last Sunday. Most current Birthlight members have probably noticed her name and signature on Diplomas but have not met her in person.  Margaret’s formidable personality, sweet energy and the rainbow colours she loved wearing rush to my awareness all at once and tears swell in my heart as I sit to write this tribute to her. Only a couple of months ago, she drove to show me her new little Fiat car and her most recent weavings: she was determined to lace her fight against cancer with fun and creativity over and above her indomitable courage and dignity. One of the ways we gradually said goodbye to each other was by meditating together in long rounds that brought extraordinary calm and peace. But now she is gone and I miss her terribly.

Members of Birthlight who were involved in our early training courses in the late 1990s and early 2000s will remember Margaret as a tremendous organiser behind the scenes: whoever took her calls jumped to action; Kids Unlimited and Center Parks signed contracts with us as though we were corporate fellows. With Margaret in the Chair, the Birthlight Trust was set up as the solid non-profit structure that can now be seen as a visionary alternative social enterprise model. Whenever our Birthlight little boat hit stormy waters, with Margaret’s decisive leadership we knew we would pull through and get stronger, never compromising on ethical values. There was always time for good laughs, though! Hand in hand, Margaret and I dreamed jointly of a world that would be a better place for women and their new families and where the delicate ecological balance between humans and non-humans could be upheld. Margaret had so many strings to her bow: her doctorate was in plant taxonomy and more particularly on pollination, leading to a life-long passion for bees, which were also her shamanic animal guides. She later became a trained Gestalt therapist, a mentor and coach for leading business people. She was always involved in artistic activities in the Cambridge community, singing, painting and partaking in Celtic shamanic circles.  When Maori healers or Amazonian shaman friends came to visit, they invariably saluted the warrior in Margaret, the fierce energy with which she fought for causes she believed in. Once Birthlight was up and running, we both set up a Cambridge University spin out company called Ampika, (‘strong medicine’ in the Amerindian language I learnt) to safeguard the plant knowledge of the people I lived with in the Peruvian Upper Amazon and more particularly women’s plant knowledge. 1998-2008 was an intense decade of planning and implementing together, usually in Margaret and Tim’s beautiful family home in Cambridge. We supported each other successfully through Margaret’s first cancer. But Margaret never stood still: she took on a full time job at the Cambridge University Programme for Sustainability, where she could deploy her many talents in a more public arena, while retaining a governance role in Birthlight and Ampika.

My close friendship and partnership with Margaret goes back to the time of her first pregnancy in 1990 when she joined my Cambridge pregnancy yoga and aquanatal yoga classes. I remember visiting her at Hinchingbrooke maternity hospital, that was the closest to a birth unit we had at the time, a few hours after her eldest son Robin was born, and two years later she opted for a home birth, a radical step in the 1990s, to welcome Benny with her husband Tim.

I am grateful to have enjoyed the experience of true friendship with Margaret.  Together, we were always more than the sum of our parts. Through the grief and the loss, I draw comfort from the conviction that Birthlight will continue to be nurtured by the shared joy and values at the source of our partnership.

Françoise Freedman