Another Two Bite the Dust

 

As I went to write this morning, I decided I would share the latest and greatest in midwifery news with all you lovely people.  For many, a holiday weekend is fast approaching, and for all of us (at least on this side of the equator) spring is finally here.  It seemed a perfect time to write about something heartwarming or joyous like the story that was shared with me last fall about a midwife delivering a baby on an airplane.  So I googled “midwife”, looked for news, and hoped for the best.  While I did discover another baby recently delivered by midwives on an airplane (I guess they are serious when they say to be cautious about flying late in the third trimester!), I also saw this:

Muncie, Indy birthing centers to close May 1

Oh, maaaan.  As soon as I saw the headline, I sighed, took a deep breath, and clicked on the link.  It was disheartening to learn that Indiana is losing not one, but two, birth centers with the closing of Expectations birth center in Muncie and Nurse Midwives of Indianapolis on May 1st.  While the closings don’t appear to be the result of a midwife getting arrested for attending a birth or anything horrible and traumatic, the giant banner on the birth centers’ website announcing the sadness of the closing is very believable.  This is a sad time for Barbara Bechtel, the staff of the birth centers, and the many families who benefited from the services of the centers.

Our hearts go out to you, and if any of you live in Indiana, we would love to hear from you and help in any way we can to expand access to midwives and birth choices in your area.

Time out for bad behavior

This is the first in a series of posts exploring the maternity care crisis in the United States. We will begin by looking at ways to address the two groups of people that need the most educating in order to fix things – medical providers and the women under their care.

I heard recently that someone was afraid of being associated with us because we had a reputation for “doctor bashing.” Really? I thought what we were doing was pointing out when people behave inappropriately. Our local hospital had a policy requiring that doctors stay at the hospital when a midwife was with her patient, but doctors complained about having to be there. We didn’t say, “Bad doctor!” We said, “Hey guys, if you don’t like to sit there, then change the policy.” Just like when your kid does something wrong, you don’t say, “Bad kid!” But you darn sure point out the bad behavior and suggest a better way.

Most people want to stand up for injustice, yet why are we, as a society, so afraid to stand up to physicians? They’re just people, like you and me. They went to school for a really long time and have a great deal of knowledge, but that does not make them better people. They sometimes have bad days and they make mistakes just like we do, and when we make mistakes or behave badly, someone usually points it out to us. So, if two grown ups are in a delivery room with a woman in labor, and one behaves inappropriately, someone ought to say, “Hey, that’s not right!”

Why are we training doulas to provide women with information and to be an advocate for them in the delivery room and then asking them to sit by and watch as their clients are talked to disrespectfully or worse, violated? And if a doula tells a physician he or she is out of line, the doula may be banned from the hospital or get all doulas banned from the hospital. If doulas cannot speak for their clients because they are trained to let the woman speak for herself, it would be nice if nurses spoke up on behalf of the women in their care. But the nurses are in a similar position as doulas, and in many hospitals can lose their jobs if they question the physicians. And I’m sorry, but I’ve had two babies and when you are in labor, you aren’t necessarily in the right frame of mind to stand up for yourself. So if we don’t stand up for the rights of pregnant and laboring women, who is going to do it?

A little help for our friends

This weekend, our sister organization, NCFOM, is holding a two-day fundraiser at Soil to Soul Yoga Studio. As part of the fundraiser, WMM? Is hosting a screening of “Babies” on Saturday at noon. We are hoping to help our fellow Friends of Midwives in their efforts to raise the money they need to pay their lobbyist. You see, NCFOM has been working tirelessly for over 10 years to get licenses for Certified Professional Midwives in our state. A bill was introduced this session, and NCFOM finds themselves closer to accomplishing their goal than ever before.

“Why has it taken so long?” you ask. The General Assembly of NC (G.A.) studied home birth in 1981, and found it to be a safe option for the citizens of our fine state. Therefore, it is perfectly legal for us to choose to have a baby at home. At the time, there were plenty of apprentice-trained (direct-entry) midwives attending women at home. However, instead of offering these skilled women a route to licensure, the G.A. only licensed Certified Nurse Midwives (who primarily attend women in hospital) and required them to find a physician to sign off on their license effectively making it impossible to hire a professional to attend you if you decide you want a home birth. In 1995, the North American Registry of Midwives began offering a path to a new credential for midwives who want to attend women at home – the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). Since that time, 27 states have developed a path to licensure for CPMs. However, our legislature has still failed to recognize and license them.

