On Monday I helped the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) office here on The Farm update the collected statistics on the number of non-nurse midwives who practice in states where they are licensed and or regulated. There are approximately 1,000 non-nurse midwives who practice in states where they are licensed or regulated. This number does not include CPMs in jurisdictions that do not license or regulate CPMs, CMs, lay midwives, or traditional midwives. Of course this does not include midwives who courageously practice in states that outlaw or do not recognize non-nurse midwives. How many are these?
For those of us who have been cared for by non-nurse midwives who practice in jurisdictions where their services are outlawed, take a moment to think about your midwife and the potential sacrifices she and her family are prepared to make so that your family can have the safe and empowered birth you deserve.
Do you know that: in some jurisdictions, the midwives are taking their freedom at risk when they serve you; in some jurisdictions, they could be subject to arrest just for catching your baby; if prosecuted they could lose custody of their children. In jurisdictions where non-nurse midwives are not legally recognized, there may be unnecessary bureaucratic processes in place for them processing birth certificates. Not to mention the demeaning and inaccurate statements and issuances made by medical staff about these midwives and the exemplary and evidence-based care they provide.
Each time she steps up to help you have the safe and empowering birth you want for your child, she is taking the chance of sacrificing her freedom and the safety of her own children and family. Quite heavy, but true.
Why would anyone want to be a non-nurse midwife in a jurisdiction that outlaws or does not recognize them?
A soon-to be-midwife has responded to this question:
“I guess it is because the desire or call (however you perceive it) is so strong and your love for women in that time of life so great that you defy what you see as an unjust law. For me, I look to the verse in Exodus that says (and I paraphrase) "And the midwives feared God and did not as the [State of Maryland] (King of Egypt in the original) commanded, and saved the children alive.” Women and children are being traumatized, hurt and killed by an unjust and abusive obstetrical system and those who are called are willing to serve the mothers of their community whether they be burned at the stake as in days of old or prosecuted and imprisoned today.
The call to serve will exist for all this earthly life and there will always be women who will accept the call—the CPM or CNM who defies the practice guidelines that ACOG and Nursing Boards should have no right to be controlling, that restrict her practice and tell her who she can and can't serve. For the VBAC, breech and twin mamas who also wish to choose their place of birth and caregiver. The diabetic mother who feels that she has control of her condition and should be in authority over the timing of her birth. The indigent mother who demands to birth with a person who will not treat her as lesser just because she is economically disadvantaged, but a human deserving of loving tender support in her time. Because men were not involved in birth for thousands of years and when they invited themselves, they tore our birthing communities asunder and our children and we continue to suffer for it to this day.”
Something to think about and digest.
For me, I know that how you were birthed makes an inextricable imprint on your self perception; and how you birth your children sets the foundation on how you will feel about each child and yourself. And the guarantee of a good birth, whatever that means for each of us, is a Supreme Right we each have.
I also know that a community that cannot birth itself cannot survive, and the various communities that make up the Untied States of America, must birth its own midwives, of whatever credential path.