AROM: Letter of Support for MOC Chair and Inner Council Resignation

I’m a little late on the game posting this (it’s been a busy couple of weeks!), but you should definitely know about it. The Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Work in Midwifery (AROM) working group was formed very recently and has been especially active since the resignation letter to MANA from the MOC Chair and Inner Council.

Our work includes deepening our knowledge of, and developing ways to break down, systems of oppression and domination, including but not limited to racism/white supremacy, patriarchy/sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism/homophobia/transphobia, and xenophobia based on perceived nation of origin and religion.

We have published a response letter on the AROM blog and we are looking for more birth workers to join in this crucial work.

We, the undersigned, express our unconditional support for the statement and actions of the former Chair and Inner Council of the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) Midwives of Color Section and all midwives of color who feel represented by these positions. We wish to acknowledge the experience of many, many years of devaluation and dismissal of midwives of color by the professional midwifery community. We acknowledge the interpersonal racism that has characterized the interactions in general between midwives of color and white midwives. We also acknowledge the deep institutional racism within midwifery in the United States as a whole, which characterizes our professional organizations, educational institutions, learning environments, conferences, and group interactions. We acknowledge that this situation has its roots in the systematic elimination of midwives of color over the course of the 20th century by the white-dominant health care system’s neglect, devaluation, and violation of the bodies, ways of knowing, and communities of people of color. We acknowledge that, in some cases, white midwives were complicit in this elimination. We acknowledge the fact that, among many negative effects, this institutional racism continues to exclude and marginalize students and midwives of color today. Moreover, in failing to confront this legacy and to actively work to transform it, the midwifery profession as a whole participates in limiting access to care for women of color, and perpetuates the structures of racial and economic injustice and inequity in maternal and infant health in the United States and internationally. Continue reading …

How can you help? Read the letter and add your name as a signatory. Join the AROM Facebook Group. Find other ways to get involved and get inspired by the work we’re doing. Pass the word, repost the letter, tell everyone you know who is involved in midwifery. Begin having discussions about anti-racism and anti-oppression in your community and find ways to work towards birth justice.

Midwifery Care is Revolutionary

 

“Deciding that you’re going to have a baby with a midwife makes you a revolutionary. Just that decision alone. You have decided that you are not going to be a passive voyeur in the journey of pregnancy and of birth. That you are, as I tell my clients, deciding that you’re going to drive this car. You will invite other people to be in the car with you. Your midwife and your birth team will be sitting next to you with a map. When you decide that you’re going to have a baby with a midwife, you decide that you’re going to participate in the decisions that are made during your pregnancy.”

Inspiring and stirring words by Claudia Booker from the short film Midwives Address Health Disparities.

Once Upon a Time in Western Washington

Hello! It’s been a long time, nice to see you here again. I realize I haven’t posted since, well, I left Austin. There are a whole lot of reasons for not the least of which were adjusting to a new state/new midwife/new clients/etc. as well as healing emotionally for the reasons I left my preceptorship in Austin so abruptly. I’m working through it all and have several posts planned to touch on those subjects.

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you a story. It is a story about a bizarre convergence of events, touching on mysterious Pagan ways and midwifery. It begins in the usual way, like so:

Once upon a time, a young baby dyke was growing up in the woods of a placed called western Washington. She made friends with a Very Tall Family. This Very Tall Family was so tall, in fact, that they did outlandish things like keep their microwave on top of the refrigerator where the shortish baby dyke could not reach without standing on a stool. The Very Tall Family loved to go backpacking, and the mother in this family talked frequently about how she used to go backpacking with her former best friend, Teddy. The baby dyke heard lots of stories about her escapades and adventures backpacking with Teddy and though she never met the woman, felt like she kind of knew her anyway.

Skip ahead a few years, and the baby dyke finds herself attending a women’s gathering called Longdance. The mother and daughter from the Very Tall Family go, and apparently Teddy used to go too. She learned all sorts of wonderful things, including songs like We Are Sisters On a JourneyShe thought these are purely Pagan chants and delighted in teaching them to her circle mates in her college Pagan/Wiccan Collective.

Fast-forward several years later when the baby dyke (not such a baby dyke anymore, btw) decides to become a midwife (called to be a midwife, really, in an undeniable way. But that’s a tale for another place and another time). She travels a great distance to a far away land called Maine to attend midwifery school. There, she learns about MANA and how it was formed, and also about a woman named Teddy Charvet who was instrumental in founding the Seattle Midwifery School and was the first president of MANA. And then she had an epiphany that this Teddy Charvet was the same Teddy Charvet who used to go hiking with the mother of the Very Tall Family all those years ago (who, btw, now goes by Therese and still loves being in the forest). And she found out that We Are Sisters on a Journey is not just a Pagan song, but a beloved song for MANA as well. In fact it was sung at the very first MANA gathering brought, I like to imagine, directly to MANA by Teddy herself from the bosom of the women’s Pagan circles that later formed Longdance.

