What is the purpose of midwifery education? What is your purpose for midwifery education?

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Has shifting it from the apprenticeship model to the formalized education model improved birth outcomes? Does making midwifery education stream through a formalized route create a profession and a professional that improves birth experiences for women? What does the effect of fear have on the birth outcome? Is there a causative effect of fear for safety that diminishes the goal of a positive outcome, as well as diminishing a mother’s perception of happiness in her birth experience? What long-lasting effects does a professional creation of fear for safety have on a woman’s happiness beyond the birth experience? Has safety become the yard stick by which midwifery education is researched and measured and globalized? Have we succeeded in creating a false sense of security in birth with the presence of a professional?

In the late 1970s and early 1980s in Missouri, you could have your baby at home but you couldn’t have anyone help you who knew what they were doing. By law, physicians (trained or not in birthing babies) could have helped you, but they wouldn’t. Truthfully, that difficult situation helped those of us who chose homebirth to be clear and strong and mutually supportive. Gandhi said, “If someone can lead you out of the forest, someone else can lead you back in.” There wasn’t anyone else to trust but ourselves, and that served us very well.

The same instincts that guided our ancestors and the animals in the woods around us became our guideposts. My daughters and the children of my friends birthed powerfully at home and those births included the modern-day terms of postdates, small for gestational age, large for gestational age, gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, premature and prolonged rupture of membranes and meconium-stained fluids. When I was having babies, we didn’t know the names of those conditions, and I believe that lack of professional or official education was to our advantage. We watched for things like general well-being, general happiness, capacity for handling stress and presence of fear. We watched to see if the pregnant mother was feeling better or feeling worse, and we circled close when her time came near. She knew us by name and we knew how she slept, pooped and what she ate. We knew if she had made peace with people and circumstances that surrounded her birth and her baby. It never occurred to us that her body couldn’t do something that her mind was clear about. We didn’t have a point to prove; we had a baby to birth. Many of those stories are in a book I wrote about my nearly 30 years of experiences with instinctual birth, called The Power of Women.

My drive and purpose and intention when I began to seek out midwifery education in the late 1970s was to find a midwife with whom I could apprentice. I wanted to learn how to get to know a mother in seven or so short months so that her honesty, love and power would be comfortable revealing itself in my presence. I followed my mentor everywhere, including the grocery store. After every prenatal appointment and after every birth we would sip tea as I asked questions and she asked me questions. I would ask, “Why?” and “What if?” She would answer straightforwardly and then ask me deeper questions about what I would do and what I was thinking.

Sister MorningStar
Excerpted from “Midwifery Education?” Midwifery Today, Issue 105
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Birth Is a Human Rights Issue

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The issue of human rights is so important that we decided to do another conference dedicated to this topic in Strasbourg, France. It is sad that in the five years since we have done our previous conference in Strasbourg, things have not changed much globally. The 2010 conference program had these words printed on it: “Every mother and baby has the right to be treated with reverence and respect during the birth process, including pregnancy and beyond.” All we need to do is apply that phrase to childbirth throughout the world and ascertain how we are doing. We are not doing very well, so let us come together to attend great classes, learn from teachers and from each other, discuss the issue and revitalize our plans to change the world.

From the Global Midwifery Council statement are these important words: “The most basic human right for every woman is the right to choose her place of birth and who will attend her. Mothers and babies do best in an environment conducive to the respect for the physiology of birth. Conscious mother-centered midwifery has been shown to serve that need.” Our conference will address these important issues and make plans to change the future of childbirth around the world.

Hermine Hayes-Klein, a lawyer who has taken this issue around the world in many conferences including some attached to Midwifery Today, will be one of our esteemed speakers. Her work focuses on legal issues surrounding childbirth and includes the defense of midwives. Other teachers include Gail Hart, Fernando Molina, Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos, Verena Schmid, Diane Goslin, Cornelia Enning, Carol Gautschi and myself.

Mark your calendar! The dates are 19–23 October 2016.

~ 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.

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The Issue of Birth Rights

Birth is biological. At its most fundamental level, it is an animal rights issue. When I was working in Mexico, I was not surprised when, following a birth, a grandmother asked me, “How is the mother?” But when she endearingly asked, “Y la creatura?” (“And the little creature?”), I stopped in my step. Something powerful and deeply instinctual came alive in me. I had watched wild and farm animals bond, nurse and protect their young. I had observed and studied the importance of maternal-infant bonding from a professional viewpoint. I had dedicated my midwifery career to keeping one of my thousand eyes on everything from environment to timing to security to states of mind and heart and soul—anything that had the potential of affecting or shaping those first glances and touch and moments of irreplaceable connection between the mother and her fresh born. Nothing had set things more clear and right in my mind as that grandmother’s simple and urgent question regarding her “hope of the future”—”Y la creatura?”

We are creatures. We are animals. It is not a bad or lowly thing to be. It allows us to eat and poop and get in out of the cold and enjoy mating and flee danger. We embody an instinct that is backed by millions of years of invested intelligence. It certainly includes birth. It most certainly includes birth.

Who thought of holding legs above a pelvis with stirrups or shaving pubic hair to help create a sterile field or inserting enemas for cleanliness or providing strangers for companions? Certainly not creature mothers and babies. They would kick and bite and run for the hills. They wouldn’t need to consult books or experts. Their instinctual knowing only takes a second to be consulted. The answer and response is automatic. It takes force, mighty force, to restrain an instinctual animal in the moment of performing a bodily function, especially birth. Have we successfully used intellectual fear to overpower the instinctual fear of a birthing human, so she will now submit to actions that otherwise would make her bite and kick and run for the hills?

~ Sister MorningStar
Excerpted from “The Issue of Birth Rights,” Midwifery Today, Issue 94