Even if you don’t want to have your baby at home, your friend, sister, cousin, daughter might and she ought to have the right to have a trained professional attend her. A recent CDC study showed a 30% increase in home births in N.C., so the need for CPMs to be licensed is growing. Come on out this weekend and get a massage, take a yoga class, watch a movie and know that it’s helping our friends.

Let’s get it started in here. . .


On Wednesday, WMM? traveled to Salisbury, North Carolina to attend a trial at the Rowan County Courthouse. A midwife has been charged with practicing midwifery without a license, despite the fact that she has been credentialed by a nationally recognized organization to practice midwifery. Her credential, the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is recognized in Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee, so she would not have been arrested in three of our surrounding states. How did we, as a society, get here? We invite you to join us on a journey to answer that question. Our interview with Faith Gibson (due out next week) will be the first in a series of shorts that will attempt to tell the storied history of midwifery.

Also, why are we arresting women who are trying to serve their communities by providing woman-centered care? Why aren’t all midwives outraged by one of their sister midwives being arrested? And why aren’t all women demanding the care that they deserve?

Where’s My Midwife? would like to propose two things:

1) From our perspective as consumers, it seems that the midwives are spending a lot of energy arguing over who is a more qualified midwife. We would love to see all midwives working together to ensure a more woman-centered model of care for everyone. We love that the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services is working to unify the professionals into ‘one voice.’ We need all midwives to come together, and focus on what they have in common (the way that they all place Women in the Center of their care), rather than on what makes them different.

2) We are obviously huge fans of midwives, and we believe that the person with whom you give Birth Matters! We would love to see midwives attending all women who are experiencing normal pregnancies. We would love to see an army of midwives educating women about all of their Choices in Childbirth, so no matter how a woman ultimately has her baby, she will say, “I feel empowered by my care and I believe I truly had My Best Birth.” We are asking all Friends of Midwives to unite and join us in a national grassroots, guerrilla style revolution that will help educate the public about the crisis we face in maternity care. We are planning a BOLD launch in September – a coordinated, simultaneous flashmob on a national scale! And that’s just the beginning of our journey to Free Our Midwives.

Stay tuned for more information. . .if you are part of a consumer organization and you are interested in helping with our little revolution, e-mail us at info@wheresmymidwife.org

Lights, Camera…MIDWIVES!

A look ahead – 2011 (Part 2)

The next project we would like to discuss involves my two favorite topics – midwives and movies! Over the next year, we will be producing two series of short films about midwives. One series will be short documentaries that cover the very long history of midwives. Our hope is to educate the public about what birth looked like for women throughout the world over time, and how we really have only been having babies in hospitals for the last century. The second series will be comedic educational films beginning with “Midwives Diner,” followed by humorous PSAs (Public Service Announcements) starring a super hero midwife. Here’s where you come in. We need cast members for the “Midwives Diner” shoot, which will be Sunday, Feb. 27 at 7pm, at A Taste of Italy. We still need two ladies to play moms and two gentlemen to play dads. If you’re interested in being an extra in the background, we need those too! To find out more, contact Kirsti Kreutzer at kirsti@wheresmymidwife.org, or call her at 910-447-9654.

2011 – A Look Ahead (part 1)

This year, we would like to focus on expanding our understanding of what happened to our midwives. We would like you to join us on this journey, and we need your help. If you know of a friend or family member who has experienced the loss of a midwife, we would like to know about it. Ask them to share their story with us, either by writing us an e-mail synopsis or by recording themselves sharing the story and posting it to YouTube. Our pie-in-the sky dream is to have the voices of mothers telling their stories from every one of the cities who have experienced this kind of loss, so that when you visit our website, you can see the large number of locations and hear first hand how this problem is affecting midwifery clients.