And it is in this roundabout way that I feel like I have always, somehow, had a connection to the rebirthing of midwifery in the US and the creation of MANA, although I didn’t realize it until very recently. Curious, no? It does seem strange to me that I’ve seemed to narrowly avoid meeting this woman my entire life.

More on Adoptees as Parents | Borders and Bridges

I think Lena raises some important questions here. Any thoughts?

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while now…as a doula, I witness the birth of new families all the time. As an adoptee, I can’t help but wonder how this experience of becoming a parent might carry a different meaning for adoptees.

What is it like to become pregnant when your mother hasn’t experienced pregnancy?  What is it like to look into your child’s eyes and recognize yourself in someone else for the first time in your life?  Does becoming a parent kindle a desire to search for birthparents? How does becoming a parent change your perspective on your childhood and the way you were raised?  Does it make a difference, or not at all?

Read the rest of the blog post here More on Adoptees as Parents | Borders and Bridges.

On the Road Again

You might be wondering why Bloody Show has been so completely quiet recently? Partly, this is due to being a busy precepting student midwife who spends most of her waking hours attending appointments and births. Partly, it’s because the puppy is so darn cute (or because chasing him down to get him to stop chewing on things isn’t exactly conducive to writing blog posts). Partly, it’s because my current preceptorship isn’t working out the way I hoped and dreamed it would. After much soul searching, I’ve decided to move on to another one. In 2 weeks, we’re packing up and moving (again) to the greater Phoenix, AZ metro area, this time with a puppy in tow. Not sure exactly where we’re settling down, but I’m excited to be joining a hopping homebirth practice that I think is going to be a great fit for both me and A. Chances are, however, that I won’t be posting much more in the next few weeks as we start out on this next big journey.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of what I’ve been up to besides precepting:

  • Kristin Kali of Maia Midwifery started a discussion group about Gender and the Childbirth Professional (see her invitation in the comments of this post). I missed the first call because I was at a birth, but I made it to the second one last week. I felt like I was falling in love for the first time, looking at the beautiful faces of my fellow discussion groupers. Staring at my computer screen and seeing queers of all stripes discussing birthwork and gender? Amazing! It’s already been a really healing experience.
  • I’ve been loving Autostraddle’s new series, the Ani DiFranco Appreciation Club. By my standards, she’s one pretty kick-ass woman. Plus, as y’all already know, she had a homebirth and has been using her experiences to promote homebirth in Ina May Gaskin’s new book Birth Matters and elsewhere.
  • After reading said book by Ina May Gaskin and experiencing a few complicated postpartum courses of care for some of our clients, I’ve begun doing a lot of thinking about how the dominant birth paradigm in the US fails women in the postpartum period in a myriad of ways. More to come on that later, likely.
  • Finally, I read Cara Muhlhahn‘s (you remember the midwife from the Business of Being Born, right?) book Labor of Love on a lark. Then Basil chewed up one of the corners and I had to pay the library a lot of money. Regardless, that book got me thinking a lot about midwives and ego, safety, the role it plays in births, and how it changes the experience of everyone involved.  Again, I’ll have more to say about this later, too.

Trans411

Do you know about Trans411? I didn’t until just a few days ago. It’s a listing of providers and services that are trans-friendly. It seems like a really great opportunity to list midwives, doulas, and other birthworkers who are already offering their services to non-gender conforming folks or who would like more visibility around the fact that their practice is trans-friendly. Doing a quick (but certainly not exhaustive) search on Trans411, I only found one birthworker listed, the fabulous and fantastic Chula Doula. I know from the interest expressed at the Full Spectrum Doula Network that there are lots more doulas currently working with or interested in working with trans and/or genderqueer clients. I also know of a few midwifery practices doing the same.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a plethora of birthwork serving trans clients all across the country and showing their support on Trans411? If you are a trans birthworker or a trans-friendly cisgender birth worker, consider making a profile listing on Trans411. Tell your friends and colleagues and ask them to make a profile if their practices are transfriendly. Find other ways to be visibly supportive on the internet and in person. Educate others. Let’s make it easier for all pregnant and birthing people to find the services they need.

Dangerous Jobs: Midwifery

The work of providing health services and care for the reproductive processes of female-bodied persons is dangerous work. It rarely pays well and it’s legal status is often on shaky ground which doesn’t do much for job security. Worse, it can sometimes get you arrested, stalked, harassed, intimidated, and/or killed.

