A Circle of Midwives
by Jan Tritten

[Editor's Note: This editorial originally appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 72, Winter 2004.]

As midwives, we are called to serve many kinds of women and families. These may include those with whom we do not resonate for one reason or another. You could be asked to serve a member of an ethnic group that is traditionally hostile to yours, a woman with widely divergent beliefs, or one from a radically different social and economic group. You are the one who must protect and care for the birthing woman. You can make or break the most important day in this woman's life. You are called by God to help with a miracle—birth. Imagine this woman is your own daughter. The scripture "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" couldn't be more appropriate.

One of our foremost callings as midwives and for us at Midwifery Today is to fight oppression of pregnant, birthing and postpartum women. We do this in spite of political borders, male domination and religion, which do, indeed, play a major role in the oppression of women everywhere in all stages of life. Therefore, it is with great sadness that we see racial and cultural prejudices turn woman against woman, especially in birth. At Midwifery Today we provide a forum and a voice for midwives and birthing women. To do this, we must explore various facets of an issue, even if some of our friends do not like certain letters or articles. Midwifery Today is written mostly by her dedicated readers. Obviously, we all see each issue, technique, idea or protocol from a different vantage point, based on our own experiences, temperament, culture, heritage, spiritual faith and heart. It is this grand tapestry of midwives, doulas, moms and educators that make up this fantastic fabric that is Midwifery Today.

My midwife friends recently reminded me of the Native American medicine wheel. We are all arrayed around the circumference of a great wheel. An object in the center of the wheel is viewed from a different vantage point by each member of the circle.

Experience, pain, culture, history, personality and spirituality constitute our various vantage points and the resulting differences in our views. This incredible tapestry of abilities and views makes for a rich community of midwives.

When we work together we create an unstoppable force. When we work against each other, all of our energy and powerful efforts shoot out the hole we create by our fighting, prejudice and dissension. With the devastating shape birth is in, we who are called cannot afford to let these negative forces influence our work. We who know and understand birth have a more important calling than ever before in herstory. We are seeing the near destruction of pregnancy and birth as God designed it. The abuse of women at the hands of medicine is incomprehensible and incomparable to anything the world has ever known. We need you to fight for childbearing women, even those who have been completely brainwashed. We cannot give up on our sister women, even if they have given up on themselves. Every woman who has ever had a bad birth carries that with her the rest of her life. The experience may be buried, but as with war veterans, it may resurface in strange ways. It deeply affects women's lives and their mothering.

None of us is free from prejudices. Let's each look at them honestly and deal with them, so we can serve all women in pregnancy and birth. If you cannot rid yourself of a prejudice against certain women, try not to be the care provider for such women. If your situation does not give you this option, make every effort to treat each woman as if she were your daughter. She deserves someone who can love and serve her. The world in its destructive state needs every woman to be loved and nourished in her birth year. Please serve her to the best of your ability so we can change the world one birth, one motherbaby at a time. This is one of the most challenging times for midwives. Check your beliefs about people and adjust to love and service mode.

Note: Midwifery Today has always defined "midwife" as one who lovingly helps women in birth, not just studied members of the profession.

Toward Better Birth,

Jan Tritten

Jan Tritten is the founder and editor-in-chief of Midwifery Today magazine and a midwife who was in active practice from 1977 to 1989. She became a midwife in 1977 after the powerful homebirth of one of her daughters. 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! [ PHOTO BY ANDREA NOLL ]

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