November 6, 2013
Volume 15, Issue 23
Midwifery Today E-News
“Midwifery Education”
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In This Week’s Issue

“Out of Many, One: Unity in Midwifery”

Harrisburg conferencePlan now to attend our conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, April 23–27, 2014. Planned teachers include Sister MorningStar and Jan Tritten (pictured), Robbie Davis-Floyd, Carol Gautschi, Gail Hart, Gail Tully, Debra Pascali-Bonaro and Diane Goslin.

Learn more about the Harrisburg conference.

Quote of the Week

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

William Butler Yeats

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The Art of Midwifery

If you are thinking about becoming a midwife, identify your goals. Do you want to attend homebirths or do you want to make a difference in the hospital? What level of income do you need? What educational opportunities do you have near home? Are you willing to travel? Can you afford the time required of an apprenticeship education and the slower-paced practice, or can you handle the expense of a university-based education? Are you aware of what financial aid is available?

Diane Barnes, CNM, DEM
Excerpted from “Choosing Your Route,” Paths to Becoming a Midwife: Getting an Education, a Midwifery Today book

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Jan’s Corner

First, Do No Harm

I think of midwives and doulas as protectors of motherbaby. In this current world of rampant medical interventions, I think this role is more important than ever. I also believe that the use of ultrasound can be dangerous, especially to babies, but at the same time there can be judicious uses for it. We need to protect motherbaby from unnecessary ultrasounds. Because ultrasound is such a money-making procedure and because many practitioners have become lazy in prenatal care, ultrasound is overused. (Remember, Dopplers use ultrasound.)

Neurological changes due to ultrasound (e.g., more left-handedness) have been proven. Babies try desperately to get away from the sound waves, but they have nowhere to go; their desire to avoid ultrasound is an important factor to look at. There is also the issue of cavitation—ultrasound heats up cells and some people speculate that ultrasound may be linked with autism. As a mom, if you knew this, would you want your baby exposed to ultrasound, especially if the information an ultrasound is able to provide isn’t that valuable? The inventor of ultrasound did not mean for it to be used on unborn babies and was shocked when it began being used this way.

Just because we use ultrasound happily does not change the possible harm we are doing. I really like that the maxim “First, do no harm” is the underpinning of medicine—if only it were carried out! Please be very, very careful with the beautiful calling you have: Take out your fetoscope, dust if off and use it. Save that Doppler for late in labor when you might really need it. (The baby is also much older by then and hopefully able to tolerate ultrasound better.) Save your Doppler for second stage when it is important to know how the baby is doing. The fetoscope used in pregnancy will give you more information than a Doppler, anyway—and fetoscopes “do no harm”!

Check our website for articles on ultrasound.

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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Midwifery Education: Caring and Sharing

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Featured Article

Midwifery Education?

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

If a mother was in labor for three days, my mentor and I lived with that family for three days. We fed children and dogs and farm animals and talked and laughed as I asked more questions. The greatest learning was during those long observations and watching my mentor (as she appeared to be napping on a sofa) say clear as a bell, “Mary Ann, take two steps at a time when you go up and down the stairwell. John, hold her arm as she goes and feed her a bit of banana at the top and bottom of the stairs.” During one shoulder dystocia, as I sat on my haunches and watched a wee one’s head turn dark purple like a rapid sunset, my mentor took a deep breath and said, “Ruth (who was on hands and knees by choice), breathe like I do…” and then she whispered to me, “Put your hands on my hands.” I felt a mountain lion’s power in her hands and wrists, yet she never pulled back with her elbows or arms. That education is still in my mind and vibrates in my body to this day and not a book was opened in her presence. I never brought questions to her from the books I read—the life experience was far richer.

Sister MorningStar
Excerpted from “Midwifery Education?” Midwifery Today, Issue 105
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Fill Your Birth Library with Midwifery Today Back Issues

Midwifery Today back issuesEach quarterly issue of Midwifery Today print magazine is packed full of birth news, insights and information. You’ll also get an in-depth look at an important topic, with several articles devoted to the issue theme. Look over the list of available issues, then order the ones you need to help improve your practice. Order yours.

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What is Midwifery Today magazine?
A 72-page quarterly print publication filled with in-depth articles, birth stories from around the world, stunning birth photography, news, reviews and more. Subscribe. Midwifery Today Magazine

Birth Q&A

Q: Midwives, tell us about your mentor.

