Happy New Year!

The New Year is a time to reflect back on the past and to step forward into the future with clear intentions. Here are some of our new year reflections:
In 2011 we test drove a sweet little idea called Pregnant Mayhem. This was an opportunity for mommies everywhere to hit the streets and demand better maternity care using theatre, public art, flash mobs, megaphones, protests, whatever it takes to get the word out about our broken system and the beautiful ways it could be better. The original idea was to have something simple and provocative every month. This something would take place all over the country.
Our initial action took place around Labor Day to coincide with the 5th anniversary of Karen Brody’s International movement –  “Birth” On Labor Day.  It consisted of four women in four different cities giving birth in public spaces, a conference, a street fair, a tourist destination and a parking lot. Of course we didn’t force any real babies to spend their first moments of life as a public spectacle. These women were all performing a scene from Karen Brody’s play “Birth”. In 2012 we want to further develop this idea of taking our birth activism to the streets. We want to reach more people in more places with bigger and more profound happenings. It is time for birth activists to stop talking amongst ourselves and to get the message out to where it can make the most impact.
Also in September of last year, Where’s My Midwife? planted roots in Canada with the birth of the Ontario chapter.  Maria Radonicich relocated from Wilmington with her family only to find that a local midwifery practice, in Orangeville, Ontario, needed help.  Maria told the locals about the success we had in Wilmington when mamas demanded change.
Soon, local families were painting car windows and marching for midwives, all in the hopes that the local hospital – Headwaters Health Care Centre – would see the community demand for midwifery care and grant privileges to the Midwives of Headwater Hills’ entire practice.
The new chapter saw one midwife granted privileges in November (bringing the practice total to 3 with privileges at HHCC) and are awaiting approval of a fourth midwife’s privileges. In the coming months we anticipate seeing the Midwives of Headwater Hills catching babies at Headwaters Health Care Centre again.  We will be working on establishing non-profit status in Ontario and researching what town to head to next.  We will continue reaching out to communities who have lost their midwives or seen their ability to practice be crippled by unfair laws and policies.  We are ready to stand with communities across the U.S. and Ontario and help them develop an individualized plan to set things straight. If you need more midwives in your community give us a call!
And, finally, one of our favorite projects in 2011 was a short film titled “Midwives’ Diner”.  This year look for more short films promoting midwives and the amazing care that they provide. We love making films and will continue to use them as our megaphone.
We are looking forward to a year full of positive, creative, engaging action. We hope your 2012 is full of all good things. Happy New Year!

What’s in a name?

If you have been following Where’s My Midwife? through our short but fun filled life, you know how we got our name.  A quick refresher for those of you who weren’t around in the beginning, or don’t remember:  It was a volatile and emotional time for the women in our community (Wilmington, NC).  One day we had well-woman exams and prenatal appointments.  The next day we saw on the news our midwives had been fired.  The midwifery program at a local OBGYN’s office was dissolved, with no notice whatsoever to the women who depended upon that care. This left Wilmington with only one CNM practicing midwifery and working with the hospital. We were sad, scared, angry, defensive, confused…you name it, the emotion was there.  The news spread throughout our small town like wildfire and women began asking “Where’s my midwife?”  The name fit.  We painted our cars and picketed the hospital…you know the story.

So why now, twenty-one months later, when our beloved midwives have new jobs and our community gained two new CNMs,one with a home birth practice, does the name Where’s My Midwife? still fit?  The answer is simple.  We aim to educate women across the nation – across the world – so they know the benefits only midwifery care can offer, and they ask that question in their own communities. We do this for our sisters, neighbors, daughters and granddaughters.  We keep the name so the medical establishment will know we haven’t forgotten and never will forget. We believe midwifery care is an option that should be available to ALL women.

Second Time Around

So many things are different. While I was pregnant with my first, I spent my time behind a desk in an office, working full time. This time, I am chasing a two-and-a half year old, as a stay-at-home mom, and squeezing in work on two different non-profit organizations. The first time, I was constantly daydreaming about the little person growing inside of me. Wondering if they were going to have hair; going to be big; going to be breech (as both myself and husband were). This time, I honestly spent much of my second trimester too busy to think about the baby at all. It’s not that I am not excited. This baby is someone we have wanted in our lives for well over a year now, and is due at the same time I had a miscarriage last year. We are so excited to meet this little person.