We feel strongly that the physicians and midwives need to understand how the closure of a practice affects the women and families they serve. We hope that with this understanding will come a desire to work out their differences in opinions regarding their approaches to pregnancy and birth. Women who would choose a midwife as their care provider need to know that all of the medical professionals involved with their birth experience are working together, as a team.

Also, we would like to volunteer to be the organization that keeps track of these incidents. Obviously, we hope that by bringing attention to this issue we can eventually work ourselves out of a job! If you are a midwife, and you have lost a practice, we want to hear from you, too. We understand that you may not be able to talk about the situation, so we ask that you contact one of your families and send them to us so that we can share their story.

Our goal is to have the map up to date by the end of this year. If you have a story to share, e-mail Kirsti at Kirsti@wheresmymidwife.org

Thank you for your continued support!

The Where’s My Midwife? Team

No Catty Bitches

When we first started meeting regularly and I grudgingly accepted the title of president, I told the Lovely Ladies who were daring enough to make me a leader, that I only have one rule – No Catty Bitches. I know, I know – potty mouth! But, I have no tolerance for women who talk crap about other women when they are not around and are sweet as sugar to the same woman’s face. We talked about how, as an organization of women, this may be a challenge given the passionate nature of working as an advocate. So, I said, “If someone says something at a meeting and you don’t agree with it, or it makes you feel upset, uncomfortable, etc. SAY SO. Right then and there. And if it doesn’t hit you until you are on your way home, or reflecting back on it the next day, call that person immediately and say, ‘I didn’t like the way you said x,y and z.’ But DO NOT call up other members of this organization and start talking about it.” And I am happy to say, we have managed to avoid all manner of ugliness by being direct and open with each other. How refreshing!

“Well, bully for you!” you might say, “but what does that have to do with midwives?!” I’m so glad you asked because the answer might surprise you. . .did you know that long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, women used to only be attended by women in birth? Generally, there was one wise woman or shaman in a village who was the healer. She would go to the house of the lady in labor and so would the mother, sisters, aunts, grandma, daughters, nieces, female neighbors, etc. and they would proceed to take over the running of the household. These ladies were referred to as “Godsibs.” Now, imagine the scene – a houseful of women, cooking, drinking, doing laundry, cleaning. . .and talking. And talking. And talking. The word “gossip” comes directly from this word. Huh. It would be really hard to get away with much in a village of so few who shared so much, so much of the time. The ladies probably could take a ribbing and dish it out, confident in the shared love of their Godsibs.

And then came the witch burnings. Essentially, physicians came on the scene and were in cahoots with the church. The wise women, and all their knowledge about natural remedies were a threat to physicians and the practice of medicine, so the church invented some crazy crap about how to spot a witch, and the madness began. Now, I am REALLY over-simplifying here (for more info, check this out), but the results are the same either way. Women began to turn on each other – “I’m not a witch! She is! Burn her, not me!” Women were tortured, starved, beaten, and eventually they would start naming names. So, what did mothers start teaching their daughters? “Don’t trust women.” And we began to not trust ourselves, or like ourselves very much.

And the same can be said for birth. If you were around women giving birth from the time you could crawl, and the event was a celebration, a gathering of the people you cared most about, you would look forward to your turn to take part in this rite of passage. When our wise women, our Godsibs were taken from us, we lost something powerful. We lost our ability to witness birth. We were robbed of the opportunity to see women in the raw – at our most vulnerable, we are at our strongest.

So, the next time a girlfriend breaks down and shares something personal or painful, make a promise to keep it to yourself. It is in our ability to show our weakness, that we find strength. And the next time someone says something, or behaves in a way that is upsetting to you, tell them! We need to start re-building the trust among women that was taken from us. NO CATTY BITCHES!

CALL TO ACTION

Dear Friends of Wabash Valley Midwifery and midwifery consumers:

Call to action! Join us as we Walk for Moms and Midwives, nationwide, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010

We’re saddened to hear that you’re losing your only option for midwifery care. We want you to know that you’re not alone. Just over a year ago we experienced the loss of our midwives and felt that this injustice must not go unanswered. We decided to do something about it, just like you have. At the time we were outraged, thinking that this would be the start of a revolution. We thought that this was the first time that midwives had been fired like this, and that when people found out about it, they too would be outraged. Sadly, we discovered over time that this type of incident has been happening throughout the United States for at least twenty five years.