I’m beginning to put together the pieces, you see. After hearing about seemingly unrelated events happening to two very different types of care providers, the puzzle started to come together. Whether you provide abortions or help women have their babies at home, it seems, the act of providing reproductive health services is dangerous and can be hazardous to your health.

Just this week, a CPM was arrested in North Carolina for practicing illegally. Yes, it’s still illegal to practice direct-entry midwifery in North Carolina and a surprising number of other states. Even if you have taken the national exam and proven your competence as a midwife, it is illegal. Whenever I tell friends who are not connected to birth work or the homebirth movement these facts, their jaws drop. They don’t believe me and think I’m lying. They are indignant. They are outraged.

On the other end of the spectrum, Rachel Maddow has been following the story of Dr. Mila Means who has been trying to set up a practice in Kansas to provide abortion services. This is particularly important because she’s taking over the area that Dr. George Tiller used to serve before he was murdered point blank in his church. Here, the threat is not arrest but, in fact, death.

 

Now, as far as I know, no one is threatening to murder midwives. But they are subject in many areas to arrest and criminal trials, even when no one in the community that they serve is willing to step forward against them. It’s the state who does the arresting and charging in these cases. I wanted to point out the links here because I don’t think most people would tell you that well-trained, professional midwives should not be allowed to practice. Even most pro-life folks out there wouldn’t tell you this. As far as I know, most pro-life folks are probably especially ardent supporters of CPMs and direct-entry midwives. But the bottom line is that both abortion providers and homebirth midwives are working to provide women with a real choice, one that often differs dramatically from the mainstream. And that seemingly radical act is what makes them dangerous and worth persecuting.

Defensive Medicine Series at The Unnecesarean

In case you haven’t heard, The Unnecesarean recently ran a series of guest posts on the topic of Defensive Medicine. It is well worth a trip over to check out the posts. Start here at the beginning with Jill’s post Defending Ourselves Against Defensive Medicine and work your way through.

However, if you have time to read only one article of the series, might I suggest reading the brilliant Barbara Katz Rothman’s Who is defending whom from what? Katz Rothman links defensive medicine to socioeconomic class and access (or lack thereof) to money and healthcare. All of this, of course, is tied up together with our current medical culture that privileges some decisions and outcomes and medical heroism and others as, well, sue-able offenses. Add to that the complicated lens of risk, and we’re in a fine pickle now.

Just a taste:

In the United States especially —where each child is born into great and unending poverty unless lucky enough to be born to a parent willing and able to pull it out, where basic needs go unmet, where medical care for children with disabilities can wipe a family out financially, where medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy — a needy child inevitably necessitates a search for deep pockets.  If I had a child who used a wheelchair, I’d want the best possible chair, and probably a sports-use chair besides; the best household adaptations money could buy; every imaginable object and service that would make that kid’s life better.  And if I had to sue my mother to get it, why sue I would.

And:

In a better kind of insurance system, people would be insured for need – if you have a very expensive kid, one who needs wheelchairs and ramps, expensive surgeries, long-term nursing care, or all of those, then those needs would be met.  That is how universal health care coverage works in most of the world.  But we have not got that kind of system, so instead, individuals have to sue.  Private companies insure practitioners, and patients with unmet needs can sue practitioners who in some way failed them.

You Ask How a Midwife is Made

You Ask How a Midwife is Made
by Robin Lim

First a girl has a daughter,
a being born when a sparrow and a sea turtle
mate impossibly.
No manger to lay down in, this child comes silently
before dawn lights the little trailer in a garden by the tracks.

Too poor to imagine poverty, the baby feeds
on the cracked, sore nipples of love, while hummingbirds
and crickets sing in the sunflower and sweet pea teepee.

As the girl rolls her baby in autumn leaves
dioxins kill babies in Italy. Boats full of refugees
are sunk by governments. Oil becomes more precious
than the weight of a human or owl’s soul.

A slow revolution and six more babies
woke her up to the truth,
that she cannot protect her seven children or the owls
unless she takes the yellow dress her Filipino
grandmother offers her in a dream.

This tattered yellow garment becomes a flag of peace.
It signals a war will be fought with the weapons of gentle love,
and a trembling hand to give comfort.
She cannot change this world, where shadow puppets
dance on the red lips of volcanoes,
and miracles are extinct,
but she must give it a go.

Jennie Joseph

I want to be Jennie Joseph when I grow up. She is an incredible and visionary midwife. I eventually want to model my practice off of her birth center (where apparently their babies are the cutest!) and find a way to help further the aims of her nonprofit, Commonsense Childbirth.

“What we’ve found is that once you get women into a situation where they are open to listening, you can change lifestyles. You can change a future… We can change communities by using midwifery.”

HT to Citizens for Midwifery for this video.