I have to admit, in some ways it is easier. When my son takes a nap, I can take a nap too. This is a luxury I didn’t have the first time, and one that came in very handy in the first couple of months and again now at the end. This pregnancy also feels like it is going by faster. That probably has something to do with the fact that I am not dwelling on the growth of every fingernail and eyelash. Instead, I am chasing a crazy toddler and trying to give him as much attention as I can while he is still an only child.

The most significant change is my confidence. I was not a nervous mom the first time, but I had no clue what I was doing (as no first time parents do). My husband and I jokingly refer to our son as our “practice baby”. With the first one, there is a huge learning curve and a chance to really understand what kind of parent you are going to be. It’s totally different than reading any books. There is nothing that can prepare you to be a parent more than being one.

I am about 8 weeks from this baby’s “due date”. The biggest lesson I learned from my son’s birth, is that there is only so much planning you can do. You shouldn’t really “plan”, so much as “prepare”. You have to make sure you are mentally ready to let go, and let your body work hard. I am spending these last weeks trying to make sure my head is in the right place to deal with labor. With my first pregnancy, I had never even heard of a doula. I had only recently heard of midwives, when my cousin gave birth a couple of years before me. My plan for my son’s birth consisted of receiving my care from a midwife, requesting that I not be offered drugs, and that I could have my support team in the room with me (all of which happened). This time I have a doula. My doula just happens to be a great friend of mine, and my husband and I are excited about the support we will have throughout my labor. My mom will be here with our son to keep his life as normal as possible while I am at the hospital.

I think that although this pregnancy is so different, and I spend less time thinking about it, I am better prepared. I know what the important things are now…and they have nothing to do with painting the nursery or picking out cute baby clothes.

The Internet – Information Overload?

Compared to women 20 years ago, we have immeasurable amounts of information available to us.   Any time we need to know something, we can walk over to our computer, or cell phone, or iPad, or whatever, and find numerous answers to our question.  I think this is wonderful, but we need to proceed carefully.  What does this do to our relationship with our healthcare provider (or auto mechanic, or anyone else we trust)?

I am 25 weeks into my pregnancy with my second child.  Before I even got pregnant this time, I made up my mind about the tests/scans/interventions that I would be willing to have.   I have “Googled” nearly every topic I can think of.  I try to be careful to read as much information as I can and to base my decisions on research rather than rhetoric; but how can I be sure? Your search results are specific to the terminology you use to frame your query. For example: by searching for information on “avoiding unnecessary prenatal testing”, you will get all of the reasons not to test, and none of the reasons to do so.  I think this is why it is so important to have a care provider that you trust.  Although I had my mind made up, I spoke with all three of my midwives to see what they had to say about the choices I was making, and their opinions mattered to me.  I trust their knowledge and experience and wanted to be sure there wasn’t something I was missing as I made important decisions.

I say all of this to caution you…sometimes we may feel a false sense of security from the “information” we have discovered and the “research” we have performed.  Don’t forget that one of the most important decisions we make in life is the decision whether or not we trust someone.  I hope that all women feel a sense of trust and respect for their care providers and that we remember that we haven’t hired Google to catch our babies…or fix our cars.

Witch Hunt

It’s been happening for hundreds of years, but no one has called it what it is…a witch hunt.  When women acquire skills that are threatening to “the establishment” (men, the medical society), they are driven away.  It happened during The Reformation, when women working as healers could easily be turned in and burned at the stake as a witch if a patient wasn’t happy with the outcome of their treatment.  It happened a hundred years ago, when obstetricians needed something to do with their newly acquired skills.  Those men couldn’t possibly have women as their competition, so they launched a nasty campaign against midwives and convinced women that they needed a surgeon to deliver their baby.  It’s happening NOW.  Midwives, although recommended by the World Health Organization, are being treated as though they are inferior to doctors.  In many places, they are forced to have a “Written Practice Agreement”.  This means they must have a doctor who agrees to allow them to practice.  This puts doctors in an excellent position.  They are in complete control of their economic competition.  So if a midwife is doing her job well, and there are lots of happy, healthy mommies and babies, one unhappy doctor can bring that all crashing down.  They can refuse to sign that “Written Practice Agreement” when the contract comes up for renewal; effectively burning the midwife at the stake.  She can no longer do her job.  And the only thing the doctor has to say: “babies are dying”.  No facts to back this statement.  It’s a scare tactic, just like those newspaper ads decades ago.  What do we do, as women?  We listen to them!  We believe them!  We follow blindly like sheep!

I say,” no more!”

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