Once we made this discovery, we tried to reach out to other communities to no avail. We were also told by the ACNM that no one was keeping track of these events. We had no way of figuring out how to proceed, no consumer advocacy group to turn to for advice. Midwives have to collaborate with physicians, so generally, they don’t fight back because they don’t want to rock the boat. Understandably they move on to the next job. What about the mommies?

Right now, while health care reform is a hot topic we need to discuss the role of the provider. Giving everyone insurance isn’t going to solve the problem if consumers can’t have access to the providers of their choice. The medical lobby is incredibly powerful. It has deep pockets. It wants all citizens to use physicians rather than other providers for their health care. This is restraint of trade. We found out that in 2003, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission were investigating these incidents for this exact reason. ALL midwives are being marginalized. Although midwives are gaining ground in some communities, in others, their trade continues to be restricted.

We will not be a commodity. Our bodies, our births, and our babies are not the sites on which special interests will fight for their own economic gain. As consumers we will push back against special interests that would restrict our ability to access our providers of choice. We will continue to stand up to this oppression. We are asking all families who have experienced the care of a midwife (whatever their credentials) to join us on Saturday, October 9, 2010 during National Midwifery Week to Walk for Moms and Midwives. We will be tracking national events on Facebook. We encourage you to:

a) Get a group of women together, however small or large;
b) Find a public place;
c) Let your message be known: i.e. take signs and/or wear t-shirts that promote midwifery care;
d) Walk. No, wait, let’s MARCH for mothers, babies, and midwives. This is grassroots activism at its best;
e) Make sure to contact the media and let them know what you’re doing;
f) Take pictures or video your group at your event. Send pictures, and links to your youtube videos (remember must be under 10 minutes) to kirsti@wheresmymidwife.org.

Let’s show the nation that we won’t take birth lying down.

With love and sisterhood,
Where’s My Midwife?

Letter from a Midwife

Following is a letter from Missi Willmarth, DNP, CNM:

Here is a little insight – or a story. Call it what you want :)

I’m a midwife. I’m not someone who went into midwifery to have a job. I have a heart, and mind and a spirit for midwifery. And it’s not just something I do, it’s something that I breathe. It’s a walk that I walk everyday, in every aspect of my life. I choose to be with woman. I choose to be with my friends, my sisters, my mother, my community. This is what I envision midwives to do, what I think midwives should be.

I lost my job because I care. The hospital organization that I work for doesn’t understand what midwives do and how we care for our mothers. They don’t understand that your dearest friends become your patients and your most endearing patients often become life long friends. They didn’t understand that midwife means ‘with woman’ – and that means all women. I was asked to resign from my position because a dear friend of mine was in labor and I was at her home supporting her, while I wasn’t on duty. They stated that even when not working, I was a representative of the hospital and that I couldn’t speak to or have any contact with my patients, even if those patients are my friends. What a contradiction. Employ midwives, but don’t allow them to be midwives.

The unfortunate piece of this is- now so many moms and babies are without me. There are other midwives in this practice that still remain. I have worked in this community for almost five years building a reputation and I have a large following of mommies and well-woman patients. Some of these women don’t want to see anyone else – I have built such great relationships. I have several families I have seen though multiple pregnancies. And now I feel as if I have abandoned all of the women I work so hard to support.

I will fight. I will focus in and I will remain. I have been uplifted by so many other midwives, by moms and their husbands, by friends and family. I am the lucky one. Families have welcomed me into their lives and into their stories. I have added to my circle of friends in so many valuable ways. I will continue to be a midwife….even if that means temporarily, that my job is not as a midwife.

With love and wishes for safe passage,
Missi Willmarth

Looks like I will be adding a new city to our map. Here’s the kicker – Missi was planning on running a half marathon in Cincinnati to raise money for Where’s My Midwife? in October. Here’s the website. More synchronicities – Missi’s hometown is Terre Haute, IN. She was born at Union Hospital, where they are dismissing their midwives as of Oct. 29 (unless the Friends of Wabash Valley Midwifery can stop them). Oh, and Missi’s mother was a nurse at Union Hospital for 40 years.