Sunday, July 19, 2009

Midwives in the news

A selection of articles and essays about and by midwives that I've come across lately...

In New Life, New Lessons, midwife Ame Solomon writes about how she discovered her profession. Her essay is an excerpt from "Birth," part of the anthology Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On, published this year by Seal Press.
I noticed how women were stunned by how drastically different the world looked when they were pregnant: how it changed the entire landscape of their lives. It was as if they were starting life anew. I took that element and tried to apply it to my predicament, so that when I had no idea what to do next, I made an effort to comfort myself in the open range of possibilities. In the laboring mother, I witnessed how her pain was inescapable and raw and overtook her entire being. I saw her writhe in agony, breathe through tremendous difficulty, somehow make peace with her situation, surrender to the process, and face her deepest truth as she brought forth new life. Most remarkably, I saw women reach deep inside and access a warrior-like internal strength beyond compare. Every birth inspired me to reflect on the power and wisdom women possess, and to have faith in my own inner fortitude. I marveled at the natural process unfolding for women as they let go without self-judgment. I observed how they hurt more if they became scared, and seemed more at peace with their pain when they accepted it. I learned from them that there was pain with purpose, and that we can make it through the most horrific, mind-numbing, excruciating pain, even though we sometimes think we can't. In the end there is triumph, joy, and empowerment beyond imagination.
In a Lifeless Birth, a Midwife’s Opened Eyes is a heartwrenching story in The New York Times about a new midwife, called to attend a birth of a baby who had recently died in utero. She learned how to face death, rather than pretend it did not exist, from a more experienced midwife.
Not sure what else to do, I filled the silent birth room with the sound of my own voice. I told her all about my training in midwifery, my hometown, my likes and dislikes. I learned that she was a graduate student in crop management, that she grew up in Ohio, that we both liked a movie that had come out the week before.

The time dragged, the monitor spewed forth paper, and I kept chattering. I remember that I was proud of myself for coping with this difficult situation with diplomacy and tact.

I had been there for several hours when Barb arrived in a burst of energy. She wore faded jeans and flip-flops. Her jade earrings swung at the side of her neck. She threw her arms around the patient, hugged her a long minute, and then said, “I’m so sorry.”

My patient collapsed into uncontrollable tears. Barb sat on the edge of the bed, her hand on the patient’s arm, and they spoke in halting, slow, tearful words about the awful momentousness of what was happening. I sat in my chair in silent shock.

Death had been in the room but had been nicely hidden under the sheets, under our cheerful demeanor, under the silences of things left unsaid.
In Delivering Affordable Health Care, Miriam Perez (who blogs at Radical Doula) explains why midwives offer a cost-effective solution to rising health care costs.
Washington, one of the first states to license CPMs, now has an out-of-hospital birth rate twice the national average and has seen these claims of cost effectiveness come true. The most recent Department of Health cost-benefit analysis showed that licensed midwifery care in Washington saves the state $3.1 million every two years in Medicaid costs.
In The Big Push: Birmingham hosts national midwifery conference, Jesse Chambers discusses past and present legislative efforts to legalize and license direct-entry midwifery in the U.S. I love the poster!
“What our state advocates are facing in their respective statehouses are these nearly surreal David vs. Goliath situations,” Hedenkamp says. “We’re talking about moms and dads wearing their tires bald driving hours and hours to the capitols and home again in order to do advocacy with policymakers on even less than a shoestring.”

On the other side, she says, are well-funded lobbies such as the American Medical Association (AMA). “Since the Big Push for Midwives Campaign began, we have organizing the grassroots together in order to stand up to these very well-financed opposition forces,” Hedenkamp says. She is able to cite at least a few states where the midwifery movement has had some success, including Idaho, where a bill was passed this spring to legalize CPMs.
And finally, an oral history video about midwife Anna Grier. Betty Sue Gunthrope speaks to the influence of early twentieth century midwife, Anna Grier and the role of African American women as frontline health providers.


  1. yes! we need more laps, indeed what words of wisdom.
    It made me think about seeing babies constantly in those bucket car seats. Breaks my heart (and wonder what it does for mama's backs).

  2. Thanks for this post. Wow! All of the articles were amazing. As a nurse who specializes in perinatal bereavement the first touched me.

    The video was inspiring. I loved the description of her character. And the laps, the aprons, and the black pots... I agree with Jessica, we need more laps. Wisdom.


  3. The Delivering Affordable Health Care article was interesting. I think that there will inevitably will be an push for more midwives and natural births under health care reform, to save costs if nothing else, but that this push won't come until later. The initial rounds of legislation have to pass first.

  4. I smell a change in the health care system. We cannot go along as we are. Too many folks are going without. Too many poor are dying from treatable diseases.

    I am glad you included the Midwifes experience with death. I have a chat with my nursing students about it but I find most don't really have a clue what I am talking about. Hopefully some of it is sinking in and they will do alright when faced with death. My hope is that they do not ignore it. I think that is painful for the family.

    And I got a huge kick out of the video. We need more laps.

  5. What a great video!! Any chance you know where I can get a copy of that poster?


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