The Art of Midwifery
Suffering in childbirth need not be the norm, for without drugs and without medical interventions imposing iatrogenic risks, healthy, well-supported women, carrying healthy babies, may make the passage of childbirth with dignity, surrounded by people of their choice, with joy, grace and even pleasure. The gentle birth movement advocates for the basic human right of women to labor and deliver their own babies with respect from their health care providers, with support for their choices and privacy. Furthermore, families and wise health care providers are advocating for the rights of babies to be handled in a way that does not impair their future health, well-being, intelligence and longevity, e.g., delayed umbilical cord severance and skin-to-skin uninterrupted contact with mother following birth. Clearly, much of the trauma experienced by mothers in childbirth and babies at birth is preventable.
Birth without Violence
Birth without Violence is the title of a book written by Frenchman Frederick Leboyer. It was translated into English in 1975. He encouraged a warm bath for the baby and gentle treatment. It is full of beautiful photos as well as violent photos of babies. Though we don’t talk about the “Leboyer Bath” anymore, violence to babies is still rampant. As we head into our “Birth Is a Human Rights Issue” conference in Strasbourg, it is important to keep the baby in mind. We are dealing with two lives. For the baby, birth sets the stage of her/his whole life. Birth can also alter the course of the mother’s life, either negatively or positively.
One thing Leboyer didn’t understand is that taking the baby away from the mother to do a bath wasn’t really the best thing to be doing. The knowledge of the microbiome wasn’t available during his time; now even science backs up the idea that the baby belongs with the mother after birth. We have enough information now to practice for the optimal health of both mother and baby physically, emotionally and spiritually. We just need to do it.
~ Jan Tritten, mother of Midwifery Today
Jan Tritten is the founder, editor-in-chief and mother of Midwifery Today magazine. She became a midwife in 1977 after the amazing homebirth of her second daughter. Her mission is to make loving midwifery care the norm for birthing women and their babies throughout the world. Meet Jan at our conferences around the world, or join her online, as she works to transform birth practices around the world.
Violence, the Human Experience and Midwifery
In my year working as a midwife in Guatemala, I became acutely aware of the role of violence in everyday life and how deeply it affects birth. Since then, my quest has intensified to understand violence and its relationship to midwifery and to learn effective ways for addressing it. When I use the word violence I am speaking of the use of force or aggression to control, punish or impose one’s will on another or on nature. This is distinct from the use of force as a means to protect.
A woman is experiencing violence when she is coerced into medical procedures that can do more harm than good, such as an induction or a cesarean, and is then shamed or threatened if she dares question her doctor. When a newborn is separated from his mother at birth, or her umbilical cord is cut before she receives the full return of her own blood from the placenta, or when he is strapped to a metal table and the most sensitive part of his sex organ is cut off without the benefit of anesthesia, he or she is experiencing violence as an introduction to life.
These types of violence are so pervasive in Western society that they actually appear normal. It has become so prevalent, in fact, that a term has been created to describe it: obstetrical violence. For me, the perennial questions are “Why?” and “What can be done about it?” I am left searching for answers that make sense.
If we are to address violence, we must go to the source. I do not want violence, and my way of dealing with my distaste for violence has always been to avoid it wherever possible. I became a midwife in order to promote peace in the world. I have been relating to violence as if it were the enemy of peace. Yet I now sense myself opening to a clearer vision: embracing the whole of the human experience with violence as a teacher.
What does violence have to teach us about the experience of being human? Someone who is acting violently is someone who has temporarily lost touch with their own humanity. In comparison, we say that someone who acts out of love and care is someone who acts from the heart. In our hearts we experience our human vulnerability—our emotions and our need for love, care, connection, meaning and contribution. Those feelings and needs are real and they are at the “heart” of what makes us human.
We are very excited to begin offering online classes. We have purchased our platforms and done our first test class. That was an amazing class on the microbiome with Fernando Molina. If you would like to take that class, it is archived and available at no charge here: Adobe Connect
We are planning many more classes. We will be doing a beginning midwifery series for aspiring and student midwives and excellent practical classes for all midwives such as Shoulder Dystocia, New & Old: Techniques for Controlling & Preventing Hemorrhage, Prolonged Labor and many more. We will also have an array of other types of classes of interest to birth practitioners. We hope to do classes for parents as well because our wonderful speakers can speak to all people! Watch this space for updates and details. If you have specific classes you would like us to consider, e-mail me.
Toward better birth!
~ Jan Tritten
Keep up to date with conference news on Facebook: General conference news
Midwifery Today Conferences
Attend a full-day class on birth complications with Gail Hart, Tine Greve and Diane Goslin
In the morning, the focus will be on shoulder dystocia. Our teachers will demonstrate effective treatments and look in-depth at more than 14 maneuvers. They will also discuss causes, incidence rates, prevention and solutions. The afternoon session will cover second stage issues such as prolonged rupture of membranes, failure to progress, abnormal labor patterns and non-medical intervention.
What is the Heart and Science of Birth?
Attend our conference in Eugene, Oregon, next April and find out! You will have the opportunity to learn practical skills and discover important new information, including information about the Microbiome. And, as always, our hope is that you return to your practice refreshed, renewed and ready to help moms and babies.