— Midwifery Today

A: My midwifery mentor, Mary Jackson, with whom I spent a year training 17 years ago, was very kind, soft-spoken and used positive feedback in teaching. If she had a suggestion for me, she’d whisper it instead of blurting it in front of everyone in the room. She is still a mentor to student midwives and a truly caring person.

— Sue Turner

A: I think everyone needs a great mentor. Mine is Marion Toepke McLean. She is amazing and has been with me as my mentor for 37 years now. Marion would answer my 3 am phone calls and give me the advice I needed in the moment. She created a midwifery school for me and my birth partners, and she has written for every edition of Midwifery Today magazine—that is 108 issues! I love her so much.

— Jan Tritten

A: I was initially trained to be a midwife assistant to several midwives in a homebirth service. I did not have any prior medical or health care experience (I was a professional dancer) and so I had a very steep learning curve. One midwife, now deceased, decided that I was worth her time and took me under her wing. Many thanks to Vi Barone. After Vi led me to my highest potential, my other fantastic mentor was Vicki Wolfrum. Both of these wonderful women trusted my intelligence and my abilities and led me to fulfill my calling. Always grateful.

— Louana George

A: My mentor, Janessa Craig, always treated me with respect. I never felt like a lowly student but as a peer who had things to learn and also had knowledge worth sharing. Janessa taught me the personal side of midwifery—the gentle nuances you can’t learn from a book. She built up my confidence and encouraged me to move forward. She laughed with me and cried with me and I will always love her.

— Camarell Anderson

A: I was 16 years old and pregnant. My mom’s best friend was a midwife. I knew she always ate seedy, wheaty, grainy stuff and I also knew enough to know I needed her help. I lived in Los Angeles and she lived in a tiny wet place called Sequim, Washington. I was five months pregnant when I found out I was having a baby. This midwife was willing to care for me physically and find families to help.

My church paid for my plane fare. The unconditional love and support I received from her was life changing for me. The care I received was exceptional. A seed was planted.

Many moons later I worked assisting midwives and supporting women as their birth doula. When I turned forty and my kids were grown, I enrolled with National College of Midwifery. I recently finished school. I will sit for the NARM soon. Although I look forward to supporting families as a licensed midwife next year, I also look forward to supporting the growth of new student midwives. More midwives equals better birth outcomes, stronger families, united communities and a healthy future generation.

A mentor can change the life outcomes of many people. Good thing there was a grainy, wheaty, seedy midwife in a wet little town called Sequim who was willing to help.

— Chemin Perez

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Conference Chatter

Greetings everyone,

By the time this letter arrives to your inbox, our Belgium conference will have just come to a close. Our staff will have made it back across the world and will be recuperating, fresh with inspiration, and already thinking about the conferences ahead. A full recap of the Belgium conference will be forthcoming in later issues.

For now, it’s onward to our next conference! The deadline for the early bird registration discount for our conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is November 18. Be sure to register early for this fantastic conference.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Midwifery Today magazine when you register. Doing both at once gets you an amazing deal on your registration price. Depending on how many days you register for, the subscription can pay for itself in conference discounts—and more. You can’t beat that!

If you are a non-subscriber registering for five days in Harrisburg, the early bird price will cost you $650. If you live in the US, a subscription is $55, but that subscription gets you a $75 discount on a 5-day registration. Your total for both would be $630. So, you’re basically getting the subscription for free, plus another $20 off the conference! The option to subscribe is right on the registration form. And everyone, regardless of how long you stay at the conference, is eligible for a discount for subscribing. Don’t miss out!

For more information on our Harrisburg conference, please visit our website.

— Andrea Goldman

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Many years ago when I was a newbie midwife, I answered a midnight phone call. It was before cell phones and my landline instrument was hanging on the hall wall, which meant I had to leap out of bed to get labor calls in the middle of the night. I picked up the phone, “Hello?” The reply was heavy breathing. I was thinking, Wow, this woman is in hard labor. I’d better be ready to run out the door as soon as she identifies herself. Patiently waiting, shivering and wishing I was getting dressed, I identified another contraction based on the heavy breathing. Now I was really concerned as she didn’t seem to be getting a break from her contractions and I still didn’t know which client of mine it was. I began to have suspicions by the third bout of heavy breathing, and by the fourth, I hung up the phone having clearly identified that it wasn’t a woman in labor at all but a heavy-breather obscene phone call! Life is different when you’re a midwife.

— Louana George

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